Having cancer is a highlight of my life – True/false?

What if I told you that Having cancer is a highlight of my life? Do you think that’s true or false? Or maybe you think I’ve lost it? Well, it’s absolutely true. Seriously. It really has been.

I know, it sounds weird. Ten years ago, I would’ve said, that’s impossible. In fact, ten years ago it would’ve been an absolute disaster. I can’t begin to imagine the depths of depression I’d be in if I was diagnosed with prostate cancer back then.

Much has changed since then.

I retired 9 years and 1 month ago. That was pretty traumatic, since I wasn’t planning on retiring that soon.

But God had other plans.

Of course, I could’ve told God no, and kept working. It almost certainly would mean looking for a new job. That was certainly doable. Plus, It would likely mean more money. Probably more while I was still working, but certainly more when I did finally retire.

However, fortunately, I did listen I left. And what a ride it’s been since then!

Time to retire

After retirement – 3 surgeries.

A dog with a fatal illnesses

Diagnosed with cancer

Another dog with a fatal illness

A new dog

The past two months – radiation treatment

So now, I’m a cancer survivor for three and a half years. And I just completed eight weeks of radiation treatment on April 27th, 2023.

As I mentioned, the time I was in the hospital and the recovery afterwards with the staph infection was so peaceful. That peace from God that it’s impossible to explain or understand unless you’ve gone through it.

It’s kind of odd that the reference to this incredible peace is almost buried in the final chapter of Philippians.


Phil 4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Do you see what I mean? The NIV calls the section “Exhortations”. Which is appropriate. It’s just before a paragraph that begins with the word, “finally”. It’s close to being an afterthought!

And yet – 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus – is far from an afterthought.

But notice – it also doesn’t seem to be the only thing Paul’s writing about. It’s not “just” peace. After all, the paragraph, the thought, begins with:

Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Yes – rejoice. That’s right up there with what James wrote:

Trials and Temptations

Jas 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Jas 1:9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Jas 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Jas 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Who thinks about rejoicing when going through trials. In other words, who thinks about rejoicing when going through cancer?

Honestly, rejoicing isn’t what I had in mind. Peace, yes.

And one other thing. Something else kind of tucked away in a passage about the Last Supper.

The Last Supper – Luke

22:7-13 pp — Mt 26:17-19Mk 14:12-16
22:17-20 pp — Mt 26:26-29Mk 14:22-251Co 11:23-25
22:21-23 pp — Mt 26:21-24Mk 14:18-21Jn 13:21-30
22:25-27 pp — Mt 20:25-28Mk 10:42-45
22:33, 34 pp — Mt 26:33-35Mk 14:29-31Jn 13:3738

Lk 22:7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

Lk 22:9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

Lk 22:10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

Lk 22:13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

Lk 22:14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

Lk 22:17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Lk 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Lk 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

Lk 22:24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Lk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Lk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Lk 22:35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.

Lk 22:36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

Lk 22:38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied.

In the midst of all that, it’s these two verses.

Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

This series, Don’t waste your cancer, modeled after John Piper’s short book of the same name, is also because of that passage. Lots of people get cancer. But how many talk about it? I was surprised at the people I know who’ve had a bout with cancer, but seem to have gone through it in silence, except for very close friends.

I feel like many Christians don’t like to admit we have “problems”. It’s like, good Christians have nice, good, easy lives. But that’s not what Jesus told us. Quite the opposite, Jesus told us we will have trouble. Everyone does. But for us, seemingly more than most, because some of our will be because of Him.

Now, my cancer isn’t persecution because of my faith. But, did God allow it because of something like what Jesus told Peter? That I should use my experience to help strengthen others? Further, shouldn’t this be more common among Christians?

Shouldn’t we help our brothers and sisters in the faith?

On top of that, shouldn’t we also be an example to others? To people who don’t know Jesus? Who might wonder, how can someone have peace while going through this?

Conclusion – Having cancer is a highlight of my life – True/false?

So, I had two main goals when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

One was to keep that sense of peace I had back in the hospital.

The second one was to use it to help others, as John Piper did. No, I won’t reach the same number of people he did. But every single person who reads this is maybe one more person who’ll experience that peace.

But it turned out even better. Dewey and Donnie had a good life, enjoyed their lives, even their treatments, right up to the end. In a very real sense, they modeled the exhortation from Philippians to rejoice.

As it turns out, that’s what I was able to do during my two months of radiation treatment. Not, it wasn’t all great. The oncologist told me it’ll be another 2 or 3 weeks before I can get back to eating normally.

I’m already tired because I can’t eat all the healthy nutritious stuff I normally eat. Even walking Mikey for about a mile yesterday was totally exhausting.

I was able to lead the Bible classes on Sundays, but people did notice that I was a bit “off” on some of those days because I was so tired. I haven’t written or done anywhere near as much research as usual for the same reason.

But – I did have fun with the people at the hospital doing the treatment. I wrote about some of that in this series. Best of all, I did hear from people who read the stuff I was able to publish. The Sunday before Christmas I spoke briefly about being able to maintain that peace from God through the surveillance periods, waiting for treatment to inevitably begin. Quite a few people expressed gratefulness for that.

Ultimately then, I was able to complete what Paul wrote about. And James. The peace from God. And I had a reason to rejoice.

If that’s not a highlight of a lifetime, then what is?

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