by Pat Briney
When the doctor mentioned the word cancer, I was mentally numb. Could it be true? A swirling tug of war of questions and answers raced through my mind as I began to adjust to the news. My first daughter had just been born, and my life was so wonderfully full and active. Cancer? Could it be true? Could death be so near? Was death really staring me in the face?
Ten months earlier I developed a bad sinus infection that would not quit. A nagging little cough developed, and then four months later, I began experiencing cycles of sweats and chills at night. I burrowed under blankets when the chills struck, and then soaked the blankets and bed with sweat late in the night. For the next six months, doctors treated me for a variety of infections. I was catching every cold and illness that people around me were suffering from. The cycles of sweats and chills occurred once a month and gradually increased to once a week, but I seemed to recover after taking medicine each time. Little did I or the doctors know that the cause of my colds and sinus infection was much more insidious.
On a cold, snowy day that shut down businesses for the day, I was rubbing a sore muscle in my shoulder when my thumb hit a big bump on my neck. I hurried to the mirror to see what was on my neck. I pulled my collar back and could hardly believe my eyes. It looked like a tennis ball under the skin. I’ll never forget the doctor’s surprised response saying, ‘Now that’s a bump!’ A week and several doctors later, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma stage 4B. Usually this cancer is caught at the early stages, but in my case, it was hidden under the sternum in my chest. By the time swollen lymph nodes were visible, cancer cells had escaped my lymph system, filled my bones, and invaded the rest of my body. Chemotherapy was my only option.
I experienced first hand the value of good relationships and friendships. Family, friends, and my church were tremendously helpful. But the most important help I received was from God Himself. He gave my wife and I peace of mind that was truly incredible, and with the exception of two days every other week, our lives were more normal than not. The chemotherapy appeared to work, and I was declared cancer free. I had conquered cancer and defied death! Or so I thought. Little did I know, that resistant cancer cells were already beginning their come back.
The second time around was not so easy. I was five years older and already weakened by the first round of chemotherapy. I was treated with maximum strength chemo drugs that sapped me of strength and health. Drugs, which were experimental at the time, were used to boost my recovery and keep me alive so I could continue treatments. Those were eight miserable months of unusual pains and exhaustion. I was a living toxic waste dump. Again, family, friends, and my church were there to help. I felt blessed. In fact, some of the most precious and blessed times of my life occurred at this time.
How can that be? It seems unnatural to feel so blessed in the midst of such trial. And I suppose it is unnatural. I was facing death, I felt like a walking dead man, and I looked like a walking dead man. But I was ready to fact death, and I had nothing to fear. My only sorrows came from thoughts of leaving my two daughters and wife on their own. But death itself brought no fear. To tell you the truth, the thought of death brought peace to my soul. Why?
I am ready to face death because Jesus Christ is my friend, and He has conquered death, hell, and the grave. He has given to me life; not just life, but eternal life. I have a home in heaven waiting for me. I know what the apostle meant when he said, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). How do I know I’m ready? How can I be so sure?
There is no secret to knowing. The Bible says, He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1Jo. 5:12-13). I have Jesus Christ in my life, and I know by the promise of God’s Word that I have eternal life.
You can have eternal life too. The Bible assures you that the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9), and affirms, For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:4-5). The most famous Bible verse of all tells you how to prepare for death. John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
I am a survivor! I have survived two battles with cancer and other near death experiences, and undoubtedly there will be others. But you will face mortal battles as well. And one day, you will lose one of those battles. Everyone does and must. You will die. That is certain. But will you die in peace or in pain? Are you ready to face death?