"We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us." - 2 Corinthians 1:9
"We know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character." – Romans 5:3-4
(Cancer) "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." – Genesis 50:20
Preparing for a Lifetime to Avoid its' End
Looking back on this experience, it seems as if I have been inadvertently preparing for this challenge my whole life. Although I would never wish this upon anyone, I feel that I am ready to handle this adversity. I am thankful for these lemons (thus far) and as long as I am allowed to see my babies grow up, this will all be a good thing.
I can see four distinct areas of my personal development that have put me in a unique position of strength to respond well to the pancreatic cancer that has invaded my body.
- First is my diligent exercise over the past 15 years or so. My motivation has been to offset some of my more detrimental behaviors (vices that I opted to indulge) in the hope that I might still manage to live a longer life. But, as it turns out, that dedication has allowed me to recover more quickly from an illness rather than avoiding the getting sick to begin with. An unintended benefit. Besides that, being a non-runner who now runs marathons has taught me that amazing things are possible if I put my mind to it.
- Secondly, I convinced Jacquelyn to be my life partner. I chose her because we make an exceptional team. We work so well together that there is, I believe, nothing that we can't do. I could never have imagined the storm that we would have to weather. Now that it has hit, we are not only not running around patching up the roof, but we already have provisions in the basement! If anything, we are thriving in the midst of this adversity.
- More difficult to identify or express, but probably most important, is the role that my previous spiritual questioning and seeking have had on where I am today. To invoke the title of a rewarding book that I read along the way, I am a believer in "Finding God in the Questions". Wrestling with those uncertainties has made me more comfortable with not having the answers. Similarly, facing a premature death has stripped me of my comfortable reliance on much of what I used to depend on – without leaving me spiritually uprooted. I think that my previous doubts have allowed me to more readily recognize now the tangible sense that God is walking alongside me in my life.
- The last unintentional preparation for this challenge has been my work with a therapist. Possibly the single most important unintended upshot was my recognizing my right to be happy in life and to ask for what I need from people. That allowed me to reach out to those around me (friends and family) for prayers and support throughout this ordeal. This has made a tremendous difference for me – both in the way I have felt and, I believe, in the outcomes thus far. I doubt that the pre-therapy me would have asked for, and so benefited from, the love and encouragement I have experienced from all of you.
The combination of all of these – the real-time payoff and lessons of physical exertion, an extraordinary partner, God's loving arms, and personal responsibility for my happiness in life – enable a hopeful and positive perspective.
Up until my last birthday, I have always felt like a kid. In facing my mortality, I have, unfortunately, lost a little bit of that innocence. But that loss is not the end of the story. An appreciation of it and all that I can do next is what matters most. I have been presented the choice between being a victim of my circumstances and being a survivor. I choose the latter, without really knowing just what that means. It is the only alternative. To focus only on the pain and loss would mean never realizing my strength. Therein lays the opportunity.
Although I can't know what awaits me yet, I believe that I am ready. I have been strengthened by the trials thus far, and hope that the trend of positive reinforcement continues.
May God bless all of our lives with health and happiness in 2009!