This communication is long overdue. Recently, this website has surpassed 115,000 hits. Two years ago, I would have never imagined I would write this blog post, but I write it with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God, to my physicians, to my supportive and loving wife and to those of you who have visited this site. How did I get to this point? Please allow me to review highlights as it unfolded. In addition to writing this post for website readers, I also write this to myself as a remembrance and review of past challenges, blessings and lessons learned.
In 1994, at the age of 53, I was experiencing typical middle-age BPH problems usually associated with an “enlarged” prostate gland. My PSA consistently ranged between 3.5 and 4.5. A biopsy in 1994 showed no cancer. However, an ultrasound showed that my prostate was not enlarged. It occurred to me that a medium-smaller prostate gland would be expected to produce less PSA but my gland seemed to be producing too much PSA for its size and that troubled me. About that time, I learned that a measurement referred to as PSA density (the amount of PSA per unit volume of the gland) was being used as one criterion for performing biopsies. My PSA density of 0.23 led to a second biopsy at Johns Hopkins Hospital in October, 1995. The biopsy revealed cancer on the right side only. So in December, 1995 at the age of 54, I underwent a successful radical prostatectomy. My Gleason score was 6 (3+3) and my stage was T1C. Margins and lymph nodes were negative for tumors. Physicians informed me that my cancer was detected so early that “if they couldn’t cure me, they couldn’t cure anybody.” I was fortunate to have very few resulting side effects from the surgery which I found I could easily live with. In the intervening years, I had been anointed with oil for my healing (according to James 5:14-15), and had experienced the most dramatic personal experiences with God and Jesus Christ which are described in the January 11th, 2004 and March, 2005 entries on my website narrative. And so life continued for seven (7) years until November, 2002 when the PSA no longer became “undetectable” indicating some cancer still resided in my body. Subsequent radiation therapy in 2004 did not eradicate all of the cancer. Following the course of radiation, my PSA doubled every three months or so, a factor which still troubles my physicians and seems to indicate an aggressive perhaps genetically-modified cancer. Since 2006, I have been on intermittent hormonal therapy which eventually decreased my PSA to undetectable levels while resulting in very manageable side effects. The return of the cancer was devastating and shook the foundations of my faith but intervening events have resulted in a spiritual maturation which could not have occurred by other means. It is noteworthy that the Bible states that the purpose of trials is to “perfect” our faith. My day-to-day spiritual journey prompted my surgeon to suggest I chronicle them in a book about spirituality and prostate cancer but after keeping a diary of my experiences, God had other ideas and the website was born. At the beginning of this journey, I could anxiously anticipate becoming resistant (refractory) to hormonal therapy, followed by chemotherapy and its notorious side effects and then a painful death. However, the last years have produced a dramatic change in this potentially unpleasant scenario with the availability of new treatment regimens resulting from the approval of a number of therapeutic agents such as Zytiga and Provenge among others which has brightened my personal outlook and those of other prostate cancer survivors overwhelmingly.
But the website is called Godandprostate.net. What does God have to do with all of this? Had God not allowed the cancer to return, I would have never written this website. We must look beyond our own experience to focus on the big picture of what God is going to do. I am not the same physical, mental or especially spiritual being I was in 1995. I also would have not learned many lessons. We just celebrated the Easter season. The most intense suffering ever recorded was that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew that by bearing the sins of everyone whoever lived and the penalty thereof, He was about to endure a gruesome crucifixion but in addition, He would experience the full force of God’s wrath, anger and separation. Jesus’ most earnest prayer to His Father God was to plead with God that He “take this cup from me”, loosely paraphrasing, “if possible I’d rather not experience the isolation, pain and suffering involved in paying the penalty for the combined sins (past, present and future) of all mankind; but if I must, then “not My will but Thine be done.” May Jesus’ Gethsemane experience be our example in times of trouble as with prostate cancer. May we have that same intimate and personal relationship with God as Jesus did, trusting God fully and accepting His perfect will for whatever the outcome may be.
A Christian bishop visiting the US from Africa was asked to compare the differences between the church in America with that in Africa. He cited the title of a familiar hymn entitled “Blessed Assurance” when he said, “In America you have ‘blessed insurance’ while in Africa, all we have is ‘blessed assurance'”. The deepest knowledge of God comes from those who have had to trust Him the most. As the ancient Job exclaimed, (see Job 13:11-19), “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” My own trust journey is still evolving. Instead of placing confidence in plans and medical scenarios of my own making (though I believe that God still heals cancer today according to His will), we are called to be available for God’s purpose (be it a website or other possibilities) and to trust God when He leads. We may never understand why God does what He does, but if we know Him and believe Him, that is all that is necessary. May we learn to know and trust Him for who He is. This trust journey is predicated upon having a personal relationship with God only available through His Son, Jesus who clearly proclaimed “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).
Through the years, worry and anxiety have been problematic for me in spite of my memorization of Philippians 4:6-7 (below) which tells me clearly to “be anxious for nothing.” We all have needs, concerns and desires and the Bible teaches that God knows them all. But He commands us not to worry. Consider the following. Would God ever command us to do something and then not enable us to do it? Absolutely not! As Christians, we are called to live a life of faith; believing God’s promises even when our circumstances confound us and troubles surround us. He wants our trust and if we allow Him, He will prove that worry is unnecessary. Therefore we can put our full confidence in the words of Philippians 4:6-7,which admonishes us to “be anxious (careful) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding shall guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” We can all bring our anxiety level down by remembering and trusting in the fact that Jesus paid the once-and-for-all price for our sins. Having this assurance and the gift of eternal life, calms our spirits, worries and cares that often plague us. We can now live as if on an island where time and aging are no object. Knowing that our future contains a promise from God of a new cancer-free body, in a new heaven and new earth for a never-ending period of time, we can savor our earthly time with family and friends, enjoying and using it to glorify and praise God in all we do and experience.
Dr. Joseph Stowell, a college president has recently stated that when we look back on our lives, we can all see that it has its seasons depending on our ages, circumstances, health status and abilities. As life’s seasons change and we age, we are often uncertain or fearful as to what they might hold for us. As with every season of life, we have to make a choice. We can waste the season in fearful thoughts or as the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-16, we should make the best use of the time, “walk circumspectly, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” Regardless of our season, we can count on God’s faithfulness. He says “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We can confidently say “the Lord is my helper, I will not fear.” (Hebrews 13:5-6.) Because we have God’s protection and provision, we can make the most of our time in every season by following Jesus closely, spending time with Him in His Word and prayer, loving and forgiving more freely than ever before, and serving others with joy and generosity. God has blessed us with our present season of life – make the most of it. If we have a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, then regardless of our present trials or triumphs, we can embrace the following truths as encouragement for all seasons of life. 1) God will be faithful to us because that is His very nature. His “mercy is in the heavens and His faithfulness reaches unto the clouds.” (Psalm 36:5.) 2) God knows all about our situation. We are never alone in any season of life (Psalm 139:7-12). 3) God is omnipotent, so He has the power to meet every single need. He knows how to move us through the various seasons of life. Romans 8:28 promises that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.” We will all change with the passage of time and our seasons will change but our wonderful God and His Son Jesus are always the same. God won’t fail us, waver on us and won’t vary- we can fully rely on Him. He will never forget about His own- great is His faithfulness.
So what does my future look like? It has been eighteen years since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. We humans don’t learn lessons when times are good, but we learn best in times of crisis. Will I outlive my cancer and die of another cause? I pray this will be the case or that Jesus will return as He promised and take His children home. But I can now say with more conviction than ever before “may God’s perfect will be done. I must look beyond my own experience to focus on the big picture of what God is going to do. In fact my recent health checkup revealed that my general blood test results have never been better in my life. Isn’t that just like God???? Lastly, we hear daily of “viral” internet stories and videos which result in millions of “hits”. I am personally overwhelmed and gratified for the interest in the relationship between God and prostate cancer which has led to 115,000 hits for this website. We who have experienced prostate cancer share a special bond. May we continue to “redeem the time” we have remaining in our earthly lives, serving God and those around us with an eternal perspective, focusing on fulfilling, joyful experiences.
P.S. Lots of new medical news; more blogs to be written in the very near future.