Cancer stories are a part of my daily life. In my career, I have turned-in many reports that focus on people who have been diagnosed with one form of cancer or another. Not to mention the fact that, like most people, I have known several people in my personal life who have received that diagnosis and even more people who have had loved ones get that bad news.
Well, this time it happened to me.
I was researching a story on melanoma, which is the deadliest type of skin cancer. This story will air in October on "The 700 Club." I learned that skin cancer often begins in moles. I learned that people need to be aware of the moles on their bodies, particularly ones that change in appearance. I learned that young people are often the victims of melanoma, and was in the process of setting-up an interview with a mother who lost her daughter to melanoma at age 29.
So then I began to think about this odd mole on my back near my left shoulder blade. I never paid much attention to it, but in light of researching this story about skin cancer, I took a closer look at it.
It seemed to be bigger, darker, and less round than it used to be. It looked more blob-shaped now. So for the first time in my life, I made an appointment with a dermatologist.
When I went in for my office visit, his nurse simply scraped-off the mole right then and there. It only took a second and didn't hurt a bit. They used a local anesthetic, which was less painful than a flu shot.
So a week later the nurse called me and said the biopsy on the mole shows it is malignant melanoma.
Let me tell you, if you think you are prepared to hear you have cancer, you are mistaken. That is difficult news to process. My first thought was, "I'm too young to die." Then I thought about my kids. They are ages 16 and 20.
Then I thought about my salvation. "As a Christian, I always think about eternity, but usually in terms of meeting God face-to-face many years down the road. The prospect that it could be much sooner than that was unnerving.
Back to the phone call: The nurse proceeded to tell me that when she first saw my mole that day in the office, she and the doctor suspected it might be melanoma. So without telling me, she went ahead and cut extra deep and wide so as to remove as much of the mole and surrounding tissues as possible in that setting.
I am grateful for that. She told me the biopsy showed the margins are clear, which means it looks like she got it all and doesn't appear to have spread. There is no ulceration, and the depth of the mole was pretty shallow.
All that is good news, but I still have to go back in the office so the surgeon can remove a big hunk of skin surrounding where the mole was, in order to get any cancer cells that may be there that were not detected.
So that's where things stand: the possibility that cancer cells are still in my body even though they have not been detected.
Also, melanoma has a high rate of return, so every six months I have to let the dermatologist look for new moles, and apparently they can be anywhere, like between your toes and under your fingernails. I even have to have my gynecologist look for them, and I have to ask my hair stylist to look for moles on my scalp.
And people with melanoma are at high risk for breast cancer, so I must be diligent about getting get my mammograms.
Overall, I feel relieved because it appears that my cancer was detected early enough to get rid of it. But nothing is certain. And that's what is the blessing about this and all adversity.
The reminder that we live in uncertain times causes us to cling to the only thing that is certain: God. He always fulfills his promises. He is reliable. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And we can lean on Him and gain strength from Him and receive comfort from Him.
Adversity and uncertainty motivate us to obey Him and live according to His will, for we never know when judgment will be upon us.