Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
On July 26 last year, waking up after a routine colonoscopy, I was surprised to see the doctor and my wife at my bedside.
“We found a lesion on your colon, so I took a biopsy,” the doctor said.
“A lesion?” I replied. “I have a high-stress personality, so it’s probably just an ulcer. No real surprise there. Will I have to give up spicy foods?”
Dr. Switzer replied, “The biopsy will tell us.”
On the way home I said to Pearl, “I like that she didn’t use the word ‘cancer’. I doubt the lesion is really serious.”
Pearl, who reads people, said, “Wrong. Her manner shows she is treating this very seriously.”
Guess who was right? The biopsy showed Invasive Adenocarcinoma. Carcinoma. That’s cancer. I had colon cancer.
When my younger brother got colon cancer in 2014, he had surgery and chemotherapy, but he died in nine months. I started counting months. Nine fingers took me to April 2023. I hoped for a different journey than my brother.
In month 2 of my journey, on a sunny September day, my wife left me at the Grey Nuns Hospital. I had lived 68 years without seeing a surgeon’s knife, but my lucky streak was over. Stripped and gowned, my glasses and hearing aids in a hospital bag, I waited for my summons to surgery.
The porter tucked me into a mobile hospital bed, wheeled me into a huge operating theater and transferred me to an operating table with large overhead lights. The surgeon introduced me to the anesthesiologist who mainlined anesthetic into my veins. I slept through the removal of a third of my colon, with associated blood vessels and lymph nodes.
I spent three days and nights in the hospital, in a pea-soup fog of pain and medication and fatigue.
The doctor told me to get mobile, so I escorted my intravenous pole up and down the hospital corridors. That IV pole was a poor substitute for the dog I prefer walking.
Despite my fog and pain, the doctor declared I was adjusting well to my new life with surgery scars and a shorter colon. He sent me home on day three.
I felt like Lazarus walking out of his tomb into the spring sunshine where his sisters, friends, and Jesus welcomed him.
Meanwhile, the surgeon had preserved my spare parts in a formalin solution and sent them off for study. The pathology report said two of my 25 lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. “We call that stage 3,” the doctor said. “The cancer has spread, but two affected lymph nodes are better than 15 or 20! The next step is chemotherapy. We don’t know where the cells have roamed, and we don’t have tools to track them, so we send in drugs to ferret them out.”
The good news was: my cancer was diagnosed at an earlier stage than my brother’s. I retired my nine-finger counting obsession, and braced for chemo, scheduled six weeks after surgery.
I had a fine sunny fall in the reprieve between surgery and chemo. I walked the dog in the bright sunshine, contemplating the goodness of life and healthcare and family. I dreaded the impending start of chemo.
Dear Jesus, Mary and Martha said to you, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.” They trusted your healing skills, but resurrection was beyond their vision.
I don’t know why you permit sickness. I don’t know why it sometimes leads to death, and sometimes is a valley that opens to new life.
But I thank you for doctors, for medicine, for healing by natural and surgical and chemical and spiritual means.
Thank you for living in us, for sharing our brief and fragile lives, for telling us about hope and healing and death and resurrection.
Be our companion in glad times and sad, through sunny days and nightmare nights. Teach us to trust you today and as we face the death that will soon come.
Our times are in your hands (Ps 31:15).
I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.
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