Yesterday was one of those days. A day so heavy, I could hardly stomach the reality I was facing.
For the past few months, my wife has been asking me to go see a dermatologist to get my skin checked. It seemed like such a waste of time. Besides, it’s something I had already done a few years ago. But despite my hard-headed nature, especially when it comes to doctors, I decided to comply with my wife’s request.
My dermatologist happens to be a good friend, so when I heard from her office for a follow-up on the biopsy, I didn’t think anything of it. However, when she stepped in the room and pulled a stool to the foot of the table where I was sitting, I paused. It was one of those impending moments where you realize that something incredible is about to happen and you can’t do anything to avoid it.
She looked at me with calmness and grace and said, “Matt, the spot we removed was atypical. The biopsy has shown that it is a spreading malignant melanoma.”
“Does that mean it was cancer?” I said, puzzled.
I didn’t need to hear her reply. The look in her eyes answered my question. Then, in confirmation, her head gently nodded.
“But, we got it. It’s gone. However, I want you to go next week to have a larger area removed.” Her half-smile was gentle and left no hint of fear.
I held it together as I gathered my things. The lump in my throat grew with every step that I took toward the door. Before I left, my friend gave me a sweet, kind hug and said, “I’m thankful for whatever angel brought you in here. In a year, maybe less, we would have been having a much different conversation. God has your back. You’re going to be fine.”
Digesting the Diagnosis
The ride down the elevator felt like I was descending into another world—a world that terrified me. In a matter of minutes, I was no longer the invincible thirty-two-year old father to three, I was a statistic. I was another victim of the same disease that took my aunt and three of my grandparents.
By the time I exited the building my mind was under attack. Had it spread? What about my kids? What if it comes back? The questions were endless and every single one of them was dripping with fear. I nervously grabbed my cell phone and called my wife. She had lost her father to cancer when she was only thirteen years old. Her father was forty-three. I was terrified to tell her and found myself apologizing for something that was completely out of my control.
Equally as difficult was sharing the news with my parents. Then, I got the call that was hardest of all. It was my little brother.
“Hey, Mom told me to give you a call. What’s going on?” He said.
I stuttered and stammered as I heard myself say, “It was cancer.”
I’m not sure why I had such a difficult time sharing the news with my brother, but I did. It’s like he received the brunt of my emotions because I couldn’t hold them together any longer. Fear lingered over me like a dark, ominous cloud. It’s lies and worry flooded me with emotion.
A Calm Assurance
I stepped outside to breathe in the humid summer air of southeastern North Carolina. I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked into the endless sky overhead. And in the midst of the exterior chaos, I heard a reassuring voice. It was a familiar, comforting voice—one I had felt before during life’s defining moments. It’s the same voice I heard when my grandfather committed suicide, the same voice I felt when I held my son for the first time, and the same voice I felt when I began writing my book.
It was an echo of the truth of the gospel reminding me that this battle had already been won. And as I rested in its presence, I began to feel the fear evaporate. The deep truth of scripture was brought forth from my subconscious as a shield that deflected the flaming arrows of the enemy.
“Do not give the devil a foothold.” —Ephesians 4:27
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” —James 4:7
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians 12:9
The tears continued to come, but now they were tears of gladness. I repeated these familiar phrases and God granted me that clarity I was looking for.
The Decision to Trust
Every year, I pick a word as my road map for what I believe God is doing in my life. When God gave me my word this year, He was challenging me beyond every comfort zone I had possibly imagined. As I emerged from the wake of a cancer diagnosis, He gently reminded me that my word this year was, trust.
It’s easy to give God lip service, but when you see the word cancer associated with your name, you’re forced to choose. Will your trust remain, or will it crumble under the weight of circumstance?
I’m twenty-four hours removed from hearing those words—twenty-four hours that have been littered with questions. But, the only thing I feel like God wants me to do is write about it. Not to celebrate or draw attention to myself—I write to celebrate Him. God’s story is not free of pain. It’s a story of suffering—a story of brokenness. However, the beauty in God’s story is that brokenness is not the ending. We have hope because of Christ. He has risen to overcome sin and death. In Him there is no fear, only power, love, and self-control.
And in His infinite love, God made an interesting choice: He granted us the freedom to choose. Facing my own mortality reminded me that God loves me enough to let me choose.
Where to From Here?
In Psalm 90, we find the prayer of Moses. In his words, I find peace today:
“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” —Psalm 90:12
Today, I will begin number my days. Instead of placing my mind and my eyes on myself, I place my eyes and affections on Him. I will draw so close to Him because He is the only thing that remains. His love will become the catalyst for my soul and I will rejoice.
Today, you have that very same choice.
This morning, as I woke up to the first day after my cancer diagnosis, I found small snippets of paper waiting for me in all of my consistent places. My wife wanted to remind me of the love of my Father and His call for me to trust. So that is what I will do.
I’ve continued to write about my cancer and the perspective it has provided. Read more below:
About the Author
You can order a limited hardback version of the book at www.redefinerich.com
To contact Matt, visit www.mattham.com/speaking