Life is full of prescribed responses.
You bump into someone- “Excuse me.”
Someone gives you a gift- “I love it.”
You see a newborn baby- “How adorable!”
But there are no prescribed responses for the moment an oncologist looks at you and your wife and says, “My goal for you is five year survivorship.” At this point, I should’ve known better and worn a chest protector to this appointment. Maybe then, his words wouldn’t have been able to hit me with enough power to force the air out of my lungs.
I told my body to breathe, but nothing happened. His words slowly dripped into my ears again and again. Soon they weren’t words, merely letters. Letters that became only sounds as I frantically tried to strip them of their meaning.
Survivorship? What does that even mean? Maybe it doesn’t mean what it sounds like. I asked him to clarify. It means just what it sounded like. He’s giving her five more years of life. He’s giving me five more years of a wife. He’s giving our son five more years of a mother. He’s giving her family five more years of a daughter and a sister.
He must not know we’re good people! He must not know we have a one year old son! He must not know we’re Christians and how many times I’ve prayed! He must not know that THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN TO PEOPLE LIKE US!
…he knew. Cancer just didn’t care.
He gave the treatment recommendations as outlined by current research and best practice guidelines, “Radiation and chemotherapy. We treat this as aggressively as possible, if not you’ve got two, maybe three years.”
Sarah sat silently as I asked question after question. Within every question was a silent plea that he would end this miserable game and give me the answer I wanted, the answer I prayed for, the answer I deserved. He never did. T
he moment he walked out of the exam room and the door closed behind him, Sarah calmly stood, slowly slid her arms into her coat, and said, “This isn’t it.” For weeks Sarah had been researching alternative cancer treatments, from naturopathic medicine and antineoplaston therapy, to dietary treatments like the Budwig protocol and Gerson therapy. Alternatively I had been fully committed to chemotherapy and radiation. These are the standard, evidence-based, treatments for cancer. Why wouldn’t we follow them?
Sarah had her reasons, and the reasons made sense. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the thought of having chemotherapy and radiation treatments at such a young age, especially with the potential of long-term side effects including infertility, memory deficits, and secondary cancer. Unfortunately, meeting with the oncologist only reinforced those worries and doubts. He didn’t believe conventional treatments could cure her, only delay the inevitable.
The night following this appointment was one of the hardest for me, but one that had to happen nonetheless. For the past two months my hope was in the doctors, medical treatments, and science. I didn’t need faith. I didn’t need God. He had done His part. But I couldn’t stand on medicine any longer.
That night, as we sat in our big comfy chair and cried, I found the place Sarah had been all along, in God’s arms. She jumped in on day one, with no hesitation. Me? I fell in. Broken, angry, lost, and scared. But I found my way there. Medicine wasn’t going to heal Sarah, God was. God created her and He wants her well! He has given her body what it needs to beat cancer and with the help of the Earth he created, He’s going to heal her! I was finally all-in! Give me that juicer, we’re going Gerson!
The timing of this all was crucial, because two days later things had changed. Sarah sought a second-opinion from a holistic cancer treatment center to consult with their naturopathic doctor and dietitian regarding the Gerson treatment. She also met with another oncologist while there, and he threw a wrench into our plans. He was hopeful! He acknowledged the typical prognosis for this type of cancer and agreed with the diagnosis, but he also informed us that Sarah is the type of person who beats the facts. And, he is the type of doctor who believes his patients will win! He didn’t use fear to pressure us. Instead, he used hope to inspire us. Rather than believing that radiation and chemo could buy us five years before saying goodbye, he believed these treatments could be part of her long-term survival. Now we were stuck. Less than 48 hours after Sarah’s resistance to chemo and radiation were confirmed and my faith in them destroyed, we had a reason to begin questioning all over again. But this time, we stood on the rock of God’s promises as we considered our options. One morning, after we said a quick prayer asking for wisdom, Sarah said,
“This decision isn’t about what will heal me, God has already promised me healing. This decision is about what will let the most people see God through me.”
Seriously, how did I find this woman?
Over the past few weeks, Sarah’s treatment plan has developed like this:
Radiation and chemo Radiation, no chemo Radiation and chemo, followed by an alternative treatment TBD No radiation or chemo, just an alternative treatment which had finally been determined: Gerson therapy Maybe radiation, then Gerson
Radiation AND Gerson, NO chemotherapy. Beginning today: January 29, 2015.
Please say a prayer for Sarah as she begins radiation. Pray that she would feel God’s presence, know His love, and rest in His peace. Thank you!