Dan is a writer and educator. He holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Journalism and Education.
At first, it was all such a terrible blur. I’d been to six doctors earlier in 2016, and that’s about all I could remember. Now I’m laying in a hospital bed groggy from an anesthetic. I don’t recall being told that I had to have a ‘port’ installed in my chest. A group of doctors---two or three of them---walked into my room saying they had finally diagnosed my condition: I had lymphoma, “stage four”, they said. Shocked, to say the least, I reviewed in my mind all the previous visits to various doctors during the past year: a small bump on my lip that wouldn’t heal, a rash under both arms would clear up, they said, if I changed deodorants, a severe scalp itch was nothing to worry about, just change shampoo, the skin discoloration on my cheeks was the result of too much sun, according to my dermatologist. But throughout the year nothing seemed to get better----I was near death and didn’t have a clue.
My near-death experience had started thirteen years earlier when my career as a school teacher came to an abrupt end. I’d been disabled due to a spinal problem that left my right arm temporarily paralyzed and virtually useless. Around the same time, there were other sad and sudden family deaths, including my wife of twenty-three years. These events left me depressed and lonely, out-of-work, widowed, and living on Social Security. Turning to alcohol started me on the trail towards deeper depression and an increasingly risky lifestyle. On the outside I appeared joyful, but on the inside I was miserable. Hope for real joy had faded from my life.
As the days, months, and years seemed to drag by it was as though I was having some sort of dark, dismal dream. The monotony, the tedious sameness of my dream was gradually feeling like a nightmare. The larceny of alcoholism is that it begins so quietly that the drinker becomes unaware of what’s being stolen until it’s just about too late. Fortunately for me, God decided to wake me up and give me more time.
My Christian upbringing as a youngster was solid, and my spiritual foundation was secure, my faith in God strong. As an adult I discovered just how strong my faith was as events unfolded. My cancer diagnosis had bought me to the precipice of death. Not only was I hospitalized with stage four cancer, I was also given notice that my appendix had been infected, and I had hepatitis C, to boot. Something had to change.
But I was truly blessed. My oncologist happened to be a believer, too. When he came into my room with the diagnosis, he pointed upwards and reminded me to keep the faith, don’t give up, and stay prayerful: God was in control, he told me. The chemotherapy treatment protocols would be brutal, he cautioned, but survivable.
I was thankful I had a doctor with strong faith and knowledge, but I really needed a care-giver, too. My roommate was totally unprepared to care for me. If was extremely difficult for her to manage things while I was in and out of four different hospitals during 2016. Dealing with someone battling cancer is no small task; the chemotherapy side effects alone create all sorts of problems with nausea, sleeplessness, weakness, lack of appetite---the drug literally kills off the body’s ability to fight. In addition, there is the issue of doctor visits today, tomorrow, and the next day. Ultimately, I ended up fighting the battle pretty much alone since, generally speaking, most folks simply are unprepared to be care-givers.
But God is always true to His Word: He never left me through it all. And the best part is that He laid me down so I could look up to Him: my prayers were calm and peaceful. I simply asked Him that if He was ready for me, I was ready for Him. I remained grateful for the blessings of the life He’d given me, thankful for my time here on earth. So, in prayer I asked that if I was to survive, then I needed Him to lead me towards a transformation in my life. Reading Romans 12:2 became my mantra, day in and day out. If I was to remain on earth, then I knew I had to change; I had to have a transformation of my mind, my body, and my spirit.
Late in 2016, having been miraculously cured of stage four lymphoma, I moved to repair the damage of my previous life-style. I prayed and asked God to give me the courage to apologize to those who I may have hurt over my years of drunken, ignorant behavior. Through His Grace, I learned once again that God is the Ultimate Teacher, but He wasn’t finished with my Lessons. Not yet.
Towards the end 2016, I received a call from my doctor. My last cat-scan showed something strange and they needed to investigate further. So, two biopsies later I was diagnosed with another type of cancer, this time on my upper right lung. They sent me across town to a thoracic surgeon---one of only two such surgeons nearby---who confirmed that the diagnosis was accurate. “Stage Two lung cancer”, he advised.
Now, on January 23, 2017, after the removal of two ribs, one infected appendix, and nine hours in the operating room, I awoke in recovery mistakenly believing that I’d died and gone to heaven. But Almighty God was simply testing my faith once again, and this time my prayers were stronger and I believed ‘My Transformation’ was well underway. I was alive, and I was ready. There was no anxiety, no fear, I believed the Good Lord wanted me here a while longer.
I felt certain that my prayers had been heard. The how, the when, the what concerning my future was going to be in the Domain of a Higher Power. The doctor’s plan, however, included more chemo, more cat-scans, more office visits, and radiation treatment. Nonetheless, I believed that my Lord and Savior had heard my call.
With my Transformation in motion, and my treatments moving along smoothly, I decided---for some odd reason---I needed a new car. Around the middle of July, I finished the radiation treatments, and my oncologist scheduled another cat-scan for early October. Meanwhile, somehow I believed that angels had been dispatched to come for me, and I would discover the truth of that feeling a little bit later.
It is now August 2017, a mere three weeks after I’d finished almost two years fighting for my life. Unexpectedly, an old friend from my college days from over fifty years ago rang my doorbell. He lives in a different city and we had not spoken nor seen one another in all those years! Using his computer, he came right to my front door. Someone mentioned to me that folks don’t normally go looking for someone under those circumstances; you rarely even find blood relatives who will take the time and effort to look for folks after fifty years. But, this was God’s work, I knew with certainty!
My old college friend and I agreed over the phone to meet within a few days before he left town. And while I was visiting with him, another mutual college friend just happened to call him. They’d been in touch and she was returning his phone call. Someone handed me the phone to say hello since she and I had not seen one another over the same fifty years. That conversation led to more discussions days and weeks later. As she and I shared our life stories, it was obvious to me that this must be part of what God had in store for me. We discussed the fact that I’d lost my wife to cancer some years earlier, while she also was alone due to a divorce. Now, at the fourth quarter of our lives (we’re both 71), I believed my transformation was nearing completion in a mysterious kind of way.
After a few short months phone conversations, I suddenly realized why I’d been led to purchase a new car. I’ve learned that when God is working, and your faith is strong, you can feel His presence like a soft ocean breeze. I’ve learned that faith , as described in Hebrews 11:1----the assurance of things that be not as though they were---can change your life. Truly, I am now healthy, strong, sober, joyful, and transformed, thankful for the miracles God has performed, right before my eyes.
My life has changed drastically because of a deathly illness. But, God’s plan is undeniable: I put some of my belongings in my new car understanding fully why I’d been led to purchase it. I drove 1200 miles to the city where my lady friend lives. Along the way I purchased a ring. Almighty God had said “YES”, and so did she. We are engaged to be married in the very near future. Hallelujah!!
© 2018 Dan Dildy