No cancer surgery. No excision of the 3-inch square of melanoma on my bald head. That’s what I’ve decided.
Surgery would be same-day. Wound recover (head excision and chest skin graft) would heal in two weeks. Return to “normal” in a month. Without surgery the doctor predicts the cancer will spread within a year.
So why no surgery? Here are my reasons in random order . . .
- Doctors, however skilled and sincere, don’t know what will happen.
- My primary lateral sclerosis is weakening me more week-by-week. Recovery would be a prolonged nightmare. Throw the surgeon’s recovery projections out the window. I don’t know how I’d even have the strength to get in the truck after surgery. I’m barely strong enough to transfer from wheelchair to bed and back.
- What follow-up treatment would be necessary? Would I have to go for regular chemo or immunology treatments in my weakened condition?
- Will the cancer reappear on my head or elsewhere? Is it the start of ongoing battles with cancer until it wins anyway?
- Can I trust “God’s Word”? In August this suddenly appeared in my mind: “I will not die but live, and proclaim the works of the Lord.” Where’d it come from? It sounded like Scripture, but where? My Bible software found it—Psalm 118:17. The psalmist is celebrating a military victory over his enemies, who surely would triumph. But, no, the LORD had saved the psalmist’s life. Hence, “I will not die but live, and proclaim the works of the Lord.” My situation in no way matched his. Yet I felt the Lord impressing it on me for me. “I will not die but live, and proclaim the works of the Lord.” The Lord would spare my life for a time, so that, in my little blog, I could tell of all his works to whomever would read. Pretty subjective, huh. I know. But I do believe the Holy Spirit still does that sort of thing. I’ve chosen to cling to that word.
- And to acknowledge another one. In Psalm 31, David seeks refuge in the LORD. The LORD is his rock and fortress. He acknowledges his distress—“my strength fails because of my misery” (31:10b). His adversaries scorn him. “But I trust in you, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands” (31:9-15). The New Jerusalem Bible translates—“every moment of my life is in your hands”. The New Living Translation—“My future is in your hands”. I take that to mean that my life is under that Lord’s sovereign control. PLS or melanoma don’t determine its length; the Lord does. Surgery may extend my life or not. But ultimately “my times are in [his] hands.”
- I read the following from Ken Gire (Intense Moments with the Savior) . . .
“I know I will wrestle with circumstances beyond my control . . .
some sort of suffering will pin me to the cold, hard ground.
When that happens, Lord Jesus, help me to realize . . .
that my strength is not found in how courageously I struggle
but in how completely I surrender.”
- I told my daughter, “If I don’t do surgery, I feel like I’m not fighting back, as if I’m just giving in to the cancer”. But I’ve had a change of heart. I’m at the point in my life (74 years old, 2 major back surgeries, 1 minimally invasive surgery, countless tests and probes, growing weakness plus multiple other PLS symptoms) where I can’t “fight back” using doctors. Instead, I have to surrender to whatever the Lord wants. My strength is found there.
- Suppose someone sought my counsel. “Pastor, given all the circumstances, what should I do?” I’d lead him through reasons and risks of not doing surgery. I’d ask him what he thought the Lord was leading him to do. We’d pray. Finally, I’d ask him what he thought he should do. I’d support him either way. But surely I wouldn’t quench any leading he sensed from the Lord.
This cancer is in the Lord’s hands. He can let it spread until it eventually takes my life. He can slow the spread, so I’m “safe” for years. Or he can stop the spread altogether. And, of course, he can heal me. (I’ve made it clear to him this is what I prefer.) He knows my end from my beginning. My times are in his hands.
Do I sound foolish? Or a coward for shunning surgery? Or a spiritual giant for just trusting the Lord (literally) with my life? I don’t think I’m a fool or a coward. And I know I’m no spiritual giant. I’m just an old man beaten down by disease trying to surrender in faith to whatever the Lord wants.
I appreciate your prayers.