The Day I Found Out I Had Cancer

I’ve always heard anesthesia was nice, but now I know – it’s great. I remember going in for the colonoscopy a little nervous, very hungry, and very exhausted after a long and intense night (those of you who’ve had this procedure know what I am saying, right?). I had never had an IV. I had never been admitted to a hospital at all. Yet here I was going in for what I thought was a procedure that wouldn’t find anything and was probably pointless. I was having some minor stomach issues, but no pain, no discomfort really. But the Doc said I should get it checked out. So there I was.

After going into the room for the procedure, the doctor came in and went over my info. He said it was very unlikely we would find anything serious given my age and symptoms, but we will check it out and it’ll be just fine. Then they put me to sleep.

The next thing I remember was waking up to Mary’s face – she had tears in her eyes. She said, “Gabe, I have bad news. They found cancer.” The tears started to fall. I remember being shocked and thinking maybe I was still dreaming. I tried to shake out the fog in my head. I asked if they were sure, and she said yes, they found a tumor – 5 inches long – in my colon.   I remember feeling stunned. Blindsided. I still feel that way to a degree.

[Sidenote:: As I was sitting in the hospital there that day I thought of how I love it when people get blindsided on reality shows like Survivor or the Bachelor. That is my favorite part – when they go in to a rose ceremony or tribal council all confident and cocky, then get voted off. The shock and disdain of their reaction is fantastic, isn’t it? I smiled at this and I thought about how I just got a taste of my own medicine. #blindsided]

So that week followed with a series of tests, meetings, a lot of prayer and a lot of shock. We had to wait over the Memorial Day weekend to get the results of the PET scan that indicated if the cancer had spread anywhere. That was one of the longest weekends of my life.  Thankfully we got a good bit of news when we found out nothing has spread – it has remained in that location. It was nice to get good news.

So it turns out that I officially have stage 3 colorectal cancer. I’ll start treatment – radiation and chemotherapy – this coming Monday, June 8th. I will go in for radiation 5 days a week for 5 weeks, and take the chemotherepy pill every day for 5 weeks.  That will be followed by a 5 week rest period, and then surgery after that. Then we will most likely do post-surgery chemo for a time.  It’ll be quite a journey.

I hadn’t officially announced it yet, but I was selected for an Active Duty position with the Air Force as a Chaplain. We were gearing up for a total life change. We were wrapping our heads around moving in the near future. I was excited about taking a new full-time job. We felt sure that is where God was leading us next. Now it looks like that is on hold for at least awhile.  It’ll depend on how everything goes.

We will definitely continue with the photography business. Mary and I both love it and I should still be able to work most days during the treatment. I certainly still plan on being at our weddings on Saturdays. And I will continue to work at First Alliance Church on a part time basis as well.  They were more than generous in offering to keep me on staff, albeit in a different role than before.

This has been the most difficult couple weeks of my life and Mary’s life, for sure. It is still all hard to believe, to take in.  I’ve had every emotion imaginable: hurt, anger, fear, disbelief, confidence, and most in between. I’m told that’s normal. I’m doing OK though, just trying to take it one day at a time, trying to not live in the ‘what-ifs,’ and trying to keep a broader perspective through all of this.

The amount of support we have already seen and felt from our friends and family has been astounding. The prayer, texts, calls, cards, messages, meals and words of encouragement means everything. Without all of this I honestly don’t know how we would be making it. So thank you to all of you – you know who you are. Both my family and Mary’s family have been amazing. We are so grateful for them especially. The kind words, the support, really does wonders for the spirit and soul.

I know this is going to be tough. I know it’s doing to be dark at times. But I also know that God is with us in the valleys of life and even in the shadow of death. He will give me grace and strength when I have none of my own. Every great story has conflict – and this is mine. I’ve resolved I won’t be defeated by this.  I want to use this setback to grow closer to Christ. I want this suffering to drive me to Him, to drive away the sin and selfishness that is harbored in my heart and cause me to grow closer to His heart of love.

I am so thankful I have Mary, an incredibly strong, amazing person to help me through this.

A few passages of scripture have really been encouraging to me over the last couple weeks.

The Light shines in the darkness, Yet the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5

No matter how dark things may get – I don’t need to lose heart, because the Light has already won.

And I just came across Psalm 121 a couple days ago.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?

It comes from God, the maker of heaven and earth…

The psalm doesn’t suggest we will never face pain or hardship. The psalm talks about God as our guardian in the midst of trials, our strength when we seem to be in danger. Our God is present in our dark times, he is with us at our lowest points in life.

As Psalm 46 says, God is our ever present help in time of trouble.  I’m banking on that more than ever these days.

And I’m also banking on the help and support of family and friends.  I know we will need the support and help more than ever in these days.

We would be so grateful for your prayers for healing. For grace. For divine strength.

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Photo May 28, 14 16 44