Seven Good Things about Having Cancer (Part 1) – Gerald Givens

September 10, 2015

Photo: William Franklin “Cancer Sucks”

Experiencing grace through the gift of others.

A few days ago Pastor Doug asked if I would you consider writing a blog that reflects on my journey through cancer. I had been trying to do that for some time – each effort ended without meaningful result.  I realized that I was writing about me winning and me conquering.  Let’s be honest from a human, “me – first” point of view there is absolutely nothing, and I do mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, good about being told you have cancer.  It stinks. It ruins your plans.  It changes your future, and it may very well shorten it.  That stinks!

Photo Stephen Dickter

Photo Stephen Dickter

I don’t know if I will come up with “Seven Good Things about Having Cancer”.  I won’t in this blog, but I am considering this Part One of a multipart blog.  Maybe I will list more than seven, eventually. When I was first given a prostate cancer diagnosis I found two Bible verses I needed to consider, Matt 6:27, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” No! and, 1 Thess 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is my life, and God is in “Total control!” Thank you Norm Slocum. So let’s consider this a journey, not a last word.

You may infer from my opening paragraph that I am somewhat independent and self-reliant – that is my picture of myself and an issue with which I struggle.  I am ok with the teachings of the church and those who need extra help should receive it, but as the Bible does NOT say “God helps those who help themselves.”  If I don’t need help, I don’t ask.  There was a time when I used to hear about someone who had cancer or some other serious disease and my attitude may have been more one of ‘thank God that’s not me’.  I am not proud of that view, but I need to be honest.

I did not realize then, I was in a customer service line and my number had not yet been called. Not everyone is in the same line, but I think we are all in some line.

Well my number has been called now!

The people who have stepped forward with good wishes, offers of prayer, and just general Christian love are amazing.  I did not need to ask – I let my situation be known and they responded like I probably would not have.  I have been blessed and every hour I have is more blessed because of them. I could have done that in the past for others, but I did not unless you were ‘one of my friends’. I didn’t really need to help someone who does not need it, did I?  I had no trouble with the praying part of 1 Thessalonians and I am ok with the giving thanks part, and I am still working on the rejoicing. But God is teaching me daily.

By the way, I have had a few folks obviously avoid me since ‘word got out’.  They are probably like me – ‘Since he’s not asking for help, I will avoid ‘making him think’ about his problem.’  Believe me I am thinking about it, even if I am not worrying.  Excuse me, if I engage you.  I am not angry with you – I understand you.  But even if I don’t remember to ask, I need your fellowship, your caring, and your prayers.  The good news is cancer is not catching – the love we share in Christ is what I am receiving more of and I want to share it with you.

Some of the people who stepped forward are medical professionals. From March until May I moved from a somewhat high PSA (6.5) to stage 4 prostate cancer and with treatment options changing frequently.  We {This is not a journey to take alone and the Lord, Karen, and others, many who did not have to, have been with me every step} finally settled in on a mix of hormone and Chemo therapy – it is a fairly new approach. The only question that remained was timing. We had plans for this summer. As many of you may know we made a cruise and land tour of Alaska in July. You want to rejoice, spend some time in God’s world – he made it beautifully for you and me.

I started hormone therapy in May and will continue ‘forever’.  First Chemo infusion was August 10 after Alaska.  Chemo is no fun, but it can stop cancer and help in creating a remission. Chemo is disgusting and it stinks.  Thank God there are folks who will perform infusions as a service to those in need.  Ever known anyone taking Chemo?  Give them a hug.  Encourage them. They are allowing someone to put toxic goo into them in the prayerful hope that with God’s help, it will help them. With God’s help it does.  Different side effects for each person, but not fun – helps and stinks! Haven’t found anyone who thinks it is fun.

I have experienced several side effects – dry mouth, weird tastes, nausea, and starting on the twelfth day after my first infusion – hair loss.

Now I have been told that for a man of seventy, I had a good head of hair.  No more!  I have gained an understanding and empathy for brothers and sisters who have experienced the effect. When you stand in the shower four days in a row and pick up a quarter of your hair each day it is hard to worry about pride. BUT I just could not forget how important I am to God.  Remember in Matt 10:29-31, Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” My hairs number quite a few less today.

01 CancerCancer 02

I had my second infusion a week ago. I have another 14 weeks/4 infusions to go. I don’t know what other lessons the Lord has for me. I don’t know what other ‘good things’ I have to learn, but I know God is not through with me.

I will try to reflect some more and share some more.  If you have any questions post them and I will respond.  There may be questions I would have asked, but never knew where to ask them.  I am not an expert, but I know a great deal more now than I once did.

And remember God loves you and so do I.

Copyright Gerald Givens


Gerald Givens is a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel (1969-1991) and contract satellite engineer/program manager (1991-2011). He was born on 16 March 1945, and blessed to be baptized in April 1945, and married to his lovely wife, Karen, on 23 December 1967. He has served HCLC as Lay Minister and member of the Board of Directors. For many years he served with Karen and a third grade and kindergarten Sunday School teacher.  Recently he has led numerous Financial Peace University classes and co-chaired with Karen the Holy Cross Momentum emphasis,”SOAR” which was intended to bring Biblically based financial management training to the broader Holy Cross community.

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  • Connie Kalina September 13, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Gerry, This was a nice article. I’m sorry about your diagnosis and hope and pray for your healing. God’s grace to you.

  • Penny Mitchell September 15, 2015 at 4:30 am

    Thank you Gerry for your willingness to be vulnerable and share your journey through this experience with cancer that you would not have chosen. I have already learned and been touched by your heart. My immediate family has been twice changed through being in their version of the cancer line. One is with Jesus now. I think of you, Gerry, and pray for you, especially when I am singing “The Heart of Worship” song you played for us in the Jeffery Answers Class. I play guitar and sing in my private worship time and that song involves praying for you. “all is stripped away and I simply come….it’s all about You, Jesus.” Thank you for the privilege of sharing in your journey by hearing your heart during it. My prayers are with you and your family.

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