What It’s Like to
Survive Cancer

in ,

In Short: A test of faith.

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For the first 59 years of my life I did not have any health issues. On Thanksgiving day in 2016 that would change in a rather dramatic way.

After a couple of weeks of right flank pain, taking a deep breath, coughing or sneezing would result in a stabbing pain. A visit to the emergency room revealed a mass in my right lung.

The E.R. doctor seemed to be apprehensive when he delivered the news that it was likely a cancerous mass, but my wife and I were upbeat and simply said OK, what are the next steps? The doctor seemed relieved with our rather positive reaction and told me to follow up with my primary care doctor on Monday.

The following day I was at our church taking care of some paperwork when the pastor arrived. I told him what had been found the day before. He looked at me and said, “God’s got this.” He prayed with me and I completely relaxed, leaving whatever was to come in God’s hands.

Woman receiving Cobalt 60 radiation therapy in 1951. (Photo: National Cancer Institute)

“God’s got this” became my rallying cry. Not once did I worry, get depressed or wonder if God really did have it. He did and over the next several months it would be proven over and over again.

The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of activity visiting doctors and getting scheduled for a biopsy of the mass to determine exactly what we were dealing with. After the biopsy results were available, a team of oncologists started working on a treatment plan that included chemotherapy and radiation to aggressively attack the cancer and knock it out.

We started chemotherapy and radiation the first week of January 2017. I say we because my wonderful wife was there with me for every doctor visit and procedure that took place while beating cancer. Our upbeat and positive attitude during chemo and radiation was shocking to some of the staff and other patients. They could not understand how or why we were so happy and positive while having cancer.

Our positive and happy attitude came from knowing that “God’s got this.” More than once we were able to tell people that the outcome was in God’s hands no matter what. Whenever someone asked how I was doing, the answer was always, I’m doing just fine, God’s got this. And He certainly did.

When you think of chemotherapy and radiation, hair loss, nausea, weight loss and various other symptoms come to mind. I experienced none of those things, and actually ended up gaining a few pounds during treatment. That is not the usual case, but I know that it was my faith and God’s hand that spared me the usual side effects of being treated for cancer.

After 6 weeks of targeted radiation and chemo a C.T. confirmed that the treatment had been successful. A year later I was declared to be “in remission” and scheduled follow-up scans and visits for every 6 months. I am now on an annual scan schedule to make sure that nothing shows back up.

My experience is not typical when being treated for cancer, but it does show that a more positive experience is possible. I have no doubt that God, my faith, and being surrounded by loving and caring friends were the reason things went so well with a positive outcome.

David Martin is a programmer, 911 telecommunicator, and long-time computer person trying his hand at writing for public consumption.

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11 thoughts on “Survive Cancer”

  1. I am very glad you had such a positive outcome with your cancer experience. But I am concerned with your conclusion. “I have no doubt that God, my faith, and being surrounded by loving and caring friends were the reason things went so well with a positive outcome.”

    In a way, you are victim-shaming all those whose outcomes were not so positive. In some way they must have failed to have God’s support, their faith wasn’t strong enough, or their friends were not sufficiently loving and caring.

    My first wife died of cancer in 1984. We had a very positive attitude, loving and caring friends, faith, but she died. It was her time. It wasn’t yours.

    • I am sorry to hear that you lost your wife Bill. In no way was I trying to victim shame anyone, I was just telling my story. As with everything in life, everybody experiences things differently. I also know that being cancer free right now does not mean it won’t come back.

      • My reaction was similar to Bill’s. My husband had aggressive prostate cancer, plenty of faith, excellent medical care, good attitude, and supportive friends, family, and church communities. He still died.

        I think we have to be careful what we ascribe to God. That your trust in God helped you to stand up to the treatment, yes. That you survived because of God’s will, however, implies that you are somehow more favored than those who didn’t. Life and death are a lot more random than that. What God does, I believe, is walk with us if we’re willing, holding our hands. God doesn’t change what we meet on our walks.

  2. It’s good to hear from survivors who encourage us to fight on against a disease that could claim any one of us. In my childhood, whenever you heard the disease “Cancer,” it was a death sentence. Now people survive, but we also know it often comes back.

    I was lucky that a skin doctor recognized a problem caused by Agent Orange. He warned me I would need frequent checks in the future, and at aged 52, I was diagnosed with aggressive Prostate Cancer. That would be life-changing for me, and it also changed my ideas about my future.

    Lucky for me, I had a friend who was a doctor. He sent me to one of his old professors who was the head of Urology in his medical school days and the man was a lifesaver. One can only do so much to help themselves, and then you have to have trust in the professionals.

    These days, people can still have high hopes for cancer recovery, and the medical field is advancing rapidly.

    Having a good attitude is most helpful. You must keep on pushing.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Leonard. I may be in remission at the moment but the long term affects on my lungs and ability to breathe are not going to go away. No marathons in my future for sure.

  3. I too have fortunately survived a cancer that was supposed to kill me. A positive attitude, eventually some great medical care, and phenomenal support from my wife, family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers helped immensely in my case.

    For me, my (mostly) positive attitude, ability to accept whatever may happen and the wonderful support of those close to me, I believe were akin to your “God’s got this”. Although I am not a religious person, perhaps there is “God” in all of us in the form of our attitude towards life and others.

    My only regret is that as my symptoms were developing over years and numerous negative biopsies despite badly rising test numbers, is that I did not take the opportunity to educate myself more thoroughly about detection of disease I may have had and possible treatments. Rather I just sloughed it off thinking they did not find anything so continue on as normal. Had I been more proactive, learned more, and taken charge of my care earlier by asking better questions of my doctors, pushing them to consider other scenarios, I might not have gotten as bad an ultimate diagnosis.

    Through this journey one of the lessons I learned was that the first or even second opinion of the doctors should be questioned. Doctors get into a rut in their thinking just like the rest of us.

  4. I am very encouraged by your experience. My father and wife have both died of cancer, but cancer does not and and will have not have the final say. Your faith is admirable and I wish you all the best. God bless you, my brother.

  5. Many thanks for sharing your journey through the valley of the shadow of cancer, Dave. Your attitude reminds me of Joy Davidman, as she is presented in Shadowlands and in her husband Jack Lewis’ journal of losing her: A Grief Observed, the ending of which is reflected in what Joy says in this scene.

  6. I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in 2017 and underwent extensive radiation treatment in 2018 that basically destroyed the prostate. The radiation therapy caused kidney failure, so I was re-hospitalized for a bit and I’ve been re-hospitalized a few times over the last few years. My attitude is very positive. All these visits to the hospital reveal that I am in fact one of the lucky ones: I can walk, I have all my limbs, I can think, I don’t have to be on oxygen or other chemicals all the time — I just have cancer. Visiting the hospital always reminds me how lucky I am.

    I’ll bet your attitude has kept you alive and/or healthier. -rc

  7. I wonder what the author’s stance and faith would be if he had experienced the bad effects. My medical oncologist (chemo) informed me that I was in the far end of the bell curve that had extreme reactions, some of which have been permanent, or at least still in effect to some degree 13 years later. I try to count my blessings, but some days I struggle. And I remind myself also that I’m still here in the game.


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