I jumped in the car after doing the daily school run in a rush as usual trying to get to work on time. The phone buzzed and I picked up, it was my brother. For the millionth time in those last few days he had phoned to see if I was ok. Conversation naturally was about dad. He went on to ask me some medical questions he couldn’t get his head around. Although my medical knowledge was pretty limited I attempted to answer his questions . ‘I just don’t understand why the tumour has to be treated surgically,’ he said. ‘There’s a good chance they got it all out when they did the biopsy. Why do they have to go in and remove more?’ It was a valid question. I paused for a moment and thought back to what the nurse had told me on the phone. He had told me the tumour was ‘aggressive’. That was the character of the tumour. Some tumours are slow growing and some are aggressive. Some tumours are well contained and some infiltrate surrounding areas. Character says a lot about a person or thing. The character of this tumour was dictating what the treatment would be. To be sure that the tumour wouldn’t continue to be aggressive it needed to be cut off, it needed to be stopped. The character of the tumour was causing the medical experts to respond with radical treatment. To be honest the character of this tumour caused us to respond with PANIC. It was aggressive! That meant it could invade other spaces. That was scary. After trying to explain the best I could I put the phone down and I cried as I drove to work. As tears fell down my cheeks I sensed God say to me ‘whose character do you trust?’ The character of a tumour or the character of your God. Trust isn’t always easy to give or earn, but over the years God had won more and more of my trust. People could let me down but I knew I could trust God. In that moment I thought back to when Jesus was in the boat with the disciples and they faced a storm. The character of the storm was bad. It was potentially fatal. It was so windy, there were high tides and crashing waves. That must have been so scary and it definitely must have caused PANIC. Personally I’m not good in boats so I know I would have been freaking out! The boat would have been rocking from side to side so I know nausea would have gotten the better of me and the insides of my stomach would have been everywhere! The character of the storm was huge and may have caused all sorts of responses but the character of the person in the boat was way bigger. Jesus’ character was calm, full of peace, full of authority, full of power. All He needed to do was say STOP and the waves obeyed him. As I considered this, peace filled my heart, peace filled my mind. This tumour may have a crazy character but the character of my God was bigger. His approach to the storm was with calmness, authority, power and peace This was how I needed to approach this tumour. There and then in the car I chose who I was going to trust and what my approach to all this was going to be. I was to calm down, know that God’s peace lived in me, that it was a gift He had given me, know that I carry authority and the same power that rose Jesus from the dead lived in me. As much as all of this seemed huge to me……my God was BIGGER. His character was the one that mattered the most!
Just before I opened my eyes I wished it was all a dream. I hoped the last 24 hours hadn’t happened. Despite my best efforts to wish it all away, the harsh reality was that Diagnosis Day did happen and I needed to face that. My dad had cancer. Sadness was what I felt but I knew it was a feeling that I needed to give to God. I knew God could exchange that sadness for hope and He could lighten my heavy heart. I’d experienced it before so I knew I could trust Him. Whilst talking to Mel and unloading my feelings, he said something that made me think. ‘Sadness is a place we all visit but you don’t have to live there.’ That’s so true I thought. If I lived there all it would do is depress me further and immobilize me. I needed to live in the hope that God gives me. So that morning I decided I was going to call my dad, hold back the tears and speak life and hope into this situation. Before we talked I texted him the verse from Isaiah 43 again
‘ hey dad this is a promise from God you need to hold on to….
1 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.‘
As me and dad spoke he told me something that totally amazed me. He told me that the night before’ diagnosis day’ he couldn’t sleep. So he got up and read his bible. He said he literally just opened his bible and it fell onto the story in Daniel about the three men in the fiery furnace. A king had ordered that these men be thrown into a fire because they refused to worship him or his gods . The King was so angry with these men that he ordered that the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than usual!!! That was HOT!!!! The three men amazingly and miraculously walked around in the fire and were unharmed, no single burn on their bodies. They walked out of the fire completely untouched by it all.
Here was my dad totally unaware that the next day he’d be facing a fire of his own, reading a story about three men who were miraculously protected by their God.
Some might call that a coincidence. I don’t. Could it be that God, the Beginning and the End, the one who knows everything before it even happens, loved my dad so much that He would want to prepare him for what lay ahead? Could it be that He wanted to speak with him, and reassure him that no flames could touch him? And then for me to go and say the same words to him today!!! Wow well that just blew me away.
When you call on God and you do it in truth, He really is so near to us. So near that you can hear Him. So near that He’ll repeat himself. So near that He’ll pour His strength into us to make us strong from the inside out.
A week ago I had the FaceTime conversation that I had dreaded. Dad had been in and out of hospital for tests on his bladder for weeks and now we were waiting on the results. The waiting game is awful isn’t it? Your mind races with all sorts of scenarios, your mind goes to places it shouldn’t and you end up imagining yourself in a future least preferred or even feared. Mum couldn’t hold in the heart breaking news they had just received. As soon as she could she told me ‘its bad news.’ Bad news isn’t what I wanted to hear. Bad news was the last thing I wanted. I knew in my heart ‘bad news’ meant CANCER.. The word cancer pierced right through me. My dad couldn’t have cancer. He’s hardly ever been sick. I was naive enough to even think that cancer wasn’t possible in our family. What do you mean its cancer? My dad had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, an adenocarcinoma. Tears ran down my face unable to comprehend what was actually being communicated to me. As a family we were facing something that was way bigger than any of us. Something we had no experience with, something we knew could be cured but something we also knew could be fatal. After a few moments of silence, I managed to compose myself. ‘Before we do or say anything else, lets pray,’ I said to mum and dad. This diagnosis was huge and there was only one person I knew who was bigger than the diagnosis. As I sobbed and talked to God, and cried out to Him to help us I remembered one of His promises in Isaiah 43. God had said ‘When you walk through fire, the flames will not consume you.’ Who chooses to walk through fire? You’d have to be crazy in my opinion. Who chooses to have cancer? No one. But its a fire many have to walk through. According to Cancer Research UK every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. This was a fire my dad was to walk through, but in that moment I sensed God with us and knew the flames would not consume him. Would he feel the heat? Sure he would. Would the intensity of the heat increase? It could do. Would he feel scared at some points. Probably. Did I understand why this was all happening? No, not at all but the bigger question was what was God going to show us through all of this?
That first day was horrible. I felt heartbroken, deeply saddened and just heavy with this ‘bad news.’ I didn’t really want to talk about it with anyone. I went to bed devastated but not before a quick FaceTime call with my dad to check he was ok. To my surprise he was as chirpy as usual, being strong for us no doubt. Before he said goodnight to me he insisted I smile. ‘Smile,’ he said ‘Your daddy is going to be fine!’