Lands lifted up toward the sun in a peaceful sky.

Deals with God and Bladder Cancer

I grew up in the church. I was very active into adulthood. But somewhere around mid-life, I drifted away from the church. It wasn't an angry blowout or some monumental crisis of faith. It was just that I came to understand that I was working harder at rituals and institutions than I was at a spiritual relationship with God.

There followed many hours of prayer and heart-to-heart conversations with my maker, but I won't go into that here. That's not the point. But by the time of my diagnosis, I had not been formally associated with a church in years.

No time for self-reflection

Then, the big "C." In my case, things moved so swiftly that I didn't have the time for self-reflection and the fear I hear so many speak of. Barely two weeks passed from my diagnosis until my radical cystectomy. Somehow, in the rush of trying to figure the logistics of the surgery, how to pay for it, and preparing to be gone for weeks from work, I never had time, or got around, to making deals with God.

My particular cancer would not respond to chemotherapy or radiation, so cutting it all out was my only hope. Thus the reason for the speed in my treatment.

Nothing much to complain about

When I came out of surgery, my surgeon was very optimistic and felt certain he had "gotten it all." With a good prognosis and no debilitating treatment to look forward to, I didn't have much to complain about or be fearful of. Again, no incentive to make deals with God.

It's not like I got off scot-free.

Focused on getting better

They had pretty well gutted me like a carp. My bladder was replaced with a neobladder, my prostate and seminal vesicle were gone. A section of my small intestine had been cut out and was now my new bladder. But that meant my small intestine was healing from having lost a segment and being sewed back together.

I had months of convalescing ahead of me. In those first days after surgery, I concentrated on getting better and doing the things I was supposed to, like physical therapy.

My first walks were a few steps in the hallway, but I eventually was able to go to the end of the corridor, make a right-hand turn and go to the end of that corridor, repeating until I was again at my room. I called it "making the block."

Faith came knocking

As I got stronger, simply making the block wasn't enough anymore. I noticed a sign pointing to a chapel and I felt an overwhelming urge to go there. I followed the hall I had thought lead to the chapel but was unable to locate it. It was important to me to find this place, but my strength was fading and I reluctantly turned back toward my room.

Turning down the hall to my room, I finally noticed that the chapel was in a converted hospital room, just a few doors down from mine. I had missed it because I was expecting something larger. I didn't understand the relief when I found it.

I quietly entered and discovered an altar at the far end. Small pews lined both sides with an aisle from the door to the alter. I was alone.

No. That's not right. I was the only human visible in the room. I soon understood that I was not alone.

The impact on that faithful day

I'm very spiritual, but I'm not superstitious. The laws of physics explain how the universe works and the constraints on what can happen. I'm extremely skeptical of supposed miracles. But God has touched me very profoundly several times in my life, and this was to be the most wonderful so far.

As I stood there, I had the powerful feeling that somebody was standing behind me, with his hand on my shoulder. The sensation was overwhelming and I began to sob uncontrollably. I was completely taken in some strong emotion, though I'm not certain what that emotion was. I could feel God assuring me that it was OK. Not that I was going to beat the cancer or make a full recovery - that's not what he meant by OK. Whatever happened, he would be with me and I would be OK.

Deals with God and bladder cancer

I didn’t want the moment to end. I wanted to stay there forever. But as world-shattering as this was to me, it was still just a pat on the shoulder, a kiss on the forehead, not a promise of an outcome. I hung onto that memory for weeks. I tried to relive it and even tried to turn it into some epiphanic moment. But that is not what it was.

It was a much-needed and divinely profound pat on the back reminding me that he loved me and would be with me through whatever came next. I can't say much good about having cancer, but one positive aspect was that it reminded me of my faith.

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