I have shared my story quite extensively in my book, Articulating Hope. I will not go into great detail on this blog post, but on this milestone anniversary, I would like to take a moment to reflect.
It was late in the afternoon on July 17, 1986 that I was informed I had testicular cancer. I was hospitalized that evening and scheduled for surgery the next morning. In the blink of an eye, my life was forever changed.
A brief snapshot looks like this:
*I was born with problems that required surgery as an infant.
*Issues resurfaced in childhood. I had surgery again at age 14.
*I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 25. This required surgery and months of chemotherapy. (52 days in the hospital over 4 months)
*Diagnosed with cancer again at age 41. This was the most painful surgery of all, but thankfully, no chemo or radiation needed. The effects of this surgery permanently impacted my physical ability in significant ways.
*Diagnosed with heart problems at age 43. I was accustomed to the jargon connected with cancer, but I had to learn a whole new vocabulary in the medical arena concerning matters of the heart. In terms I can understand, this is what happened. Open heart surgery. Cut my chest open, take out the heart. Stop the heart. Put me on a heart and lung machine. Cut the heart open. Go inside and make repairs. Close the heart. Put the heart back in its place. Take me off the machines and jump start the heart. (Yep. That last part had me worried, but I am still kicking.) Surgeon stated that, "This will fix it for a while."
*The "a while" component came to fruition when I was 54. It was then that I started struggling with A-Fib. It got worse and worse over the course of several years. Medication did not do the trick. An ablation did not do the trick. Receiving cardioversions (shock) on four different occasions did not have a lasting impact. A second ablation in my late fifties finally gave me some relief. I am grateful to the skilled doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
What will tomorrow hold? I have no idea. Nothing is guaranteed. All I know is that I have this moment right now.
I want to say thank you to all who have been part of my life through these many years. I especially want to thank the wonderful people of Immaculate Conception Parish in Old Monroe, Missouri. Your prayers and support sustained me, and my parents, during those long four months with my first cancer diagnosis in 1986. I am sure my parents had not planned on starting their retirement by taking care of their adult son. Yet, that is what they did.
To the good people at St. Benedict's Parish in Florence, Colorado, thank you for sustaining my family and I with your love and prayers at the time of my second diagnosis.
People all across the country were praying for me at the time of my heart surgery. However, I want to thank in a special way all of the people in Sainte Genevieve, Missouri who lifted me up in prayer. I especially want to thank the students and my fellow faculty members at Valle Catholic High School for your prayers. Although I had only been with you a few months when I was diagnosed with the heart problems, your love and support at the time of my surgery was beyond overwhelming. I had been teaching my students about Eucharistic Adoration. They demonstrated the power of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament when they blanketed me with their prayers. I was out of intensive care in less than twenty-four hours following open heart surgery. I was back in the classroom teaching in less than four weeks.
How am I going to celebrate today? I will be at work for a good portion of the day. Being healthy enough to work is a blessing in and of itself--even though I still complain about my brothers being retired and I am still working. Okay, I may have some work to do in rooting out envy and jealousy in my life.
How have you coped with the struggles and difficulties of life? What words of encouragement can you offer to those who are hurting right now?
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Blessings and peace to all of you! May God give you the strength and courage you need to carry the crosses in your own life!