Descriptions and Definitions
While I am the one with brain cancer, Lois and I refer to it as “our” journey by virtue of our marriage vows to one another. In Lois’ words, “When I said that ‘I would take Jim to be my wedded husband to have and to hold from this day forward in sickness and in health to love and to cherish till death do us part’, it meant that we would face whatever God allowed, even if it included brain cancer.”
Journey Living with a terminal disease like cancer is a day in and day out journey for both of us. Unlike dying immediately from a car accident or gunshot wound, you both wake up to face another day with a new set of norms which no one asked your permission to change.
Together This is a term that is repeated throughout this document out of necessity because there are so many sources and forces on this journey that can attack, isolate, and separate us from one another. My loss of independence and increased need of assistance is burdensome for us both.
With God There are people who attempt to travel this journey without God, but that is not our choice, nor our reality. We repeat what many have said who have walked this journey before us, “We don’t know how anyone can face a terminal disease like this without the Lord.”
In the words of Henry Cloud, “Self-help is an oxymoron. …We need help from two power sources larger than just ourselves, God and others.” (Never Go Back, pp. 218, 221)
Through There were never any warnings telling me to avoid certain habits and behaviors or else the consequence would be cancer. To the best of our knowledge (and our oncologist’s understanding), no one has pinpointed the reason I got a malignant brain tumor.
After my primary care physician told us what my brain MRI revealed and that I would probably need surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor, he closed with these words, “I am very sorry that you have to go through this.”
He did not offer any options like skipping over, bypassing or avoiding the journey before us. The operative, non-negotiable word was “through.”
Thanks to divine guidance and many helpful people, my brain surgeon removed the tumor the following week. Before I left the hospital, he emphatically repeated what I had heard before, “You will learn to go through life living one day at a time.”
What my surgeon failed to iterate was that I would also live from one brain scan to the next, wondering what the next one would indicate: Would I need another brain surgery to remove more malignancy or another six-month round of chemotherapy? Might they recommend hospice-care because the end is near?
More often than not, my MRIs have revealed that there has been no tumor regrowth, and the report is, “Stable.” Every time Lois and I receive that encouraging word, we leave Rochester, Minnesota, very relieved that I have received a new lease-on-life. On the way home, we call or text close family members and friends with the good news, beginning with our two sons. Then, the two of us are better able to enjoy life until the week before the next MRI, which is typically two or three months of day-to-day living down the road.
We recognize that I am outliving the odds. Recently, a medical professional told me that I have lived longer with glioblastoma (brain tumor) than anyone he has known. In other words, all the others are dead. I take no pleasure in hearing that, I do take responsibility for my life and the remaining days that Lois and I have together.
Rest? Who needs it? I have too much to accomplish for God! Do those words sound familiar? Have you ever said them to yourself or others? Jim Anderson lived the same lifestyle that a majority of Christians, especially pastors, often follow. He tried to be all things to all people while striving to do more at the expense of his health, personal relationships, and his walk with God.
After serving as a pastor for 25 years, Jim Anderson wanted to help other pastors thrive as they serve local churches. Knowing that pastors often experience burnout from personal and ministry fatigue, he wrote the book For God’s Sake Rest! Since he also knew how lonely pastors often feel even while surrounded by the people they serve, Jim has now written the book The Seven Essential Powers of Friendship: A Path to Authentic Relationships.