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The “C-word” by Jim Banks

As a number of you may be aware, I was diagnosed with colon cancer back in April. We moved into another rental house on the 30th and I had colon resection surgery on May 2nd. I was exhausted and could use a rest. But there were a number of oddities about that whole period that took some processing and I’m not sure how I feel about the whole thing, even today.

First off was the pronouncement itself. The surgeon rather matter-of-factly said you have got blaaaah and we need to go in to get it. When you have always been healthy, the idea of being diagnosed with something that if left to itself will kill you, is just downright bizarre. Hey, I’m in the prime of life. What happened down there? And why did you choose to betray me by accepting something I did not give you permission to receive? One would think you’d know better! How can I go forward with a bunch of internal parts that may choose treason at any moment? Kind of disconcerting, don’t you think?

Secondly, when the “C-word” pronouncement was given the decision to do something about it seemed to have already been made for me. But what’s the alternative; let some guy hack on you that you might not even let borrow your car? Or say, no I think I’d rather keep my deadly innards intact and refuse surgery? All the while there’s the little booger running around in the back of your head reminding you that statistically speaking, 3% of major surgery patients die somewhere in the midst of the gory process (presumably not from falling off the table), which you dutifully ignore and agree to lie naked and unconscious on a cold, articulated stainless steel table in front of a bunch of masked men and women you have never met and hope to God you never have to see again.

Fortunately, my surgeon wisely chose not to explain it to me in those terms so I very confidently replied, “Let’s do this!” as though we had just chosen up sides for a schoolyard game of hoops. But that’s the way life is, full of surprises and fragile things whose balance may be forever upset by the smallest microbial morsel unknowingly inhaled or ingested – or a word carelessly spoken – or any of a thousand other things. The question is not, “Will we find ourselves on our backside in the dust on occasion?” But instead is, “How will we handle it when it happens?” We will never find out what’s in the bottom of our cup until it is shaken.

There were three things that helped me through the aftermath of the pronouncement of the “C-word”. They were loved ones, community, and God, not necessarily in that order. Our loved ones become an anchor when the overwhelming waves of life are crashing over the bow of our soul. Their steadfast support enables us to keep moving forward even if our face is temporarily bowed or turned away from the onslaught. They are the ones we can turn to and ask, “What do I do now?” When we’re clueless in the midst of the storm we trust that they have our best interest at heart.

It was community that came around us to handle some of the mundane things Pat and I could not physically do during the recovery period. It was their caring input that said,”We may not know exactly what you’re going through, but we’re here to help carry you through it.” It’s always unearned and undeserved, which makes it all the more valuable. They were a gift from God.

But in the midst of it all there was the presence of God. When I was preparing for surgery I asked the Lord, “Am I gonna be all right?” My question was two-fold; long term with the cancer and short-term through the surgery. His answer was simple enough and yet very profound; “Some of this you’re gonna like, and some of it you’re not. But I will be with you through it all.” It was really the introduction to a level of intimate participation with me that I never expected in the midst of dealing with the “C-word.”

A couple of months ago I was at the Brown Cancer Center in Louisville having a PET scan to set a baseline measurement before chemo began. Why they keep those rooms at the temperature of a refrigerator I do not know, but they do. I, however, had worn shorts because it was summer… not a good idea. The PET scan unit is circular and you ride a 15” wide plank into it. But there is no place to rest your arms so they put a strap around you to bind your arms to your side so they don’t get hung up in the machine. Then they run you in and out of the machine three times – top of your head to your knees.

Being cold was no fun but the real problem for me was something else entirely. Following the five and a half hour long surgery, I experienced significant neuropathy in both arms. It was incredibly painful immediately following surgery but had subsided a bit by this time. At this point, the neuropathy had caused the loss of feeling on the surface of both arms. I had no feeling from the top of my wrists to my upper forearms (and still don’t have much). So I didn’t really have an immediate sense of how tight the strap was until about 15 minutes into the scan, when my hands began to hurt because of lack of circulation; another 10 minutes and it was pretty intense.

That’s when Jesus made his entrance. He walked nonchalantly up to the machine, rested his left forearm on the top of the circular mass of metal down by my knees, bent over and looked inside. His gaze was on the rapidly rotating projectors and receivers just inside the rim. That’s when he said, “Well, I wouldn’t have done it quite like this!” That statement tickled me to no end. All my anxiety vanished, along with my sense of discomfort. He has shown up similarly on several such occasions since. I can in all honesty say that despite the fact that I would not have wished this whole experience on anyone, it has been one of the best seasons of my life.

I find it interesting to reflect on the power of the verse that says, “In this world you will have tribulation, but fear not, for I have overcome the world.” I think that our most common experience when tribulation strikes is that we move immediately to fear instead of going to him, the one who overcame all the crap that came along with the tribulation. Sometimes we can make a conscious decision to go to him when bad stuff happens and that has born real fruit during this season. But the coolest times are when he comes to us when we make even the slightest gesture to go to him. And when he shows up, what he says is so unpredictable – and often so ridiculous – that it throws tribulation totally off track and puts us in a place of overcoming the stuff we are assaulted with in this world.

You have the same opportunity regardless of what life dishes out. However, experiencing it for yourself when trouble comes knocking is predicated on having experienced it a few times for yourself when there is no urgency (Isaiah 55:6).

Jim and Pat Banks lead House of Healing Ministries, an international ministry focused on equipping churches, ministries, and individuals to minister healing to the spirit, soul, and body. Pat has a passion for teaching creative people how to operate out of their spirit and commune with the Holy Spirit in their creative process.
Jim is the author of The Effects of Trauma and How to Deal with It and the developer of a prayer tool called the Trauma Prayer, which has been ministered to hundreds of people with astounding results to virtually eliminate symptoms of trauma, with many experiencing instantaneous and permanent relief.