Of all the medical things I’ve learned, maybe the most surprising lesson is that 90% of your conversations will be consumed with a single topic as soon as you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is maybe the scariest word (that’s already in your vocabulary) that you can hear from your doctor, though it’s not always the most critical affliction. You don’t even have to have the worst kind. Let others know that you have cancer and you will be talking about it for months.
Nine years ago I had cutaneous leiomyosarcoma, a cancer in the arrector pili muscles, the layer of muscles connecting with hair follicles, with a tumor almost the size of a golf ball right in the middle of my chest. There are other kids of cancer—including subcutaneous leiomyosarcoma—that will metastasize all over your body and into your organs, the kind I had does not. My doctor initially thought it was just a cyst, so he jabbed me in the chest with novocaine 30-40 times and cut it out only to say afterward, “Hmmm, that doesn’t look like a cyst.” A week later he called with the lab results saying it was cancer. So I had to have a wider margin of tissue cut out in surgery. There were some post-op side effects, but then it was mostly done. A few years after that my younger sister had a massive brain tumor that couldn’t be cut out because it was wrapped around critical parts of her spinal cord. She lived less than six months from the day she was told what was wrong.
Many of you have had, or have, some type of cancer. How many types of treatments and medicines have they tried on Debbie? How many hours of travel, how many hours of dealing with side-effects, how many hours of explaining to others? It’s hard for it not to become an identity. Others ask because they care, but just giving updates can become a burden. Talking about it becomes almost as tedious as the tumors.
By analogy, all sins deserve death, and not all sins have the same consequences. Some sins are public, and some of the public sins sound more scandalous. The Scarlett Letter made adultery the most abhorrent in a 17th century community of Puritans in Massachusetts; that’s just an example. “The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later” (1 Timothy 5:24). Though the Bible doesn’t use the word cancer, we know some sins spread through the body, some sins become almost a part-time job dealing with them.
But when there is repentance there is rejoicing. When there is salvation, we sing aloud of His righteousness (Psalm 51:13-14). Recounting forgiveness and reconciliation is never tedious.