You Have Cancer

Tom, “You have cancer.”


When you find out you have cancer everything changes. There’s an expression, “you could have heard a pin drop,” not something people normally experience but something which describes those surreal moments in life. But on the day the doctor told me, “you have cancer, I swear you could have heard a pin drop. And when you find out you have cancer the pin which drops is more like the pin of a hand-grenade.

Defining moments are the times in our lives where time stands still, and one of my defining moments occurred when I was told I had cancer!

Your defining moment might have been when finally got your diploma, or it could have been the day you said “I Do”, or it maybe it was the day you held your first born child. These life changing moments become defining when the world as we know it is forever changed and our life takes on a new trajectory.

You Have Cancer Moment

Such was the case for me on December 12, 2009 when phone call led to a defining moment for my life. I was leaving a shopping mall after doing some Christmas shopping when I noticed I had a missed a call and there was a voice mail. I recognized the number as it was from a doctor who had recently done a biopsy for me and figured the call was a formality with news there was nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately the message received was not what I expected as my doctor called, rather than her PA, with instructions to call her as soon as I possible.

I made the call as I was walking back to my car. She began with an apology,

Tom I’m sorry it took so long, but I wanted to double check and confirm the results. Tom, none of this makes sense, you don’t fit the profile (you’re way too young), we found skin cancer and it is the worse kind you could have.”

Truth be told I don’t thing I ever heard my doctor say the “c” word.  It may have been because I was trying to find my car in a crowded parking lot, or it may have been my ignorance about merkel cell cancer. But she did get my attention when she told me I had an appointment to meet “my” surgical oncologist in the morning.

Your life is forever changed when you learn you have an appointment scheduled with an oncologist

Early the next morning, I was in a surgeon’s office listening to him describe how rare merkel cell cancer was, less than 1,500 cases per year (with less than 1% of those cases occurring in people under the age of 50) and how rapidly merkel cell tends to metastasize. He went on to share his plan for surgery, and his strategy for radiation. He also prepared me this would be a long road where chemotherapy could be added to the game plan.

My defining moment was when I was told I had cancer, but in this moment I vowed cancer would not define me!

At some point my oncologist stopped talking, and I really don’t know how long we both sat there in silence, but when I checked back in there was only one question I had to ask…“so I have cancer?” Despite already knowing my doctor’s answer, this was a question I had to ask for myself, and the only reply he could offer was, “I’m afraid you do.” 

So there we both sat, unsure what to say next and I swear…

You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop!

But for me asking the question, so I have cancer, allowed me to own the answer I heard, and embrace how I would fight this disease. This moment in time would mean cancer didn’t own me, and I would take ownership of my care. Ultimately I turned everything over to God, trusting Him period with my healing and my future, but in the midst of so much uncertainty I found peace which enabled me to share this comfort with my family.

Do you have a defining moment in your life?

How would you say you were changed by it now you are on the other side of what your experienced


trusting God period!

Learning You Have Cancer is the first post in a series of posts titled Life Lessons, focusing on leveraging our faith in the midst of trials and adversity. Check out part two: Game On.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

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