Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.


October 9, 2013

Driving home from the class I taught tonight, I was rolling through my neighborhood, perplexed.  I had dutifully put out my trash and recycling and yard waste today, but no one else had.  Weird.

My imaginary finger-wagging was short-lived as I realized why I’m the only one with trash cans placed at the curb:  tomorrow is not trash day.

The time between the day you hear that you have cancer (Thursday) and the day when you meet with the whole team of melanoma specialists (Wednesday) is a very long time, indeed.  It’s also very, very short.  And somewhere in the waxing and waning of time I got lost.

I want time to move quickly, because there is something in my body that most emphatically should not be there, and I want it out, now.  I want aggressive treatment, and I want it soon.

But I want time to move slowly, because I’m not quite ready yet.  I’ve never even broken a bone, and have never been a patient at a hospital or gotten so much as a stitch, so I’m in no hurry to have someone carve a chunk out of my leg.  I want to attend my daughter’s soccer game and enjoy it (nope, though, because there was a lot of sun there).  I need to get a haircut before I meet with one of the most elite teams of melanoma specialists in the country.  I need to mow the lawn.  I need to finally run the wires and install the old TV on the wall in the bedroom, before my leg is too sore to convey me into the crawlspace.  I want to wash the car, because, you know, the car should be clean.

I lost time when my son was alive, my mind so caught up in preoccupations about the future that I wheeled the cans out a full two days early, before someone kindly pointed it out to me.  And yes, I washed the car on the morning of his funeral, because that seemed really important then.  My aunt kindly offered to help, but my uncle knew that it was something I needed to do alone.

So I’m as busy around the house as an expectant mom who is ‘nesting’, flitting around to cross projects off the punch-list before It Happens.  I’m getting so much done in this bustle that time seems to launch ahead and carry me with it.  I tried to download the Tuesday edition of my favorite podcast no less than three times on Monday.

My brain is even faster than my body, rushing ahead to consider possible outcomes and potentialities and problems which might be lurking.  My friend Tom, who has triumphed in his own struggles with melanoma, encourages me not to do such things, echoing Jesus who tried to teach us to worry about today, because tomorrow’s troubles are imaginary and also non-actionable.  So I try to sit here, in the liminal space of a person who has cancer in his body, which might or might not have spread.  The next step is straightforward:  try to get it all out, and see if it has spread to my lymph nodes.  The doctors tomorrow will look at a double-checked pathology report, rewind my diagnosis to zero, talk to me separately (head of the practice, surgical oncologist, and medical oncologist), then conference among themselves to decide what should happen and when.

Of course I’m worried to death that the cancer has spread, and I’d like to be a little bit ready for that possibility.  But I’m also aware that there’s nothing I can do about that now, so I sit.  Surrounded– tonight anyway– by a bunch of friends who overlooked my lonely trash cans and sat down to pray for me– prayers for mercy, prayers for healing, prayers of anger, and prayers of complaint on my behalf. Followed by more appeal on my behalf.  It is love, so permeating the living room that you swear you can breathe it. Which is as good of a place as I can be.

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20 Responses to “Torn”

  1. rachel says:

    my heart just flew east
    joining the gathered, praying,
    breathing. ready, set …

  2. Anthony says:

    What?! Praying…

  3. Lora says:


  4. Minde Smyth says:

    I really appreciate this vulnerable, honest confession. This very much resonates with me as I also sit in a liminal space of cancer within my body as well, graded “indolent” with a treatment plan of watch and wait. Creating the space in my life to be present and at peace with threatening chaos inside my body is quite a task, but profoundly needed and counter intuitive. I will pray that you will be surrounded by divine grace, peace, and comfort despite whatever diagnosis/prognosis is pronounced. I’ll never forget walking out of my first oncologist visit feeling a looming death sentence over me after being told how much longer I had to live, I heard a quiet whisper from God, “I have the final say.”
    Much thoughts and support to you from afar.

  5. Valerie Anderson says:

    Ah, Mike. Thinking of you and praying and hoping and trusting and sitting in silence. Words fail; spirit communes.

  6. Colleen Digmann says:

    Love and prayer flowing fiercely from Iowa.

  7. thankx for this post mike, sorry to hear about the disease – just watched my best mate come through a two year period of cancer after two attempts and so want to join your room of people from a little further away in prayer and love and hope and wishing you strength and perseverance…
    in Him,
    brett fish

  8. Tom Della-Moretta says:

    I totally get the ‘wash the car’ and ‘take out the trash’ activities. From this distance, I’d like to take out the trash for you, or maybe wash the car, or…….something. Mostly, because DOING something seems to feel so much better than……….. not. I’ll continue to pray, feeling that it’s insufficient – but trying to remember who I’m praying to makes it more important. With you.

  9. Adele says:

    Joining you, your friends, and your family in praying and believing for healing.

  10. You’re the only person I know who uses “liminal” in a blog post. well done. Praying for good results for you–enough already, I say! Consider me someone who is complaining on your behalf.

  11. Steve K. says:

    I’m praying, Mike, and whatever else you want or need, please let us know. Much love.

  12. Bryan says:

    Mike, we’re here if you need us. When I pull in the trash cans today, I may kick them a few times out of anger and frustration about this. Thoughts are with you.

  13. Steve says:

    Mike, As the God of Love wraps his arms around you again today, you are in my prayers for peace, strength, and a full and speedy recovery. Pax.

  14. Cyndi says:

    Praying for you, my friend!

  15. Julie C says:

    Thinking of you. Everything is so much more real and yet unreal in these times.

  16. Israel says:

    Wow. So this is real and why “categorization as a form of control” clicks for you. No kidding. My dad has kicked this (out of his gut) going on 15 years now. I want to hear what the docs say next. You don’t need sympathy. You never have been that guy.

  17. Jen says:

    Oh, Mike. I’m praying and believing for the best. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…” May THAT be a reality for you, Stace and the kids as you wait. Love you guys… Keep us posted.

  18. Hope Schaefer says:

    That was so beautifully written! Stacy and I were good buddies during elementary school…it is awesome how God places people in our lives for instrumental purposes even years later…mine and Stacy’s must have been so that I could be one of the many friends that pray healing into her family…which I will certainly do for as long as it takes!! May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family!!

  19. Jilian says:

    Oh Mike and Stacy, my heart and prayers are with you guys. Cancer is an ugly evil yet I know you hold to the sovereignty of our God. I praise the Father for the hope we have that despite what the doctors say or how the treatments result, He has destined for you what is His best for you, even if we don’t understand it. Hold on to that hope, my old friends.

  20. Grace says:

    I’m with Lora. But don’t tell anybody.

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