The Day I Was Told I Had Cancer

Yesterday was one of those days. A day so heavy, I could hardly stomach the reality I was facing.

For the past few months, my wife has been asking me to go see a dermatologist to get my skin checked. It seemed like such a waste of time. Besides, it’s something I had already done a few years ago. But despite my hard-headed nature, especially when it comes to doctors, I decided to comply with my wife’s request.

My dermatologist happens to be a good friend, so when I heard from her office for a follow-up on the biopsy, I didn’t think anything of it. However, when she stepped in the room and pulled a stool to the foot of the table where I was sitting, I paused. It was one of those impending moments where you realize that something incredible is about to happen and you can’t do anything to avoid it.

She looked at me with calmness and grace and said, “Matt, the spot we removed was atypical. The biopsy has shown that it is a spreading malignant melanoma.”

“Does that mean it was cancer?” I said, puzzled.

I didn’t need to hear her reply. The look in her eyes answered my question. Then, in confirmation, her head gently nodded.

“But, we got it. It’s gone. However, I want you to go next week to have a larger area removed.” Her half-smile was gentle and left no hint of fear.

I held it together as I gathered my things. The lump in my throat grew with every step that I took toward the door. Before I left, my friend gave me a sweet, kind hug and said, “I’m thankful for whatever angel brought you in here. In a year, maybe less, we would have been having a much different conversation. God has your back. You’re going to be fine.”

Digesting the Diagnosis

The ride down the elevator felt like I was descending into another world—a world that terrified me. In a matter of minutes, I was no longer the invincible thirty-two-year old father to three, I was a statistic. I was another victim of the same disease that took my aunt and three of my grandparents.

By the time I exited the building my mind was under attack. Had it spread? What about my kids? What if it comes back? The questions were endless and every single one of them was dripping with fear. I nervously grabbed my cell phone and called my wife. She had lost her father to cancer when she was only thirteen years old. Her father was forty-three. I was terrified to tell her and found myself apologizing for something that was completely out of my control.

Equally as difficult was sharing the news with my parents. Then, I got the call that was hardest of all. It was my little brother.

“Hey, Mom told me to give you a call. What’s going on?” He said.

I stuttered and stammered as I heard myself say, “It was cancer.”

I’m not sure why I had such a difficult time sharing the news with my brother, but I did. It’s like he received the brunt of my emotions because I couldn’t hold them together any longer.  Fear lingered over me like a dark, ominous cloud. It’s lies and worry flooded me with emotion.

A Calm Assurance

I stepped outside to breathe in the humid summer air of southeastern North Carolina. I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked into the endless sky overhead. And in the midst of the exterior chaos, I heard a reassuring voice. It was a familiar, comforting voice—one I had felt before during life’s defining moments. It’s the same voice I heard when my grandfather committed suicide, the same voice I felt when I held my son for the first time, and the same voice I felt when I began writing my book.

It was an echo of the truth of the gospel reminding me that this battle had already been won. And as I rested in its presence, I began to feel the fear evaporate. The deep truth of scripture was brought forth from my subconscious as a shield that deflected the flaming arrows of the enemy.

“Do not give the devil a foothold.” —Ephesians 4:27

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” —James 4:7

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians 12:9

The tears continued to come, but now they were tears of gladness. I repeated these familiar phrases and God granted me that clarity I was looking for.

The Decision to Trust

Every year, I pick a word as my road map for what I believe God is doing in my life. When God gave me my word this year, He was challenging me beyond every comfort zone I had possibly imagined. As I emerged from the wake of a cancer diagnosis, He gently reminded me that my word this year was, trust.

It’s easy to give God lip service, but when you see the word cancer associated with your name, you’re forced to choose. Will your trust remain, or will it crumble under the weight of circumstance?

I’m twenty-four hours removed from hearing those words—twenty-four hours that have been littered with questions. But, the only thing I feel like God wants me to do is write about it. Not to celebrate or draw attention to myself—I write to celebrate Him. God’s story is not free of pain. It’s a story of suffering—a story of brokenness. However, the beauty in God’s story is that brokenness is not the ending. We have hope because of Christ. He has risen to overcome sin and death. In Him there is no fear, only power, love, and self-control.

And in His infinite love, God made an interesting choice: He granted us the freedom to choose. Facing my own mortality reminded me that God loves me enough to let me choose.

Where to From Here?

In Psalm 90, we find the prayer of Moses. In his words, I find peace today:

“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” —Psalm 90:12

Today, I will begin number my days. Instead of placing my mind and my eyes on myself, I place my eyes and affections on Him. I will draw so close to Him because He is the only thing that remains. His love will become the catalyst for my soul and I will rejoice.

Today, you have that very same choice.

This morning, as I woke up to the first day after my cancer diagnosis, I found small snippets of paper waiting for me in all of my consistent places. My wife wanted to remind me of the love of my Father and His call for me to trust. So that is what I will do.


In my journal...

In my journal…

Beside the coffee maker...

Beside the coffee maker…

On my computer...

On my computer…

I’ve continued to write about my cancer and the perspective it has provided. Read more below:

Cancer: A Year Later
Learning From My Cancer
Wounds Heal, Scars Remain

After my diagnosis and subsequent cancer-free prognosis, I created the RICH Life Challenge, a 7-day devotional series aimed at living those words from Moses’s prayer: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

If you’re looking for a catalyst to begin living with purpose, take the RICH Life Challenge absolutely free.

About the Author

headshot-footerMatt Ham is the cofounder of YouPrint, a faith development organization. As a dynamic speaker and engaging writer he helps inspire, encourage, and teach people to engage a fresh perspective. YouPrint offers one-to-one personal mentoring and high quality faith development courses. Visit to learn more.

Matt’s first book, Redefine Rich, is a journey of uncovering a deeper, more fulfilling life by shifting your perspective. It is available in both Kindle and paperback on Amazon: here

You can order a limited hardback version of the book at

To contact Matt, visit

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  • Best wishes for peace and healing, Matt. I will keep you in my prayers. May the God of life be with you and your family.

    • Amen Lily – thank you friend!

  • Matt – Thanks for sharing your journey with us. As “minor” as it is, it is still “major”. My His peace surround you and His light shine through you.

    • Thank YOU Rick – really look forward to meeting you next week.

  • Wow. Praying for you, my friend. Thanks for sharing your story. Be well.

    • Thanks Nick – every prayer is much appreciated.

  • Matt, this is interesting timing as I just found out this afternoon that a college classmate of mine if battling cancer. I’m so thankful to hear that it was caught early for you. Please keep us posted.

    • Jon – what is your friend’s name, so we can join with him in prayer.

      • Her name is Kristie Rush. She married another classmate of mine, and they have two kids.

  • Lea-Ann

    Pray for my friend Cathy who had undergone mastectomy and is awaiting further testing and results.

    • Stan Priebe

      Prayed for victory for Cathy.

      • Stan, this made my heart full. Thank you.

    • Prayers for Cathy – that she would find rest and peace in His arms.

  • Stan Stinson

    You will be in my prayers and I trust the same one you do will be with you every step of the way and teach you what He wants you to learn through this experience. God bless!

    • Stan – thank you for joining with me friend.

  • Pat Meyers

    I agree with the doc — thankful to whatever it was that tugged at you to go in. Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow. We’ll be praying that those blessings flow, continue flow, and flow to your family as well. Tough on the loved ones, too.

    • Amen Pat – in Him we have our very being.

  • David Mike

    God can use any circumstance to get our attention. Sounds like you have a pretty encouraging wife. Thanks for sharing your struggle with us.

    • ANY! Thanks David. And yes, she’s awesome 🙂

  • I appreciate your transparency. Thankful for the report being good. I’ll pray.
    I’d like prayer that I will trust God to open the doors for the book I wrote that really put my story out there. Pray I would trust.

    • Anne – I will join with you.

  • Tammy Fuller

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing. I’m praying for you.

  • Love you, friend. Great help for others will come as you walk this road. Believing for complete healing and that God will bring sweet fruit from these days.

  • Dawn Snodgrass

    You do not know me, but do know I am praying for you and for your family.

    • Dawn, thank you for your kind words. It’s an honor to join with you in going to our Father.

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  • Christiana

    Sending hugs and prayers from Oregon. I know that you will survive cancer just as I did.

    • Thank you so much Christiana – encouraging words like yours are so helpful!

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  • What a story, Mr. Matthew. Thanks for sharing so candidly. Blessings on your ministry, Sir.

  • Matt,

    I am so glad I went back and read this post. First because it was written on my birthday 😉 .

    In all seriousness though, it seems we have a lot more in common than I thought. In 2012 I was outside doing yard work with my shirt off when my girlfriend at the time noticed a strange mole on my side. It looked as if it had a zit growing in the middle of it. Kind of a nasty looking thing. I thought nothing of it, but she told me to go get it checked out. Despite me being a little too headstrong, I went ahead to the VA and had the doctors look at it. They became immediately concerned given the rapid growth of the area. There were doctors rushing in and out of the room spitting medical jargon. I had to say “Guys! What is this, and what are you talking about?!” They didn’t explain very much but they took a medical punch from my side and sent it in for testing. I was told I would have to wait two weeks to hear back. Needless to say, I knew this would be a LONG two weeks.

    It was only two days later I received a phone call that I had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma (on the right side of my abdomen). After the doctors saw how rapidly it was spreading they were worried, believing that it had spread to my lymph nodes already and I would have to start chemo or some sort of treatments ASAP. Needless to say I was afraid as I had my personal doctor, a senior doctor, and the head doctor of the department all in the room concerned.

    When the doctors told me it was spreading rapidly they also said they wanted me in surgery within the next few days. When I went for the surgery, I had quite a large chunk taken out of my side (about the size of the opening of a large coffee cup). They took all the tissue and fat, placed it in a vial, stitched me up, gave me pain meds, and sent me on my way, telling me they would know if it has spread within two weeks.

    Talk about some extreme praying and meditation happening. It may sound strange, but I felt God wanting me to fast at this time as well. So, I began fasting and continued to pray like I’ve never prayed before. I made the calls to my family and friends and asked for support through thoughts and prayers.

    Despite all the anxiety, I became “OK” with the thought of what would happen if I did have to go meet the Lord. I had a strange comfort and peace come over me. I knew that whatever might happen that God would keep me in His hands and be with me every step of the way. I was ready to meet Him if I had to.

    I then received the call a few days later (why do they always say two weeks and then it’s a couple days…doctors: work on your tact please!). I feared the worst, but the doctors told me that they had gotten everything. Wow was I relieved. I now get check ups every 6 months just to make sure nothing else is happening (even just recently having a mole removed a few weeks ago which came back negative).

    After this fiasco, I decided “This woman (my girlfriend) is part of the reason I’m still alive” and decided to buy a ring as I knew at this point I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. That woman is now my wife. Not only did she find the melanoma spot the melanoma just in time, but she stuck with me, knowing that it could’ve ended up worse and she could have lost me.

    God took a scary situation and created a wonderful story out of it. I have a large Frankenstein looking scar on my side now that reminds me daily of the scare that I had, but also reminds me that God didn’t let me go. He merely taught me a lesson in trust and faith.

    • Scott – WOW, just wow. So awesome to see how paths are crossed. Thank you for sharing your testimony; a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

      • God’s got us talking for a reason. Don’t know what it is yet, but something good.

        About His faithfulness, He always pulls through somehow. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes, but that’s when we need faith the most and to remember that the God that got us over the last trial will do the same in this one.

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