Cancer: A Year Later

I was lying in bed, my head resting on my wife’s chest, and I was weeping. I could feel her crying as well. Her hand gently stroked my hair, soothing my sadness. But it wasn’t sadness that caused the tears to flow that night—it was humility. Earlier that day, I had been diagnosed with cancer—spreading malignant melanoma.

Despite this life-altering news, I felt remarkably close to God. Regardless of the prognosis, I felt certain that He had a plan.

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A Year Later

It has been a year since I found out that all of the cancer cells had been removed. I would say that I am grateful, but that seems inappropriate. Although I am, I have to admit that my gratitude has been coupled with anxiety.

You would think that a cancer diagnosis would have taught me to slow down and enjoy life. In my case, it has caused me to speed up. Curiously, my cancer diagnosis has made me think about all the things that could be instead of all of the things that are.

I suppose it is rooted in the fear that my cancer will come back—that I won’t have time to do all of the things I feel like I am supposed to do. That sounds incredibly selfish and insensitive to those who have received different news, but it’s the truth.

I have begun living for some future moment in time, afraid that I will never get to experience it.

That’s what fear does. It causes us to shift our focus to scarcity. And when we begin living from a place of scarcity, we’re forever impatient.

In reality, my fear has caused me to miss out on the very life I am afraid of losing.

Always in a Hurry

The other night, one of the boys had to conveniently go number-two just before bedtime. I thought my head might explode if he didn’t hurry up. All I could think about was getting him to bed so I could go downstairs and get something else done—check something else off of my list. Or if I’m really honest, just sit around and quietly enjoy myself.

As I wrestled with these emotions, I began asking myself:

Why are you in such a hurry?

Over the past twelve months, I have led myself to believe that if I could control everything, then maybe it would remove the uncertainties that exist in my mind.

But that’s a lie, isn’t it?

The one sure thing about life is its uncertainty.

The desire for control is different for all of us, but at the root of that desire is where we find intimacy with God. It’s when we learn to relinquish control that we really find Him. In fact, we can find Him in no other way. I believe that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who seeks to lose his life for my sake will find it.”

When I was first diagnosed, I let go, but when I was told that I was cancer-free, I began clinging on for dear life. It has taken me a while to recognize my hurried pace of life since my prognosis, but I’m glad I’m beginning to.

A Word That Helped Me Fight My Desire for Control

Earlier this year, the word, presence, began floating around in my mind. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I do now.

So much of our lives are spent in these places, these seasons of waiting, and waiting carries with it uncertainty. I’m learning that uncertainty can only be cured by presence. Our willingness to be present, even in the midst of waiting, shows our faithfulness.

In fact, if we don’t learn to live within the waiting, then we’re going to miss out on living altogether.

So the other night, with my son, I chose to be present.

Who knew that singing in a funny, nasally voice while you held your nose could be so amusing to a three-year-old—and his thirty-three-year-old father. His laugh still echoes in my ears.

It was a small step, but a step nonetheless. And I think that’s what it means to walk with God. Small, uncertain steps in a certain direction. Choosing to show up—to be present.

Friends, moments like these, with our children before bedtime, evaporate quickly in the heated pace of life. I’m learning, albeit slowly, that true intimacy with God is found in these moments, not some far-off, magical place where we try to get everything done as a way to control our life.

A world where we’re in control is the very sin that caused Eve to bite from the fruit of the tree. And that is the curse that Jesus came to destroy.

My post-cancer year has taught me that true intimacy, true life, is found in the waiting—in our willingness to be present and trust in His presence. That is where the Spirit of God dwells.

I so vividly remember that moment, in our bedroom, when my wife and I shared such a deep connection with each other and with God. We weren’t anxious. We weren’t impatient. We were simply present, clinging to Him for dear life.

And He gave it to us. His very Spirit. His peace that surpasses all understanding.

That’s the place I long to be—in His presence.

MH

After wrestling with my cancer diagnosis, I made a decision to begin living on purpose so that I could begin living with purpose. I created the RICH Life Challenge, a free 7-day devotional series that mirrors the daily practices that I engaged in. Sign up for the Challenge, here:

About the Author

Matt Ham is primarily a husband and father to three boys. As an author and speaker, he is dedicated to guiding others toward living a rich life. Through his RICH Principles he helps folks uncover fullness, identifying real treasure and discovering true joy and contentment in both their professional and personal lives.

His 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 www.redefinerich.com

To contact Matt or inquire about his speaking schedule, visit www.mattham.com/speaking

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  • Kim Zajan

    Awesome post! I am working on trying to be more present. It can be a struggle but very much worth it.

    • It’s a battle worth fighting, Kim. So much of the last year was missed because I kept worrying about the next moment. Thanks for reading and taking a minute to share!

  • Beautiful and wise post, Matt. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Thanks for the nudge, brother!

  • Wow Matt. I had no idea. I guess I’m still a newbie in reading your blog. Such an insightful inside look into what this journey has been like and continues to be like for you. I definitely struggle with waiting and fear and have found that both cause me to doubt and waver. Thanks for the push to lean back into the Lord and be present.

    • It’s all part of the story that God is telling Shawn. I always remind myself of 2 Corinthians 9 “For the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of self-control.” Keep leaning!!

  • Thanks for sharing your journey and reminding me to live in the “now” and not always look to “what will be”.

    • It’s a daily battle, Rick. And one I think the enemy uses often. Thanks, brother.

  • Hey, Missy. Thanks for that real-time encouragement! The oldest is five and I’m already wondering 🙂

    • Missy Gregg-Bailey

      Once upon a time i had 3 boys 5, 2 & newborn- life was crazy & i felt like i was always running!! Today i’m more “present”-family time is precious & sweet!!

  • Loved this post Matt. Being present is something my grandchildren have taught me. And now I am trying to learn it with Olivia. I have to consciously be present and thankful in the moment as my mind tries to move ahead and ask questions that as yet have no answers. Love the new title.

    • Thanks, Anne! Our willingness to be present shows our trust in the One who holds the answer to those questions.

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