Saturday, January 17, 2009

The blessing of cancer and a man named Gene

Gene worked for 41 years in insurance in Lawrenceburg, until he got a diagnosis of triple Myleoma in the third stage.

He subsequently slipped into unconsciousness for five days. After he emerged, he told all around him that he had been on a "death walk" with God. The Almighty had decided to bring him back.

Gene and I met two months ago in the same blood cancer clinic where we receive treatment. And we clicked, because we viewed cancer the same -- as a blessing from God.

Friday, we talked at length and from the soul again. He is truly a great man and has much to teach me and all of us.

Cancer will touch all of us in some way in our life. If it is not us, it will be someone close to us.

And when it is a terminal diagnosis, there is a tendency to lose all hope and to despair, thus ensuring your quick death.

That was supposed to be my way. And I almost died. But just as with Gene, we were spared for the moment, not a lifetime. Then God taught us how to celebrate this new perspective. We became better men because of it.

A while back, Gene met a man who came in to get all his financial house in order after receving a cancer diagnosis giving him two months to live. Gene told the man that it would only take him only a week to get his finances in order. He then asked the man how he was going to live the rest of the weeks remaining.

And then he floored the man with the question about what he would do if he lived one day past two months, and another day and another.

So the man started going to church, and taking possession of the preciousness of the day. And the fella lived another 18 years. Doctors do not know our time. Only God does.

Gene's transformation has been so uplifting that oncology staff at the medical center in Maury County started sending newly diagnosed cancer patients to him when he was receiving treatment. They wanted him to teach them acceptance, and in that way, give themselves a fighting chance to live.

My mental transformation was miraculous, thanks to the intervention of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Rosaries of my mother and aunts and cousins.

Gene remains weak. But he is alive, and he preaches to anyone who will hear. People sometimes ask him if he is an evangelist. He laughs, saying he does not want to touch that lofty profession.

I make sure when I go to the treatment area each month that I stop and smile at each patient in each cubicle. My heart breaks for them and their families. I see them beginning the tough journey I have traveled.

I tell them that if God would save someone so ugly as me for three years, he surely would rescue them. They laugh. And for the moment, that is enough.

But remember, we who are cancer patients, and those of us who have received a terminal diagnosis originally, never pray to be cured. We pray to appreciate the moment and God's generosity. And in doing so, we give ourselves a better chance at longevity.

Gene and I agree. We both went to church before his myleoma and my leukemia. But we have been graced with a closer walk with God that made us better people, and thus do not fear death.

We are anxious to meet our maker, because we have already experienced how marvelous He is on Earth.

We do pray for each other. But our prayers are just to continue on this walk until it takes us to God.

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