Friday, August 12, 2016

The Unknown

One of the greatest fears that we face as cancer patients, and that our loved ones face, is fear of the unknown. I've heard it over and over from friends I've made on this journey. A close friend of mine faces fear of the unknown because of her husband's rising PSA, as incremental as those increases have been. A new member of my online support group, still reeling from her husband's diagnosis, talked just today about her fear of the unknown. My friend Ed Heck, who has just been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, has a long, unknown path ahead of him. We all face it.

I too am facing the unknown. The most immediate unknown for me is my next PSA test. If that number goes back down, it will mean that my current treatment, Lupron, is still keeping my cancer in check. I'll get my next shot soon thereafter, and everything remains the same for now. But if the number continues to go up, the way my last number did, it means that Lupron has stopped working a year to six months earlier than was expected. That won't be a good sign, if that's the case.

I have a little more than two weeks until my next test. A few days later, I'll meet with my oncologist, and we'll see where we are. Until then, I'm staring into the unknown. It's like a fork in the road. One direction looks like a familiar path. The other is shrouded with fog.

This phenomenon is not unique to cancer, of course. We all face the unknown, and many of us fear it. I've never been one of those people. I tend to look into the unknown with anticipation, even excitement. I want to see what there is to see when the fog lifts. But that's my optimistic nature taking over. I'm very grateful for that. It's helping me a lot during this time in my life.

But everything that happens in my life, both large and small, is seen through the lens of cancer. Within the last few weeks, I've noticed a numb area on the outside of my left thigh. It's in the shape of a long oval, about six inches long. I occasionally feel sharp pains in it that only last for a second or so. It began about the size of a dime, and grew to about eight inches long, then receded to six inches, where it's stayed. I called my oncologist about it, and he didn't think it was anything to be concerned about unless it kept growing. I asked about it in the support group, and nobody else has experienced this. But I can't help but wonder if it's related to the cancer. It's an unknown.

If it does turn out that my current treatment isn't working anymore, then we really will be facing the unknown. Will my new treatment regime help, or will the aggressiveness of my cancer win out? If Lupron only lasted half as long as my doctors expected, what does that mean for other treatments? What does that mean for my life expectancy? These are big unknowns.

But while we may fear the unknown, I find myself asking if I really want the answers to these questions. I do want to know if I've had my last Lupron shot, but do I want to know how much longer I can expect to live? Do I want to know if I'll have pain from my cancer? Do I want to know what I can expect as I deteriorate, should that happen? I think I do, but do I really?

I've never been much of a worrier, so I try not to think about those things. The unknown will become known all too soon. As Jesus said, each day has enough trouble of its own. Instead of thinking about the unknown, I'd rather focus on the known. So here's what I know.

I know that I am loved. You prove it to me every day. Until I had cancer, that was an unknown. It was only after I went public with my diagnosis that the reality of love was brought home to me.

I know that I have a purpose. I'm trying to fulfill that purpose right now, by writing this blog. Some of my posts reach many. Some only reach a few. But each post comes from my heart and experience. Like a preacher whose sermons hopefully help a congregation, but are really for the one who preaches, I hope my blog helps those who read it. But it's really for me. I do it because I need to do it.

I know that there are many others on this road with me. I know I'm not alone. That doesn't make the road easy, but it does bring comfort along the way.

And as I keep saying, I now know that God is real, and that he loves me. You may not feel like you know that for sure. I didn't know it for sure for most of my life, even though I believed. But belief and knowledge are two different things. It took cancer to turn belief into knowledge for me. The knowledge that God is in control (and that I'm not!) is what has given me peace and joy for the first time in my life.

So given what I know, why should I fear the unknown? It reminds me of the words of an old gospel song:

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know He holds my hand

That's all I need to know. #waroncancer


  1. did you get from belief to knowledge?

    1. Excellent question, Michael. Let me think about that. That may be my next post.

  2. I can relate very well to your post. I go in for my next Lupron shot in little over a week. I been getting those injections for a year now and the same unknown is there for me. What will my psa be and is the Lipton still doing its job. There are so many unknowns ahead but like you I take comfort knowing God loves me and Jesus will be with me all along this unknown journey. I know it's not a pleasant journey but knowing Christ is on that journey with me gives me peace.