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Nov 08, 2013 | Jeff Webb

Light in the Valley of the Shadow


[Diolog Magazine] On Friday, as we were listening to our oncologist, I could tell Shirl wanted to ask him something but I could also see the trepidation in her face. Finally she asked, "So Dr. Kopetz, are you telling us that Jeff is cancer free?"


"Yes," he replied with a grin that he couldn't suppress. "You can consider him cancer free."


So just like that we're done. No more treatments. Go home. Come back in September for your first scan. Two simple words. Cancer … free. To be honest, it is one simple word that makes the difference this time and that is "free" because "cancer" literally brought us to our knees in August, 2013. 


For a while, when we first started this journey, every trip to the doctor seemed to bring more bad news. But, in the midst of it, we began to discover things we could never have imagined. And things will never be the same. 


I've been asked if I think God cured me. My reply is “Yes.” I believe that God intercedes in our lives when we reach out in prayer. There is no doubt that I had lots of prayers being said on my behalf. I believe God heard those prayers. My recovery is miraculous in the sense that it was highly unlikely that chemotherapy alone would essentially cure my cancer. It did. That was never the plan. My cancer had to be physically removed in order for me to be cancer free. Chemotherapy was a means to an end. It turned out to be more than that. 


God provides. God hears. But he has his own plan. This result was one that I had selfishly hoped for. I was ready for the exact opposite result. God knows that. I think it's a mistake to look to results for evidence that God exists or as a blueprint of how one should reach out to God. Trust that He is there and that He is listening. And trust that whatever the outcome is, it is what is best. Regardless of what we think it should be. I know that's easy for me to say and I might be wrong, but that's what I believe. 


Back to the journey. There is no possible way I can share adequately the changes that I have experienced in my own life. I've had a multitude of people reach out to me as they've heard the good news and I've found myself almost speechless. I can only get out that I feel so blessed and so fortunate and so humbled. One of the most profound things I think I've discovered is that cancer doesn't play favorites. I learned that "why me?" or "why her?" is not a question we should even ask. It's not as if there is a God that is picking and choosing who is going to have a bad thing happen to them and what that bad thing should be. 


We live in a flawed world. Bad things happen to everyone. Every day people are faced with challenges that they have no idea how they will get through. Cancer just happens to be one of them. 


"How am I going to deal with this challenge?" should really be the question. And that's where I've learned the most. In my case the cancer prognosis I had initially brought huge fear and anxiety, but it ultimately also brought clarity as to what is important and what is not. It was easy for me to hand things over to God shortly after I was diagnosed, because I had no control over the cancer--zero, zip, nada. "Jesus take the wheel," as the Carrie Underwood song goes. 


But it is what I tapped into when I gave it up that profoundly changed my world. Life slowed down. I began to appreciate more the wonders of my surrounding. I appreciate waking up in the morning. I appreciate my loved ones so much more. I treasure the moments I have with … well everything. I began to see God in everything. 


Is it really that easy? Yes and no. It's not easy giving it up. I tried it before I got cancer to no avail. What was missing was that I still wanted to control the outcome. I was willing to give it up but only on my own terms. The price when you give it up is control. But that's also the reward. Trusting that God will not lead you astray is part of what is necessary to alleviate the anxiety and stress. It doesn't relieve you of responsibility or of hard work. It does however instantly relieve you of the burden we put on ourselves. 


Try something. When you have some free alone time, put your phone and all distractions away and go outside. Sit for a moment and think what you would do if you found out that you only have ten more minutes to live. You don't have a phone and you have no one or no way to share the news with anyone. It's just you. Ten minutes left. If you could really convince yourself that this is it you would feel anxious. Powerless. Time is ticking away. You're wasting it. You can get rid of that by handing your anxiousness over to God. Now look around. Let it soak in. Let the world slow down. Appreciate every little thing. Listen. Can you hear the quiet? Can you feel the sun on your face? The wind in your hair? The smell of the grass? With the rest of what is left in your short life wonder in amazement in everything that you can. 


That's what I discovered--the magnificence of God's creation that he created for us. And He also created companionship. Family and friends to be cherished. With all flaws intact. I wrapped myself in them. That's the beauty and wonder and blessing of my cancer.


And one more thing while I've got you. During my journey, the words of Jesus in the Bible began to take on new meaning. Simple things. Love one another. Do not be quick to anger. He that has no sin throw the first stone. I am the way. Follow me. Those are just a few. But words I had read a hundred times were suddenly jumping off the page. My world, the same world as before, has continued to slow down to a crawl. Life takes on a new meaning every day. It is so cool.


We all know people who seem to have the fingerprints of God all over them. They seem to live with an aura around them. Not in a holier-than-thou way--in a confident way. Confident that they walk with God and all is right with them. I want to be that person. I am not. But I'm convinced I am on my way. And I've got a whole new life in front of me to hopefully get there. Thanks to God and his grace for that.


With great gratitude and In Christ's name ...


Webb is VP at Old Republic Title Insurance Group.