6 Reasons Cancer Saved My Life

“I can’t believe I left work for this. I am ready for the doctor to come in and put my wife, mom, and mother-in-law in their respective places.” That’s what I thought as I sat in the dermatologist’s office. I was convinced nothing was wrong. A few over-protective women forced me to be go. And I couldn’t wait to say, “I told you so.”

Not long after, doc entered the room. We exchanged pleasantries. Then came the question that changed my life. “So, why are you here today, Mr. Powell?”

I pulled up my blue jeans to show him the seemingly harmless spot on my calf. Then I saw doc’s face. His facial expression was like OMG…on steroids. I knew something was wrong.

Turns out the “harmless spot” was a dangerous skin cancer called Melanoma. One that takes the lives of 13% of those diagnosed.

The months afterward were difficult. I had a surgery to remove the Melanoma (and a chunk of my right calf). Then another surgery to remove more. I heard statistics about my chances of living beyond 5 years. It was all surreal. I thought I was invincible. I had never broken a bone. Not one. Now I am dealing with a life-threatening cancer?

But as ridiculous as this sounds, cancer saved my life. I thank God for it. Not because I enjoy cancer. I hate cancer. So does God.

But cancer taught me some things about God and life. This is what difficult seasons do, right? They give you an open door to a new perspective. A new focus. A new life. You must choose whether you walk through the door. But the door is open.

I chose to walk through it.

Here are 6 reasons cancer saved my life.

1.) I discovered that real life is real fragile. And that’s okay.

I did not grow up in a bubble. I saw tragedy. But tragedy wouldn’t happen to me. I was convinced. And I lived that way. I was arrogant. I made reckless decisions. I lived without purpose. I thought purpose-filled years were ahead of me.

But cancer humbled me. It hit me square in the face. And I realized tragedy could (and did) strike me. Real life is real fragile. So, here I was at age 25 with a potentially life-threatening cancer. And I had to face the facts…my life could end sooner than I wanted. And this saved my life.

It’s true. Realizing I could lose my life at any moment gave me a sense of urgency. I no longer believed I was Superman’s long-lost brother. I was susceptible to pain and hurt.

My life could end today.

And in some crazy way, I am okay with that.

2.) I noticed that most of the things you chase after and worry over are meaningless.

I love statistics and percentages. I know a baseball player who hits .300 or better is an excellent hitter. A coach who wins 60% of his or her games is a great coach. I am a stats junkie.

But the day the doctor threw out statistics involving life and death, I did not like stats as much.

I went through scenarios in my head. What did I miss out on? What do I regret? And you know what I realized? I spent most of my life chasing things that don’t matter. Money. Popularity. Status. A high score on Xbox.

Life-threatening events separate the insignificant from the significant. And, truthfully, almost everything is insignificant when these events show up at the doorstep of life. What Solomon said is right.

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We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born.Ecclesiastes 5:15

I shifted my focus. I changed my perspective. I decided to go “all in” with God. I decided to go “all in” with His purpose for my life. I decided to focus on stuff that matters because chasing things that don’t carry beyond this life is a waste.

3.) I saw that an intentional life starts when you view every day through the lens of death.

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.Psalm 39:4

Before cancer, I acknowledged death as inevitable. But I didn’t believe it. This is the danger of youth. I had many years left. No need to get serious.

You see, freedom comes in living every day as though it were your last. This happens when you view everyday through the lens of death. This truth helped me wrestle with the inevitably of life. It increased my faith in God. It released me from myself. 

I realized my boys would one day be without their father. I realized my wife would be without her husband. Or vice-versa. And this saved my life.

Here’s why. I have dreams for my boys. I have dreams for my wife. I have dreams for the ministry God has given me. And I am guilty of believing I am responsible for those dreams becoming a reality. But the inevitably of death reminds me I am not in control. God must show up. A meaningful life comes through trust in God. Because He is eternal. And I am not.

4.) I found that listening to the words of people who love you can transform your life.

If not for my mother, mother-in-law, and wife, I would not be alive. Period. They forced me to see a dermatologist. I wouldn’t have gone without their nagging. And their nagging saved my life.

I realized the insights of others could alter the trajectory of my life. And I needed to listen to those people. Cancer opened up my heart to hearing the opinions of others. It gave me a deep respect for the gift of friends and family. It gave me an even deeper love for the women in my life. People too arrogant to accept the opinions of others are robbing themselves.

Listen to the people closest to you. Listen to everyone. And discern their words. They might just save your life.

5.) I realized there is a bad time to do something you need to do today, and that time is tomorrow.

Some of you NEED to do something today. But procrastination prevents you from doing it. “I can do that tomorrow. I will do that next week. Now is not the right time.”

Or maybe it is.

I always wanted to make decisions from faith. But I thought I could do that later. Then came cancer. And the “I will do that later” and “maybe in the future” mindsets crashed to the ground. Hard.

Write this down: There is a bad time to do something you need to do now, and that time is tomorrow. So, if you need to make a phone call, pick up the phone. If you need to tell a co-worker or classmate about Jesus, open your mouth. If you need to start a new career, do it. Whatever you need to do, today is the day to make it happen.

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Life doesn’t have to be filled with regrets. But it will be if you put off until tomorrow something you should do today. You might not get tomorrow. This reality saved my life.

6.) I learned that living with fear is the ultimate failure.

I am a lover, not a fighter. But if fear were a person, I would put a beat-down on it. Like the kind of beat-down Hulk Hogan used to put on fools who stepped in the ring with him. Fear cripples dreams. It severs relationships. It takes people to the brink of something great and tells them they aren’t good enough.

And this is fear’s lethal punch. “Don’t be a failure. Don’t swing and miss. As long as you don’t fail, you win.”

But what if living in fear is worse than failing? What if living in fear is the ultimate failure?

Cancer taught me life is too short to listen to fear’s lies. Before cancer, I embraced mediocrity. Afterwards, I was not content with it. You shouldn’t be either. God didn’t create you for mediocrity. He created you in his image. There’s nothing mediocre about that.

And it’s not that I believe I can change the world. I am not sure what people mean when they say that. But I refuse to allow fear to cripple my life. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, nothing is impossible for me. Before cancer, those were empty words. Now, they are my life’s anthem.

Fear tells you a mediocre life is a better trade than a meaningful life with lots of mistakes. Don’t listen. It’s a lie.

___________________________

Cancer is a dreadful disease. I pray for a day when blog posts on cancer are non-existent because cancer is non-existent. I believe that day is coming. I believe it because I trust my Savior Jesus is coming to restore all things. I am ready for that day. I am long for these words to be reality.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.”Revelation 21:3-5

For those battling cancer right now (I know several personally), I am praying for you. Keep fighting. Cling to God. Don’t let go. Ever.

I probably won’t cure cancer. I probably won’t cure world hunger. I probably won’t find homes for all the orphans in the world. But I will live with passion, meaning, and intentionality. I won’t allow fear to cripple me. I can’t. Life is too short.

Why would I live this way?

Here’s a better question…Why not?

I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!

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