Friday, July 10, 2015

Happy Cancerversary! Two Year Down and Counting...

Happy Cancerversary!
The London Eye from March 2014

Two years ago I got news that changed my life. I was told that I had terminal, neuroendocrine cancer with at least 17 centimeters of metastases around my liver and pancreas. Sitting in the hospital that day with Danelle in Erie, Pennsylvania we knew everything would be different. Some quick research revealed that between 70-80% of patients with my level of metastasis die within five years. Suddenly I was well aware of my mortality.

During the past two years I have learned some incredible life lessons. Later this month or early August my book, Dying to Go On Vacation, will come out. The book journals the first few critical weeks following my diagnosis and what God taught me during that critical time. Since then I have continued to live in a kind of medical limbo. Some periods were very dark, like after I received radio-chemotherapy in Houston, Texas and had some serious side effects. Other times were awesome, like our trip to England on the Wesley study tour with Alpha Tours (and the evening pub tour sneaking out each evening to visit local public houses with a few of my traveling companions). As I round out two years, here are the latest lessons God is teaching me:

Put your house in order. In a world of procrastination, be one of “those people” who actually make the hard decisions and prepare for the worst. In the past few months Danelle and I have planned for her retirement, paid off a car, and seriously discussed making final funeral plans for both of us. While the plans for Pastor Marty’s Master Party (the name I’ve given my funeral) are not complete, they are started. What are you waiting for? Take that Financial Peace course at your church, pay off your debt, and get your will and advanced directives done. This is what I’ve learned; our unwillingness to make difficult decisions is really selfishness. We are essentially dumping those decisions on the people we love most who will have to make them at one of the toughest times of their lives, when we die. So pull up your Ninja Turtle underoos and just do it. Yes it is hard. Life is hard, and death is hard on those we leave behind. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be.

Universal Studios, Dec. 2013
Invest in experiences not stuff. Look around your house, none of that stuff really matters. None of it is going with you. When I was really sick from cancer treatment I didn’t care what kind of car I drove or computer I had. I did, however, enjoy looking at the pictures from our previous beach vacation and trip to Universal Studios. Memories matter. I have an assignment for you, when you go home tonight sit down with your family and make a list of all the places you want to visit, experiences you want to have, and things you want to do. Then make a plan to check one off before the end of the
year.

Earlier this year Danelle and I were having a real tough time living in limbo. Having a chronic and terminal illness means you are always waiting on “the other shoe to drop.” It became such a distraction to our ability to live every day that we started seeing a counselor together to develop some strategies for how to cope with the impending inevitability of another cancer attack. The counselor told us to go home and plan a vacation! Huh? Really? That is the best you’ve got?  She went on to explain that we always needed to have something on the calendar to pull us forward otherwise we would spend way too much time looking back. Sure, purchase “vacation insurance” if you need to, but plan something to look forward to. And then, on that vacation, plan your next one. Invest in experiences, not more stuff!

Be open to God’s voice. God is always speaking. In my book coming out later this year, Welcome to a Life That Matters, I spend a lot of time helping you discern God’s will for your life. Let me give you the short version: LISTEN.  When I coach people on how to discern God’s calling for their lives I remind them that God will call you and affirm your calling in three places. First, the inner call, where you feel God’s leading in your very soul. Second, the outer call, where others spontaneously affirm what God is doing in your life. Lastly, is the beside you call, where those closest to you who know and love you the best see God’s work within you and call it out of you. Yet, still, we often don’t hear God’s call because we aren’t listening.

Spend some quiet time every day just listening for God’s voice. If you don’t know how, look back at this blog a week or so ago and see where I explained how to spend thirty quality minutes with God every day. This pattern will allow you intentional space in your life to listen.

So what are you waiting for? Do something today to get your house in order. Start planning your next vacation or bucket list experience. Spend some intentional time with God. Put down your phone and look around. Life is happening! Let’s go make some memories!

Keep me in your prayers! I remain:

Consumed by the Call,
Marty

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