While lying on the operating table with my wife looking on and only having received local anesthesia, a doctor spent 30 minutes cutting out a lymph node on the left side of my lower neck. When he finally pulled it out, he looked at it and said "Yep, it's cancer." Those words are forever etched in my mind, as well as everything going on around me the moment the words were spoken.
There's no way to prepare yourself for hearing those words. My first response was one of disbelief and, while the doctor stitched me up, he spoke to me briefly about my type of cancer. I was trying to be "strong" while he and his assistant were in the room, but as soon as he left and it was just my wife an I, I remember sitting up on the operating table, looking at my wife and saying "That (the procedure) hurt." And, then we both started to cry.
We were 8 months pregnant at the time expecting our first child. So many questions were swirling around in both of our minds, but in the midst of the chaos, there was a peace and a strength that came over both of us that only God can provide (Philippians 4:6 - 7). I will never forget that day. Even though much of it seems to be simply a blur, there are many strange details that I so vividly remember.
The following Sunday was one of the most special experiences I've had in my life. I was leading a discussion panel on marriage that day. After we had finished all of the questions and discussion, Chuck Cheek, who was on the panel, stopped everything and said something along the lines of "We need to pray for you, Rich." And, so they did ... the whole panel ... the whole congregation ... everyone in the building stopped and prayed for Carol and I. The above picture captured one of the most meaningful moments of support I have ever felt in my life.
I'm thankful to say that 5 years later I'm living in health and freedom. And, even though I didn't see it at the time, God had a plan for it all. He knew that this piece of the puzzle would somehow fit in to the picture of my life and He was going to use it for good. I've had countless opportunities to talk with people who have been diagnosed ... countless opportunities to pray for people. I had the opportunity to do a commercial for our local hospital and, while filming, speak the name of Jesus to everyone there. Even today, I'm meeting with someone who has just recently been diagnosed to simply talk through what she may be feeling. I can't honestly say the 7 months of treatments were "fun," but what I do know is that I've come out on the other side of it all a stronger person and, for that, I am grateful.