Josh Waidley 6:43 PM
I’m standing in a sterile, tiny hospital room with my dad sitting slightly upright in his bed with an IV hanging out of his arm. He is in good spirits, talking to those in the room with a quiet confidence and peace. My mom and my wife are sitting as the four of us wait for the doctor to come in and prep my dad for his surgery. Its Prostate Cancer vs. Amazing Technological Advancement in the Form of Precise, Surgical Robotics: Round I. Soon my dad will be wheeled into the operating room for an intense 5 hour surgery removing the cancer cells in his prostate. He will be tilted upside down and the doctor, using a remote controlled robot, will cut several inch-long incisions in his stomach and slice away the cancer from his body. For now though, the four of us sit and wait. We talk about a lot and my dad never shies away from questions about how he is doing with it all. Its one of the things I appreciate about my dad; he is open and honest and doesn’t try to act like everything is ok, but instead talks about what he is thinking and going through. Like me, he processes out loud.
I am quieter than usual, ready for the surgery to start, not so I can escape the hospital but so it will be over. The nurses come in and the anesthesiologist begins his work and then Alex, mom and I are standing in a pale hallway as my dad falls asleep and is wheeled away.
Cancer is a funny thing…actually wait; it’s a horribly awful thing. It comes from nothing, overtakes areas of a body and eventually kills you. In some ways cancer is the best embodiment of how broken and fallen our world is. It is manifest evil whose whole existence is about subduing, weakening and destroying. Cancer is…well, pretty damn scary. For my dad to be diagnosed, then cut open was terrifying. My mind wanted to go to the worst of scenarios: a botched surgery, the cancer spreading far faster than doctors had anticipated, I even thought, what if there is a major earthquake in the middle of the operation or worse, what if the robot becomes self aware and my dad is the first victim of the unavoidable robot uprising?
I prayed throughout the weeks leading up to the surgery. I had many friends praying as well, asking God for his will to be done in the situation, for the surgeon to have steady hands and for my dad’s recovery to go well. I believed I had a peace about it but it wasn’t until I saw my dad in that bed, waiting to put his life and body in the hands of a stranger who was going to cut him open, that I was able to fully let go and place everything at the feet of Jesus. Seeing my dad’s peace and faith in the Lord allowed me to experience the same. Was I convinced that everything was going to work out perfectly?...No, but I was convinced that whatever happened, God was love and God knew better than I did.
My dad came home late the next day and I remember him asking me if I wanted to see something gross and of course I said yes. He pulled up his shirt and showed me five or six sets of staples holding his stomach incisions together. I couldn’t help but think without them his stomach would have had holes gushing out blood, like a hole in a water balloon filled with tomato juice. He was weak but alive, tired but lucid, needing rest but with his family. I wondered that night what a battle with cancer does to your relationship with God, how much the depths of one’s faith is tested when your life is on the line, and how tightly you would grasp onto the beauty of Jesus when the ugly destruction of cancer lines your insides…then I realized, in a different but no less profound way, I had myself been battling cancer. That my mom, my sister, my wife, my dad’s closest friends had all been battling cancer. And please don’t think I am minimizing my dad’s physical fight with cancer, but that battle does spill over and sweep up those closest to you. We all were asking ourselves those questions, all of us were having our faith tested.
It was then that I realized God had been trolling the depths of my faith as much as he had been my dad’s and I was forced to love him and hold on tightly to him in my own helplessness. I can tell you the beauty of Jesus is so much clearer in the midst of the ugliest things. Seeing my dad’s relationship with Christ overflowing with the knowledge of how loved he is, was humbling and wonderful and a memory I will no doubt go back to in the future.
This was my first real reflection on my dad’s cancer, the first time I have put anything about it into words and actually, the first thing I have written in over a month. Leave it to cancer to bust through writer’s block. My dad is currently doing well, his recovery continues and the cancer is officially gone from his body. The staples have been removed from his stomach and he is feeling better each day. Thanks to all those who prayed for him and our family in the past month and sorry it took so long for me to write about this. I just needed a few weeks for the reality of God’s love to sink in.