It all started last September with typical “IBS” symptoms. Then on the 2nd of March this year, after a repeat episode of excruciating abdominal symptoms sent me to the emergency rooms of our local hospital, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. A five-centimetre tumor had blocked my whole colon. The CT scan indicated that it was very likely that my lymph nodes were also affected.
The brilliant EC physician on duty that night had both a mother and father who were survivors of colon cancer and when he gave me the diagnosis, I was unreasonably calm. My heart wasn’t racing and nor was my mind.
I’ve realized that “the peace that surpasses all understanding” is the ability to stay calm and know that God is in control; that He hasn’t left, forsaken or forgotten you, in moments that should feel chaotic. My only words to my wife Deidre on that night were, “Well, this will be part of our story.”
Four days after I was diagnosed, on the morning of my op, our 6-year-old daughter said only one thing to my wife in the car to school: “Mom, do you know dad is having his operation on Ash Wednesday?” It was the closest thing to God’s audible voice we could’ve heard. Through a word from our daughter we knew that for the next 40 days we may feel like we have been abandoned in a desert, but we are to just keep our eyes on the empty cross. Jesus has won the battle over death.
I had a perfect surgical outcome with no need for a much-anticipated ICU stay or stoma bag. I have had a miraculous recovery from my operation and within just a few weeks I began to physically function no differently to someone with a colon.
I started chemo seven weeks after my operation. I needed four cycles of IV and tablet chemo over three months. I have been one of the incredibly fortunate few who was able to stay at home and not work for the duration of my treatment. On my good days, and there have been many, I have spent invaluable time with my children and wife, cherishing the small details of their lives like bubble blowing at swimming lessons.
The only way I have been OK through this season is that no matter what, faith came first. I knew that God was in control, that he was bigger than cancer, bigger than my circumstances. As a family we also could not have managed without the unwavering emotional and practical support of our surrounding community – family, friends, school groups and our Wynberg church family.
In recent weeks as treatment ended, God placed a one-liner in my head. He said, “Andre, you’ve had some good years. But now you are going to have God years.”