Home » Cancer » Personal Narrative: Neil’s Journey With Cancer

Personal Narrative: Neil’s Journey With Cancer

Friends, this is a heavy chapter for me to write. In chapter three, I wrote of my friend Neil, who battled brain cancer and remained cancer free for over a year. Neil’s testimony declares volumes of God’s provision and protection.

As I write to you, I’m battling to declare trust. Today is May 18, 2015, and in less than two months, Neil will be meeting with doctors to receive experimental drug treatment. It breaks my heart to say this, but Neil’s brain cancer returned.

This time around, God prepared Neil’s heart and mind to fight the battle for joy through life’s circumstances. While I’m proud to call Neil one of my closest friends, I cannot imagine the anxiety, the worry, the fear, and the doubts he faces during his second bout with cancer. To make matters worse, the tumor grew directly on the motor functionary portion of his brain, which means the doctors cannot operate or proceed with chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Today, we wait on the Lord. My heart weighs heavy for Neil because he fights brain cancer for the second time at just seventeen years old. To add to the weightiness of this news, the doctors told Neil he should expect to experience severe seizures and vomiting soon. Thankfully, he hasn’t showed a sign yet.

As a close friend, how can you respond to this?

Through the progression of Neil’s journey with cancer, I’ve learned inadequate I am for him from a medical perspective. Unless it involves adjusting his hospital bed, I’m of little to no help to him physically. However, there exists a power, which goes beyond the capabilities of medicine – the power of prayer.

While God can use anything, including medicine, to heal anybody, the power of prayer goes beyond the physical and ventures into the metaphysical.

The problem with our view of prayer involves a tremendous lack of trust in a trustworthy God. I believe the reason the New Testament implores us to simply ask, seek, and knock for God’s response (Matthew 7:7) derives from our lack of faith in His answer. Our society convolutes our perception of our relationship with God.

While we ought to view God as all-powerful, we fail to see Him as powerful enough to save anyone from anything. Sure, we might know God loves the world, but some of us might secretly wonder if He hates those who despise Him, as if God desires to get even with us. It’s as if we’ve believed this lie, which says God is good, but not good enough, or not all the time.

So, Neil’s journey caused me to wonder: why do we pray for God to be with us if He already is? From Isaiah (7:14) to the book of Matthew (1:23), the Gospel prepared Jesus for the nickname Immanuel, which means “God is with us.” Yes, we ought to ask and seek for the Lord’s presence, but isn’t He already here with us?

Because of my proneness to deception, my perception of God can dissolve into viewing Him as a paramedic. It’s as if He’s coming to clean the mess up, but the damage already happened. But what if God isn’t a paramedic? What if He’s our friend? What if His love for us goes beyond the earthly love our feeble minds try to comprehend?

God’s friendship with us involves His intercession (prayer) on our behalf (Romans 8:34). It involves His promises flowing through our veins (Psalm 25:14). It involves complete sacrifice and unconditional love (John 15:13). Even so, Jesus passed the ultimate test of friendship on the cross. Because of Christ, no longer should sin separate us from God’s presence.

In one of the most beautiful accounts in the Bible, Jesus reveals to the disciples the magnificence of God’s friendship with us:

John 15:15-16 (ESV), “(Jesus said to the disciples) No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide …” (emphasis mine)

Where Satan condemns, Jesus intercedes. Where evil abounds, God’s promises overflow. Where sin exists, Jesus reigns victoriously. God isn’t our enemy; He’s our friend. He cares to win the war, so we can fight our battles. He’s not out to trick or deceive us; He’s trustworthy and good. How could God’s goodness, not be completely worthy of our trust?

We act addicted to worry and drunk on anxiety, but what if God is God and we are not? What if God, the supreme ruler of the universe, knows my name and cares for me? What if God, the Sustainer of life, loves me to the point of sacrificing His Son for me? What if God, the Alpha and the Omega, wants to spend the rest of eternity with me as His friend?

Jesus paid too big a price for you to settle for anything less than God’s best for you. He didn’t die on the cross for us to live how we desire, unless our want rests in Him. His death and resurrection transforms our hearts to the Will of God, not our own. Don’t settle for less than God’s best in any area of your life.

Jesus put our anxiety, our fear, our worry, and our doubts exactly where they belong – in the shadows of the cross. It is in the shadows of the cross where we can be reminded of the things Jesus died to on our behalf. Jesus remains greater than our anxiety, our fear, our worry, and our doubts.

While reflecting on Neil’s testimony, I see God’s providence and trustworthiness at work. Almost two years ago, I sat on his hospital bed listening to him talk about possibly never experiencing the typical young adult lifestyle – driving cars, going to college, and getting married. Since then, he’s checked the first of the three off. Yet, having faith in God’s plan means we trust He is good, whether the other two happen or not.

Frequently, Neil calls me, or I’ll call him, to catch up on life. We’ll talk about faith, family, school, and women – yes, he’s a ladies man. Sometimes, our conversations are fun, while others are serious; however, the last call we shared caused me to admire my friend even more than I already do. It went a little something like this:

Me: “Dude, how do you handle being at school all day, while fighting cancer simultaneously?”

Neil: “You know, Spencer, I like having cancer. Well, not the cancer part, but I like to be different. Since I’ve had cancer, I’ve had a unique reason to tell people about Jesus and how good He is. So, I don’t care if people think I’m weird. I like being weird because it lets me share my faith with them.”

Since being diagnosed with cancer, Neil experienced traumatic events, which left him scarred. Yet, he’ll be the first to share those scars with you, and I’m not referring to just the physical ones. He trusts God’s provision over His life and wears his heart on his sleeve. If there’s anybody on this earth whom I’ve learned how to trust God, when you think you own the right to doubt, worry, or fear, it’s Neil.

Satan tempts us by trying to make us believe we’ve earned the right to waver in our belief in God’s goodness. He interjects with fear, anxiety, and depression, which he uses to stir up our unbelief. But God says to trust Him anyway. For every earthly battle we will face, He promises eternity with Him for those who cling to Christ with all their strength.

There is nothing too dangerous for the unrelenting love of God to completely cover and provide for. Trust Him with anything you are anxious about. Give Him your doubts. Lay your worries at the foot of the cross. God’s love can be trusted, sweet friend.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.