4 months, 4 years, or 40 years
I’m not sure if I should classify today as a milestone or an anniversary? In actuality it is an anniversary of a conversation which took place four months ago that became a target for me…a milestone that has been on my horizon ever since.
I don’t know about you but for me I always envisioned the day I applied for my marriage license as a day filled with joy. Unfortunately March 3, 2011 was anything but that as the only time to fit it in was between a series of doctor’s appointments. A few weeks earlier Shari and I had learned my merkel cell cancer had metastasized, something which resulted in our changing our plans to be married in the Spring rather than the fall. My cancer once thought to be isolated, had now spread to the bones in my legs and one of my arms, plus there was a suspicious spot on my pancreas. The typical merkel cell treatment protocol was now out the window, chemotherapy was now in the picture, and a return visit to Seattle for treatment might now be a part of our honeymoon plans. This was a day where joy never came close to registering on my radar, because I was too busy being angry and looking for someone to blame.
If you listen to enough people in certain cancer circles or spend any time on the internet researching cancer there is no way to escape the statistics and stages, and you are quick to place yourself in those categories. You can’t help it, I don’t care how positive your attitude is or how much faith you have, you go to those dark places. For me, it was if I had an asterisk after my name and an expiration date on my chest. One thing was for certain after meeting those doctors that day; I was in a battle, a battle for my life
Shari and I arrived at the Fulton County Annex to get our license, right after meeting one of the oncologists who admitted that a re-review of my December PET scan indicated something that “might” have been overlooked on my sacrum. As we made it to the probate court I found myself getting angrier and angrier with each step. First there was a line just to sign in, second I see a sign which says no food or drink in the office and I’m there Starbucks in hand, third as we sign in one of the three workers announces it’s time for her break to go smoke. Quietly but audibly I started to rant about the inefficiency in government offices…why in this day and age we can’t pre-register for things like these online, etc, etc. Most everyone who knows me well would say I’m a pretty calm guy who usually thinks before he acts, but I think Shari sensed my bad attitude and lovingly smiled told me she loved me, and then told me to let it go as she dug her nails into my hand. I think what really brought me to the tipping point was the fact there were so many happy couples doing the same thing we were who didn’t have asterisks after their names and it just pissed me off.
As we got back to my car everything bubbled over and as Shari was fastening her seatbelt I exploded and punched the ceiling of my SUV so hard it dented the roof from the inside out. The ride to my house Roswell was quiet and with very little being said. We had about an hour before we had to be at North Point Church for our interview with one of their Pastors who we hoped would agree to marry us. Once we got back to my house Shari forced me to talk about the place I had been in the last few hours and I think because I have vented the anger all the emotion of the day burst forth and I just broke down. We sat on the concrete steps of my back porch as everything came to the surface. I was mad, sad, and glad all at once. Shari did her best to console me but I couldn’t get past thinking Why Me Why Now. I was mad at the timing, sad that this day should have been so joyous for the both of us, yet glad that I wasn’t going through this alone. Shari, a cancer survivor herself, reminded me how faithful God had been through some of the trials we both had faced in our lives and how she truly believed that God had prepared BOTH OF US for the journey.
“Tom, it’s one thing to share trust God period on your blog, and it’s something entirely different to show everyone trust God period in the midst of so much uncertainty. You may never know the impact this one decision will have on those who come to know your story” - Shari Martin
The emotions of the day were written on our faces as we walked into Mike Teston’s office. He told us how he had only agreed to this interview because of a recommendation of another staff member who knew our story. Mike asked Shari and I to tell him our individual stories and then our story as a couple. We shared with him our desire to complete North Point’s 2 to 1 pre-marital mentoring program even though it would have to be done after our wedding because there just wasn’t enough time to do it before. For us it was important for us to lay this foundation as we started a new life together and I think Mike was happy to learn of our commitment to this. I also told Mike that cancer didn’t give me a pass not to be the husband Shari deserved or the step-father to her sons. Cancer or not I wanted to do everything in my power and through wise counsel to equip myself to be the man God created me to be and nothing less.
Looking back so many God Winks were affirmed in the 90 minutes we shared with Mike. As stories were shared, and tears were shed, a sense of peace was felt by Shari and I. After we left we spent what must have been 10 minutes in the parking lot holding each other as we prayed thanking God for putting Mike in our path that day and for agreeing to marry us. Mike actually referred to that meeting at wedding ceremony as he told our guests how Christ’s presence was felt by each of us. Our lives were forever changed by Mike that day, he offered clarity in the midst of confusion, he offered compassion and strength in the midst of our fear, and he offered scripture and wisdom in the midst of doubts.
And Mike also offered this advice which is the purpose behind this post:
Tom, “I don’t know if you have 4 months, 4 years, or 40 years but I do know God is faithful and He has a plan for your life, with or without cancer. He knows you, He knows what’s on your mind, and He knows what’s in your heart, and it’s up to you to let everyone know your Faith lies in Him…regardless!”
So today, the 4 month milestone mentioned in this advice, Shari and I pray a prayer we have prayed every morning since March 3, 2011, “This is the day OUR Lord has made WE WILL rejoice and be glad,” only today we prayed with just a little more gratitude for the milestone which was achieved!
trusting God period!
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