Friday, September 25, 2015

Living With Cancer (Part 1)

For quite some time, James has been wanting to post to the blog here as most of you are not on the Chinese WeChat, and even if you were, your Chinese still seems to be lagging (teehee)...all his sleepless nights have given him a lot of time to write, so you all will be hearing from James for the next few days. I hope you enjoy hearing first hand from the patient. A window into how one Christian has gone through suffering...

My wife Kristen has been posting a lot of our cancer journey on her blog, but my job has mostly been devoted to informing my Chinese friends in Chinese. Not surprisingly, a lot of people have come to ask me how I am doing. They want to hear from me in person how I am really doing. My Indian oncologist always wants to know. At the last doctor visit, my Jewish radiologist was wondering how I have been processing - implicitly, he is asking since I have received the death sentence, that my cancer has metastasized to incurable stage four, how am I dealing with things. And I know these questions concern all my Christian sisters and brothers who have been faithfully praying for me. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my cancer journey of this year.   
No doubt, going through cancer and fighting against it is a huge, painful project. It challenges you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The seriousness and severity of cancer instantly turned me into a professional patient. A job that indicates someone as weak, incapable, even a burden; it does not build me up in any way. When a whole family’s life is spinning around this weak, uncertain vessel, the ups and downs of life is almost certain. The constant physical pain is unavoidable, the worry for the family increases as the symptoms change, the uncertainty of your future prevents you even to dare to dream. A normal life with a future has never been so far away; now it seems to the point of almost impossible to reach. When you pass through a dark tunnel long enough, you realize that light is never so precious to you, and you are so eager to see it again, but not knowing when or if you ever will. 
Where is hope, how can we experience joy? What can really comfort us under this kind of circumstance? Doctor’s skill? Money? Career? Success? Comforting words from people? It is a time of trial and a test to faith. It can be a nightmare, catastrophe, total disaster.
The morning of the 20th of August 2014. I was waiting for my biopsy result from Kunming. A cough had been the only symptom, and it was bad. In fact, it was so bad that morning, I strained my back. (In Chinese we say that disasters never come alone.) I hardly could move, laying on the couch, so I picked up my Bible and started reading. As I read to Isaiah 43:1, it says “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” I feel so strongly that the Lord is speaking to me that I was both deeply comforted and overwhelmed. I immediately felt that the Lord is telling me that the result is not going be good, but He is telling me not be afraid, because I belong to Him, and He will be with me as the rest of Scripture says (Isaiah 43:1-3), “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you…”

The result turns out to be that I have cancer. But a lot of times hospitals in China are not trustworthy at both the ethical and the skill level. We quickly set an appointment, and went to a well known international hospital for more tests in Thailand. On the morning of the 30th, before we heading out to get my final results, while waiting, I turned on my iPad, and the daily verse attracted my attention. The verse comes from 2 Samuel 12 :13 "Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” As I saw the verse, “you are not going to die,” I feel like Nathan is just standing next to me and telling me that I am not going to die. Though we did not yet know the seriousness of the situation - I did not know I was going to be facing death - I knew it was going to be very hard. Yet from that verse, I knew that God's grace would carry us through.

In retrospect, as we started receiving results from different doctors I realized how timely that verse was to me. Without it I really cannot imagine how I can face all the reports coming from the doctors. Every result is like they are giving me the death sentence, each time in a new way. The seriousness of my situation came in stages, as each doctor delivered worse news than the one before. But each time no matter how serious it sounded, I always felt like Nathan was standing right next to me and telling me that I was not going to die. The doctor’s results count for nothing. The protection and the presence of God is so true and real, that I felt the whole situation is completely under God’s control; because He foreknew this was going to happen, and He is telling me ahead. Those who trust in the Lord are truly like Psalm 112:7 promised: He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.


  1. Thank you, James, for sharing your journey. Like many others, I've wondered how you've been doing through this--even as I have greatly appreciated Kristen's updates. Praying for you, my brother.

  2. We love you, James!! <3 You are so precious to us! Glory to God for His revealing Himself through you as you proclaim His Holy presence in your life!