Cyndi of The Voice: A Christian Cancer Blog put a comment on this site asking me a couple questions about my leukemia experience. I wrote her back, and I didn't want to lose the writing, so I'm posting it here.
Thanks for asking the question, Cyndi. It's so much easier to write about something when there's a question to be answered!
First, I agree with Steve from your "How should a Christian die?" post. Isaiah 57:1-2 has always given me comfort. Sometimes God removes a saint, and it's a gift to the saint. I always think of great ministers like Keith Green and missionaries like Jim Elliott, both of whom died young.
When I had to "number my days" (Ps. 90:12), the day I received my diagnosis of leukemia, I didn't panic or pray a prayer of healing. I thought, "Well, now Paul, you finally get to know whether you really believe all the things you've been saying. Do all things work together for good for those who love God and are called for his purposes? Or will you make leukemia an exception."
My prayer of faith was: "I believe this is good. Tell me what to do."
Maybe I'm crazy as well as believing. Within five minutes I was actually pretty excited. I've never had a potentially fatal disease before, especially one that carried a 25% or less survival rate. (That's probably increased to close to 50% over the last five years, but I don't have data that recent.)
As soon as I settled in my mind that I believed and that I was ready to head towards eternity or remain here, I felt God say to me that I wouldn't die. After that, I never wondered.
When they talked about sending me to ICU if my blood pressure kept dropping, when they gave me yellow socks to indicate I was a falling risk who needed help every time he got out of bed, when I lost all ability and energy to hope, move, eat, or feel anything, yet I never wondered. With no strength to rejoice or feel the prayers, I offered prayers of praise to God laying in my hospital bed.
And why not? What a grand adventure! I met people much stronger than I am, enduring much worse suffering than I was. I met caring doctors and nurses with hope, energy, and conviction who gave themselves for my life. I met strangers receiving no pay at all who dropped in just to cheer me on. I watched my wife lay down her entire life to devote herself to caring for me for most of ten months straight.
I met people all over the world, including you, Cyndi, and I was inspired, encouraged, made hopeful, loved, and obtained a rest I never could have had if I had not gone through what I went through.
Better yet, I was able to encourage others. I am quite certain I helped pull a couple people out of a pit of despair and give hope. I watched one of them do the same for someone else. I wrote web pages to try to correct the awful, dire prognoses given on the internet about "Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm," and I received several emails thanking me for giving them up-to-date, hopeful information. I received dozens of emails thanking me for the inspiration and encouragement people received through my blog. I talked at least two people into getting a bone marrow transplant rather than waiting for their BPDCN to relapse, as it almost always does, and dying.
Those things are exciting. I got to experience a whole new world, bless people, give honor to God through Jesus Christ, and, on top of that, to go through trials, which produce patience so that I can have hope of being perfect and complete, lacking nothing, when I appear before God! (Jam. 1:2-4) How exciting is that!
"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." (Php. 1:29)