“Don’t deny the diagnosis; try to defy the verdict.”
Over the years that phrase from author Norman Cousins became a sort of rallying cry for my cancer support group members who were facing especially difficult circumstances. These are the kind of folks who realize shock and disbelief—although understandable reactions to a diagnosis—can’t really do anything to change the situation. So they decide to take the bull by the horns and refuse to give in to any statistics on a piece of paper or doomsday predictions from a doctor’s lips.
So just in case you or your loved one has been given some not-so-great cure odds or perhaps even no odds for a cure, I encourage you to quit fighting against the diagnosis and instead try and fight the verdict. Even if you or your loved one has great survival odds or your trial is something other than cancer, I think you’ll be blessed by today’s story of a patient defying the odds.
My German-born friend Jutta (pronounced YOU-tuh) was diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer at the age of 38. It’s an understatement to say that cancer of the pancreas is not a “good” kind of cancer and it’s especially scary when your children are only 6 and 10. But that was the situation in which Jutta found herself in July 2003.
She felt fine and hadn’t even considered that the jaundice she was experiencing might mean she was seriously ill. The day after exploratory surgery discovered a malignant pancreatic tumor already spread to the lymph nodes, Jutta’s surgeon came into her hospital room and told her: “You better get your act together. You have cancer and you’ve only got two years.”
Jutta was shocked not only at the diagnosis, but at the less-than-compassionate way the news was delivered.
“It took me at least a month to get over that,” she says. Eventually she decided the doctor’s prediction was only that—a prediction—and she would not live believing it had to come true. Good thing—it is more than 13 years later and Jutta has never had a recurrence and remains cancer-free.
As she reflects on her cancer journey, she says, “You don’t stop living just because you hear the word cancer. That’s the worst thing you can do. Even if my cancer had been stage 4, I would have still set goals and gone for them. I believe that somebody who sets goals lives longer.”
Jutta says she still has a goal of being “an encouragement to other people.” (You can bet I tell every new pancreatic patient I know about her!)
When I was diagnosed I was told I had about a 40-percent chance of surviving. It seemed to me as if someone was going to flip a coin: heads I live, tails I die. It drove me crazy thinking about it.
And then an even better truth hit me: God wasn’t playing roulette with me
He didn’t have His fingers crossed.
He wasn’t going to wish me luck.
He wasn’t taking bets on my future.
He didn’t need good odds to heal me.
You need to know and believe that cancer–or any illness–is not an automatic death sentence. Doctors do their best at predicting cure rates and odds of survival, but these predictions are just educated guesses. I’m very glad that my oncologist does not regularly dole out predictions about how long patients have to live. He feels those predictions become self-fulfilling prophecies in many patients’ minds. I know zillions of people who have lived longer—some many times longer—than doctors or medical science predicted.
Predictions are just that. They do not have the last word. Please remember today that your and your loved one’s times are in God’s hands and He doesn’t need “good odds” to heal.
In the words of the late pastor/author Charles L. Allen:
“When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”
Lord, Please help us all from slamming the door in Your face; from refusing to believe that you are the God of the unexpected, the improbable and even the impossible. Thank You that You don’t need good odds to do mighty works and that no statistic or white coat has the final word over our lives. Thank you that You have power over everything—over every errant cell in our bodies, over every discouraging word on our lips and over every hopeless thought in our minds. We open the door to You and the healing touch You want to bring to our lives. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
 All Things are Possible through Prayer, pg. 51, Charles L. Allen, Revell, 2003.