A merry heart does good like medicine. Proverbs 17:22a (KJV)
When my 59-year-old husband, Bert, was diagnosed with Stage 4A colon cancer (metastatic to the liver), the Lord immediately brought this verse to mind. That’s not to say the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s didn’t show up too. I’d worked in the medical field for over thirty years. I should’ve dragged my husband in to get a screening colonoscopy at age 50. Instead, we waited until he had symptoms that necessitated the procedure.
What we did do, however, was pray, dig in closer to the Lord and His promises, and thank Him for the hope and faith we had in Him. We set a goal to move forward with a merry heart.
A computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scan immediately followed the colonoscopy to confirm his diagnosis. Two weeks later, a colorectal surgeon indicated that Bert was not a surgical candidate. A day later, a radiation oncologist said radiation wouldn’t be a treatment option for him either. A week later, the oncologist advised that, due to Bert’s ongoing symptoms, one of the most effective chemotherapy drugs couldn’t be used to treat his cancer. The oncologist made it clear the treatment plan in Bert’s case was palliative (symptom relief), not curative (able to cure the disease).
To say that we left that appointment doing cartwheels, praising the Lord, and dancing for joy would be a gross misstatement of the truth. What we did do, however, was pray, dig in closer to the Lord and His promises, and thank Him for the hope and faith we had in Him. We set a goal to move forward with a merry heart. We would enjoy the Lord and each other, and laugh as often as we could.
Yet, in my heart, I wondered if we could achieve our objective. Faced with a life-threatening, and life-ending, disease, could we tap into the medicine a merry heart offered?
We arrived at the hospital three weeks later for Bert’s first chemo treatment, thankful for the two good drugs that would course through his body. The oncologist and nurse met with us and, by the looks on their faces, I think they were taken aback by our positive attitudes and faith in the Lord. After our meeting with them, another nurse led us into a large, sterile room with hanging curtains that divided the area into individual small compartments. Determined that joy would be the banner over the space we would occupy for the next four hours, Bert used his earbuds to listen to praise and worship music. I spent the time worshipping the Lord, reading His word, and finishing my women’s Bible study lesson.
It didn’t take more than a few minutes for our hearts to sink as we looked around at the faces of so many isolated, suffering cancer patients.
But it didn’t take more than a few minutes for our hearts to sink as we looked around at the faces of so many isolated, suffering cancer patients. Right then and there, the Lord put on our hearts, that if anyone asked the reason for our joy, we would share Him with them.
Over the next three months, as we walked through this large room to receive chemo, we tried to make eye contact and smile at every person who looked our way. While the nursing staff did an amazing job of connecting with each patient, many people came to these treatments alone, with fear and discouragement apparent on their faces. We enjoyed talking with several people that we saw on a regular basis but, unfortunately, never got to share the Lord with any of them.
After only seven treatments, Bert was able to have surgery to remove his shrunken colon tumor, and went home from the hospital three days later, without a colostomy—one of the concerns he presented to the Lord most often. Then, after another seven chemo treatments, the doctors declared him “cancer free.”
As we visited the hospital one final time, it was the doctors, nurses, and medical staff who told us how much our constant smiles, humor, and fearless faith encouraged them.
As we visited the hospital one final time, it was the doctors, nurses, and medical staff who told us how much our constant smiles, humor, and fearless faith encouraged them. We always had a smile, something positive to say, or a funny story to share. While we didn’t overemphasize it, we prayed often for the medical staff. They gave so much to everyone, in a situation that most would want to run from.
We know the Lord healed Bert’s cancer, and we thank Him every day for His healing power. And, we renew our joy in Him, each other, and live life with a merry heart. At the end of this journey, we recognized that a merry heart was the medicine that worked within us. The joy of the Lord brought strength and healing to our hearts and souls.