Those folks in Nazareth were amazed to hear a carpenter's son preaching from Isaiah's prophecy. In response to their surprise, Jesus said, "No doubt you will say to me, 'Physician, heal yourself'" (Luke 4:23). Unlike Jesus, I may not be able to heal myself, but at least I can help myself, and so can you.
Knowledge in action
Anyone who suffers with cancer can tell you that we need wisdom. To me, wisdom is knowledge in action, or useable knowledge. One of my college professors used to say: "Most people answer questions that nobody asks. A wise person answers the questions that others ask."
Many people have important information but haven't learned to apply knowledge in action to help other people. The Bible tells us, "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6).
The New Testament confirms this: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). God assures us that He can provide wisdom, give it generously, and not make us feel inadequate for asking.
It's your body
Medical doctors aren't responsible for your health
–you are! Doctors guide, give alternatives, advise, and administer, but it's your body–your life–and you must make the final decisions. If you forget that you're responsible for you own health, you can be overrun by the medical system very quickly.
All medical school graduates receive MD degrees, whether they were first in their class or last in their class. Most doctors care about their patients, but there are doctors whose patients represent little more than an income source. I've met both, and I flee from those who don't show me empathy. If you aren't comfortable with your doctor, look elsewhere-quickly.
With the initial diagnosis of a disease like cancer, your doctor usually calls in specialists. The use of CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, and other high-tech diagnostic tools tends to cause patients to think that once a high caliber diagnosis has been made that they'll get the same caliber of help at the next level down. That isn't necessarily true.
After you have been given an accurate diagnosis (in my case it was metastatic renal cell carcinoma-medical jargon for kidney cancer that has spread from one place to another) you must learn as much as you can about your disease as quickly as you can.
Practice doesn't always make perfect
The practice of medicine is exactly that-practicing. Medical research constantly changes, new technologies appear, and new therapies are offered. There are many alternatives when it comes to dealing with diseases as difficult as cancer.
I regularly hear from people who have been diagnosed with cancer and have gone through the traditional therapies available to them. Now they find that they've had a recurrence of their cancer, and they're searching to see what else is available.
Often they are overwhelmed, because some advocate alternative therapies, many say to stick with traditional therapies, and others even recommend therapy in foreign countries. The choices are so varied that they are totally bewildered, unless they are either good researchers or have someone who will do research for them.
Screen alternative therapies
In order to evaluate any treatment, procedure, or therapy–alternative or otherwise–I have established three criteria for myself that I try to live by as I do my research.
- Therapies or procedures should be administered or controlled by a licensed physician, if possible. The person at least must have an earned degree in the science being applied. Just because a person has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering doesn't mean he or she is an expert in cancer, any more than someone with a Ph.D. in nutrition is an expert in building bridges. Be very discerning.
- I look for treatments that will help my problem or have been helpful for diseases similar to mine. I've been told that renal cell carcinoma and melanoma have similarities. So, I often look for treatments for melanoma that might potentially help solve my problem.
If I hear about a breakthrough for breast cancer or colon cancer, I'll take a look at that too. I then try to find someone who is an expert in renal cell cancer, share what I've learned, and ask if the new breakthrough might help me. In the majority of cases it doesn't. Still, perhaps a new therapy might be modified to be applicable to my disease. It never hurts to keep an open mind.
- I want good data–the best data available on the things I do. That includes both therapies and supplements.
Devise a personal system of evaluation for your research with which you can feel comfortable.
Doctors don't know everything. Don't ask your doctor, "How long do you think I have to live?" The person you're asking doesn't know the answer. Only God knows that.
I have a good friend with pancreatic cancer, which is presumed to always be fatal, usually very rapidly. Each time my friend goes to see a doctor he is told that he has six months to live. They've been telling him that for 11 years. He travels extensively and lives a great life. If he had believed what the doctors said about his life expectancy, he might have died 11 years ago. So don't let anyone tell you that you'll die at a certain time; only God decides how long we live and when we die.
Focus on faith, not fear
Get your friends and family to pray for you regularly. Nothing boosts my spirits more than knowing someone is praying for me every day. There are those who not only will say it but will do it. I rather suspect that 100 years from now your health problems and mine will seem petty. Keep that in mind: Trust God, stay positive, and live by faith–not fear.
In the midst of a crisis, there's a great difference between being peaceful and being passive. Passivity means suffering through something that possibly you could change by exerting a little effort. God doesn't want His people to be passive.
Help other people if you're physically able to do so. You'll find that your troubles won't seem nearly so bad. Spend some time "outside yourself." Make it a point to lift up others.
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27).
Peace is different than passivity. Passivity means we wallow in our pity and think that God doesn't care any more. That's absolutely untrue. Peace means that you're actively doing everything you can to change the circumstance you are in, but you refuse to worry. Maybe you can't change what's happening, but you'll never know unless you try. And if you can't change the circumstances, then maybe God wants you to learn something through it all. Worry is the result of taking on a responsibility that belongs to God, so be at peace. He's in control.
Do you really believe and trust God or do you just say you do? If God has directed you to a therapy that you cannot afford, then let your family and friends know. God can provide through other people. That's how God provides these days. He stopped dropping manna from heaven, but He still uses people to provide for the needs of others.
If someone is willing to help another, "It is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality-at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack'" (2 Corinthians 8:12-15).
The bottom line is this: Keep in mind that God wants you to be peaceful in the midst of the problems you're going through, but He does not want you to be passive.
About the Author
Larry Burkett, an authority on biblically-based personal finance has published several national best-sellers. His advice is heard on more than 2,000 radio stations worldwide. In 1995 he was diagnosed with kidney cancer with a five percent survival rate. Seven years later he's written Nothing to Fear: The Key to Cancer Survival and started The Larry Burkett Cancer Foundation. To learn more visit: www.cancertech.org