Prostate Cancer Journal: Positive for Cancer

Ever since hearing that my elevated PSA might be a cause for concern, I had been preparing myself for the news, preparing myself to hear that I had prostate cancer. Dad had it, why shouldn’t I? I’ve been steeling myself so that I wouldn’t scream, or yell, or, God forbid, cry when I heard the news.

“Mr. Kinnaman, your results came back positive…” That really is the only thing I heard in our brief conversation. As Dr. de la Paz continued to speak I looked at the pictures on my desk, pictures of my wife and I on a cruise, pictures of our four grandchildren. I ask a few questions, write a couple of notes that mostly make sense later, but while hearing, I really am not listening. I have cancer.

The Roller coaster of Rage and Fear

boulder-dashRage is what fuels all the reading, it is the cranking up of the roller coaster, “clack, clack, clack,” as I am taken higher, the rage that this should happen to me “clack, clack, clack,” higher and higher; rage, being pushed on by the idea that if I read enough I can find a solution, rage that compels me to exhaustion to find the next website, the next procedure, the next presentation on YouTube. And then just as I reach the pinnacle and seemingly have nowhere else to go, I overtop and begin the free fall into fear: fear of loosing my health, fear of the surgery, fear of radiation therapy, fear of incontinence, fear of impotence, fear that I’ve let you down, fear that dying will hurt, fear of leaving my wife alone. While on the way up it felt like rage would leave me with no place to go, fear seems like it could go on forever. And along the way fear throws me into switchbacks of loathing and pity and ultimately into the 360° of doubt: did I do enough, should I’ve been more vigilant, can I make a treatment decision that will make a difference?


A hymn derailed this mad train of my own making.

Picked weeks before by Pastor Mayes, the opening hymn stopped me cold. I’ve loved this hymn for many years; I love to sing it with gusto. But the words have never meant as much to me as the now did in the opening minutes of the Divine Service.

Christ is the world’s Redeemer,
The lover of the pure,
The font of heav’nly wisdom,
Our trust and hope secure,
The armor of His soldiers,
The Lord of earth and sky,
Our health while we are living,
Our life when we shall die.

Christ has our host surrounded
With clouds of martyrs bright,
Who wave their palms in triumph
And fire us for the fight.
Then Christ the cross ascended
To save a world undone
And, suff’ring for the sinful,
Our full redemption won.

Down through the realm of darkness
He strode in victory,
And at the hour appointed
He rose triumphantly.
And now, to heav’n ascended,
He sits upon the throne
Whence He had ne’er departed,
His Father’s and His own.

That line in the first stanza: “Our health while we are living / Our life when we shall die.” I’ll never sing it again quite the same way. These words stopped my voice in my throat. But in an instant they also stopped my fear, my panic, my rage. Just a few words hiding in a well loved hymn, and I was pulled back into the loving arms of Mother Church. I could only listen to the next couple of stanzas, or I would have lost it. “Our health while we are living / Our life when we shall die.” For me a new cradlesong. These words rested me firmly in the arms of Christ’s Bride, who then took me back to the font, and to the cross, and then to the Supper. I was soothed with the words and the texts of the Divine Service. Yes, the same words that I have proclaimed to others during the years of ministry, but I was hearing them with new ears, ears tuned by my own angst, my own fear, ears tuned by God to now hear how I was going to really be able to make it through it all. And it all turned around on a hymn.  I’ll have it memorized soon.

Glory to God the Father,
The unbegotten One,
All honor be to Jesus,
His sole-begotten Son,
And to the Holy Spirit-
The perfect Trinity.
Let all the worlds give answer:
Amen! So let it be.

Other  posts in the Prostate Cancer Journal can be found under Categories in the sidebar of this blog.

12 thoughts on “Prostate Cancer Journal: Positive for Cancer

  1. Prayers ascend, brother. My youngest child is named for two saints who now rest from their labors after long fights with cancer, and it seems like there's a cancer connection with everyone I know these days. I do not say this to bring you back down, but rather to encourage you that this is not something you will deal with alone.

    While I will certainly pray that God's will be done for you, I will also pray that His will is that you be freed from this burden, that treatment will be effective, that whatever can be done, shall be done effectively.

    I like your hymn choice. I also fall back on "He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives and I shall conquer death" and "Faith shall cry as fails each sense, 'Jesus is my confidence!'" Thanks be to God for such faithful hymnody that grants us comfort in our weakest moments.

    Peace be with you, brother.

  2. Scot,

    You just got onto my prayer list as well – I'll be asking for you each day: mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, visitation, pardon and forgiveness of all sins, that you might ever praise God's holy name. Pax!

    • I know “thank you”; replies are sometimes viewed with the same disdain as “Amen!”; posts, but I want to say thank you. Truly, your kind thoughts and prayers, especially the prayers, are appreciated by me and my family (they are reading along with you). So,

      Will, thank you. I’m reading Starcks with a whole different set of spectacles.

    • Thanks, Rebekah. (Neat, I just finished the script for the Sunday school podcast, Seeds of Faith, and the story is that of Rebekah)

  3. Good Morning Pastor K, I have been praying for you and wanted to send you a note but just didn't feel like I had the words to say that would help. I am so thankful that when I do pray for you the Holy Spirit in my heart talks to my Father with groanings that cannot be uttered. Praise be to the Spirit who always knows how to pray, even when we don't. From your post I pray and believe that the same Comforter who prays for us is giving grace to your soul.

  4. Grace, mercy, and peace to you my brother, from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. We have never met, but as your brother in Christ, fellow LCMS pastor, I feel the Lord leading me to contact you. I just went through what you are going through right now! I was diagnosed in October 2008 (anal cancer) and completed my treatments (some surgery, radiation therapy, and chemo) in February. As of this writting I am now cancer free!

    There is life after cancer! There is grace… mercy…. and peace through Jesus Christ. I am praying for you… and I am here for you if you should like to speak with a fellow beggar, one who has been where you are going and can testify that the Lord is good… even through cancer. Feel free to email me if you need my perspective and/or support.

    Rev. Brian Henderson
    Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
    [email protected]

  5. I know that roller coaster ride all too well. There is nothing like bringing our focus back to the Cross during this time. Prayers Scot.

I'm interested to hear what you have to say.

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