Every day is a new day of grace
A Martin Luther College student shares how his Savior was with him during his fight with cancer.
“Erich, there is no easy way to say this, but you have cancer.”
As a 16-year-old boy sitting in the University of Michigan Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in July of 2011, those words rang in my ears. What are you supposed to say? How are you to react? All that came to my mind was “Okay.” So, that is exactly what I said.
Three months earlier, I was playing baseball and running bases like a normal high school sophomore. I knew something was wrong though. I would get up from sitting and could barely breathe. I felt winded just jogging out to the field. I assumed I was just coming down with a cold, so I did not worry about it.
As school was winding down, I went to the doctor’s office and they diagnosed me with bronchitis. After a while, nothing was improving, just getting worse. With a few more tests, they re-diagnosed me with asthma and gave me numerous amounts of inhalers. A few weeks passed and I felt a little relief but nothing that made a big change. As this was all going on, I was not able to sleep lying down. I could only breathe while sleeping sitting up. The doctors finally ordered a chest x-ray just to take a look inside.
The results of the x-ray showed a thick mass in my chest wrapped around my left lung and my heart. My doctor sent me to get a CAT scan Friday morning. The results from the scan were never clearly given to me, but that evening I was ordered to go to the U of M hospital.
Saturday morning came, and that’s when everything took off. Tests like crazy, doctors in and out of my room, being watched 24 hours a day—but also all you can eat from the cafeteria. For the next two weeks, I would be cooped up in that room and not allowed to do much. There were times when I looked at my parents and could tell they would have switched places with me in a heartbeat. I could tell my dad took it hard and did everything he could to make it better. My mom stayed in the hospital every day and night until I came home.
After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I didn’t want anyone to know. I refused to let them tell people, including family. So the first few days only my parents and my best friend in high school knew what was going on. That might have been a little selfish on my part, but I didn’t want to be treated differently.
After one of my pastor’s visits, all I could think was “Why? Why is this happening?” But then things started to fall into perspective for me. Everything in life happens for a reason, and that reason may never be clear. But God is in control of my life, and he knows exactly what he is doing.
From that point on, I took things as they were given to me and lived one day at a time. My high school football coach encouraged me daily, reminding me of my Savior’s love for me and allowing me to still be part of the football team. The one thing I can remember him saying to me every day was, “Every day is a new day of grace.” He was—and still is—exactly right. Nothing should ever be taken for granted and nothing should ever be pushed off to the side as if it is nothing, for your time of grace is exactly that, grace.
As my doctor made his daily visits, I finally got up the courage to tell him that I made it my goal to play basketball in winter. He said to me “You for sure will not play football this year, and I’m certain you will be lucky if you get to play spring baseball.” From then on I worked at getting better and maintaining my strength, the doctors worked at giving me the proper medicine, and the Lord was watching over everything and making everything turn out for my good.
The next five months were filled with many trips to the university hospital for treatment, sometimes up to three times a week. They were not always the best of weeks, but one pastor shared a very comforting passage: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11). I took that passage to heart and thought of it often.
Through this blessing in disguise, I had many people who supported me and prayed for me. A group of people who were always there for me was my Michigan Lutheran Seminary family. They made extremely generous accommodations for me in the dormitory and also helped me get to and from my classes. That was a tremendous blessing because, without their help, I would have had to wait a year to attend school. Instead, I was able to continue my education.
That fall, four months after my diagnosis, God was gracious to me and gave me enough strength and will to play basketball for the first day of practice. That year, I played my fair share and enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t thank my coaches, friends, and my Lord enough for the opportunity.
As life went on, that next April I was given the all-clear and told I was cancer-free. Those words were some of the best—and some of the most humbling—words I had ever heard. They reminded me that I have a gracious Lord and Savior who watches over me and takes care of me daily with all my trials and struggles.
When I got home that evening, a more serious thought about ministry came to my mind as I continued considering serving in the public ministry. I asked myself the question, “Am I fit for ministry after all that I have gone through?” I still ask myself that question today and wonder if this is where I am supposed to be. But God knows where he is leading me and knows where I will end up someday to best serve him and his kingdom. “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”
Today, I see those who stood with me. They have helped me accept what happened and move on—my family, my girlfriend, close friends, professors, and many others. Some of these people didn’t even know me at the time but still took time to pray and support me. I can’t thank them and my doctors enough.
But especially I thank my Lord and Savior for helping me through this blessing in disguise. “Every day is a new day of grace.” Remember to thank him.
Erich Neumann, a sophomore at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. Stephen, Adrian, Michigan.
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Author: Erich Neumann
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014
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