Dr. Conners is regularly adding video episodes to this page documenting his current journey with cancer in hopes that it will help others
This page contains details of my personal journey with a disease that I have spent decades trying to help my patients overcome. I hope it can be a source of encouragement for those with cancer as it is an honest, transparent, and often embarrassingly personal look inside my heart. Most of all, I pray it is a blessing through your journey.
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The Cancer Doctor's Cancer
"There was a time that I needed to imagine the feelings felt by my cancer patients. I’m empathic by nature, which makes me a good doctor, and I’ve had my share of physical injuries, broken bones, and sprained ankles, but cancer? I’d imagine their fear; I’d imagine their pain. I’d imagine their dread of an unknown future and console them with verses that assured that God would never leave them and that He desires to walk with them through their suffering, wherever it may lead. There was a time.
Alex sat in the chair adjacent to mine in my consult room. I shuffled through his CT report as he shared his desire to forgo any more chemotherapy treatments when he was told that the last round was not effective and the cancer has now progressed to his liver. I asked him the same question I ask all my cancer patients, “Tell me your story, I want to know you and how you got to this point.”
I have to be honest.
I have to be honest. This consultation was a little different. It was yesterday that I confirmed my own diagnosis and my selfish thoughts wandered to my own pain as he recalled that, ‘it all started in September of this year.’ Oh great. September was just three months ago and his first symptoms of any possible ill-health progressed from stomach aches to stage 4 in three months? I don’t know why I was surprised, it was nothing that I haven’t heard before, but this time it seemed more real. I guess I didn’t have to imagine anymore.
Nothing is better than experiential knowledge in most things. I could read every book written about Abraham Lincoln and become the world’s best authority on his life, yet I still don’t know him. I’ve dedicated the last half of my career trying to understand cancer and I must say that I’m more committed than most doctors. My wife would say that I really have no life other than studying. Each patient has been my textbook; their disease, my obsession. I guess God’s providential plan has an ironic twist in that I’ve now become my own textbook.
Alex continued. His timeline of events that shaped the last few months were clear. Scared by the sudden diagnosis, he started with surgery, resecting part of the large bowel followed by chemotherapy. The most recent scan shattered all his hopes and here he sat, looking for comfort, grasping for a future. I understood; experientially.
Will this make me a better doctor or keep me from being one? Will my story be one that encourages many or will I be an example to the ‘real’ doctors that standard oncology is the only way to go? The final chapter has yet to be written so I won’t ponder the details with which God cannot yet trust me but I do hope that the process may become a blessing to someone, somewhere, who is searching for hope that has been stolen away.
Alex is still with us. His hope has been renewed, if only a little. I’ll never understand why someone, calling themselves a doctor, would tell someone they had X amount of time to live. How arrogant have we become to think we know God’s timeline?
I wonder if the bit of success I’ve seen over the years has more to do with renewing hope than all the therapies and diets and nutrients.
I wonder if more cancer patients die of a broken spirit than a broken body; I wonder what outcomes would be like if our medical system weren’t so broken, if oncologists could work hand-in-hand with doctors like myself and if the patient’s well-being was placed ahead of insurance documents.
Most of all, I wonder what God will do with this beautiful irony of the cancer doctor’s cancer and I look forward, cautiously, to the ride."
There are many things
There are many things in life that shape us; our choice in friends, vocation, the place we live, our hobbies, marriage, children, lifestyle, and thoughts. Nothing makes even a dent of impact apart from how we view God. Is He indifferent to our plight? Is He able to change our circumstances? Is He sovereign over all?
Paul’s prayer for the believers seems kind of unusual, even inconsistent at first. “Because I have heard of your faith,” Paul writes, he prays that God “may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” (Ephesians 1:15-18)
I think it's evident that Paul believes that we are never 'done' seeing God, His character, and His sovereign hand in our lives. I think we will literally be spending eternity in unspeakable awe of our Creator.
I pray that He opens my eyes to the, "Immeasurable greatness of His power towards us who believe," for I think it will take me at least 10,000 years to even begin to, "grasp the riches of His glorious inheritance." (Ephesians 1:19)
Thoughts on Present Reality
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of kind words and encouragement, those that tell me they are praying, and those offering advice, sharing sorrows, hope, and words to lift my spirit. All this brings me joy yet, God reminds me, in quiet hours, that He has a purpose that will not be wasted.
He has given me 3 reminders in this journey that I want to share: 1. We must clarify our Purpose; 2 Clarify our Identity, and: 3. Clarify our Story.
That I May Be
Episode 11 is another sappy, yet heart-felt poem that God gave me. In it I am speaking to my family, my patients, and all that He places in my life. It is my goal, my purpose, that I may be all that God has allowed me to be in your lives.
I'm No Hero
When I started reading my Bible in a different way, it changed everything. I used to read Bible stories and insert my name for David's in his fight against Goliath; I'd see myself as Paul in his message to the 'foolish Galatians'. It wasn't until I began seeing myself as the villain that everything changed. I am Goliath, who fights against the work of God in pursuit of selfish gain; I am the 'stiff-necked Isrealite' who faithlessly whines and crys when I don't get my way.
It is only when I assert myself as the 'villain' can I truly see my need for THE Victor; only then can I hang on to HIM and experience victory, rightly defined, BY HIM!
That I May Finish Well
I prayed once for salvation, and then He granted me,
The faith for eyes to open and the power to believe.
I prayed for Him to change me, to give me desires which were His.
I prayed He'd take away the selfishness and sin.
I prayed He'd make me holy, an honorable request.
Instead, He gave me strength to fight the sin I must confess.
I prayed for comfort; He gave grief. For peace; He gave distress.
But then He poured in grace, the power over, through, the test.
I wanted ease, but He knew best. To refine a heart, it takes a flame.
To burn away, to purify, I pray I'm cleansed in Jesus’ name.
I've learned to pray, “Lord take my heart, do all You need to make me pure.
Whatever fire, whatever pain, whatever You see as my cure.
May I find glory in Your name; may worship be my heart's desire.
That hunger for Your word be true, I pray You fan that inner fire.
I pray I may surrender more deeply to You still.
I pray, through faith, You give more grace; conform me, slowly, to Your will.
Pour more love inside beside a heart filled full with joy.
Pour in more peace to spill out freely, when I'm bumped (this is Your ploy).
Now please Lord, pour more patience, for it needs to come from You.
And kindness that You're known for, I'll need plenty of that too.
Please Lord, pour Your goodness, the kind I can't create.
That forgives, forgets, loves anyways, please Lord, oh how that’d be great.
Please give a faithful heart so I can trust You, in life or death the same.
Make me so steadfast that those who see, can't help but praise Your name.
Grant me a soul so gentle that I may hurt with those in pain.
That I may be a soothing balm, a quiet breeze, a calming rain.
And Lord, one last and needed fruit, Your Spirit, please implore:
Give self-control that grace may reign, that I may praise You more.
This is my prayer, I need You more, for time has told and once again will tell.
That on You Lord, how I depend, to spill on all, and finish well."
- Dr. Kevin Conners, August 10, 2019
My Wrestling Match
September 8, 2019
As I go through my own ups and downs in how I feel, I am reminded that WHAT I focus on is all important. I recently attended a medical conference, the first I've been to for quite some time. Last December, almost 9 months ago now, I cancelled going to an annual seminar that I haven't missed for years. I was feeling so poorly that I was sure I couldn't trudge the long walks from the room in Las Vegas' Venetian to the conference center. My health seemed to be creeping downward.
As I tweaked my protocol and spent long hours in prayer, God spared me and I slowly began feeling better. "Maybe it's time to get to another seminar," I thought. It's a mental wrestling match for me. Going to a seminar is equivalent to looking into the future, planning for growth, seeking novel ideas. My mental struggle is between these two opposing forces - my mind's desire to learn, grow, and find new ways to help my patients (something that's been rather an addiction for me throughout my career), and my body's waves of pain and exhaustion.
"That's it," I thought to myself about 3 weeks ago. After my wife's gentle nudges to get back into the game, I signed up for my first conference in over a year. Mind you, I used to attend 3-6 per year and speak at several others. I loved teaching other doctors and if I'm not learning something new, I feel like I'm dying. And that observation is what this brief post is all about.
The seminar was great - wonderful speakers and I was able to connect with colleagues I've not seen for some time. But, what was best was my personal wrestling match. On a quiet evening in my hotel, the Lord reminded me, as He often does, that my battle, my wrestle, my struggle, which has been causing me greater and greater grief, was because of my failure to turn it all over to Him.
Since this was only the 20,000th time He had to remind me of the same thing, you'd think He'd be angry. But He isn't that way. He's patient; He's kind; He gently beckons, whispers, coaxes me to crawl up on His lap. Then, after reminding me of His love for me and that He chose me, adopted me, hand-picked me to be His special child, He revealed that my stress, worry, anxiety is inversely proportional to my dependance on Him.
My conscious, purposed, daily effort to give my problems to my loving Father is the only "work" that results in a fruit to my betterment. This needs to be my active wrestling match - turn it over to God; turn it over to God; turn it over to God! In this, and only in this, there is peace.
Ask anyone who knows me and they'll agree: I don't like accepting help from anyone. My, 'I can do it myself' attitude has gotten me far in life but this is NOT the personality trait of a mature believer. As I learn my lessons, ever so slowly, God reminds me that the battle is His and that nothing can separate me from the love that is in Christ Jesus, not persecution, not stress, not cancer, nor even death. For even in these things, as I lay hold of Christ, I can be more than a conqueror, for He will work it all for good and His glory.