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.