The Winds of Change
Just when you think you see the whole picture of life clearly, the channel changes.
Argot L. Shephard
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Living with cancer or any serious illness means living with change. In the battle against cancer, just about every part of life—emotions, finances, physical condition, relationships—feels like it’s in a constant state of flux. Sometimes we know changes are coming. We may sense their faint rumblings from a distance. We may see something new break the monotony of the horizon. At other times, change roars into our lives like a raging river, sweeping us off our feet and tumbling us head over heels in its current.
During the first ten months of my battle against cancer, like so many other cancer patients, I learned a great deal about coping with change. I could anticipate some changes and took steps to prepare for them. At other times, it seemed that I, unknowingly, had been prepared for changes that I could not have anticipated. Of course, some changes took me by surprise.
On August 15, 1989, I wasn’t thinking about change. I had made my comeback. I had learned to pitch again after half of my deltoid muscle and a cancerous tumor had been removed from my pitching arm. While others had said my pitching days were over, I had proven them wrong, already winning my first Major League game since my surgery. Being back in baseball was great, and it looked like smooth sailing ahead.
Smooth sailing except for the fact that Tim Raines was at bat. I had the ball in my glove, and I rubbed it thoroughly. I was unhappy about the fact that the first hitter had hit a fly ball over the left field fence, unhappy that my control wasn’t good and that I had nicked Andres Galarraga, sending him to first base. I knew I would have to bear down to get Raines out. He’s a very tough hitter, and he represented the tying run.
I came to the set position, stared at Galarraga at first, then threw. Next to my ear I heard a loud popping noise. The sound was audible all over the field. It sounded as if someone had snapped a heavy tree branch.
It felt as if my arm had separated from my body and was sailing off toward home plate. I grabbed at it instinctively, trying to pull it back. The ball left my hand and flew high up, far past my astonished catcher, Terry Kennedy, who charged after it.
I knew nothing about the ball or about the runner who ran hesitantly around the bases as if, for once, he was truly guilty of stealing. I was grabbing my arm to keep it from flying away as I tumbled headfirst down the mound. I shouted with all the air in my lungs. Over I went, doing a complete, 360-degree tumble, then flopping forward until I came to rest on my back. My arm felt as if it had been hit with a meat axe. I have never felt such pain. I wish that no one else ever would.
In an instant Will Clark and trainer Mark Letendre were beside me. I was writhing and grunting, trying to get my breath. “Oh, gosh, it hurts, it’s killing me! It’s broke. It feels like I’ve broken my arm.” Because of the pain, I was holding my breath for long periods of time. Mark started to tell me how to breathe. “In at the nose and out of the mouth. Dave! In at the nose. Now out at the mouth. C’mon, Dave, breathe with me!” He was giving me a Lamaze refresher course.
I gasped, between breaths, “I’m all right. It just hurts.”
“Shut up, Dave, and breathe. In at the nose . . . .”
The pain gradually subsided until I could lie quietly, looking up at the circle of faces surrounding me. Above and around me, the stadium had fallen awesomely silent. You could have heard some-body eating peanuts in the upper deck.
Meanwhile, apart from the pain and the activity around me, I was thinking different thoughts. I was simply amazed by what was going on. I’d thought the book had been written on my comeback and that I could go back to a normal life. Now this. No one could have anticipated this change of plans.
I wasn’t, not even for a split second, angry. I was simply astonished. I felt a tremendous sense of thankfulness and expectancy. I was full of the certainty that God was writing yet another chapter in my life. Because I saw my life as one continuous adventure in partnership with God, I trusted that He had wonderfully good things in store for me. I knew that something more, something amazing, was being revealed even though I had no idea what it was.
On that pivotal day I never imagined the changes that would be coming my way. I thought Jan and I were done with sur-prises, with having to adjust to yet another change in plans. I imagine that at one time or another most cancer patients have felt the same way. Just when it seems that things might settle down, a new change comes our way:
- Our treatment protocol has to be changed again.
- Relationships with friends change, and some of them pull away.
- Our career is threatened.
- The future feels so uncertain.
- Plans and dreams for the future are derailed.
- Family members react to what is happening in a less-than-healthy way.
- We have to see that doctor again.
- We feel so depressed.
- Our faith may even falter.
In the face of such changes, we sometimes long for the days or weeks when nothing new appears on the horizon. We find ourselves envying those whose lives appear to be stable, routine—the “normies” as one cancer patient calls them. But the winds of change bring blessings as well as challenges.
I, for example, never imagined that my faith in God would be as strong as it is now. I had no way of knowing that I would share my story and faith with thousands of people. I never dreamed that God would direct Jan and me to start the only national cancer ministry in the country. All I knew for sure as I fell from the pitcher’s mound that day, was that God was in control. He was doing something I couldn’t possibly understand or imagine.
Did my faith in God make it easier to deal with all of the changes brought about by cancer? Yes. But Jan and I still stumbled over each change. We still felt anxious. We still asked, “why?” We still struggled to readjust our sights in a new direction. We still made mistakes. And we learned some valuable lessons that we want to share with you in the hope that our experience will be an encouragement as you deal with the changes taking place in your life.
We can’t prevent the winds of change from blowing. But we hope this issue of The Encourager will help you as you respond to the changes that come your way. Most importantly, I pray that the stories and Scriptures in these pages will help you experience the peace that comes from knowing that you aren’t walking through these changes alone—Someone is walking beside you.
Portions of this article adapted from Comeback by Dave Dravecky with Tim Stafford ©1990. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. Dave’s story is told in Comeback and When You Can’t Come Back. If you wish to order autographed copies of these books, use the order envelope inside this issue.
We sometimes long for the days or weeks when nothing new appears on the horizon.
We find ourselves envying those whose lives appear to be stable, routine – he “normies” as one cancer patient calls them.