Cancer Sucks

Taken the weekend before my (on right) Biopsy – I still have hair!

I groggily looked up at the nurse, prying my eyes open through the haze of the anesthetics. “Do you know the results?” I asked, fearing the answer, yet needing to know.

It was a struggle to form the words, my brain was still muddled from the surgery. The nurse told me that she didn’t know. I was wheeled into a recovery room, where they let me have a sip of water. I wanted more, I was parched, my throat like sandpaper. Apparently having too much water after a fairly major surgery is a bad thing, though, because they wouldn’t let me have enough to satisfy the ache in my throat.

Finally, after what seemed like ages, my parents were ushered into the room. I looked up into their faces, and could tell. My mom and dad were trying to put on a brave face, but they couldn’t hide the sorrow in their eyes. Our family was about to face a new challenge together.

“What kind?” I croaked, my voice still parched.

Silence stretched on as my dad tried to form the words. Finally, he found them. “Osteosarcoma, bone cancer” my dad said gravely.

Those were the three words that rocked my world to its core.

Let me back up a step for a moment to my junior year of high school.

My junior year began much like yours, fairly normal. I played football for Eden Prairie, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I was pretty good at it, almost guaranteed a starting position my senior year. During the season, my left knee began to really bug me. I saw the athletic trainer and he gave me a knee brace. It helped make the pain bearable, and I finished the season.

During March of 2005 I began to train for my senior year of football. As I was working out, a burning pain would enter my knee. It even got to the point where it would give out on me, and I’d tumble to the ground. Something was wrong.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the orthopedic doctor. He was all fun and jokes, even once saying, “You know, if you were a horse, we’d take you out behind the barn and shoot you.” The doctor believed that I either had a torn cartilage, or that the underside of my knee was worn. He ordered an MRI to figure out which it was.

The second time I saw the doctor he was very serious. The MRI showed a tumor. There were two possibilities; it could have been caused from an injury. If that were the case, the tumor would be blood and fluid and such. The less desirable outcome was cancer. He sent me to the hospital at the University of Minnesota where I saw one of the best doctors in the nation. He’s written countless papers on reconstructive surgery. Dr. Clohisy, the doctor at the U, ordered a biopsy. They opened up my leg and took a piece of the tumor. The results came back as cancer.

As a cancer survivor, there are dates that I’ll never forget. I was diagnosed on April 25th, 2005. On August 1st, 2005 I had surgery where they removed my knee and 18 inches of my femur, replacing it with nine pieces of plastic and titanium. (Airport mental detectors love me.) My last chemotherapy treatment was on February 6th, 2006. I still have yearly check-ups, but now officially wear the label of “Cancer Free.”

Cancer is terrible, absolutely horrible. It was hard on me, yet it drove me closer to God. When everything in your life is going wrong, God is a constant you can hold on to. The hardest part of it was to watch my parents and friends. I was lying in bed suffering and there was nothing that they could do to help me. God was faithful, though, he always is. God can use the thing that harm us for His glory.

What in your life has sucked that God has used for His glory?

-Derek Hanisch

2 thoughts on “Cancer Sucks

  1. Thanks for leading me to this story and for sharing your struggles. Cancer isn’t fun. I’m so glad you’re doing fine now, though.

    I’ve had several people in my family go through the struggles of cancer, including my mom. All of them have been strong believers in the Lord and have weathered their difficulties with much grace. They were all scared at some point, but they always knew they could rely on the Lord’s strength.

    I’ll admit, as serious as this story is, I had to laugh when I read “Airport Mental Detectors”. If only they *could* screen for mental smartness. 🙂


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