Cancer is such a feared disease. Primarily because there is so little treatment for most cancers. Why is this? First, cancer presentation can be so sudden and often occurs in an advanced state before a person even knows they have cancer. Second, cancers occur in most all organs of the body. Cancer would be much easier to treat if it only occurred in just one organ of the body. For example if cancer only occurred in the lungs then medical doctors and scientists could put all of their efforts into curing lung cancer. But as it is medical science must focus their efforts all over the body. The lungs, colon, bones, liver, kidney, brain and other organs of the body can all have cancers. Not only this but each organ in the body can have different types of cancers and each type of cancer in each organ as a rule has to be treated differently because they all act differently. Thus Cancer is very difficult to understand and treat. However, in recent decades several cancers have been cured. This gives us encouragement that in the future we in medical science can continue to make great advances in the treatment of cancer.
Wei Ming Hua was 43 years old and was the mother of a 16-year-old daughter. She worked as an accountant in her large city. She had no medical problems to her knowledge and felt well. She even swam twice a week at a local swimming pool, which helped her to feel fit. One day after swimming and drying off she felt a small lump in one of her breasts. She had never felt this before. She was concerned and recalled a television program talking about breast cancer in woman in China. She knew that breast cancer was not as common in China as in the rest of the world. However, she did know it occurred in China. The program mentioned that painless breast masses should make one concerned about breast cancer. If a person found this in their breasts they should immediately go and see their doctor.
Wei Ming Hua did just this. She went to see the doctor at the local hospital. This doctor re examined the breast of the Wei Ming Hua and did feel the same mass she did. Then he ordered a mammogram, which is a special X-ray for women, which can detect breast cancers. She had this done several days later and then returned to see the doctor about the results of the mammogram. Wei Ming Hua was very concerned about whether she did in fact have cancer and asked her husband to come to the doctor with her. Her husband was very anxious as well.
When they arrived the doctor told her that the X-ray, or mammogram showed that she had may have breast cancer. Her worst fears were realized. However, the doctor also told her that the mammogram was not conclusive of cancer, but only suggestive. Wei Ming Hua would need to have a biopsy of the breast mass and then have that biopsy examined by a doctor who specialized in that type of laboratory work. The doctor told her that some women with X-ray's which looks like cancer in fact do not have cancer.
The biopsy was scheduled for the next week. The surgery for this biopsy is a very minor surgery. Wei Ming Hua tolerated the surgery without any problem. The biopsy showed that her breast did have cancer. She was devastated from the news. The doctor told her however that the breast cancer appeared confined just to the breast and had not spread. The doctors told Wei Ming Hua she needed to have a larger surgery to remove her breast and the cancer in the breast so the cancer would not spread anymore. She agreed to this and then had the surgery the following week.
Wei Ming Hua met many other women who had breast cancer in the clinic. Some were not as fortunate as she was and would need to have either radiation or chemotherapy in addition to the surgery. Some of the women had gotten quite sick from the radiation and chemotherapy.
Many people have cancer and with it some have a sense of hopelessness. How can they have hope and purpose in life in the midst of both physical and emotional suffering. There was a book written in the Bible around 70AD called Peter and written to some people who were suffering. In this book the author Peter talks about how we can have hope. He writes this, 'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you…In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (I Peter 1.3-4,6).'
We have a living hope because of what Jesus Christ did for us when he died on the cross and then later rose from the dead. We have a new birth that can never perish, spoil or fade. We can rejoice because Jesus Christ has given us such a great hope. Though we may only for a little while have to suffer some trials. Isn't this like Wei Ming Hua? She is suffering with her cancer and the emotional and physical trauma she will have to go through. We all want to have hope in the midst of suffering. How can we have this hope? How can we come to know this type of hope so that even in the midst of suffering we can have hope?
We have this hope by believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Some may say, I really do not believe in either Jesus Christ or that he died for me or they may not even care about either fact, that is that he lived and that he also died for our sins. The Bible comments on this as well.
It says in a book written to the people in Corinth around 65AD, which is in current day Turkey, 'And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to pitied more than all men (I Corinthians 15.17-19).' We are pitied people if we do not believe Jesus Christ rose from dead. And we are more to be pitied if we do not even believe in Jesus Christ. Why is this? Because the death and burial and then the resurrection for Jesus Christ from the dead is the only event in history which shows the conquering power of God over death. How else could Jesus have risen from the dead if God did not raise him. Certainly his own power did not do this, another person certainly did not do this, a ghost did not do this. Another god did not do this. Only the Lord God Almighty could have the power to do this.
It is this resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which gives us all hope. Nothing else can show that ultimately God has control over death and the effect of death on our lives. That is why we can praise God for what has done and that is why people like Wei Ming Hua can have hope in the midst of sufferings and trials in life.
Before we talk more about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the hope it can give those people with Cancer, let us go back and talk about the treatment of cancer. People like Wei Ming Hua have a lot of questions about their treatment. The first and most important aspect of cancer is that a correct and accurate diagnosis be made. Many people think they have cancer but when tests are done they find out that they do not. Their fears are unfounded. Some people do have cancer but the biopsy of the tissue shows that the cancer is not as advanced or the type of cancer they have is not as aggressive as they first thought. Many people think, 'I have cancer and therefore I will die very soon.' Certainly that happens to some patients, but to many this does not happen. Thus the first step in treating cancer is to get a good and accurate diagnosis of the cancer.
Second, is to have the diagnostic procedure, which allows for that diagnosis. That often is a very simple and minor operation, which is done under local anesthesia and not general anesthesia. However, some times a more major procedure has to be done; though this is rarely the case. Very rarely do patients have complications from these minor procedures. In fact most people can go home as soon as this procedure is finished the very day it is done.
Third, is deciding if a major operation is needed. All cancers after a diagnosis is made do not require an operation. Take for example leukemia. Once this diagnosis is made no operation is needed. However, once the diagnosis of colon or large intestine cancer is made often a larger operation is needed to remove the diseased colon and also to see how advanced the disease is in the colon. This is a very important part of cancer treatment to see the extent of the spread of the cancer. So a surgeon who has a lot of experience should be doing this type of surgery.
Once the major part of the cancer is removed if needed by surgery and the doctor sees the extent of how far the cancer has spread, other special X-rays may be needed. What are these are what are they for? These are to look in other parts of the body to see if the cancer has spread to them. For example, the lungs, liver, bones and head often have cancer, which has spread to them. These special X-rays are called CT scans or cat scans and MRI scans. These special X-rays are available in most Chinese cities but are relatively expensive. Why is it important to know the extent of the cancer in the body? It allows the doctors to determine other treatment, which is needed, for radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Let's talk about this now.
Many and in fact most patients do not like radiation and chemotherapy because after they have it they do not feel well. The drugs for chemotherapy can be very powerful drugs and can have a lot of side effects. However, over the years doctors have learned how to lessen the side effects of these medicines as well as make them safer with fewer side effects. Further new medications are always being developed. Some tumors can now be cured with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy alone. These advances have really only taken place in the past 20 or so years. Hopefully in the coming decades with genetic advances other significant breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer will be developed.
Most people who have to take chemotherapy take it several times a week for several months. Maybe 2-6 months. But generally not longer. After that time the doctor may repeat some of the blood tests or the X-rays to see if the cancer is totally gone. It is also generally at the beginning of the treatment period when a doctor would order radiation therapy. The radiation treatment though different than chemotherapy generally lasts the same length of time, i.e. 2-6 months and often much shorter.
Both the chemotherapy and radiation can cause patients to have hair fall out, skin peel off, cause nausea/vomiting and diarrhea, and make a person feel tired and other symptoms. However, there are medicines, which can be given to overcome these side effects.
Are all people cured of their cancers? No, many die quickly or many after many years of suffering from the challenges and difficulties of cancer. But this is where the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives hope. The Bible in a book written to the people of Rome around 63AD says the following, 'No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8.37-39).' What a great statement of hope. Nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is a great comfort. Also, Jesus Christ said this himself to us, 'Do not let your hearts be troubled, Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going (John 14.1-4).' Jesus himself in heaven will prepare a place for us.
However, you may ask how you can come to know Jesus Christ so that you can have eternal life. The Bible says the following; 'If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10.9).' If I believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life, even with cancer and that Jesus died on the Cross for my sins and later was resurrected from the dead we will be saved. What a great promise for both cancer patients and even people without cancer.