Survivor

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

What a difference a day makes. Arguably, I was the same person the day before my latest PET scan cleared me of recurrent cancer. But that’s logic speaking rather than the roller coaster of emotions associated with what I call the “beast.”

I have mixed emotions about telling my story. Many have encouraged me to do so, but I’ve resisted for a variety of reasons. Privacy is an obvious issue, but more importantly is that I didn’t want pity or to appear maudlin. There’s a fine line between sharing your pain and dishonest stoicism. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else’s trouble. Empathy is projecting yourself into the experiences of another with the belief that you understand and share those feelings. I decided to speak out, not in the hope of sympathy or empathy, but in the hope that someone might gain from my insights and experiences.

A sign hangs at the M.D. Anderson Cancer hospital in Houston. It reads, “From the moment of your cancer diagnosis you become a survivor.” I’ve found this to be true. I see myself as a member of the survivor clan. There’s a separateness among this “clan” which is not bigotry. Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, the world is forever changed. Cures occur with modern medicine. And the tincture of time heals much of the anxieties of recurrence, even though it may not cure the memory of the “beast.”

Though I remain engaged in the world of the living, those without cancer seem somehow different or apart from my clan, even though I would not wish membership in this clan for anyone. Many days my wife Becky carries me emotionally. I’m more of a pessimist than Becky who usually sees the cup half full rather than half empty.

It may sound strange, but there are blessings in difficulties. My wife and I are known as Becky and Jim, or vice versa for the last forty-one years. I’ve often wondered why one name precedes the other when speaking of a couple. Perhaps the dominant personality is the deciding factor or one is better known. None the less, Becky and I are a pair in spirit and function, though each has gifts differing. We have become closer during this ordeal. Illness sometimes challenges a person’s faith. Mine has become stronger (see Romans 5:3). And I can now more readily identify with Psalmist who sang in chapter 118: verse 24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

In recent essays I’ve discussed alternate realities, higher dimensions and man’s limited vision even with science. Perhaps some see this as too arcane or metaphysical and prefer the nuts and bolts of internal medicine. However, all will someday become sick and everyone will “pass-on.” I like this phrase better than passing-away. For me there’s a better sense continuation and transition with passing-on.

An atheist or materialist would view my successful treatment as a result of science, surgery and innovative medication. He might ascribe my successful outcome to fortune, a word we get from ancient Rome and their goddess Fortuna. And while he may be right, he might also be completely wrong. A materialist demands objective proof of God and discounts even nature as a sign of Providence’s handiwork.

Most of life is based on probability rather than possibility. It is possible the sun has just gone nova, exploded and we won’t know of it for another seven minutes (it takes light eight minutes and twenty seconds to travel from the sun to the earth). This is so highly improbable that I’m not in the least worried and expect the sun to “rise” tomorrow. Which is more probable: the universe formed like some cosmic soap bubble from a non-measurable realm euphemistically referred to as the “quantum foam,” or that which we call God imparted energy to something we now know as space and time, replete with physics and creatures now look up at the stars in wonder?

Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and theologian who coined the term, “leap of faith.” His logic is profound, but I’ll caution you, dry as toast. Nonetheless, his concepts remain important. A friend of mine speaks of a “simple faith” which I see as analogous to Kierkegaard’s leap. For me, faith is complex, though it is not blind. Science and knowledge, tradition and wisdom, reason and the Bible bring me to the doorstep or interface between what I know and what I can never know because the latter is outside my space and time.

Atheism is a militant denial of God. Apostasy is a falling away from God after hearing of and comprehending the Way. Agnosticism means that God is irrelevant in your life or you don’t know whether God exists.

Our country and western civilization is at war with radical Islam whether our leaders and the politically correct can utter the truth. Make no mistake, ISIS and similar ilk either believe they are soldiers of God or they are using religion as a facade. I believe the rank and file Islamists, if not most of the leaders/Ayatollahs, hold to the former perspective. You should ask yourself what motivates our leaders.

William James is identified with the philosophy of pragmatism. He was an atheist, but became fascinated by those who had a religious perspective. After an exhausting study he concluded in his book that when there are two opposed perspectives and there is no incontrovertible evidence that either is right, a rational man is free to choose the system that works best for him.

The Russian novelist Dostoevsky once said, “If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the the truth . . . then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.” This would not be my perspective. However, since there is no incontrovertible proof that theism or atheism is correct, I am free to choose.

By definition, God is unprovable by human standards and I believe undeniable as well. I am a scientist and a theist. These two disciplines of exploring the universe are not as discordant as some might argue. I choose probability, science and the wisdom of the ages to bring me to the threshold of faith. It is there that I leap.

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