By Howie Forstrom
As I approach my first Thanksgiving since my Stage 4 cancer diagnosis, I began thinking of what I am thankful for this year. I can’t believe that I can say that I am thankful for my cancer. Thessalonians 5:18 says “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Six months ago, I can say I would have understood the verse. Now I know that back then I know that I had no clue what that verse means.
It is easy to be thankful when you were raised in a Christian home, got a good college education and a master’s degree, good job, married a woman better than you deserved, raised two great kids, and lived the American dream with a house, two cars and a dog (three sequentially). I have been blessed to be able to travel and pursue my hearts desires which have changed over the years.
Looking back, I did give thanks in all those circumstances. I have to admit that it was easy. Prosperity and happiness breed thanksgiving. Sorrow and pain – not so much. How can you be thankful for cancer? It ravages the body. Both the cancer and the treatments are painful to the bone and cause a draining fatigue. It robs the body of strength. Should I be thankful for this?
I can now say that I am thankful for my cancer. God has taught me much. I have learned dependence on God because that is what gets me through every day. I have asked God what the next chapter of my life should be and have begun working with other patients with life altering diagnoses. I have learned to look at the needs of others not just my own. I have learned to cherish the time with Ellen, Katelyn and Gregory whether in person or on the phone. I have learned to stop and listen to what my body tells me. I learned to feel the prayers of those friends who pray regularly for me.
I have a new understanding of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” His plans are prospering me by allowing me to bring hope to others while clinging to the promise of a hope and future with Him. So yes, I am thankful for my cancer because of what God is teaching me and doing through me. I hope that it does not take cancer for you to really understand how to be thankful in all circumstances.