The Club that No One Wants to Join

Pink-Ribbon-by-Amiel-WeisblumOver 12 million Americans will discover that they have cancer this year.  A couple of days ago, I became one of them.  Let me tell you how I got here, and then tell you where I think it’s going.

I discovered a lump at the end of January – it felt like a small marble under the skin of my left breast.  That discovery led to a doctor’s visit, which led to a mammogram and a sonogram, which led to a biopsy, which led to a visit to a surgeon, which led to a lumpectomy last Wednesday afternoon.  As you can see, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

It took almost a week, a very long week, for the pathology report to come back.  The few people who were “in the know” asked me how I was doing during the wait.  I replied that the worst part was not knowing what I was facing.  I wanted to give this thing a name, and make a plan, and I couldn’t do either for several days.

It now has a name.  I have pre-invasive breast cancer.  Fortunately, it looks to be in its early stages, and my doctor is confident that it can be cured.  I know “cure” is not a word that oncologists use lightly, and it’s a good one to hear.

I also have a plan. A week from Thursday, I will undergo a mastectomy that will also include the examination of a couple of lymph nodes.  If there are no surprises, it might be the final step in the treatment.  My doctor does not expect me to require radiation or chemotherapy, more good news in a cancer conversation.

So as you can see, once we got past the C-word, the rest of the news was relatively encouraging.  If you have to get cancer, this looks like a good one to get, as long as you catch it early.  Every indication is that we have done so.

Now that you have the facts, please allow me a couple of short rants.  I apologize in advance for what may appear to be morbid humor – remember, I’m three weeks into this, and have had more time to adjust to it than you have.

First, BREAST cancer?  Seriously?  As if I didn’t already get enough flak for growing roses and playing the Celtic harp, now I come down with a disease that strikes women 99% of the time, and whose trademark is a pink ribbon.  Yeah, yeah, I know, men have breasts too, and in the U.S. over 2000 of us will find cancer there this year.  I’ve read the statistics.  But still – BREAST Cancer?  Mammograms?  The remnants of my masculinity are taking a serious beating here.

Secondly, for the record, this had nothing to do with my recent weight loss.  When I lost 30 pounds a couple of years ago, some folks wondered whether I was sick.  Cancer gets the blame for scaring my family and for the loss of my left breast – it will NOT get credit for me being thinner.  I’m vain enough to want credit for that.

This is the part of the post where I’m tempted to throw out a couple of clichés to make me sound courageous.  That would be cheap and dishonest, because I don’t FEEL courageous.  Early stages of cancer detection and treatment seem designed to make you feel small and helpless, at the mercy of forces beyond your control.

My daughter found a way last week to remind us that such is not the case.  She wrote out on cards the words to a worship song called Oceans, by Hillsong United, and left them leaning up against the window in the kitchen for my wife and me to see.  Here is the second verse of that song:

Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sovereign hand will be my guide.  Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed, and you won’t start now.

I’m not looking forward to the next few weeks – there are some unknowns, and I don’t like unknowns.  But I fully expect my God to show Himself faithful in this next season of my life, because He always has. I don’t think that is courageous, any more than it is courageous to expect the car to start when you turn the ignition.  His faithfulness in the past has conditioned me to rest in that faithfulness in the present, and to count on it for the future.

He is faithful, and I can rest.  He gets the credit for that, not me.  I’d be grateful for your prayers, for me and my family, that in the coming days we would find that rest when and where we need it most.

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HAPPY ENDING UPDATE: I wrote two more posts about my relatively short and happily successful battle with male breast cancer.  You can read them here and here.

About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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32 Responses to The Club that No One Wants to Join

  1. debra petrella says:

    dearest Mike this isnt as rare as people think, I’ve known several men who have had breast cancer. The difference is women are free to voice it men feel it is unmasculine so never voice it. I’m so glad your speaking up about it.
    We too are in this with you, Rich had multiple myeloma, which he never talks about, it is of the bone marrow. We are trying to take hold of this as well.
    So with that said please know how much we love you and trust in the Lord for the only understanding that brings peace of mind, We love you so much and will be keeping all the details in prayer.

  2. Kelley Zehfuss says:

    Praying for your continued rest in Him Mike. We love you and thank you for letting us share in your journey. We love you!

  3. Mary says:

    He is faithful, and we can rest. But we can also plead with Him to keep us close and heal those things that would keep us from the people our work and people we love. Praying your family finds new strength in the strong arms that hold you. I’ll be praying.

  4. Mindy says:

    I will definitely be praying for you, Murf and the girls!!! During times like these, I can’t thank God enough for His loving arms that surround us and bring us peace and comfort.

  5. Steve says:

    Our hearts resonate with you (I cried after reading the post) and our prayers are with you. We love you! Might these verses nourish you with their precious truths:
    Isaiah 41.10,13
    10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
    13 For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand
    and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help you.

  6. Holly Rogers says:

    Praying for you and your family during this time. God is indeed faithful. This was yesterday’s reading from Sarah Young’s book “Jesus Calling” and seems fitting to share – “! am with you. These four words are like a safety net, protecting you from falling into despair. Because you are human, you will always have ups and downs in your life experience. but the promise of My Presence limits how far down you can go. Sometimes you may feel as if you are in a free fall, when people or things you had counted on let you down. yet as soon as you remember that I AM WITH YOU, your perspective changes radically. Instead of bemoaning your circumstances, you can look to Me for help. You recall that not only am I with you, I AM HOLDING YOU BY YOUR RIGHT HAND. I GUIDE YOU WITH MY COUNSEL, AND AFTERWARD I WILL TAKE YOU INTO GLORY. This is exactly the perspective you need: the reassurance of My Presence, and the glorious hope of heaven.”

    Psalm 73:23-24
    Zeph. 3:17

  7. Donna leBarron says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Mike! The beginnings of any thing “worthy of building character” is always daunting, especially things that make us reflect upon our mortality. As always, you seem to hit it with humor and musings that help those around you be able to be encouraged, even in the midst of your challenge. As I was about to get teary-eyed reading, you come up with with your line “…as if I don’t get enough flak…”! That’s CLASSIC Pastor Mike!

    When I was in my mid-20’s, I was wrongly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The beginnings took quite a toll on me, having no family support. Chemo, balding heads and radiation burns was not supposed to be in my young “dictionary”. But I realized that as my heart wanted to serve The Lord wherever He planted, He was sending me on a “medical missions” journey and I probably learned the most about life during that time of duress. Some good, some bad and some I learned kicking and screaming, but God proved to be faithful and I met a God of love that I don’t think I would have learned any other way. So, as tough as this journey may be for you, know that you have so many people who will be praying with you through this new mission field. Hebrews 12 became my favorite chapter of Scripture and as you travel yet another path, perhaps a bit more rockier than others you have hiked, may you be sure to “smell the roses” along His way! Hugs and Prayers!

  8. Craig Miller says:

    Hey Mike,
    Thanks for posting this! I’ll be praying, and as you are the second of my male ministry friends to face this, I am not as taken by surprise as I otherwise might have been. “Oceans” has been a favorite new worship song here, and now it will be a good prompt to be praying for you, too!”

  9. Linda Olson says:

    Dear friend! I am praying for you! Eric, too, has a disease that right mostly women, so I can understand your upheaval besides knowing its cancer. I thank you for sharing this sudden change of events.

  10. Deanna King says:

    Thank you for sharing with us about this challenge – we’ll be praying for you and your fam.
    Steve quoted the Isaiah 41 passage that I immediately had in mind because it is a rock to me. But another one is Ps 73 – My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my life and my portion forever.
    I have good hope that your flesh will not fail and you will recover fully, but God has us even in the declining and weakening times.
    **Thank you for praying for and visiting our sweet daughter and precious Spencer – your ministry to them and support has been very important to me. (written with tears)

  11. George and Betty Sleight says:

    Mike Betty had a very small limb removed. It was in a fatty lump and only .8cm. She had radiation but no chemo. This was 6 years ago. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and Merf.

  12. Sarah Hope March says:

    Praying for you Mike & Murf.
    Yes, God is always faithful.
    He lovingly walks with us through all of life’s many unknown paths.
    Our joy is that He never gets lost.
    He is the map and the way. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
    Love you guys.

  13. Wally says:

    Mike, this is a shock, but He is in control, and will be with you through this walk, as He is in your Sabbath walks. I am both comforted and humbled by the scriptures cited by your/our friends, and can only promise to keep you in my prayers (but that’s actually the BEST thing a brother can do, isn’t it?). I do so appreciate your transparency AND humor, as you share with us, and also guide us.

  14. says:

    Thanks, Mike, for your strong faith in our faithful God. Your attitude, perspective, and transparency are a great example for all of us who walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I can’t thank you enough for the care you have evidenced for your family and each of us as you are confronted by this unexpected and unwanted health challenge. On a lighter note, are you considering a prosthesis? 🙂 Maybe pec implants? I hear they are all the rage now with men. Steve

  15. Cathy Blankenship says:

    What a bummer Mike, I’m sorry you have to go through this. I’m only glad you were quick to get it diagnosed. I’m also glad you have good Drs who feel after the surgery you won’t need further care. We will keep you in our prayers and our Grace Group will pray during our meetings as well. May God give you peace in your heart. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

  16. Sam Caloroso says:

    Dear Mike, I surely know the agony of waiting for the unknown. It always seems longer than it really is. The greatest thing that happened to me when I was diagnosed with Cancer was to See, Feel and Understand the Great Love that My Lord has for Me! This Great Love was an exhilaration I felt when the Holy Spirit came over me in the Emergency Room seconds after I realesed myself to The Lord and prayed that I am in His Hands and that I will Gladlly Serve Him as long as He wants!

    God will be with You Brother!
    Sam Caloroso

  17. Penny Burch says:

    Mike, I will be praying for Murf, the girls, your grandson, and you. Our God will not leave you or forsake you and you CAN rest in that knowledge. Thank you for sharing your journey, we all need to watch and see faith done real, faith done well.

    Grace 2 u, dear Pastor Mike,


  18. Nancy Herndon says:

    Father, thank You for this early discovery & for a remedy. Thank You for time to process & time to trust Your unfailing love & faithfulness in the unknown. Thank You that You are being so glorified by Mike: that he is living out his teaching. Please be his & his family’s peace & strength. I ask, Lord, that there is no other cancer in Mike’s body, that ALL will be removed & that none will ever resurface. Please gift Mike & Your church with many years of his service & teaching. Thank You for blessing me & my church with Your servant, Mike Gaston. These things I ask of You Father, in the name of Your Son my savior, Jesus Christ.

  19. Dave and Lynn VIggianelli says:

    Mike, you truly are a “man’s man”… able to honestly disclose your feelings, combining this with your unique “Mike” humor. Do know that Dave and I will keep you and the rest of your family in our prayers during this new chapter in your life. Thank you for sharing this with your friends who love all the Gaston’s so much ~ and will be there for you every step of the way, praying for peace, strength and encouragement. We love you.

  20. Faith O says:

    We will pray for God’s peace in your hearts, in an exceedingly abundant way, in the coming days and weeks….He will never leave nor forsake you…and Lord, we do ask for your quick healing and resolution for Mike…may You do great things in the midst of his circumstance, as we give You the glory Jesus….we will continue to hold you in prayer Mike and Murf….blessings…

  21. Larry says:

    Graham Cooke paraphrased…Father, what can you be to me with cancer that you could not be otherwise? Praying for you Mike!

  22. Gordon and Brenda Keller says:

    Brenda and I will be praying for you and your family at this time. God has a plan for this and all things and will provide for you. God bless you and keep you!

  23. Diane Baker says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your diagnosis. This “Club” (that I, too, became a member of last December due to Kidney Cancer) is not one anyone wants to be a part of but…GOD IS IN CONTROL! Something I found comforting was to hold every thought captive in Him, especially in the middle of the night when your thoughts tend to question the process and maybe even the Lord and His plan. The other is to allow our Lord to use this cancer to reach out to others – He has given me so many opportunities with nurses, techs, doctors, other cancer victims, etc. Allowing me conversations about our Lord that I may not have otherwise had. I wear a bracelet daily now with the following inscribed: WHAT CANCER CANNOT DO…It cannot cripple love; It cannot shatter hope;
    It cannot corrode faith; It cannot eat away peace; It cannot destroy confidence; It cannot kill friendship; It cannot shut out memories; It cannot silence courage; It cannot reduce eternal life; it cannot quench the spirit. I hope this will encourage you! We will pray for you as you enter this time of “adventure.” Please let us know if it’s o.k. to add you to the prayer sheet of The Bridge Bible Fellowship as I’m sure others would be honored to hold you up in prayer! Blessings! Diane Baker

  24. Mark and Cindy Moser says:

    Mike, we are praying for you and your family and know that God is in control and will be gloried through this. Love Mark and Cindy Moser

  25. Lyn Bennett says:

    Oh Mike! I so sorry! But so proud that you found this and felt with it early!!!! So many people, especially men , don’t take care of things early or at all. I will pray for you and your family. I know God will be with you every step of the way. I went through all the steps you described except the mastectomy 2 years ago and it was no fun! But things only got better and I know they will for you too! God has a plan for you! You will see it soon. I love and miss you and Murf very much!

  26. Nancy Ledner says:

    I am so very sorry to hear of your health struggle, and will be praying for you and your family. I am so relieved that you caught the cancer early, and will be praying for a complete recovery, as well as peace for you and your family. You are very dear to the Ledner family, Mike, and we think the world of you. Know that you will be in our prayers constantly,

  27. Mike, I will be keeping you and your family in my prayers. Much love to you.

  28. Kristi says:

    Hey Mikey –

    I just read your Sabbath blog. I am so sorry you have to go through this, but, honestly, a bit excited to see what God has planned for you guys now. (I hope that doesn’t sound uncaring, I assume you know me well enough to know I don’t mean it like that.) You know the song, Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman? That has become our family’s song…God is here, with us, always. Period. In the plentiful land filled with abundance and in the desert when we walk through the wilderness. When the sun’s shining down on us and the world’s all as it should be…and…on the road marked with suffering when there’s pain in the offering… I just LOVE that song. When life seems crappy that doesn’t mean God has abandoned us, it means He is working with us, perfecting us into His image.
    I spent 2011 having “the breast year ever” with my best friend and kindred spirit up here, JJ. It was an incredible year with her going through radiation, chemo, doctor visits, all that stuff. It was really hard, but I don’t think either of us would have changed it because of how we saw God work. Not our first choice, but God knew better.
    Anyway, know that you are being prayed for up in the hinterlands of Washington also!

    Love and prayers to you and Murf,

  29. Elaine Atterbury says:

    Dearest Friend Mike,
    I can see from your honest story of this journey that you are the realtime example of a bible story we all learned as children: David and Goliath. In women’s bible study, I just recently had this story rekindled in my arsenal of spiritual tools. I even remembered the child’s song I used to sing to my boys, “Only a boy named David, only a little sling. Only a boy named David, but he could pray and sing. ”
    The weapon I took from this story is the weapon you yourself are using: the familiar tools that have worked for you all your life long – the tools of trust in Who our God is. You can fill in the adjectives from your own stories of His faithfulnesses in your life.
    Mike, I will join these other dear friends in praying continued peace and assurance for you and Murf and your sweet girls.
    I can’t wait to see “the giant come tumbling down”!!


  30. Laura says:

    Mike, I must say that after reading your account you brought me encouragement. And that is probably not what you expected. Sometimes we encourage one another without knowing when we give account of our trials and difficulties. Maybe because our good God and Father and blessed Savior are brought into focus. The Spirit speaks to our hearts through fellowship and all this works together, allowing our pain to diminish. To God be the glory. I will hold you in my prayers.

  31. Saint Richard the Inadeqate says:

    Mile, – I am so saddened to learn of this medical bump in your road. As a cancer survivor, I remember a number of interesting days, the best of which was when my oncologist said I was boring and he didn’t want to see anymore. I am looking forward to the day your oncologists finds you boring. In the meantime, your many friends will love on you and pray for you, and your Father will uphold you!

  32. Cheryl Ernst says:

    How amazing is the Body of Christ! I cannot fathom what life would be like without the love, support and prayers of our brothers and sisters when we are hurting. The outpouring of those things is evident in these postings. I hope you and Murf feel the love, care and prayers we have for you and your family. You have always been transparent with the suffering you have experienced in your life and your example has encouraged many. We are so thankful for all you do for us at GBC and we can give back with prayer on your behalf. It is amazing that we have the Creator God on our side and you are in His hands – no better place to be. For His glory. Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. With love & prayer, Cheryl & Jack

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