Okay, whatever. I spent the next several months studying the craft of writing. I amassed somewhere around 40 craft books. How to write dialogue, scene settings, engaging characters, plot, structure, background, story arc, action, mystery, suspense… Talk about drinking from the firehose. But as I delved into this “new world,” God began to bless me, bless my understanding and comprehension. I discovered Dean Koontz, and he quickly became my idol. I devoured his novels and learned a great deal about all of the above. And, most importantly, why to write.
There. That was what I was missing. That little word, why. And that little word was answered with another word: hope. Dean Koontz had unknowingly taught me that the reason for writing is to provide hope for the reader. To inspire. To encourage. Every one of his novels, provided hope. Vastly different stories, different characters, yet all provided hope.
Okay, I can do that. Easy. Two years later, I finished my first novel. In my defense, that was with a 60-hour work week and a young family. The novel sucked. I know this because lots of people told me it did. Agents, publishing houses…
I said to God, “See? I told you so!” No response.
Okay, whatever. I rewrote and edited and honed and tried to improve. Still wasn’t good enough.
Dean Koontz had by now become my mentor (which is a miracle on its own). He advised, with acknowledgement the advice would usher tears of blood, to put aside that novel—maybe in a dark, isolated corner where only dust mites would acknowledge it existed—and start a new novel.
You’ve got to be kidding me! I wiped my eyes, sure enough, blood smeared the tissue.
Sigh. The year? 2012. New novel ELIJAH was born. I was still working 60-hour weeks.
The back and forth with Dean was slow, because, well, he works up to 80 hours per week writing novels. And his sell (450,000,000) a little more than mine (0).
Then my world changed forever in 2013.
I have gliomatosis cerebri, an incredibly rare brain cancer. Only 100 people are diagnosed annually in the US. So in April 2013 when I was diagnosed, out of 318M people in the US, that’s a 0.00000031% chance of getting it. Yay me! I was given one year to live “if lucky.” Yet, I’m still here, five years later, four beyond my expiration date (I’m getting kinda funky smelling). God has blessed me.
The physicality of a GC tumor is not a lump, it’s more like a mist with fingers that reach out into different parts of the brain. Surgery and treatments like the genetically engineered polio virus are not options. In my case, the cancer is infiltrating three lobes. It is inoperable and terminal.
It is such a rare brain cancer that there’s little precedence for treatment. My neuro-oncologist, Dr. Karen Fink, is a miracle worker, and with God’s help, she created a treatment plan that has extended my life. Brain surgery and recovery (biopsy of center mass), two months of daily demonic steroid treatments (gained 40 lbs. in five weeks!), two months of daily radiation treatments, and two-and-a-half years of daily chemo. Multiple MRI scans (with and without contrast) every other month monitored the tumor’s behavior. As of August 2015, I’d gone a full year with no change in the cancer—best case scenario. At that point, chemo had done all it can. I’ve been off since then. Now I have scans every six months which will continue for perpetuity.
Yet here’s the thing that—I’ll speak for myself—really overwhelms my infinitely finite mind: God, in His omnipotent wisdom, knew before He even created me that I was going to get GC. He gave me a mutant gene (IDH1) that works specifically well with the specific chemotherapy used for this cancer. The odds of that? No idea other than it’s more 0’s than I can count.
As for ELIJAH, after taking a year-and-a-half off to deal with treatments and overcome the fear I’d never be able to write again, I finally finished the novel. The IT career is over. I no longer have the cognitive ability to manage data centers, data security, people, or even simple work-related tasks. I’m not allowed to drive, so freedom (and car) is gone. I have a lot of spare time. I could sit on my bed, stare at the walls and drool. Or, I could follow God’s direction and write.
I’m not saying God gave me cancer. Cancer is evil. God is not in the evil dealing business. But I am saying God gave Satan permission to strike me with brain cancer. Why would God do that? Because God wants to take what is inherently evil and use it for His good. He is, in essence, fooling Satan at Satan’s own game. God is sovereign.
Hopefully, by sharing this story, God will be able to use it to inspire and encourage those who are hurting, those who’ve been struck by tragedy—whether the tragedy is a chronic illness/disease or a major loss in life—and for those who despair over where they are in life and where they want to be.
Happiness is a choice, not a circumstance.
Thank you for your time in reading God’s story in my life.