Hope turned my cancer diagnosis from despair into a grand adventure

Through some long dark nights of the soul, I stopped shaking my fist at heaven.

Editor’s note: The column is part of a series of personal opinion essays called The Light of Hope. We asked community and faith leaders to answer the question, when life feels dark, what gives you hope? We will publish their responses throughout December.

Ten years ago I experienced an exquisite miracle of God: Not water into wine (though Lord knows I’d still love some Lafite Rothschild), but despair into hope.

My dalliance with despair began with my diagnosis, stage 4 cancer (8% survival rate). Then came surgery to remove the tumor and part of my colon (hence my new nickname, “Semicolon”) along with chemotherapy’s dreaded gifts: hair loss, nausea, constipation, neuropathy and digestion like volcanic magma. Oh, joy!

That Christmas season ordeal’s relentless dailiness plunged me into the despair of seeming abandonment by God. I became like Jesus’ disciples Cleopas and friend in the Gospel of Luke, moping their way to Emmaus, convinced Jesus’ crucifixion had likewise left them alone. Despairing of hope, they became so accustomed to darkness that they didn’t recognize the risen Christ walking beside them.

As the theologian Frederick Buechner wrote: “I believe that although the two disciples did not recognize Jesus, Jesus recognized them ... as if they were the only two people in the world. ... And he also sees each of us like that ... Whether we recognize him or not, or believe in him or not, or even know his name, again and again he comes and walks a little way with us along whatever road we’re following, offering us a new hope, a new vision of light that not even the dark world can overcome.”

I too had become so accustomed to darkness that I failed to recognize God’s presence in my personal world of hurt. But then, through some long dark nights of the soul, I stopped shaking my fist at heaven for abandoning me and instead reached out to Jesus to enlighten me. He kindly obliged, walked a little way with me, and reminded me of his promise, not that I would never suffer, but that when I suffered it would be fruitful and purposeful.

In just a few days, Jesus’ promise changed my perspective from victim to pilgrim, abandoned to beloved, cursed to blessed, and despairing to hopeful. No longer was my journey through the cancer valley a death march. It was now a grand adventure.

Andy McQuitty is writer in Dallas and the author of Notes from the Valley: A Spiritual Travelogue through Cancer. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

Andy McQuitty


Get smart opinions

Editorial and commentary from op-ed columnists, the editorial board and contributing writers from The Dallas Morning News, delivered three days a week.

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy