It came as a shock to many last August when Michael Douglas, in an appearance on David Letterman, announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four throat cancer. And the Letterman public appearance would be the last one before disappearing down the black hole of seven weeks of intense radiation therapy.
Douglas has since reemerged cancer free and last night (January 23) he appeared on Dateline NBC with Matt Lauer.
Horrible events like a cancer diagnosis often raise the question “Why God?” That is, why would a loving God allow human beings to undergo such terrible experiences? And Douglas’s path to healing was terrible indeed. He observes that there were days he couldn’t get off the couch. His mouth filled with agonizing sores as the radiation accomplished its Blitzkrieg task until eventually he couldn’t even swallow. As Douglas reflected in the interview, “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
And yet as is often the case with those who have experienced such trials of suffering, one can see glimpses of the goodness that can emerge. In the interview Lauer quoted Douglas as saying “Cancer has shown me what family is. It has shown me a love I never knew really existed.” After Lauer asked Douglas to comment on these words he added:
“It’s something that most all cancer patients and survivors have gone through. But there’s a new depth …. So all of a sudden the affection from my family, from my friends, and from my fans hit me at a much deeper level than I would have ever imagined before. It gave me a new appreciation of just how valuable, how precious good friends are and family.”
The reality is that we live in a fallen world. It is a world where terrible things happen. It is a world where uncontrolled cellular growth can take hold in a human being and threaten that individual’s very life. But in the midst of those trials God can work and not simply to eliminate the suffering in the organism as soon as possible but to remake the life more profoundly than ever. A heart attack, car accident or diagnosis of cancer, though horrible in itself, can be the occasion to show us that love we never knew really existed.