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“Cancer changes everything” is a well-known saying. I first heard and grasped its meaning when Joice was diagnosed with a rare form of it in 2013. We were living in Dallas and a surgeon removed what he could of the small tumor. Through a variety of circumstances that we interpreted as miracles, Joice was admitted to the famous M D Anderson hospital in Houston and received proton radiation treatment for 6 weeks.

During that time in Houston, we met or observed hundreds of people every day who were being treated for cancer. Cancer had changed everything, especially priorities and hope for the future. Little children with no hair, and therefore bald and pale; people with scars and bandages on their face and arms that revealed surgery and radiation; others who were probably doing fine and then, “all of a sudden,” cancer intervened. Life changed.

Joice’s cancer was treated successfully, and after 5 years of periodic examinations, she was declared “cancer free.” She died 3 years after from “other causes.” Cancer treatment, even when successful, does not guarantee a long life. However, Joice lived until two months shy of her 90th birthday, so that was a long life.

Joice never questioned why she had cancer. Upon diagnosis, she said something like, “The Lord was guiding my life the day before I knew I had cancer, and he is guiding it now.” In other words, God had not changed.

I have just been “treated” for skin cancer on my right ear. Skin cancer of this sort starts years earlier. We lived in the tropics or tropical areas for most of our lives, and the sun’s radiation finally had its say. I had been “careful”, but my ear got too much of a good thing. Now a little chunk of it is missing.

There are a lot of things that are like skin cancer: bad habits and bad companions that start out innocently enough but spread to problems. And, like the cancer, they must be discarded, and it can be as painful as cutting them off with a knife. Left to grow, sin or cancer will disrupt our lives and kill us.

I read that in the United States in 2019 (the latest year with statistics), there were 1,752,735 new cancer cases reported and 599,589 people died of cancer. That means that for every 100,000 people, 439 new cancer cases were reported and 146 people died.

The most common kinds are female breast cancer, prostate, lung and bronchus, colon and rectum, and so on. Melanomas of the skin and urinary bladder score much lower but are not uncommon.

According to the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. states that have the highest incidences of cancer are Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Maine. Texas has far fewer cases that most states and is similar to California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii.

The treatment of cancer depends a great deal on the stage of it upon diagnosis. That may be the same case with sin. Early diagnosis and confession of sin will lead to a more prompt and successful treatment. Putting off the confession of sin is like putting off treatment for cancer. The longer the patient waits, the more likely there is for the disease to spread. And sin is a disease, one that can kill.

The New Living Translation has three verses that include the word “cancer” and two of them refer to a cancer that is “in the bones”:

A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus.

The Message compares greed to cancer, and it is easy to see why: it spreads insidiously and sometimes silently but gradually it takes over and consumes a person.

Yes, cancer, like sin, changes everything, but thankfully there is a treatment for both.

Karl Franklin


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