Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yet not what I will...

Well the tables have certainly turned since I last posted.  So many of you have been blowing up my phone, email, and Facebook with your prayers, encouragements, concerns, and desire to know what is going on.  I'm sorry that I haven't been able to get back to all of you so this is a way for you to hear it right from me (sorry that it's so impersonal).  I'll try not to ramble, but buckle up just in case... 

I have this nasty little habit of being really, really stubborn sometimes.  So when I started to develop some abnormal chest pain a few weeks ago, the "suck it up" mentality built into me from over a decade of wrestling kicked in and I decided work through it and let it pass.  Well of course it did not pass and I started to consider that something might really be wrong.  I finally went into the school health center and after some minimal testing, they didn't suspect anything, but they decided that I should pay the Emergency Room a visit because of the way I answered some of their questions.

To make a long story short, I left the emergency room with a packet of papers and a disk full of x-ray pictures that presented several possibilities for the softball sized mass that I have growing right underneath my chest wall and pressing against my windpipe and blood vessels.  It was quite a way to head into the weekend, but luckily my parents and girlfriend, Lindsay, were coming in for my senior wrestling banquet, so I didn't have to deal with this all by myself.  We did our best to stay off the internet and look up all of the possibilities because we knew it would just freak us out and add more stress than necessary.  Well Monday morning came around and when my mom called the specialist for our appointment, we discovered that the nurse practitioner had not called ahead and scheduled the appointment like she was supposed to.  A quick whirlwind of decisions left me packing, calling, and emailing, to let folks know that I was heading home to get this investigated.  We just figured it would be easier handling it from home and the Cleveland Clinic is one of the best in the business. 

Due to some wonderful connections, we were able to get an appointment early the next morning.  All it really established was that I was going to need a biopsy to confirm what this was.  After days and days of waiting, including the Easter weekend, I finally got the biopsy on a Monday morning.  After more testing, needles, blood, and pain I finally got to go back home and await the results.  From three different people, I heard that we would hear from them in anywhere from 24-72 hrs.  Ugh.  I was packing it in for a long wait.  Around the 28 hr. mark, the doctor called and uttered the dreadful word on that list that I wanted to hear last:  lymphoma.  They highly suspected Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but needed to do further testing to confirm it.  This past Friday, I went to another appointment and they confirmed that it was indeed Hodgkin's.  On Wednesday, I'll be going to another appointment to discuss treatment.  This examination process has been a much longer one that I anticipated I hope that Wednesday's appointment will be the last before I get going on the treatment.

Ok... take a breath.  I know that was a lot, but that was strictly the medical side of things and now I'd like to unpack some other stuff.  Take another breath.  Ready?

With all of this happening around Easter, I doing some reading in Mark and was captivated by the way that Jesus prayed in the garden, just hours before he would be taken away to bear the sins of the world.  He prayed "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36).  It refreshed in my mind that Jesus wasn't exactly fond of God the Father's method for redeeming creation.  Yet He had confidence in the fact that His father had a plan, and it was a good one.  A painful one, but nonetheless, a good one.

Before I heard the final verdict on what was going on inside me, I asked God for the grace to be able to pray and be like-minded with Jesus.  I used some harsher language, but luckily the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.  It went something like this:
"God, in my human, finite understanding, I think your plan sucks.  It's not a 'I don't deserve this' type of issue.  It's just that this is kind of turning my world upside down and pretty inconvenient at the moment.  I'm missing the last weeks of my college experience.  I might not graduate.  My future summer and job plans are going to be put on hold.  My body is being wrecked.  Not to mention all of the stress that my friends and family are enduring on my behalf.  I really want to ask you 'Why the heck are you doing this?' but I heard about when Job asked you that question and don't want to suffer the same response.  But God, when I look into Your word and look around me, I see the evidence that You are faithful and that You work things together for the good of those who love You.  You have placed situations in my life, both good and bad, so that people will know You better; they will know that You are God.  That is what I want.  I want to know You better and I want the same for those I come into contact with.  If you can do it any other way than cancer, please, please do it because you are able.  But if not, then okay.  Okay.  You are God and I am not.  Not what I will, but what You will."

Well it looks like He has decided that this is the best way to make Himself known.  Early on, I prayed this prayer and felt very optimistic.  I talked with hope in my voice and was generally able to smile.  But honestly, I don't know if I had truly grasped what was in the cup.  When I did, it drove me to tears as I cried in my girlfriend's arms at 3:00am for a long time.  I imagined that it was just a little fraction of what Jesus felt.  I realized that the cup might be filled with months and months of chemotherapy, hospital visits, needles, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and many long, sleepless nights.  This is a cup that is going to sting on its way down, and I won't lie, I'm not looking forward to it.  But I am looking forward to the aftertaste.  An aftertaste so sweet and unlike anything I have ever tasted before.  That aftertaste is that someone will know my Jesus as a result of this experience.  Maybe me.  Maybe you.  Maybe someone else.  Maybe all of the above.  Of this I am confident:  God is going to make Himself known through this.  Some way.  Some how.  And I am strangely with peace about that.

If you made it this far, I congratulate you (I tried not to ramble).  To those of you who have bombarded with me truckloads of encouragement, prayer, cards, chocolate, etc.  I truly thank you.  What a blessing to know that I don't have to walk this road alone.  You all are adding daily to my strength and for that I am grateful.  If this life was it, I would have some serious reason to be scared.  But I have hope.  Hope for a future and full restoration in Jesus' arms one day when this will all just be an afterthought.  No matter what happens to me, He will be faithful.  I have 66 books that say He will.          

Ready to be used,



  1. Mike,

    You are an inspiration. I have a lot to learn in life and you are clearly one of my teachers, which is ironic because I was one of your teachers. I am so proud of you and am honored to be friends with a man like you.

    My family will pray for you every night and we will celebrate and praise God for His faithfulness and for yours too.

  2. Wow, thank you Mike for sharing your heart. I will be praying for you and for your family. One of my favorite verses is "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
    James 1:2-4

  3. Michael,thank you for sharing your heart so openly. It moves me to tears but also moves me to a better understanding of how to more clearly pray for you. You are right, God is faithful. I want you to know the day you wrote the scripture "Not my will but Yours," the weekend after that, I was sitting in a small chapel at Indiana Wesleyan looking at a bronze figure of Jesus lying across a stone with a cup. I knelt down in front and prayed,"Lord not my will but Yours for Michael." You are an amazing young man and God is using you already. He will be faithful. I know He will and is loving you through this. My prayers are daily trust me on that! Love you Auntie Donna

  4. Thank you for sharing your faith, what an inspiration! We are praying for you at VCA!

  5. Mike,

    My mind was blown when I got the text a few weeks ago about the results from the biopsy. I was shocked by what I read, and you put it well, this definitely sucks!

    That being said I know God is faithful and He will use you because I don't think I know anyone that's a stronger man of God than you, and that is apparent in your attitude and the way you serve. I hope that your "cup" is filled with as little as possible in this next stage and I'll be praying for you everyday. Here's some encouragement that I read in 2 corinthians:

    "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

    Love you man,


  6. Mike:

    Wow. Thank you. It is not often one has the chance to see someone strong also be "strong" in their weakness and reliance on Jesus to deliver. And it is not often one gets to see a personal relationship with God--so thank you for writing down what you prayed. Our prayers are with you and your family, that the peace you have now continues to lift you, and that He increases your faith daily, so that it only becomes easier to rely on Him. Again, continued prayers from the Kerins family.

  7. Mike...your news saddens me but your courage and hope is a great testimony and witness to your faith...be assured that I will be praying for you...so, be strong and take courage, do not fear or be dismayed, for the One who lives within you will be strong in you today...To Him be given all the glory and praise...

    Ray G.

  8. Brad and I are praying for you Mike!

    "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day"!

  9. Mike, I am a new Christian who is in a bible study with Jim Bossler and I will be praying for you my brother. These are the words of Jesus, ......"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Mark 6:50 (NIV).

  10. Mike,
    Jillian and I are committed to praying for you, your healing, and your ability to allow God to use you. I have a lot of respect for you and your words here.
    Todd Iannetta

  11. You do not know me, but may the Lord Jesus Christ so fill you that your troubles seem small. After all, everything is small to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    David J. Merkel

  12. May God Almighty bless, comfort and heal you, and may He be glorified in and through you.

  13. Mike,
    Jenn Phipps sent this to me. I am encouraged by your faith and strength. Please know that I am praying for you. I hope to meet you some day soon.

  14. Mike, spot-on writing. Keep praying and writing; write some music and lyrics, too, along the way. You will overcome this in the Lord's strength and will. Yep, God has chosen you for a mighty story about Him. Can you believe how much he loves you now?!?!

    Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;

    I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

    Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, NOT LACKING ANYTHING. (emphasis added)

    Got you on 'the list'. You da MAN!

  15. Mike you don't know my family but we just went thru this with my 28 yr old nephew..Iraqi Marine vet and current police officer in Texas. February was diagnosed with stage IIB Hodgkins Lymphoma. He underwent scans, and 4 cycles of chemo and the last scan showed no cancer. He underwent a 5th cycle and we are waiting to hear how he is doing. I want to encourage you that this is very treatable, painful and full of nausea...but you WILL beat this...I will be praying for you that you will endure and your faith will grow stronger. Blessings to you and your family...sincerely, The Ciraldo family

  16. Mike,
    We've never met, but through your TNT friends, I have come to know of your life and this chapter of it. Your faith is strong. I will be praying for you and your family and continuing the search with my "Team"mates for the cure. Battle on in the name of truth, love and with God's favor!

  17. Mike, I am praying! It's great to see that you are persevering and you know that you are wrapped in such a blanket of not only His love but those around you. Congrats on graduating and hopefully I'll see you around this summer with FCA?

  18. Mike,in our life God choose the mostly unlikely to become His warriors of faith, hope and love. We know that the greatest of these are love. His love for you is shining so bright in you and through you. The word says we are to be thankful when trails come into our life for His hand is upon us. For me there is no other hand I would want on me but His. Words cannot express the emotions that I am feeling for you and my Lord right now. Jesus always stated "I tell you the truth." Remember the truth sets us free, be blessed my brother in Christ, my prayers are with you.