World War III
“I must warn you that I do not believe in fighting World War III with World War II weapons.” After a few words of introduction, the oncologist made this opening sentence.
I sensed my heart go into overdrive. What a way to start. If this was a book, the man in front of me had me hooked. Dr. Meiring leaned forward, his arms folded on the large untidy desk. His gray hair was neatly in place; the slightly crumpled jacket of his suit hung open to show a conservative shirt, with a cheerful tie.
A Friendly Room
The tiny consulting room, attached to his home in an upgrade suburb of Johannesburg, had no outside window. A warm breeze came in through the open door leading to the tiny examination cubicle. A small shaft of sunlight shone through a porthole in the roof, adding to the heat. Behind me, an assortment of medical and Christian books spilled out of a too-small book-case. A friendly room, even if rather claustrophobic.
This was the first of two comments, uttered during that initial appointment, which would have a profound effect on my life.
The other was, “When the cure makes you sick it is no longer a cure. The cure should not be worse than the disease. Then it will be time to stop.”
To my mind came the words,God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13.) Click To Tweet
Many times over the next year I realized God had different ideas to me of how much I could bear. I also often wondered how bad things had to be before Dr. Meiring considered it worse than the disease.
No Death Sentence
His confident manner, however, reassured me and totally won over my husband. This man saw cancer as something to be fought and overcome. He had not offered me a death sentence. By classifying it as World War III, it was a war we could fight.
He shared with us some of his family background. There were so many cases of cancer that he said, “It’s not IF I get cancer – it’s when. The secret is in finding it before it finds me!” What an unusual approach to a dreaded disease!
That first appointment lasted the full afternoon. The three of us drank coffee together – several cups – and talked. We talked about cancer. We talked about the Lord. He was a devout Christian and expressed his encouragement over the ‘team’ that we would form. He saw my husband Rob and I, together with him, as the ‘principal players’. But he expressed enthusiasm over the ‘back-up team’ consisting of a supportive family, a united congregation of God’s people, and many other Christian friends and colleagues, all praying.
Simple Explanation of Cancer
“The human body is made up of billions of microscopic cells, each with its own role to play,” he explained, drawing a dot the size of a normal full-stop on the paper in front of him. “Some of these are so small that 250,000 could fit into that space. They grow and reproduce in an orderly fashion.” He continued to doodle as he spoke, sketching out a complex diagram of circles and lines.
“Sometimes, something goes wrong with the reproduction process, and a cell is produced which contains incorrect genetic information. If this cell becomes a ‘mother cell’, it produces ‘daughter cells’ with the same faulty data. Normally the defense system of the body, the immune system, mounts an attack on these intruders and destroys them. When this does not happen, for whatever reason, these cells start to multiply rapidly, and a cancerous tumor begins to develop.”
Bewildered and feeble
For the first time, I began to understand what my cancerous tumor really was; a mass of bewildered, feeble cells, incapable of carrying out their God-appointed task.
“Healthy cells know which organ they belong to, and remain within the established limits. However, cancer cells are undisciplined, and they invade adjacent tissues, even traveling throughout the body.”
This, he explained, was the reason I needed radiotherapy and chemotherapy. According to the pathology report, the sentinel gland under my arm was ‘brimming’ with cancer cells. The cancer had already spread from my breast. World War III was about to begin.