Thursday, May 19, 2016

Unwanted Change is a Fact of Life

I think it's fair to say the older we get the greater the frequency and intensity of unwanted change we'll experience in our lives. Since this is a prostate cancer blog, the odds are you or someone you love experienced the unwanted change of receiving a diagnosis of  prostate cancer. Treating prostate cancer can bring about additional unwanted changes.

To this day, I can't decide which was the worst news I'd ever received from a physician. It comes down to two days.

Day#1-The day I was told I had prostate cancer
Day#2-The day I was told that even though I had double nerve sparing surgery and participated in
            penile rehab program, I was going to be impotent for the rest of my life.

I've given up trying to decide which of these days was the worst and simply decided both days brought miserable and unwanted change into my life.  Recently I was reminded that losing your health isn't the only type of unwanted change.

Once a year the city of Carmel (in California) has Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Day on the beach. My daughter knows how much I enjoy attending this event so she booked a hotel so we could all enjoy this event with Toby, our King Charles Spaniel. I was touched by her generous gift. I was looking forward to this event so much it was one of the highlight events of the year for me. It wasn't only my daughter's generosity that touched me. I know she hates hanging out on the beach. She agreed to stay on the beach with us for as long as I wanted to be there. She was giving me the gift of her time to do something I enjoyed so much. It was a gift I'll remember for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I didn't get to enjoy it.

Hours before our trip to Carmel, Toby escaped from our yard.  He was struck by a car. He died in my wife's arms before we could get him medical attention. I've had dogs in my life for close to sixty years. Toby was one of my favorite dogs. He's the only dog I've ever had who didn't live until a ripe old age. Toby was two years old. He died on the day we were taking him to Carmel to enjoy a day at the beach with other Cavalier Spaniels. To say I was heartbroken would be an understatement. I was devastated. Not only for my loss, but my daughter was as close to Toby as a dog and a human can be. She shared her pillow with Toby every night. My wife was deeply attached to Toby as well. I was grieved for my own loss, and the loss my wife and daughter faced as well. Grief on top of grief.

With broken hearts, we cancelled our trip to Carmel. We spent that weekend sharing our sadness and grief over this sudden and unexpected loss. Chalk up another unwanted change in our lives. Unwanted change comes in different forms. Most come unexpectedly. These events change your life in ways you intensely dislike.

Coping with unwanted change is an important life skill, but no one ever prepares you to face these inevitable and unwanted changes. It seems we are left to our own devices to find our own way in the school of hard knocks.

I don't know how anyone can successfully emerge from unwanted changes as a more compassionate person without a faith in God. Going through unwanted change with God allows us to experience this:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, (2 Cor 1:3-4 NKJV)

I don't know about you, but I need God's comfort when I face each and every unwanted change in my life. There's more God has in mind to do with our unwanted changes and the experience of His comfort. He has mission and purpose for us after we receive His comfort:

that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:4 NKJV)

It's God's plan to use the comfort we receive in our unwanted changes to transform us into helpers and comforters of others who go through similar unwanted changes. My prostate cancer blog wouldn't exist if this were not true.

My wife and I would never have written a book to help men and couples cope with prostate cancer if this were not true. We wouldn't be publishing our second book (this summer)  about coping with erectile dysfunction and penile implants if this were not true.

My best advice in coping with unwanted change is this:
1. Don't go through it alone, put together a team of people to help and comfort you
2. Find people further along in the journey you are on and put a few of those folks on your team.
3. Find people with a good sense of humor. Laughter is an essential part of healing.
4. Don't miss out on God's comfort. Grow in your faith.
5. Somewhere down the road become a comforter to someone else.
6. Allow God to do His work in the mists of all your unwanted change: we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;  and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom 5:3-4 NKJV)

Some unwanted changes are awful and tragic and will always be awful and tragic. That does not mean we can't experience meaning and purpose in the mists of all of our unwanted changes. I know I have and I believe you can as well.