Living with a chronic cancer means perpetually walking around with the knowledge that some day your cancer will return. Even when your doctors assure you that a long remission is likely, there is always, somewhere in the back of your mind, an awareness that one day you will be staring at concerning test results and having difficult conversations with your doctors and facing a barrage of infusions and medications. It usually doesn’t dominate your consciousness; rather it lurks in the recesses of your memory, waiting for opportunities to leap out in front of you to get your attention and fill you full of dread. For me, that anxiety surfaces almost predictably in the days leading up to an oncology check, no matter how routine it is supposed to be. The logical side of me is assuredly confident that everything will be fine, but the doubtful fear of cancer relapse is louder and cares not for my logic.

Being a rare disease unicorn, I am lucky enough to have not one, but two oncologists. I have one hematologist/oncologist locally whom I see more frequently, and I have a specialist in hairy cell leukemia a short car ride away that I see less frequently. While having both of them really is a blessing, it also significantly increases the opportunities for that anxiety of relapse to stalk me. I most recently went to see my local oncologist last December. In the days leading up to the visit, I predictably had a bout of doubtful anticipation. This time, the thought that kept popping into my mind was “what if this is the first time that my counts don’t go up?” For some context to the worry, hairy cell leukemia produces non-functioning white blood cells that, left unchecked, ultimately crowd out every other type of cell in your blood: healthy white blood cells, platelets, and even red blood cells. In my case, my white blood cells and platelets were very low when the cancer was diagnosed and got lower in the first part of treatment, ultimately reaching their lowest point about a month into chemotherapy. Since that dangerously low immunity level, every single time my blood cell counts had been checked, they had improved. Every time. Sometimes it was a small amount and sometimes it was a large amount, but they’d always gone up for the last two and a half years. My logical side knew that it wouldn’t continue to go up forever, (after all, the goal of any cancer treatment is stopping uncontrolled growth), yet even though all of my blood cell types had crossed into the “healthy range” in late summer 2021, the irrational doubt lurking in the back of my mind kept reminding me that counts going down are what will indicate a relapse of cancer. Counts up, good; counts down, bad. My emotional side was masquerading its anxiety as logic.

While I sat in the exam room waiting for the doctor that day, I stared at my phone to review the results of my labs drawn a few minutes earlier. It is a change for the better to give patients immediate access to their test results now, but it also means that connected patients see their results before their doctor can talk to them about it. As I studied my results, there was one thing that I couldn’t ignore: for the first time in two and a half years, my white blood cell count had gone down. The decrease was incredibly minor (a tenth of a value in only one measurement) and I was clearly well within the healthy range (nowhere close to the lower edge), but my irrational side fixated on the fact that one of the numbers had decreased. It had stopped going up. Did that mean the cancer was coming back? Was my remission doomed to be short-lived? In the midst of this internal swirl, my doctor walked into the room and cheerfully told me “your numbers look great!” I wasn’t feeling great about them, but she continued by telling me that my counts had been steady for a long enough time that I had “graduated to coming to see me every 6 months!” My doubtful side protested; what about the slight dip in my counts since last time? Was that a cause for concern or a bad omen of things to come? When I asked, being the good doctor that she is, she gently responded with “I think that your body has settled into what ‘normal’ is for you. I have no concerns about what we’re seeing. Your numbers are healthy. See you in 6 months.”

I walked out that day with an appointment to see her in half of a year feeling better. Yes, my counts had technically dropped by the tiniest of amounts, but that did not indicate that my cancer was back. All signs pointed solidly toward full remission for nearly 2 years. The doubt was quieted again, for a time.

This winter, various sicknesses tore through our house over several months. Much of it was the usual preschool bugs that are expected when you have a 6 year-old and 3 year-old in the house. We were also lucky enough to contract something that looked and acted like the omicron variant of COVID but surprised us and our doctors by testing negative multiple times. I got sick with pretty much everything that came into the house, and as usual, I had the hardest time getting well. Being sick on and off for a couple of months and then always seeming to take a while to get well again left space for the relapse doubt to again rear its ugly head. Was the longer recovery than everyone else a sign of returning cancer? Sure, it was a secondary sinus infection following a virus just like some of my coworkers, but in my case was that showing something bigger was wrong? Would my next visit to the oncologist bring me bad news? When you are continually run down by a relentless parade of respiratory infections, it’s easy to start to think that things are worse than they really are.

Then in late March, it was time for my annual visit to my hairy cell leukemia oncology specialist. Much to my delight, the doubt about relapse felt very manageable in the lead-up to the visit (perhaps it was the anticipation of leaving for an anniversary trip with my wife the next day). I made the drive, filled all 7 tubes with blood, and waited in the exam room for the doctor. When the results were posted, I was pleased to see that there had been no change or slight improvements to all of my counts from their December levels. Not today, anxiety. Then the doctor came in and told me that he was happy with my labs. He explained that now that I have passed 2 years of remission, I am no longer at high risk for near-term relapse or for having the difficult-to-treat type of hairy cell leukemia. Even though relapse could occur in the future, the same treatments should be effective next time. For now, I should see my local oncologist every 6 months, see him once a year, and in between I should live my life. I was surprised and thrilled with what he said, and I asked him if I am still “high risk” with respect to risk for COVID complications. I told him how our family has lived during the pandemic: in 2020 we isolated from absolutely everyone for half the year due to my very low immunity, how we had “bubbled” with another family for the 6 months until I could get vaccinated, and how we had continued to use slowly decreasing caution for 2021 and into 2022. I also admitted how much we have been feeling the strain of this lifestyle and want to sensibly continue a return to “normal”. Being the expert that he is on this type of thing, he responded by citing a recent study of cancer patients treated with the same medications I received that showed a reduced ability to fight COVID infections well after chemotherapy had ended, as much as a year and a half after treatment or more. Then he said the most validating words that I have heard from anyone in a long time: “you and your family absolutely have done the right things throughout the pandemic.” He went on to say that based on everything, it was ok to continue to sensibly relax now. “Get out and enjoy the summer with your family.”

He left the room, and I sat there stunned, overwhelmed, and incredibly validated. Living through a global pandemic that has killed nearly a million people in this country while immunocompromised after a year of fighting blood cancer has been stressful beyond adequate words. Lengthy blog posts can’t even fully do it justice. Said simply, it’s been a challenging 3 years. Yet I had just been told by the person that I trust most about hairy cell leukemia that not only could I quiet that doubt about my cancer returning soon but that I also could move about in the world again as a “normal” person taking “normal” precautions for COVID health instead of extraordinary ones. This is recovery, not just remission. Recovery is now my reality.

I walked back to the car, turning this over in my mind, and prepared to call Meghann to give her the good news. I struggled to find the right word for what I was feeling. By the time I got on the phone with her, the best word that had come to mind was “blessed.” Blessed is a good word and certainly described how I was feeling. Yet through my emotional and joyful conversation with her and the hour drive alone afterwards, I realized that “blessed” wasn’t the word that most accurately articulated how I was feeling. The word was “grateful.” I was, and still am, overwhelmingly grateful to the depths of my soul.

I am grateful to be alive, and I am grateful to be in remission. I am grateful for an immune system that is finally working properly and grateful for real recovery. I am grateful for the doctors and nurses and pharmacists and medical staff that have taken care of me and been instruments of healing in my life. I am grateful for not getting scarily sick or hospitalized when I was immunocompromised, either from the vicious cold I got in September 2019 during chemotherapy or from COVID for the first two, brutal years of its existence. I am grateful for everyone who dutifully has worn their masks when needed throughout the pandemic to protect vulnerable people like me, and I am grateful for life-saving vaccines. I am grateful for understanding and accommodating jobs and for good health insurance. I am grateful for the support we have received for the last three years from neighbors, coworkers, friends, family, and strangers. I am grateful that in spite of all of the challenges in their daddy’s life, my children have been able to grow up so well from their 3 year-old and 1 year-old selves at the time of my diagnosis into the 6 year-old and very-soon-to-be 4 year-old big kids I have today. I am grateful for a thousand other big and small things, and I am grateful to God for hearing my cries and answering them with tremendous love.

Perhaps most of all, I am grateful for the grace that God has bestowed throughout the last 3 years, especially in the tremendous love and support from my wife, Meghann. She has stayed true to her marriage vow to me far beyond what she could have possibly known that she was signing up for. That little “in sickness and in health” phrase she promised me nearly a decade ago was easy enough to say on our wedding day, but it hasn’t always been easy to live out. She’s put the needs of my health and our family above her own repeatedly, even when that meant significant self-sacrifice. She sat next to me during all 12 infusion sessions and countless medical appointments. She holed up away from the world with the kids and me to keep my weak body safe in the early parts of the pandemic. She’s encouraged me when I wasn’t feeling strong, and she’s helped to pick me up when I’ve been down. She’s truly lived out that promise “to love and honor” me as she has stayed true to me through both these good and bad times. It hasn’t been easy for her, but I am grateful beyond words to the very real love of God that I have witnessed through her love for me in the last 3 years. I love you, Meghann, and I am grateful for you more than this essay can say.

An interesting thing that I have realized recently is that when your heart is full of gratitude, there is little space left for doubt and anxiety. The words my oncologist spoke to me that day in March opened my heart to an awareness of gratefulness beyond what I have felt in a long time. That grateful heart has banished the doubt and anxiety of cancer better than anything has in the last 3 years. Will that anxiety return again? At some point, yes. Will it get the best of me? Perhaps. My hope is that, so long as I can hold onto this grateful feeling in my heart, the answer is no. A grateful heart may not be 100% effectiveness in immunity, but it is a powerful vaccination and antidote that should not be underestimated.

How do you hold onto a heart full of gratitude? I believe the way to do so is to live a life of being grateful all the time. That’s both saying thank you and living thank you. When you are grateful, don’t keep that grateful feeling to yourself. Share gratitude with others. “Pay it forward” for someone else. Do something nice for someone else, just because. Tell people “thank you” and mean it. Accept thanks from someone else and trust that they mean it. Resist the urge to keep score with others. Be grateful to God, and show God how grateful you are by living it out. In the passage from Matthew’s Gospel that was read at our wedding, it says “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.” What does it mean to let your light shine before others? Today I understand this to mean living a life of gratitude. After all, God has given to all of us freely out of love, and none of us will ever be able to repay him. That is a big reason to be grateful.

Are you grateful? I am.


I love my kids dearly. I want only the best for them. I also want them to sleep a little later in the morning. While some of our friends lament that their young kids wake them up at 8 AM, I am ecstatic if ours make it to 7. For a variety of reasons, sleep has been an effort in our household lately, and I have been awake (or at least out of bed) with my dear children before the sun rises most mornings. In their defense, the sun does sleep pretty late this time of year, but in my defense, it is a rare day in this house for the people who live here to sleep late.

About two weeks ago, we were up before the sun again. The kids and I were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast. Right now our ongoing game of let’s-trade-seats-at-the-table-with-each-other has me sitting so that I can see out the window while I eat (thanks, Meg, for taking the one with your back to the outside). As the kids and I sat eating our cereal and discussing their favorite Christmas shows, a faint glow started to peek up over the eastern horizon. We continued with our toast and juice, and the dim glow grew steadily brighter, bursting out in pink and purple and blue. Soon the whole eastern sky was filled with colorful light, dancing on the trees and houses in the horizon and leaping over the thin, wispy clouds floating through the air. Not content with the limits of the eastern sky, the color spilled over, flooding part of the southern sky and tickling the edges of the sky to the north. The sunrise was truly amazing that morning, and watching the whole thing filled me with a great deal of hope. The dark night yielded to the beautiful light of a new day.

I often find myself quietly singing in response to the world around me, and watching the sunrise that morning inspired an Advent-appropriate choice:

The King shall come when morning dawns,

And light triumphant breaks;

When beauty gilds the eastern hills,

And life to joy awakes.

The triumphant break-through of sunlight gilding the eastern sky after a dark night should fill us with joy. The fact that we live in a world where we can count on this every single day – that there is a God who wants this for us every single day – should fill us with tremendous hope. This hope that the light will scatter the darkness is what Advent is all about. Christmas, then, is the sunrise of a new day.

2020 has had its share of dark days. Many people have been sickened with COVID, and far too many have died. For those of us who have extra risk factors like my weakened immune system still recovering from leukemia treatment, doing the right thing to stay healthy has involved its share of dark nights and days. We’ve stayed away from our family and friends (the kids are fluent in video calls and “air huggies” by now). We’ve stayed home (I haven’t driven this little since I got my driver’s permit almost 20 years ago). We’ve ridden the emotional roller coaster of highs and lows (thank goodness the shortage of tissues was less severe than the shortage of toilet paper). There has been darkness. Yet, there has also been hope. There is real hope that the pandemic will not last forever. The sun will rise again. A new day will come.

The world waits in darkness every night. Sometimes the night is very long (such as the nights when I’m awake comforting a toddler who just had a nightmare at 1AM and up again at 3 soothing a preschooler scared of the howling wind). Other times the night passes more quickly (those rare nights where we all sleep through the night). In any case, we wait in darkness a while hoping for the new day, and eventually the dawn comes. The sun climbs up over the horizon, and the light returns. Sometimes that sunrise is a memorable, fantastic light show that dazzles all who can see it. Other times it’s just the return of illumination to the landscape through gray clouds. Regardless, the hope we have in the new day is well-placed.

The COVID night is not over, but the glow of a new day is creeping over the horizon. We already have what we need to wait in the dark – wearing our masks and keeping our social distance – and the light of the new day heralded by a highly effective vaccine is emerging.

Boats and a Helicopter

I have heard a surprisingly large number of people dismiss the vaccine as a hoax or a form of they’re-out-to-get-me-conspiracy-theory-doomsday-device or even a true evil in the world. As I have reflected on these assessments, I am reminded of a modern-day parable that I first heard as a kid.

There was a woman who made the bold decision to rely entirely on prayer for everything. God would give her whatever she needed, so long as she asked. Her faith was unshakable and would stand up to any test.

One night, she awoke to find her house flooding. The nearby river was swelling from the heavy rain, and her house was quickly going underwater. She managed to climb out her bedroom window to the roof, barely staying above the rising flood waters. On the roof and still faithful, she prayed to God to save her from the flood. A few minutes later, a neighbor in a row boat paddled close to her house and asked her to get in the boat with him. She politely told the neighbor no. She did not need a rowboat. She had prayed, and God would save her from the flood. Puzzled, the neighbor paddled away to help someone else.

Alone again in the dark, she prayed to God to save her from the flood. A minute later, she saw lights approaching. It was a motor boat with two firefighters inside, and they came near her house. Seeing her on the roof, the firefighters steered their boat close and asked her to get into the boat. They would help her climb down the steep roof to avoid slipping into the rushing flood waters. She told them to save someone else; God would save her from the flood. The firefighters were reluctant to leave her, but at her repeated insisting and refusal to get into the boat, they finally departed to look for others.

Alone another time with the flood water continuing to rise, the woman prayed confidently to God, asking her to save him from the flood waters. Within seconds of finishing the prayer, the sounds of a helicopter could be heard. It was a rescue helicopter, operated by the national guard, who were out attempting to save people from the flood. The crew saw the woman on the roof and hovered over her, dropping a rescue line and sending down a trained crewman to pull her from the roof, which by now was nearly covered in floodwater. The woman outright refused to be rescued by the helicopter crew, insisting adamantly that God would save her from the flood waters and that she was trusting in Him alone. The crew should rescue someone else, she insisted. God would rescue her. In spite of the water now touching her ankles and the pleading of the helicopter crew to grab the line, the woman would not budge from the roof. She flatly refused, continuing to insist that God alone would save her from the flood. The crew received a call of another person stuck on a nearby roof and finally relented to the woman’s demands, leaving her alone.

Soon after the helicopter left, the woman was swept into the flood waters, where she drowned. She found herself standing in front of God in Heaven. She looked at God and said, “God, I made the firm commitment to rely only on you. I prayed to you in my time of great need just now in that flood. Where were you on the roof down there? Why didn’t you save me like you promised me you would?” 

God looked at her and replied, “I sent two boats and a helicopter.”

I am not entirely sure where I heard this parable originally, but I think of it quite often. The answers to our prayer aren’t always dramatic miracles. We don’t always walk on the top of the flood waters. Sometimes God sends us a boat with a friend inside. Sometimes even if we ignore that boat, He’ll try again by sending another boat or even a helicopter to save us from the floods of life. Sometimes, like the woman on the roof, we overlook the help we’ve asked for more than once. There are times for miracle rescues, and there are times for simple row boats to escape life’s floods. It’s important for us to remember that God uses the ordinary for the extraordinary.

I have seen the boats-and-a-helicopter rescue happen in my own life. I did not have a scientifically-unexplainable miraculous cure to my hairy cell leukemia. What I did have, though, was the row boat of a well-timed routine family doctor blood test followed by a motorboat driven by a persistent hematologist and then a helicopter crew of rare disease specialists, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians, and many others who pulled me from the flood waters of cancer. God heard my prayer to be saved from the rooftop when my body was flooded with non-functioning white blood cells and sent these seemingly everyday boats and helicopters to answer those prayers. I call that an ‘ordinary miracle.’

The world is now trying to escape the rising floodwaters of the COVID pandemic. Wearing our masks and keeping distance from each other is how we’re climbing to our rooftops to stay above the water. There are boats and a helicopter coming to rescue us, and we better know them as the vaccines. Yes, the vaccines are human-made, and yes humans are imperfect beings that make mistakes. However, it’s unfair for us to assume that just because something was made by humans that God can’t also use it as the answer to a prayer of need. The row boat, motor boat, and helicopter from the parable are made by humans. When we’re on the roof surrounded by rising flood waters, should we really be telling our neighbor that we don’t trust their row boat because they haven’t used it in a flood before or arguing with the firefighters about whether or not the horsepower of the motor on their motorboat is powerful enough to fight the current or lecturing the national guard crew about how the internet says that their helicopter is actually a tool of an extraterrestrial spy agency that will cause anyone who touches it to turn into a purple mongoose on their 37th birthday or the next time Jupiter and Saturn appear close together in the sky, whichever comes first? Of course not. We should do what the woman in the parable did not do. We should get in the row boat or the motorboat or the helicopter when we have the chance to escape the flood. In the flood of this pandemic, we need to get the vaccine as soon as we are able so that we can all get off of the roof.

There is a real temptation for us humans to tell God how things should be done. If we’re honest with ourselves, though, projecting our own assumptions on how God should answer our prayers – such as if I would have demanded nothing short of a miracle healing to my hairy cell leukemia – is incredibly belittling of God. Who are we to tell Him how to answer our prayers? Who is in control? Shouldn’t we let God be God in the way God wants to be God? We need to remember that this is the same God who opted to be born in a barn and to die a literally excruciating death for us. Would any of us humans, even our smartest throughout history, have thought that was the right idea to answer humanity’s prayers for salvation from darkness? If God wants to rescue us from the flood in a leaky rowboat, who are we to stand there and demand a yacht?

If God wants to rescue us from the flood in a leaky rowboat, who are we to stand there and demand a yacht?

When we’re sitting in the dark, sometimes it’s hard to imagine what all we can see in the daylight. We need the sun to come up to show us new possibilities. This time of year invites us to think beyond the darkness of the present moment. Advent reminds us that even when we wait in the night, there is reason to hope. The dawn of true light is coming. Christmas reminds us that this light has come into the world. As one of my favorite Advent and Christmas readings says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone.

Let us not constrain God by thinking that those made in His image cannot also be the instrument of His answering prayer. We must not fall into the temptation of thinking technology invented by humans is automatically evil. He empowered us to invent helicopters and vaccines, both of which were created to save people rather than harm them. Let us also avoid thinking that the darkness around us will always be there. The light is coming, and we should not let go of that hope. Let’s all keep praying for God to rescue us and that we not be too blind to see the answer to that prayer when it arrives. We need to get in the boat when we can so that we can float to safety from the flood. Finally, as we continue to celebrate Christmas, let’s remember that true hope came into the world in an ordinary manger. As in times of old, we continue to pray:

Come quickly, King of kings.

Our hope is in You.

Our Light Has Come

Light has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Maybe it’s just the gray, overcast nature of winter in the Midwest. Every January and February I catch myself thinking “Couldn’t we just have one sunny day? I don’t even care if it’s cold.” The short days and long nights don’t help much either. When it’s dark in the morning when I wake up and dark in the evening when I leave work, inevitably I find myself longing for brighter days.

In the midst of the darkest months of the year in the northern hemisphere, we hear readings that talk a lot about light. I am not sure if that is coincidence or intentional, but it is noticeable. During Advent, we hear about being in darkness and waiting for light. At Christmas, we hear about the light coming into the world with the birth of Jesus. After Christmas, we hear about John the Baptist testifying to the light and pointing everyone to Jesus. In the weeks that follow we get told about how the responsibility is on us to help bring the light to the world. Mixed in with these stories are several variations on one of my favorite scriptural phrases:

The people in darkness have seen a great light.

I have always liked that phrase, but as I reflect on the past year, it feels even more personally relevant.

We lived through some dark periods in the last year. I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy. Meghann quit her job and figured out how to start her own business. Our kids were both hospitalized at different times. There were challenging periods in my job. Members of our family got pretty sick. We said farewell to my grandmother. Our plans were rearranged, postponed, and canceled. Life was pretty dark at times.

Yet, the darkness did not win.

Meghann’s business took off and became quite successful. Our kids bounced back quickly and continued to grow into happy, healthy, smart children. The challenging periods in my job ended with good outcomes. My sick family members got better and eventually resumed their normal lives. Grandma is at peace in Heaven. We were able to squeeze in a few trips and events, especially the important stuff.

Most excitingly: my hairy cell leukemia is gone.

My last chemotherapy session was in December, a few weeks before Christmas. In January, I had another bone marrow biopsy done that confirmed that my hairy cell leukemia is fully in remission. In fact, none of the indicators of hairy were there at all in my most recent biopsy. My biopsy looked like a normal healthy person. Hairy is gone. Our family and friends who have been in darkness with us, have seen a great light.

Hairy cell leukemia is a chronic cancer with no cure, so there is a very good chance that it will come back again some day. However, there is good medical reason to hope that my currently young children will be young adults before it does. In fact, my specialist at Ohio State said that he hopes to be retired before it comes back for me, and that he plans on working at least another 10 years. I hope he’s right. If hairy does come back, the doctors say that it can be treated again using the same methods just as effectively. Even more optimistically, as fast as cancer treatments are advancing right now, by the time it comes back there could be a better treatment or even a cure.

The news that hairy is gone is a great light in the darkness for us.

This contrasting of light and darkness is in many places in our scriptures. There are a lot of variations on the theme, and recently I have been contemplating how some describe light that “scatters” the darkness. It’s an interesting concept, especially to those of us accustomed to electric lighting in our homes. When I switch on the lights in a dark room in the house, the darkness vanishes almost immediately. A few shadows might remain, but the darkness appears to flee from the light. On the occasion that we have no electricity and have to rely on candles, flashlights, or lanterns, the metaphor used by the writers of our scriptures who lived in a time before electric lighting makes more sense. Candlelight appears to push aside the darkness to make way for the light. Unless it’s a super bright candle, the room is usually still dark in some areas. Wherever the light shines, though, the darkness move out of the way. The light scatters the darkness.

This metaphor is pretty accurate for life. Sometimes we are in a room that’s pretty dark. It may not feel like there is much light at all. Yet, wherever the light shines, no matter how dim, the darkness does not win. That light might be hearing from an old friend or an unexpected smile from a stranger or the unwavering love of a spouse or a little reassuring God moment along the way. Whatever the source, these little candles of light in our ordinary lives illumine the dark rooms we all experience.

Around Christmastime this year, I heard a new song that has really stuck with me through the end of my chemo journey. It’s called “Christ Our Light Has Come” by Steve Angrisano and Curtis Stephan. ( It’s very singable, and the lyrics are fantastic. Part of the way through the first verse the song tells us

True light has arrived to illumine our lives
So often beset by the darkness

My life was often beset by darkness in 2019. True light has arrived? When I stop and think about it, that’s what Christmas is all about. The composers point this out to us pretty clearly in the refrain that follows:

Cast aside all your fear and dread,
Come follow the light to Bethlehem.
The way of salvation revealed to all:
Christ, our light, has come.

Darkness doesn’t win. That’s what Christmas is about, and that’s what the whole Christian faith is about. Christ, our light, has come.

It is probably not by accident that this song found its way into both my ear and my heart in December and January this year. For several weeks, it kept popping up for me. When I first heard it, I played it for myself and found myself praying it quietly in the middle of my day. At a friend’s request, I later shared it for some of our small church community during our reflection on the Feast of Epiphany. A week later I felt moved to sing and play the song as I was leading the music at the closing Mass of our parish’s Men’s Retreat. I continued to hum it and sing it to myself for a number of weeks, well into January.

In the middle of January, I was scheduled to have my biopsy done. Going into the day, I was admittedly uncertain. I had many reasons to believe that the test would bring the good news that hairy was gone. Yet, on some level I was still doubtful. The cancer might still be there, and I had to brace for that possibility. The test was on a Monday, and we would get the results on a separate trip to Columbus the following Thursday. As has been our normal for the last year, the day was full of surprises. In the very early hours of Monday morning, my son woke up violently sick to his stomach. With him unable to go to preschool as planned, Meghann and I scrambled to adjust our plans as the sun rose. Talking through our very limited logistical options given the necessary driving time and the few hours remaining before my appointment, we decided that I would drive myself to Columbus, my mom would meet me there to stay with me, and Meghann would stay home with our sick son. Monday would just be a test day anyway. Thursday was the more important day. Meghann bravely agreed to the plan, even though it clearly hurt her not to be able to join me in Columbus.

Having a drive by myself that long-anticipated Monday morning gave me some time to converse with God. Hairy has enabled me to be better at these conversations, so I found myself just admitting to Him how I felt. I really hoped I was cancer-free. I wanted to hear that I was healthy. I needed help facing whatever I was going to find out later that week, and I really hoped that our son would be well enough that Meghann could come on Thursday. I was exhausted after 9 months of dealing with hairy. I just wanted everything to calm down a bit. After I had said my piece to God, I quite suddenly got a response back. It was that song again. Cast aside all your fear and dread. Christ, our light, has come.

Living with cancer is darkness. Having kids in the hospital is darkness too, as is taking care of sick family members, dealing with significant career stress, saying goodbye to loved ones, and a whole host of other things. Yet, we all have real hope. It’s the message of Christmas and the message of Christianity.

In our small corner of the world, there is less darkness than their was last year. I can now claim the title of “cancer survivor.” Light scatters the darkness and illumines our life. The darkness in our life doesn’t win.

Our Light has come.