How Does He Decide Who Survives?

February 26, 2011

Last weekend we attended a memorial service for a very special friend of our family. He died of Metastatic Melanoma at the age of 66 and was only diagnosed 9 months prior to his passing. It was a devastating loss for his family and friends because it came out of nowhere and by the time he found out he had cancer, it was too late, it had already spread throughout his body.

He lived his life as a bachelor and never had any children, but always treated the children in our family as if they were his own. Nick and Sarah knew him as "Uncle Dave" and thought the world of him.

As I sat there at his memorial service listening to God’s words and all the wonderful stories about Dave’s life and the kind of person that he was, my mind was wandering at warp speed. No matter how hard I tried to concentrate solely on Dave's life, I could not help but to think of my own and I don’t think I was the only one that took that walk down memory lane.

Nicolas was sitting to my left and he was a mess. He was crying and seemed very affected by Dave’s passing. My Aunt nudged me at one point and said, “Awww, Nick is such a sensitive guy”……and I do think that he is very sensitive and he will truly miss “Uncle Dave”, but I have to wonder how much of his emotion was based on his own fears about death and cancer and what we went through together when he was so young.

Nick was only two years old when I battled cancer, but he does have very vivid memories of me being so very sick. He talks about when I had no hair, when I had nurses come to visit us at the house each day, and how I spent the greater part of one year on the couch in our family room, in the hospital, or going to see doctors.

Nick and Mommy 2000 BLOG

Cancer is a part of my past, but it is something that still remains in the forefront of my thoughts. I know I am fortunate to be here and so very thankful to call myself a survivor, but I also fear that one day, when I least expect it, the cancer will resurface.

Obviously, I don’t let the fear of cancer affect my daily life, but there are so many things that trigger the thoughts and take me back to that scary place, as in this case, when someone close dies of Cancer, when I have to go back to the oncologist for my yearly exam, or when I am just plain sick.

When the average person comes down with the flu they know it is just the flu and in a few days they will feel better. I get the flu and it makes me re live the year that I went through chemotherapy and felt like I was on deaths door. Whenever I get a severe headache or backache, I think… is it really just an ache? or could the cancer have come back? Could I have another tumor?

This May will be 11 years since I was told that my cancer was officially in remission and even though that is something to be celebrated, I still have scary thoughts that creep in from time to time. You would think with each year that passes, the thoughts would subside, but honestly, I am not sure those thoughts and fears will ever fade or totally disappear.

I walked around with all the typical Ovarian Cancer symptoms you read about for over two months and had no inkling that something could be wrong. I basically had an excuse for all the changes I saw in my body and never realized they were red flags until I went to the doctor for my regularly scheduled check up. He went down the list asking me if I was experiencing any of these symptoms. I was experiencing ALL OF THEM.

I considered myself to be a healthy person who worked out almost daily and was really in tune with her body……so how did I miss this? I guess I thought I was too young or too invincible. It couldn’t happen to me.

I learned the hard way that no one is invincible when it comes to cancer. No matter how young or old, or how healthy you think you are, you can still get Cancer.

Now when I feel a twinge or just don’t feel well in general my thoughts go to that far away place. I tend to panic a little and then I begin to pray hard that God never takes me back there and whatever I am experiencing at the moment is just a common cold or really is just a pulled or sore muscle and nothing more.

Angel of Prayer BLOG

It’s been a week since we have attended the memorial service for Dave and he is still in our thoughts and prayers. I know that he is finally at peace and that he is in a better place where there is no more pain and suffering. He is now in heaven with so many family members and friends that have left us over the years.

I have watched so many loved ones die of Cancer, yet I am still here living a blessed and very full life. Diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer at the young age of 26, my life was spared; while so many have never been given the second chance that I was given.

How does God ultimately decide who survives and succumbs to this dreadful disease?

This question has perplexed me for as long as I can remember and I guess I will never know the answer, but I have to believe that "he" has reasons for everything he does.

Although that does not seem like an acceptable answer for those of us who are grieving the loss of someone special that lost their battle with Cancer, I would like to imagine that it will all finally make sense when we ourselves ride on the wings of that special angel and travel over the rainbow and reach the other side where heaven’s pearly gates are open for our arrival.


Love Letters To China said...

I know exactly how you feel when an ache or pain appears. Those same thoughts cloud my mind and I remember similar times that are thankfully in the past.

I'm so sorry to hear of your dear friends passing. I pray that in our lifetime we will hear the words that this dreaded disease finally has a cure.

Sending you a big hugs......

Colleen said...

Ohhh Lisa, what a beautiful post! I can only imagine how difficult this was to write. Thank you for sharing and touching our lives like you do.
I recently lost a friend to a brain anurysm. One minute she was talking and laughing and within seconds life was taken from her. We never know when the Lord will be calling us home. That is why we must try to live each day to the fullest.
I have to say the photo of you and Nick is the most beautiful photo I have seen of you!

MarieElizabeth said...

I wondered much of the same when my aunt died after 9 mos with brain cancer. Really, I think she had done everything she was sent here to do and it was time for her to go home. We miss her, but strive to live more like her, enjoying every day and the gifts we have, not waiting for tomorrow.

Lilly said...

as always and in every situation, it is not the question of, why me? but rather the answer of what we can do to overcome the fear and the guilt we feel, to move forward to make each day a better place for all of us around it.

praying is food for our soul and hearts. HUGS!

JMCS said...


you are so beautiful on the inside and outside. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. Cancer is so scary, you just never know where or when it will strike. I can't even imagine how scary that must have been when you went through your diagnosis and treatment.

I am so glad that you battled cancer and won! I love that picture of you and Nick. Just gorgeous. You are a survivor my friend. :)


Heather said...

I also wonder the same things, why does one person get to live to 99 and one get taken at 2 years old? We will never know in this life, but like you said, I truly believe there is a reason for all that happens.

Nicolasa @ {My}Perspective said...

This was a great post, Lisa. Thanks for sharing. It is so hard to see loved ones battle Cancer. I don't think your fears or scary thoughts are ever going to go away, and may be that is the point. I don't know.

Gail said...


All your fears are entirely normal and natural, in fact if you didn't feel that way I think something wouldn't be right.

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. I don't have the answers as to why some survive Cancer and some don't. My husband (the scientist) would tell you it has to do with your DNA and God. You had both on your side thankfully.
Hopefully in our lifetime there WILL be a cure...

And you are stunning in this picture with Nick!


Everything Beautiful Shay said...

I loved your post and am covered in chills. What a gorgeous photo of you and your baby~ complete joy on your face even with such a scary thing going on in your life!!! Just no answers to the big question but SO glad you are well now and loving your family beyond measure! Thank you God!!!
Blessings and love to you!

ps SO sorry about your friend!!!

Angel Rogers said...

Sometimes I think that when we were still spirits in heaven, we chose what we would have to go through when we were on this earth as our own trial. Being that we didn't yet have bodies and could not understand and feel the pain we would experience, we were hopeful that whatever we would have to go through, we would have our Father in Heaven in our life and he would strengthen us to go through whatever we needed to, to learn whatever we needed to learn before going back to him.

That probably doesn't stop the pain, but an understanding sometimes brings a peace in our hearts. My dear niece had cancer at age 14 and has just celebrated her 13th year cancer free. I know she probably has these fears too.

Thanks for sharing your feelings and God Bless.

Julie said...

I think about this everyday as I pray for my 3 year old son. He was diagnosed with cancer last April. We just finished up chemo this December and had our first clean scan in january. I feel like I am in constant conversations with God. It has been a long difficult year. Congrats on being cancer free. I hope you are blessed to never see it return. EVER. thanks for the post.

Shari said...

I think we are on earth as long as it takes to learn the lesson God wants to teach us, and share it with others. Some take a long time to listen what God is trying to say, others may never hear it, but teach others in their own way. God may need some of us to stay longer...because we are good teachers. Then there are those who have only one lesson to teach - they die young, but leave an impression on our hearts that lives forever.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am so sorry for your friend and the feelings and past experiences that his passing evokes in you. The look on your son's face says it all. Kids do not hide their feelings.

The positive thing is that your children have you as their mother. They are very lucky.

Laurie said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend.

You've said it all, I cant' add anything. None of us here knows.

Diane said...

I often wonder this very same thing as I lost my sister of Cancer. She was so young and beautiful and her passing left 3 children without their mother. For only HE knows the answer to this question and it is only our faith in HIM that gets us through these difficult times in our lives.

God Bless

Aleasing said...

Lisa, the following verse from Corinthinans is the one I have to rely on when going thru these kinds of issues:

2 Corinthinas 1:4
God comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comport with which we ourselves are comforted by God!!!

Could NOT make it without the Word to rely on!!

God Bless You and Your Family!!!

Unknown said...

I am so proud of you for writing this post and sharing such tenderness so transparently. What you shared today Lisa will give others not only hope but can help them realize that our fears can't rule us our faith in God must. That prayer is essential to get through this life no matter what we are facing.

I'm so sorry you had to fight that battle and yet I am thankful for how it gave you the inner strength to know how deep and wide God's love for you is. That even when something as hard as cancer comes your way God is there.

He was there for your friend and He is there for all of us. Only God knows the number of our days and trying to figure out why some live longer than others will only confuse and frustrate us. The answer is not found in the question of why but in our hope and faith being 100% in God's love and that means no matter what He is willing the good for us. Hard to understand this side of heaven - but that is greatest gift we don't have to understand. We simply can lay it all down at His feet knowing He will carry us with His grace and hold us when we cant hold up ourselves. What a gracious and loving God we serve!

BIG HUGS!!!! Saying a prayer for you now! And one for Nick - what a tender heart he already has I pray he stays tender toward God's voice all the days of his life!

Love you,

Jo said...

I’m very sorry for the loss of your friend. He sounds like a wonderful man that became a part of your family and will certainly be missed.
I too have often pondered the very same question. As you already know, I lost my mother to ovarian cancer 3 short weeks after her diagnosis. This was after losing my father 2 years prior to his battle. Why them? Why both my parents?

You are one of the lucky survivors of this horrid disease; Make the most of everyday.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the death of your friend. This was a such a touching post, one that I'm sure was hard to write. It's hard to know what God's purpose of our life is however I'm guessing being a mom to Sarah and Reagan {and Nick of course} may have something to do with it ;) Your journey wasn't fulfilled yet.

What a beautiful picture of you and Nick! With a smile like yours no was was looking at your hair, or lack thereof ;)

Dita said...


I am so sorry that your family has lost Uncle Dave, though I know the love you all had for him will never be forgotten.

You and I have spoken many times about this and you know how I feel about you as a survivor. I do not have any answers and the more I think about it the more questions I come up with.

I, too, wish for a cure for this dreaded disease and peace to all who suffer from it, along with their families.

I admire your courage in so many aspects of your life....and the courage you summoned during that very challenging time in your life still amazes me.

I am so grateful for your courage, my friend...because had you not "turned it on" like only you can....I wouldn't have had the opportunity to know one of the most extraordinary women I've ever met!

I love you,

Jboo said...

Oh Lisa -- my heart breaks for your loss and the loss to your friends's family. I hope there will be a cure in our lifetime. Keeping you all in my prayers.


Unknown said...

Do you think it is harder on the family of the sick or the sick person?
I want to believe I am the weak one as I live the nightmare of my father being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.
No amount of reasoning seems to give me peace. I hope peace eventally comes to him.
I am so glad you have a long remission, I wish you so many long and good years with your family.

a Tonggu Momma said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, Lisa. That is so very difficult. I will never understand why God took my friend Rosie at such a young age, leaving behind twins in kindergarten, but I guess I'm not meant to understand. Those months and even years following her death brought some of my most spiritually challenging moments. (((hugs)))

Jo's Corner said...

Hi Lisa ~ I "happened" to fond your blog today...not by accident, I'm sure! HE leads me to some blogs that I NEED to find. I have terminal cancer. But, I was given that prognosis over 3 years ago, so I just keep on living! I've lost my hair and my leg, then my breasts and my hair...again. Now there are tumors on my brain stem and throughout my body and still, I continue to live. I've watched many lose their battles, lots of children and have found myself face down, on the floor, pleading with G*d to let me take that child's place. Let them live! Let him stay with his twin brother. Let him have a chance to grow up. I continue to live. So your question is a valid one.
The Bi*le says that He knows every breath we take, how many hairs are on our head (or not). He knows every step we will take, even before we are formed in the womb. He knows exactly how many days we will live on this earth. I too, wonder Why? Why am I still here? To me, it's simple. It is not time for me to leave this place and go Home.
I am proud that you could share your story here. You are a beautiful Survivor! I look forward to reading your blog. Bless You, my new Friend! ~ Jo

Kelly And Allison said...

So sorry about your friend. Life is a gift. You have given that gift and you are a role model for many have come to know you. Love this beautiful post. Take care.

Briana's Mom said...

This was a post definitely written from your heart. Truly beautiful. You are a true survivor. I'm so sorry about the passing of your dear friend.

I've questioned God's plan so many times. My faith has wavered up and down. There are times I still scratch my head "why?"

Jenney said...

Wow. What a powerful post. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

Robin said...

I also know exactly how you feel, how every little ache and pain might possibly be something more serious. My mind goes to that same place and I find myself drawing closer to God and the peace that only He can give. For those of us who have traveled that road it is never completely behind us.


Wanda said...

Ohh....sweet Lisa. Such a touching post. I'm so sorry for the loss of such a dear one. And I'm so moved by your courage and ability to share yourself so completely.

Sending extra hugs tonight!!!!

Sharon said...

You are such a beautiful woman Lisa. I'm so very sorry for your loss, and I am happy to know that you were able to be there to comfort Nick. You are an inspiration to all.

Rosie Grey said...

What a touching post, Lisa! I'm so glad you're here and can share your story and inspire my life trough your blog and photos!

amy :) said...

I am sorry for your loss.

Thoughts are with all of you.

Unknown said...

What an amazing writing. Two weeks ago we lost my cousin/Godfather after a long battle with lung cancer. Many questions of why him daily and such a sense of sadness. Your post touched my heart in so many ways.

Missy said...

Such a beautiful post and so thought provoking, Lisa. I don't think we'll ever know any of these answers until it's our time to meet Him! I'm so sorry for your loss! Uncle Dave sounds like an amazing man. Many hugs to you!

Jodee said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Uncle Dave. It sounds like he was such a big part of your family.

I often wonder why bad things happen to good people. It confirms that we need to live in the moment and not take one day for granted.

I am so glad that you are a survivor and we get to be bloggy friends!

De Lucchi Family Treasures said...

Lisa, what a beautiful post. Loss is such a difficult thing to deal with - I struggle with it too every day. I love the photo of you and Nick it is so full of emotion.
Love and hugs
Jules xxx

Mimi said...

Lisa, you're beautiful!
Sorry I don't have answers either, just think that your work here wasn't done, that your children needed you to be here for them, those kind of reasons.But I'm so glad you DID survive and that I got to meet you here as a fellow blogger.
Your bravery in sharing your journey is touching, so maybe that's another reason you're here. I'm very sorry for your loss of Dave, and I agree with you re Nick - cellular memory and all that.
Beautiful, heartfelt post. You are a very special survivor.

Kim said...

I am there with you. My beloved cousin, Scott died just a short 7 months ago from Stage 4 Melanoma. He lived for only 10 short months with his illness. I love him and think of him every day, not a day goes by when I don't think about how much he loved life. I try to live life full of the passion and wonderment he brought to our lives. Remember the great times and send love to those who miss him just as you. I like to believe Scott is with me - watching and loving us!


Patricia said...

Lisa, I am so sorry for the loss of "Uncle Dave". We will never know or understand God's plan for us, but I'm learning the best I can do is cherish every moment, because every moment is truly a gift. When I count my blessings I realize the presence of God in my life and it awakens me to the fact that He is also there in the tough times.

That photo of you & your first baby, Nick, is just so, so beautiful! Sending HUGS out your way, my friend!

Bridget said...

So sorry about the loss of your friend! There are never words to take away the pain. Thank you for sharing the great picture of you and Nick and for always sharing your story. You seem to live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment with your family.Through your posts I can always feel your zest for life and love for your family! I wish you nothing but good health, continued happiness and the great love of your family!!



The Byrd's Nest said...

I think you are right my friend, we will never know the answers as to "why" until we get to heaven. And maybe not even then either. This is the part about trusting in Him that is sometimes the most difficult...I think. Praying for your friend's family and for all of you. I'm so thankful God had further plans for your life so that I would have the honor and pleasure of getting to know you and your family:)

Galen said...

A nurse friend at work, much younger than I, the picture of health, often tried to educate me about the perils of my over-the-top enjoyment of junk food. Last March she was diagnosed with glioblastoma. She lived for only six months after the diagnosis, severely disabled. All we can do is be thankful for every day we're given. My husband is also a cancer survivor. I try hard not to think about what might be. We really don't know. What a blessing your life is to so many.