Beliefs that carried me through cancer and beyond…

Clifford - Beaverton, Oregon
Entered on March 14, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I’ve always believed that you can gain something from even the most tragic experience, as long as you make it through in one piece. Ironically, I got to put that to the test after being diagnosed with bone cancer in 2004. I was 35 at the time, and it was the most terrifying thing my family ever experienced. My life hung in the balance with every decision. Every choice held the weight of the world and every step the burden of that weight. But we pulled together like a pack of musk ox during a wolf attack and somehow endured. We dug in until we found the right place… right doctor… right treatment protocol, however toxic… and avoided a massively debilitating spinal surgery.

And I’m still here… still standing… still in one piece regardless of all the collateral physical damage. Almost five years out I understand more intimately now what good can come from the terrible. I am living proof that even the worst odds aren’t unbeatable – a beacon (to friends in need, and there are many now) of possibility in the fight against cancer. Beyond this, I can only offer what little else I came with…

Of the two “fighting” beliefs I entered treatment with, both also survived trial by fire. Interestingly they’re both about empowerment, and are a marriage of phrases largely considered to be independent from one another:

– “Anything can happen,” but more importantly is that “anything is possible.”

– “God may indeed work in mysterious ways,” but more importantly is that “he helps those who help themselves.”

And of the rest of my life…

– I believe in true love. At 33 I finally asked God himself to hook me up. I never asked for anything from the higher powers. I didn’t even know if I believed in them. But this, I thought, was a unique situation. I stated that, “I can’t seem to find her on my own and was going to finally need some help”… and that, “I believe in true love and wouldn’t compromise just to stave off loneliness.” Afterward I started laughing… as if God would help a speck like me in a Universe so vast. So I put the responsibility once again upon my own shoulders. I met my wife a year later. She is the light of my life. Since then I’ve seen many things that proved out the existence of a creator. They are all deeply personal. I don’t expect anyone else to take my word for it.

– I believe that if God had a language that was universally understood by all conscious beings, it wouldn’t be in any verbal form of communication – it would be in changes to the shape of reality itself – changes that any intelligent, conscious being could see as an elegant divergence from the uniformity of reality and realize as extraordinary. Unfortunately the clatter of industry is so distracting right now that I don’t expect anyone to catch any of it.