“Why Did I Get Prostate Cancer?”

Robins pausing for a drink and a bath in my yard on their way north; photo: BJ Gabrielsen

When something bad happens in the life of a ‘new’ Christian, they will often say “why is this happening to me?” (‘New’ here refers to one who has newly put their faith in Jesus and thus entered into a personal relationship with God.) When something bad happens in the life of a mature Christian (i.e one who has trusted God personally over a longer period of time), they will often say “Lord, why is this happening to me?” Notice they address God as “Lord”. Same basic questions, with different motivations. The new Christian may think it unreasonable that a bad thing has happened. But the mature Christian knows that problems are a part of life in an imperfect, fallen world. The mature Christian’s “Why?” question is meant to discern from God what he can learn from this difficult situation – how he might grow in faith and be of help to others in similar situations.

In the book of Genesis, God had revealed a distinct, seemingly positive plan for Joseph’s life. But when the teenage Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, he no doubt asked the “Why?” question. At first, he may have thought “what did I do to deserve this?” But later, his “Why?” question turned into an exclamation. “Oh, now I see why!” He realized God had sent him to Egypt to prepare a place for his father Jacob’s family to escape the famine in Canaan. In the end, Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

When we experience difficulties in life, it is not wrong to ask “Why?” Just make sure we are asking for the right reason. God can indeed use our cancer experiences. There are no accidents in the life of a Christian. God has a plan and much to teach us as He guides us even through troubling times such as a cancer diagnosis.

Portions of the above were published in the May 17th, 2021 Turning Point devotional by David Jeremiah.

God Is At Work in All Things

As an ongoing cancer patient, I have often asked God why I was allowed to experience this cancer from 1995 until this day. It is often difficult to see first hand how God can use a difficult situation for His good and His glory. But remember, we still read the book of Job today in which he served as an amazing example of triumph through tribulation. So God can use every aspect of our lives, the negative as well as the postive, to affect our lives and the lives of those with whom we come into contact. The following video from Our Daily Bread Ministries addresses this very issue.


Feeling Overwhelmed?

Jesus calms any storms. Photo: Shutterstock

I hope today finds you all doing well and healthy. But, as cancer survivors, we all have had days wherein we were feeling overwhelmed either with the disease itself or our anxieties. So for those days, I pass along this message I recently received from YouVersion entitled “You Are Not Alone.”

If you are unsure of your personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, see the following.

The Promise of Peace

Wooden Stave church built in the 12th century in western Norway

Philippians 4:6-7 states as follows: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking humbly and earnestly), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Earlier this month, I needed to undergo a CT scan and a bone scan in order to identify and locate any sites of prostate cancer metastasis. Tests such as these always seem to be accompanied by apprehension and to some degree, anxiety. I also had to be alone for the entire day at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa as my wife and her support were not permitted to be there due to COVID-19. I sat alone with my thoughts and the oft-accompanying “what-ifs.” What if sites of metastatic cancer were revealed? How would they be treated? How would it all affect my life and life span? However, I also experienced periods of strong inner peace especially as my mind focused on the words of Philippians 4:6-7. I literally presented my thoughts, anxiety and requests to God who in turn promised that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your (my) heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” As if God wanted to punctuate this message with an exclamation point, I had briefly verbalized my trust in Jesus to the technician who performed one of the scans. Immediately, he responded enthusiastically that he also had put his faith in Jesus earlier in his life and the two of us formed a brotherly bond as the scanner passed over my body.

Are you, my reader, facing a similar situation with an unknown result and no apparent solution? Then, like a soothing salve to your anxious heart, the same promise of Philippians 4 is for you as well.

Unfortunately, anxiety does not come with an automatic “off” switch. One of the most complex human emotions, anxiety warns us that something could be wrong and may need attention. But anxiety may not inheritantly be a bad thing, especially if it drives us to prayer. Yet submission in prayer can often be the last thing we think to do.

Through a relationship with God through Jesus, we have access to the very throne room of heaven. God’s spirit intercedes for us there with “groaning too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Even when we don’t know how to pray, we are not hindered. And remember, God would not invite us to bring our cares and requests before Him if He did not plan to act.

His promise is not that all our requests will be granted in the way we would hope or anticipate. But He promises the peace of Jesus Christ which will guard our hearts….and that is better by far! If you have never been introduced to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, see the following link.

By the way, neither of my scans revealed any metastatic sites, for which I humbly but fervently give God the glory and thanks.

A portion of the above is an excerpt from the Sept. 2nd, 2020 devotional from Haven Ministries.

Lessons From a Live Oak Tree.

Two images of my live oak tree in my yard; black bellied singing ducks in lower corner;

This morning I experienced a brief but annoying episode of a recurrent medical issue and potentially a new one. My initial reaction was tension mixed with a little “worry” and “what if”. I have been down that same road before. Almost immediately, God’s Word from James 1:6-7 came to me. “For the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

In my Florida yard, there are two huge majestic live oak trees suitable for climbing if I were younger (see above). In fact, a friend who is a tree surgeon tells me they are uniquely beautiful in their branch configuration and span. This particular windy morning, I could not help but notice the wide arching, to-and-fro patterns of the mighty branches. But as the branches were swinging wildly driven by the wind pattern and direction, the massive tree trunk never moved. It was firmly planted in the soil. Even during Hurricane Irma a couple of years ago, while branches broke off in parts, the trunk never wavered. My thoughts then refocused to the words of Psalm 1, where it is stated that “the man is blessed…..” who takes refuge “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water.” I saw myself as a branch solidly grafted onto the massive tree trunk. It brought to mind Jesus’ words in John 15:5 where He states that “I am the vine, you (me) are the branches; he who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” I need to consider myself firmly anchored to that massive, unmovable tree trunk (Jesus) whatever winds may blow.

I also noticed that unlike many trees in northern climates, the live oak leaves are deciduous; the tree is never without leaves. As the old leaves fall in March, the new ones immediately appear in their place. The leaves of the tree are constantly being renewed. It reminded me of the truth stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things” (i.e. tree leaves, personal worries, doubts) ” passed away; behold new things” (i.e. trust, hope, God’s peace) “have come.” So as one who has put his personal faith in Christ thereby enabling a personal relationship with God, I am a new creation; old things and habits do pass away. All becomes new. So as I write this blog to you the readers as well as to myself, whatever our medical conditions, I encourage us to put our faith totally in the unmovable trunk, God and Jesus. Let the old leaves of doubt and mistrust fall away and be replaced by new leaves and fruit of hope, peace and complete trust. As deciduous leaves and branches firmly attached to the unchanging person and nature of God and His Son Jesus Christ, let our minds and thinking be renewed according to the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:2. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” Hebrews 13:8.

Put Your Hope in God

Several years ago, I experienced an annoying side effect which had arisen related to earlier prostate cancer therapy. The side effect had been “cured” by a specific series of treatments but now it had reared its troublesome head again. One recent Sunday, it was especially troublesome. There are potential treatments for this condition but my excellent Johns Hopkins urologist told me that living with the condition is probably better than medically trying to make everything perfectly normal. “Perfection is the enemy of good”, he stated. So I spent the Sunday dejected and asking God why He had allowed this unwelcome side effect to arise again when it had been so well controlled four years earlier. In the course of a disease, when these disappointments happen, my mind and emotions sink into a mild depression and some degree of anger all of which last 2-3 days after which I acknowledge the situation and resolve to carry on my life as normally as I possibly can.

A day or two later, I read a devotional from Our Daily Bread, April 20, 2020. In Psalm 42, we gain a window into the human spirit as it engages in a profound emotional struggle often related to our disease state. The author of the Psalm copes with his personal crisis by first acknowledging his desperate need of God. I saw a clear picture of myself in this Psalm. The writer of Psalm 42 begins by acknowledging that he needs divine help in his condition by writing in verses 1-2 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Then he outlines his problem. In his predicament, the Psalmist writes “when can I go and meet with God?” It is as if he is asking “where are you God in all of this?” While my condition was not painful, the writer, like myself, was distraught and disappointed, writing in verse 3 “my tears have been my food day and night.”

Then the Psalmist recalls better days when all was under control and he was living a peaceful life. I could relate to the following “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God (my church) under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.” Even though I was experiencing my problem on a Sunday, I was definitely not filled with joy and praise. Instead, like the writer in verse 5, I was saying “my soul, why are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” Looking back on God’s unfailing goodness to him in the past, the Psalmist challenges himself: “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” But then, he comes up with the solution. Instead. . . “Put your hope in God.”

For me, one day later, the dawn broke, bright and fair. I could express my hope as the Psalmist wrote in verse 5 ” Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” In our spiritual and medical struggles, our emotions must be acknowledged. It’s healthy to be completely honest before God, and it’s vital to keep our focus on Him in our emotional anguish. The Psalms were written by people like David who were at times overwhelmed with despair and confusion yet they exhibited a faith-filled confidence in God’s great love, His presence and faithfulness. That’s why we so readily identify with the psalms.

When I look into the sky on a clear night, I can see the stars like the Big Dipper, perfectly aligned in a pattern even though they are millions of light years away. But then, I realized that if I were actually closer to those stars, they would not appear to be so clearly aligned in a pattern. Yet from my distant perspective, they looked carefully configured in the heavens. At that moment, I realized that when I am too close to the negative events in my life and see only my dire situation, I don’t see what God sees. In His big picture, everything is in perfect alignment. His ways are beyond our limited ability to understand or visualize. Yet the One who holds all things together in the heavens and on earth is intimately and lovingly involved with every detail of our lives. Therefore, we “hope in God for we will yet praise him, our Savior and our God.”

If you are unsure of your own personal relationship with this God to whom this post refers, see the following.

When Most Needed, An Unexpected Letter

If two ospreys, created by God Himself, guard their nest as jealously as they do, how much more doesn’t God watch us who hold on to Him? Photo: Bjarne Gabrielsen

This post is very personal to me and provided me with encouragement at this time of personal need. While I am currently asymptomatic, for which I am immensely grateful, I know I have metastatic sites of prostate cancer in my body. Upon a recent visit to my oncologist, he calmly but coldly and clinically told me that I have Stage 4 advanced prostate cancer which really scared me. It took about 2 days for the shock to calm down and for my stomach muscles to fully relax.

In 2007, I experienced a biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer which had supposedly been removed surgically in 1995. Subsequent radiation also failed to totally remove all traces of cancer. Fear gripped my life at that point. Meanwhile, I received an unexpected letter from the wife of the pastor of our country church in Maryland which spoke volumes to me in 2007 and then again today in 2020. I’d like to share a portion of it with you my readers and anyone else who could benefit from its contents.

She wrote as follows. “When an angel appears to someone in the Bible, often the first words out of its mouth are ‘do not be afraid.’ It happened that way to Mary and Joseph, the shepherds in the field, and the two Marys at Jesus’ empty tomb as well as to numerous Old Testament characters. If an angel were to appear to me, I would want to hear those same words. Actually, the phrase ‘do not be afraid’ is reiterated over and over in the Bible which contains 365 commands to ‘fear not’. I think that’s because God knows how prone we are to be afraid anytime we meet up with something we don’t understand or cannot control.

The term ‘do not be afraid’ is invariably linked Biblically with a phrase describing one of God’s characteristics; His presence, His power, His past performance or His promise. ‘Do not be afraid for I am…., or for I will.’ Apparantly, the antidote to fear is the knowledge that God is with us, is powerful and promises to help us. Isaiah 41:10 states ‘do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.'”

My pastor’s wife continues. “When I was a very little girl, my dad used to take me for walks. My hands were still very tiny and his hands were very large. I would hold onto one of his fingers so that I wouldn’t fall. But my dad knew that wasn’t enough, for if I started to tumble I could easily lose my grip on his finger. He used to let me hold his finger but then he would wrap his other big fingers around my little hand so that even if I let go, he would still be holding on to me. He said that was a picture of the way God holds us with His big hand. Yes Lord”, she continued, “hold my hand tightly. I’m holding on to you but even more important I’m glad you’re holding on to me more than ever when I am afraid.”

So now, I am finding that the posts I am writing serve not only to hopefully encourage other men with medical issues like mine, but they serve to provide strength and encouragement for myself as I read them again. If you want to read any of the previous Encouragement posts, simply go to the Godandprostate.net home page and enter the word “Encouragement” in the search area. If you are unsure of your personal relationship with such a God and His Son, Jesus, see the following link.

A Life of Peace

This website usually focuses exclusively on prostate cancer but this particular post could apply to the current worldwide coronavirus pandemic as well.

Right now we as a nation and many of us as individuals may have a potential medical problem that has our stomach in knots with persistent worry. For most of us, it is the COVID-19 virus and its consequences but for many of us men it might also be cancer. We may be so focused on our situation that it feels like we’re carrying a heavy load on our shoulders. The Lord offers a liberating alternative: “Cast your burden upon [Me] and [I] will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). Though God doesn’t erase all the ills that invade this life, He instead shields us from the weight of worry by taking our situation into His own hands.

However, the call to a peaceful life is impossible without confidence in the Lord. That trust is built through a relationship with Him, praying through trials and triumphs, seeking His guidance, and testing His Word to see that it is true and practical for life.

When we’ve experienced God’s faithfulness and believe He will continue to act on behalf of His followers, that’s when peace is possible. “No eye has seen any God besides you who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4). In fact, peace is not only possible but promised to the believer who trusts in Him. Philippians 4:6-7 states “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” But unshakeable peace isn’t instantaneous; it is cultivated through a consistent relationship with the Lord.

May we as a nation and as individuals place our trust in the words of Isaiah 26:2-4 which states as follows. “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”

Much of this post was an excerpt from the February 26th, 2020 devotional from In Touch Ministries by Dr. Charles Stanley.

Responding to Life’s Storms

God provides for all His creatures; photo: BJ Gabrielsen

How do you react in a severe storm or if you receive bad news? Do you tense up with fear or do you recall words such as those in Psalm 107:28-30? “Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.”

Personally, the year 2019 was filled with medical challenges. In addition to my 24-year issue with prostate cancer, physicians speculated that I may have bladder cancer as well. When I received this news, I did indeed tense up with fear and uttered the following to God. “Why this too? Isn’t one type of cancer enough?” I discovered that when one gets bad news, it usually takes 2-3 days before the initial shock subsides and I can then more calmly refocus on God’s presence.

Life’s storms can either stunt or accelerate our spiritual growth. The determining factor is our reaction. Some people humbly cry out to the Lord, while others get angry or frustrated with Him and their circumstances. Still, others ignore God and try to figure things out on their own, seeking solutions in every place except God’s Word.

Turning away from the Lord results in a hardened heart for someone who does not have a personal relationship with Him; for a believer, turning away results in spiritual discipline. God wants us to be surrendered to His will whatever the occurrence, because if we are proud, doubting Him or self-reliant, then we aren’t useful for His glory and purpose for our lives. That is why God brings storms across our path- to teach us to fully rely on Him.

When the Lord allows adversity in your life, do you accept it as something designed for your good? Or do you try to bend God to conform to your own will? As difficult as they may be, storms are meant to produce godly character in us. In my own case, why was the storm of potential bladder cancer to be used for my good? After a period of intense questionning of God and His care for me, I was specifically led to Jesus’ prayer to His Father just prior to His crucifixion as payment for all our sins. In Mark 14:36. Jesus intensely prays, “Abba Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will but what You will.” After some days of struggle, first I likewise fully acknowledged to God that He has the power to eliminate any traces of cancer from my body. I may not witness many dramatic cancer healings today but God indeed has the power to do so if He desires. All things are possible for Him. Second, as in Jesus’ prayer, I pleaded that He take any vestiges of bladder cancer away from my body. Thirdly, and most importantly, I affirmed that even if cancer were to be found, I would trust His care and His will in my life. After a CT scan and a thorough visual examination of my bladder by my urologist, no cancer was revealed. Instead, I had some fragile blood vessels induced as a side effect of previous radiation therapy. Under God’s direction and ministry to me, I had weathered this storm and learned a valuable lesson to pattern my personal prayer to that of Jesus Himself when the next storm arises.

If you are unsure of a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus, then this post might seem foreign to you. Coming to know God and His Son Jesus in a personal and unique way is the place to start.

A portion of the above was an excerpt from the January 8th, 2020 In Touch Ministries devotional by Dr. Charles Stanley.

Part 2. Why Am I Writing This Website?

This post is Part 2 following “Prostate Cancer Is My Assignment” posted Oct. 16th. Since 1995, I had been treated for prostate cancer at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD. My excellent urologist, who knew me well, was aware I had kept a “prostate diary” over the course of my condition and urged me to write a book describing my cancer experiences. Upon considering and praying about the issue, I was clearly led to create this website, Godandprostate.net. My rationale was that books about prostate cancer necessarily have endings whereas a website can be continuous as long as there are new developments and personal experiences to relate. This site also enables me to incorporate my career knowledge in organic and medicinal chemistry and personal interactions with medical researchers coupled with the spiritual experiences and lessons God has been teaching me during these years. Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter, also kept an e book detailing her experiences. She is now writing a book and embarking on speaking tours. Like her, I can also unequivocally say that cancer also continues to be my assignment.

So why am I writing this website?

1. From my experience, it seems that men are more reluctant to discuss their personal health issues with one another than are women. So perhaps sharing some of my experiences via a website could initiate more dialog.

2. Many men have shared with me that when first diagnosed with prostate cancer, they were quietly fearful, some forseeing negative outcomes and side effects. Their first reaction was the “get rid of it now syndrome.” They often quickly jumped at the first recommendation given by a urologist without seeking 2nd and 3rd opinions. I know several men who regretted not seeking more advice. They should have taken the time to research out the possibilities and options before committing to a treatment plan, given the array of therapeutic choices. Men should also know how to interact with medical personnel, asking the right questions, receiving the clearest answers. A website such as this could provide considerable information addressing cancer screening, diagnostics, genetics, therapeutic options and their effects, linked references to manuals published by prostate cancer organizations, as well as spiritual encouragement.

3. Looking back to my own first experiences in 1995, I can now see that many more options have become available over time. The concept of “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance” was not as universally accepted then as it is now. Modes of therapy such as forms of radiation have been vastly refined and provide more targeted treatment while minimizing collateral damage to other organs. Men should be made aware of new therapeutic modalities as late stage clinical trial data become available.

4. I have also written this website to provide hope to men at any stage of their cancer. Hope certainly is fostered through access to excellent physicians but even more so, it is available to all through a personal and interactive relationship with God and Jesus Christ. After all, who better to care for our bodies other than the One who made them. According to Psalm 139:13-14, “For You (God) formed my inward parts; You did ‘weave’ me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The use of the word “weave” seems especially significant when one considers the intricate, coiled, double-helical structure of DNA, the molecular basis of life. It seems God literally “wove” our genetic material and bodies together in the most beautiful and intricate pattern. Therefore, it is not surprising that God wants to have a central role in our health. We are instructed to “present our bodies, a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is our spiritual (translated ‘rational’) service of worship (Romans 12:1).

5. Another purpose of this website is to share Biblical truths with men. We grow spiritually and mentally when we are “stretched” as in times of crises. In my own life, I can become complacant in times of “calm seas”. Having cancer has helped me to learn to pray and trust in my total dependance on God and the wisdom of the physicians to whom He has directed me. I have experienced God’s closeness in times of anxiety like none other. Testing of our faith produces endurance resulting in the fact that we can be perfect and complete lacking in nothing (see James 1:3-4). Christ’s unique gift of peace can also rule in our hearts and minds according to John 14:27. “Peace I give to you not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.”

6. I have written this website to encourage men spiritually. God wants to be glorified in all aspects of our lives regardless of disease. Jesus, upon healing a blind man in John 9:1-3, proclaimed that the man’s blindness was not a result of some sinful action, but that the “works of God may be displayed in him.” Such can be the case for us as well. Jesus also raised his friend Lazarus from the dead even after a delay of three days, for the glory of God, that the Son of God (Jesus) may be glorified by it. (John 11:4).

7. Finally and most importantly, I am writing this website to share how we all can have a personal relationship with God, our Father, by placing our faith in His Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty for all our sins and mistakes via His death and, in addition by His resurrection, offers us the gift of eternal life in a new heaven and a new earth with new, perfect bodies. “For God so loved the world (us), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (trusts) in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16.) Hopefully, we who are concerned about prostate cancer will live for many years. But as we age we wonder what comes after this current life? Do we just cease to exist? We begin to focus on eternal values. We are eternal beings created to have fellowship with God forever. But we need to be sure where we will spend eternity and never be separated from God. Just after citing the famous golden rule, Jesus Himself said “for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:14). Jesus has also promised when He said “I came that we may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10.) My sincere wish in writing this site is one day to meet many of you men who may have read this website and enjoy your fellowship forever in perfect bodies with no concern about prostate cancer or any other condition.