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Home > 2013 > July Web Exclusives > We Need to Stop Eating Our Own

If you have never been told you might be dying, I highly recommend the experience.

For me it turned out to be a lifesaving and life-altering experience. Up until a few years ago, I was immortal. Death was a scary little troll that visited other people, but not me. I had lived a charmed life. I had worked as a professional firefighter, a motorcycle was my mode of transportation, and I enjoyed hobbies that leaned towards the risky side. Never once did I feel that I was close to the end.

But life has a funny way of reshuffling the deck.

I was dealt a new hand one Friday morning in a hospital room in Denver, Colorado, as several doctors made their way in to deliver their theories of my sudden illness. You see, over the previous four weeks, I had been putting on massive amounts of weight and experiencing swelling. I had already gone to one hospital; they misdiagnosed me and sent me home. I shrugged the whole thing off and was convinced that it would work itself out. It didn't.

One hundred pounds later, my caring wife and friends rolled me into a car and drove to Lutheran Medical Center on a Thursday evening. Twenty minutes later, I was told that I was in complete renal failure. My kidneys were no longer working, and the 100 plus pound-weight gain was actually water soaking into every crevice in my body, including my lungs.

"What? I have never had any major health issues. Ever. I drink tons of water. I exercise. I don't smoke, and I wear my seat belt. I hug my kids, read my Bible, and not once have I killed a unicorn. Why me?"

Of course, none of this information changed the fact that I was in bad shape.

The first and best outcome would be that I had a very rare type of syndrome. It was highly unlikely in people my age, but it was very treatable. I was hoping for this prognosis. Seeing the hope on my face, the doctors made sure to drive home the fact that it was statistically improbable. The other theories were less hopeful. One in particular got my attention because of the words they used. I was told it might be an "aggressive form of cancer."

The word cancer sucks all by itself, but when you add the word "aggressive," it brings it to DEFCON 1. It's like being told you have a really gifted cancer. Yes, this cancer is smart. It takes all AP classes. It's really disciplined and focused on killing you quickly. How come I don't have the lazy cancer? I wish they'd said, "Mr. Cheshire, your cancer is passive aggressive. It's going to make a veiled shot at you, but will never come right out and attack you. Odds are, it will just hang out in your body."

Why can't I have that cancer? Nope, I may have the aggressive one. And so with these two likely scenarios, they needed to do a biopsy to find out what it was.

Later that afternoon, before the biopsy, I was informed that they would have the results sometime on Monday. With that, the blizzard of white coats filed out of my hospital room and I was alone again. It only took me a few minutes to realize I was going to be lying in this bed for three days with the idea of an early death marinating in my soul. I immediately thought of my three young kids and wife. I said over and over to myself, "But I had so many more plans." It took a while to quiet my mind and do something productive. By that afternoon, I was making all kinds of lists: lists of my favorite things in life, lists of things I wanted to do if I didn't die. I made lists of the things I would improve as a husband, father, and friend. And then I came to my job.

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Posted: July 8, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 20 comments

Sunday Jones

October 07, 2013  11:46am

Wow, even some of these comments show that we would rather eat our own than try and understand the response of others. Difference of opinion is good. Besides, the walk of shame comment, I interpreted as what the man must have been feeling when he walked back into that church to retrieve his wife's purse. Not that it was accurate, nor what the pastor felt, but what the man must have felt since he tried to make a statement with his departure and then had to come back. Pastor Mike did not say it was an accurate definition of what should have been felt but his interpretation of what it must have felt like to the man. He may have been wrong with the guess since he did not tak to the man but I think Pastor MIke proved his point by the reactions it got... we would rather eat our own and comment negatively than to dig further for understanding!!!

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August 29, 2013  1:16am

We left church because it had just become a place of service for us. Others sought us out knowing what our gifts were, always of course in the name of Christian service. Shortly after we left, our son and his girlfriend discovered she was pregnant and they weren't married. Our church was also a place where those who could not keep up a perfect facade did not stay. We knew then we would not be able to return, a pregnancy out of wedlock had never happened there to our knowledge. The minister posted a letter to us and separately to them. Used to pastoring the perfect, he entirely missed the point and clearly had no understanding or experience of the situation in all its messyness. We chose to support our son and his girlfriend and have a lovely grandchild who is beautiful and happy with devoted and together parents. I would love to go to a church where I could find true friendship and acceptance but am afraid to try in case my fingers get burnt once again.

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yvette moore

August 28, 2013  11:49am

Great story, bitter-sweet, but great. I'm glad you're free, Mike.

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John Caldwell

August 10, 2013  4:51pm

I am a leader in my church men's group. I asked to speak to one of the men in private. I was going to ask him if he could bring himself to not be mean anymore (verbally abusive) to a homeless man that I had been bringing to church for over a year. I told him that I was not asking him to be nice, I was just asking him to stop being mean. He interrupted me and began arguing with me. I asked him if he realized that he was arguing with me about being mean to a homeless man in church and asked if he could see any irony in that. After watching his tobacco filled mouth begin to quiver with anger, I just walked away. These are the kinds of things that I encounter regularly with men and women in my church. My prayers are offered for ministers everyday. I cannot imagine all that they have to deal with from "Christian folks." My goal at church is to be our minister's best friend. He has enough negativity to deal with without me adding to it.

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July 30, 2013  8:48pm

ladies, 2 things, I believe that the "walk of shame" story was more of a guy joke(no offense), and Have you actually read the book yet? Before you tear each other apart over petty differences of Interpretation. Just saying. Love you guys

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