Post-Diagnosis by Michael Kelley

We hope you read the excellent article by Michael Kelley in our March issue. In his new book Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal, Kelley talks about the questions of faith that followed his 2-year-old son’s diagnosis with leukemia.

Here is an excerpt from the first chapter, immediately after Joshua receives his diagnosis.

In a span of moments that seemed like months, we had become “those people.” You know those people— the ones with the sick kid. The ones with the terminal disease. The ones with “issues.” The ones you don’t get too close to, not because you don’t care but because you don’t want to think about what life would be like if that happened to you. You know, those people.

The worst part is that we were not those people—we were the people who were supposed to “be there” for those people. I went to seminary for crying out loud! I was a professional Christian! We were a family of faith who believed in Jesus and His way of life, and as such we prepared ourselves to counsel those people. We filled our spiritual tool bag with Bible verses and theological sayings. We practiced good eye contact and carried tissues in our pockets to give to someone else. In all of our preparation to be with those people, we never prepared to be those people ourselves.

But I guess nobody ever really does. Nobody is ever prepared for the weight of the words, for the suddenness of this diagnosis. And maybe that’s why nobody really knows the right way to act when you become those people. But when you become those people, some things have to be done. Like, for example, making the phone calls.

Talk about being unequipped. I did not have the skill set to talk to the grandparents. The aunts and uncles. The friends. I didn’t have the emotional equipment. Heck, I didn’t even have the informational equipment. I certainly didn’t have the spiritual equipment, but the calls had to be made, and made they were. At great length I was able to articulate the diagnosis to both sets of our parents. The effort of squeezing those thousand-pound words out of my mouth made me gag several times, but after a long time in the courtyard of the hospital, I walked back inside to join my wife.



I found her eating pizza. Can you believe it? Freaking pizza! But here’s the thing—she had to eat pizza; when Joshua was diagnosed, Jana was two months pregnant with our second child. I don’t think either one of us realized how hungry we were until the sweet nectar of pork and cheese hit our lips, and we devoured what was in front of us. And then, in the middle of the feast, we started to laugh.

Truth be told, I’m not sure what it was that we laughed about, but something was funny and we laughed. And we laughed. Then we laughed more. I quoted a line from Steel Magnolias about laughter through tears; then we laughed at how ridiculous it was that I quoted Steel Magnolias. She made fun of me for my knowledge of chick flicks. I made fun of her for her inability to stop eating pizza.

The pizza helped a lot for some reason. Maybe it was a reminder that some things in life would still be stable and regular, like our need for food that’s bad for us. We would still sleep, still work, still live. And as we settled down a little bit and the initial shock of how life had just changed started to sink in, I had time to start processing some of those questions we were just beginning to have.

What does one do—one who believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ and gets paid for speaking and writing to others about how to do so better—what does someone like that do with news like this? At least in part, I think the right answer is to believe. Have faith. But what I began to realize is that up to that point in my life, faith had largely just been a noun.

Used by permission   Excerpt taken from Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal; A boy, cancer and God /Michael Kelley/c. 2012/B&H Publishing Group


michaelkelley.jpgMichael Kelley is a Bible study editor for LifeWay Christian Resources as well as a writer of several books and Bible studies. He is father to Joshua (5), Andi (3), and baby Christian and husband to Jana.

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