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On the Journey
By Rick Hamlin

Battle Won

Some might say that Bob lost his battle to cancer, but I figure he won it. Big time.

I don’t know why we use that phrase “battle with cancer” as though every treatment, every dose of chemo, every round of radiation, were an armed battalion letting their weapons fly. The Marne, the Somme, Iwo Jima, the invasion of Normandy, the Surge all put together.

But the battle I’ve seen waged by loved ones who’ve been plagued with cancers of every stripe is one of emotions and faith and finding hope when there was no hope, praying through pain and fear.

Rick Hamlin and his friend Bob.Bob fought that campaign a long time ago, long before the cancer took him. I’ve written about Bob here before. He and I have worshipped in the same church for years, sung together, prayed together, served on committees together, loved each other as we loved the Lord.

He got the terrible diagnosis more than two years ago, and he wasn’t supposed to live for too many months. He was scared. Of course he was scared. He was young, if I dare say that someone of the same vintage as me was young, certainly too young to die. Way too young.

But he won his most important skirmish during Lent a year and a half ago, a Waterloo if there ever was one. He told me about it this past Ash Wednesday, remembering, “I prayed and I prayed back then, Rick, to be cured, to be healed.” 

“We’ve been praying, too,” I said. 

“What finally came to me was an enormous trust. I could say to God, ‘Whatever comes, Lord, is going to be all right, as long as you’re there with me.’ And it has been all right.”

He never gave up the treatments and the hospital visits and the prospect of surgery. But he gave us hope with his outrageously cheerful, energetic personality. When another friend said–was it only two weeks ago?–that Bob was going into hospice, I figured, “Yeah. They’ll probably send him home for being too healthy.” 

That last month of his life he served on a very important committee at church. Didn’t miss a meeting, even though he had to phone in from a hospital bed to follow all the discussions and contribute to them. He stayed on the line for hours. 

It turned out that that last meeting was his last church meeting. Despite my expectations, he didn’t last long in hospice, not at all. The email came on a Sunday morning. He was gone.

I miss him tremendously, miss his laugh, miss his impish sense of humor, miss his dedication, his smarts, his love of people, his faith. But I refuse to say that he “lost his battle with cancer.” He won it. Big time. And none of us will forget it.

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine and the author of 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without. To learn more about the book and explore your own prayer journey, watch this video.