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February 11, 2005

Popping Cancer: Prehistory

So I was doing this bone marrow transplant. I had been in the hospital for about three weeks and I was weak as a newborn. Some days I couldn't sit up in the bed. I needed transfusions and IV nutrition.

This one particular day I heard from a nurse that the lady next door had a nosebleed. Those of you familiar with bone marrow transplants know this is a bad thing. It wouldn't stop bleeding. It had started at about 10 a.m. and continued until the present, about 6 p.m. She had been getting constant transfusions all day to make up for the steady stream.

I pulled myself out of bed with the nurse's help and shuffled my way next door, gripping my IV pole for dear life. I sat next to the poor lady's bed and just held her hand for a while. Finally, I had to get back to my own room and my own illness, but something had happened to me that day, or rather, something had started to become clear.

I was learning, after years of being a Christian, that there were other people in the world than just me, and those people suffered in ways that were just as real to them as my own suffering was to me. I started visiting the other patients on the bone marrow unit when I had the strength.

Eventually I got out of that hospital. As I recovered, it turned out that the world is full of people, and each of them has their own struggles and pains. I knew that I couldn't fix what was happening to them, but I suspected I might be able to make some kind of difference, even if only to comfort them.

When I was strong enough and wise enough, we got out of Dodge. There's a great story about Jesus when he returned to his home town and started trying to teach. "Isn't this Jesus, the son of Joseph the Carpenter?" folks asked. As if to say "We saw you grow up, and now you're trying to be some bigshot miracle teacher?"

If I had stayed, I could see the same thing happening. "Isn't this Dan Champion, that goofy guy who always makes with the jokes? Who does he think he is suddenly talking all pastoral?"

And so I worked for a while as a chaplain in a downtown Richmond Emergency Room, and in the hospital's ICUs. I wanted to be where the crisis was. People with real needs came in and I did what I could to get in the soup with them, to cry alongside them and hold their hands. Some days, I think I even made a difference.

Long story short, that became my calling. It became who I was. Over the years since, I have worked in nursing homes and churches, always trying to learn to care about those in pain better.

Today, I mailed my disability forms. When they are accepted, I will officially no longer be a pastor.

That central calling, that purpose-giving self-identity I've been working on for so long? All but over.

What do you do when you've worked so hard and long at what you truly felt was your calling from God, and you carved your life out around it, and suddenly it's taken from you?

I know, I know. Half of you think I'm being too dramatic. The other half are already typing little messages of encouragement (Hang in there, Baby!). Both groups stop it. Again, it's ok for me to be sad about this today, and I suspect I'll be fine by afternoon - I know my worth does not depend on what I can DO. I'll be fine.

But for right now, this morning, with the sun not even up yet, it really and truly feels like my life is over.

There's a blue envelope in my mailbox that says so.

Posted by Dan at February 11, 2005 07:02 AM

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Yeah, well...bummer. I always wondered what I'd do if I were a musician and I went deaf. Or a painter and then I went blind. This must be what it feels like.

Listen, for what it's worth, the sun's not up yet here in Louisiana, but I can hear a bird singing outside my window.

I'm just saying.

Posted by: Ara at February 11, 2005 07:33 AM


Yeah, I see your point - at least I don't live in Louisiana.

Posted by: Dan at February 11, 2005 07:39 AM

Although it seems rather presumptuous on my part to leave a comment on something so personal without every having met in person, especially as some time has passed since the post and you had told encouragers not to comment, I still felt pressed to leave something that I'd thought about many times before while reading.

It is likely only small comfort when something so central is lost, but the old optimistic 'God never closes a door but that he opens a window' might hold. (Or at least it might hold in at least a few cases!)

I had read odds and ends here before the cancer thing, but had never settled into reading regularly. I've made that transition, but not out of morbid curiousity. Rather, I find it inspiring to read the struggles. It puts things into perspective in my own life.

But more importantly than that, I continue to read because of the lessons you're teaching, whether you intend to teach them or not. You're showing people that no matter what the struggle, it's okay to get discouraged sometimes, so long as you don't give up the fight. That's a rare message today.

So perhaps you have not entirely lost your capability to minister to others. Perhaps it's just changed. Either way, I thank you for continuing.

I hope that the sun has come up (both literally and metaphorically) and that this message is not unwelcome. God bless.

Posted by: Melissa at February 11, 2005 10:30 AM

Well, Dan, I only want to say you can't get out of it THAT easy. A few blue forms in a mailbox? Pshaw. Ppphhhhttt! Give me a break. The perverseness of the thing (that they don't tell you ahead of time), the "small print" of God's calling, is that you'll always be a pastor. Were when you first pushed your IV pole into that lady's room, are today while you're sad and writing your blog. Life sentence, man. Don't think you can escape! ;)

Posted by: Gail at February 11, 2005 10:50 AM

Being a lifelong resident of Dodge, I think the real reason you left is to duck The Cup competition. As for your stated reason for leaving Dodge, I think you would have been safe to stay. Believe it or not, you’re not quite as popular as Jesus was or is today. All your friends and family wish you would come back for good! We miss you both very much! You could have a fresh start. The 15 or so residents of Dodge who know you will welcome you back. The rest of the 1.2 million people will not know one miracle worker from another. Think about it.

Posted by: Jim at February 11, 2005 11:05 AM


But all my STUFF is here!

Posted by: Dan at February 11, 2005 11:28 AM

Dan? If you're still feeling sad when readin' this.... Pretend you are Zack's character in GS... Vision what seems like that endless black hole and just BLOODY SCCCCCCRRREEEEAAAAAAMMMM! If you don't feel a little better after that? Maybe you can go pee again for the nurse... But you're right... It is okay for you to feel like you do...

Posted by: Cam at February 11, 2005 11:32 AM

Being in the throes of losing the career I loved due to physical issues your post twanged a huge emotional response from me. It made me realize a few truths about myself. I think these truths apply to the both of us.
I won't bore you with what I realized about me, but as for you... You still have a brain, and a voice, and more than your share of eloquence.
Your days of going into hospital rooms to comfort or council or hold hands are in that blue envelope in your 'outgoing' box. But your amazing gift, the ability to reach the heart and mind of a complete stranger, just through the medium of the printed word, that you still have in spades m'dear.
No, it isn't the same. No it isn't your first or even your deepest calling. God sometimes pulls us away from our clearest path. What He gives us instead is what He knows we need much more, grumble about it though we may. That gift is challenge.

Posted by: Kimm at February 11, 2005 11:44 AM



Posted by: Ara at February 11, 2005 11:47 AM


Posted by: Cam at February 11, 2005 12:04 PM


Thank you for being vulernable enough to share that! I have added you to my prayers. If you are ever in need of someone who is a little removed from your personal situation and yet can understand it like most cannot to talk with, please feel free to e-mail me.

The addy is: cameybelieves@sbcglobal.net

May your day be filled with more sunshine than rain!

Posted by: Cam at February 11, 2005 01:23 PM

We'll bring all of your stuff back the week after.
Have a yard sale first.
I hate moving people's stuff and then watching them throw it away once I unload it.
Are you sure the nurse wasn't laughing at something else?

Posted by: Jim at February 11, 2005 02:53 PM

Your STUFF? Let me recommend "Cartwright Movers"...since 2004. They are amazing. Low Budget movers never met anybody like "Cartwright Movers". Two Guys and a Truck? Amateurs! This is one guy and a bunch of friends.

Just make sure you pack the clubs where you can get to them easily. I don't want to hear the old, "There tucked way back in the back of Cartwright's moving truck" excuse.

Again, that was "Cartwright Movers". They're in the book. (Aren't they Jim?)

Posted by: Doug at February 11, 2005 02:58 PM

Not yet.
Jim Cartwright
Founder of Cartwright Movers
"We'll Bring You Home."

Posted by: Jim at February 11, 2005 10:09 PM

Cartwright Movers

"We'll bring you home. And we'll bring pieces of your stuff. And maybe even some other folks' stuff."

Dependable. Professional. Slightly shaky. Cartwright Movers.

Posted by: Dan at February 11, 2005 10:14 PM

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