Reflections on a Diagnosis I Never Wanted to Hear

This month’s contribution comes from Roger Heuser, Ph.D., Professor of Leadership Studies at Vanguard University:

Late on a Tuesday afternoon, while reviewing my lecture notes for an evening class, I received a call from the doctor who had recently removed a cyst from my arm. He told me that a second pathology report from UCLA was “interesting and challenging.” It was lymphoma.

My immediate prayer exposed my denial, “O God, let this be a mistaken pathologist’s report!” At a later date I heard the hematologist say the words, “Stage four.” Cancer has been rare in my family, so there were other medical conditions one might expect with my gene pool – but not cancer. I had no preparation for a reaction.

My wife Gayle and I had established a healthy habit for nearly twenty years — we maintain a “daily office” every morning with coffee, prayer, scripture reading, silence, conversation, and walking. Two practices we’ve added to our morning ritual in the last year are anointing with oil (or a massage), and reciting a prayer by 16th century St Ignatius, Anima Christi (Soul of Christ).

Roger Heuser, Vanguard UniversityWe prayed, as we always have prayed, for openness to divine healing and the daily grace of faith, hope, and love from the almighty, loving God who desires to share good gifts with us.

I have had no symptoms or treatment since the lymphoma was discovered in November, 2011. Yet, after five PET/CT scans, the radiologist noted in January that the “decreasing metabolic activity … probably represents treated lymphoma.”

Growing up in a Pentecostal minister’s family that has experienced a number of healings, I still have much to learn about being treated by the Divine Physician. I also have much to learn from my wife about becoming a soul friend who companions another on a challenging journey.

I submit this with gratitude for each day, and for the days to come!

Roger Heuser, Ph.D. is Professor of Leadership Studies at Vanguard University, specializing in leadership studies, spirituality, and practical theology. Contact Dr. Heuser at

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