A Comedy

“‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?'” — Luke 12:25

From James:

I have had a cough for two weeks now, so I went to the doctor yesterday after an evening of feeling very bad and having a fever. I insisted on getting a chest x-ray, because I suspected pneumonia. The doctor reluctantly wrote up an order for the x-ray, saying that I probably just had allergies. I got the x-ray yesterday afternoon.

As soon as I arrived at work this morning, I got a call from the doctor’s office. The receptionist said they needed me to come in to “discuss the results” of the chest x-ray.  They were mysterious about it. I asked if it was pneumonia. She wouldn’t answer.

When I finally met with the doctor, he was somber. He rolled his chair up close to me.

“I’m glad you convinced me to get that chest x-ray. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you do have something in your lungs, and it’s not pneumonia. It’s a 5 cm mass of some kind, which is pretty big.”

That measurement — 5 cm — has a bad history with me. It’s roughly the size of So Young’s brain tumor.

“Couldn’t it just be pneumonia or bronchitis?” I asked. I felt as if I was pleading with him for hope. I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation.

“No, definitely not.”

We discussed what it might be. If it is lung cancer, it is most likely primary (that is, not resulting from cancer in another part of the body). It could also be secondary, which would mean that it is indicative of late-stage cancer of another kind, such as melanoma (skin cancer), kidney cancer, bladder cancer, or a handful of other kinds of cancer. My family has a strong history of melanoma. It could also be some kind of fungus, but that is rare. He said that the mass wasn’t there when I’d had a chest x-ray two years ago.

“I have seen miracles both ways,” he said. “I have seen cases like this turn out remarkably bad and deteriorate quickly, and I have seem them turn out remarkably good.”

He prescribed a CT scan to get a closer look at the mass. I think his last words to me were “good luck.”

I called my mom first. I was crying within about a minute. She asked what she could do. We couldn’t think of anything right away but to pray. She had a lot of people praying for me throughout the day. I called Kenji next. He is lucky because he’s way up there on my list of people I call when I have bad news. He prayed for me, too.

My parents and I agreed I shouldn’t tell So Young until the CT results were in.

I spend a lot of the day waiting. Waiting is the worst part of almost everything in life. It tells you a lot about your heart, because when you wait, you think.

So Young always says she doesn’t worry for herself dying, but mostly for me and the kids. I understood what she meant. For a Christian, dying is a comedy, because life ends with a wedding, but I thought about the tragedy it would be for the kids to lose both parents. I thought about whether I had lived my life right. The verdict was inconclusive. I felt that I could have done a lot more for others.

I talked to Dad briefly while I waited for the CT scan. He is laid out with pneumonia. He said he thought I just had what he had and not to worry about it. That’s the other thing I learned: I worry about it. I immediately jump to the worst case.

For the rest of the day after the CT scan — picking up the kids from school, shopping for Shannon’s party supplies — I walked around with death-shaded glasses on. Everything took on a philosophical hue: all my bad habits in relief as a “bad way to live your life,” every interaction taking on new importance.

I wondered if I had some new perspective on So Young’s everyday life. I realized that in thinking about my own death, I was thinking too much about myself and not about her. How could two people face death together and not be completely self-absorbed? I resolved to live for her and others, even if I was dying.

And all that before I knew the results of the CT scan.

So Young, of all people, called to tell me the results while I was out with Shannon at Party City.

“The results of your CT scan are in. You have pneumonia.”

So Young didn’t know about any of it. She had no idea how it felt to hear that news.


26 Responses

  1. I read your story stunned by the prospect and wondering how….examining my own life….then I re read the last two lines and your title. What a lesson in perspective and living.

    • Hey neighbor! Great to hear from you on the blog! It is an amazing story, isn’t it? I’m sure God made that happen for a reason.

      • WOw..

  2. WOW! I have never been so happy for someone to have pneumonia in my life. Today was a down day for me due to a tragedy in a friend’s life this week, but I have found amazing comfort in both of your blogs (So Young’s “I prayed for a better testimony” will be with me all my days), so I decided to check in. I almost could not finish reading your posting today. I couldn’t bear it. I was in too much pain – no more! But I had to find out – and once again, not only has God shined his face but your blog has lifted me again. I do totally believe that the prayers said for you today were answered. I also believe that the perspective you gained today was meant to be. And I sit here humbled and shamed that your courage is so all encompassing and I am still thinking about “I” It is events like these that remind us that we are not in control and that is why it is so important to completely trust in the Lord. As I fast and pray for your family tomorrow, my focus will be on strengthening that trust, for your family, my family and all the families touched by this.

    • Kitti,

      Thank you so much for fasting and praying for us. I’m sorry about what has happened to your friend.

      I am glad the story blessed you. I just remember physically shaking at the doctor’s office. They took my blood, and the lady thought I was going to faint, but it was just the emotion of the moment, right after I found out. I told myself I was a “short-timer” here on this earth. But why would it take such an experience to make me realize that? We’re all short-timers.

      God bless you Kitti.


  3. Oh James, what a relief it is to hear that. Darn you for making me read through the entire post before learning of your diagnosis. I was somewhat alarmed when you weren’t there today for me to give you your “dinner,” and I was fully prepared for the guffaw (if any) of my choice of packaging. I left it on your chair late this morning. This afternoon I went to check on you to ensure you had recieved it and to see if you had any questions. My third walk over to you (*gasp* it’s like a mile away), I became alarmed because I remmeber thinking that this was a day that you were scheduled to be in office! WHAT is going on – of course, no news (or in your words, waiting leads you to thinking), was not good news for me.

    I’m sorry about your diagnosis – it is testimony that your immune system is down – understandably so, given the stress you and your family are enduring.

    Please let me know if I can bring the Gage family anything, even if it is as simple as filling meds.

    Thinking of you guys,

  4. Added afterthoughts:

    Stay healthy for So Young and the kids! Remember the power of positive thinking! It has been proven that this way of thinking can impact your body’s functions. I find that when I lose my ‘uppity’ ways, I almost immediately catch the seasonal colds and other stuff from the office. As long as I stay at my game of happiness, my body is as well.

    Get well soon!


    • Jennifer,

      Thank you for your continued thoughtfulness. Also, thanks for almost giving us a meal! 🙂 There’s no doubt stress is part of it. I’ve seen this happen to all of the adults taking care of So Young. I hope to see you at work soon!


      • James, got your number from Laura today and was going to text you to see if you wanted me to bring your stuff to you. I didn’t want to bother you, after much though. Let me know. I can come down this weekend. If needed, I can make dinner for you guys – are you good – do you have enough?

      • Jen,

        We are good to go, actually. Tonight we have Shannon’s slumber party. Richie is bringing dinner tomorrow, and one dinner usually lasts a couple of days. I’ll be back on Tuesday, since I’m taking her to treatment on Monday. We’ll touch base then. Thank you!


  5. Whew!! Feel better…and be good to yourself..

    • Thanks Debbie! But I am good to myself! Shouldn’t I be rewarded somehow? 🙂

  6. James, SO happy to hear you have pneumonia! Well, the alternative would be…

    You and So Young are such great witnesses to God’s grace and care in the midst of challenge. I am blessed by this blog!

    • Great to hear from you on the blog! Can you believe it? Crazy. What a day. God is good no matter what happens to us.

  7. Bro I still think it’s Pac-Man Fever.

  8. So Young and James — just wanted to say happy new year and that we have been following and praying for your family. Although often hard for me to see, I know God’s plan is perfect and I can’t wait to see what He does in your family this year!!
    Much love,
    Soogi, Matt, Landon and Livy

    • Soogi and Matt,

      As I recall, you guys are one of the reasons we are at Hopkins, because you connected us indirectly to Dr. Lim. Thank you! I never got a chance to say that. His first words to So Young when he saw us were, “You are loved, because a lot of people have been trying to contact me on your behalf over the last 24 hours.” We truly know we are loved through this entire experience. It is great to hear from you. Happy new year!


  9. What a relief James! Poor family I didn’t know Mark was down w/ pnuemonia as well.

    • Hey Sandy!

      Crazy, huh? Yeah, it is weird that Dad is so sick, because nothing can bring him down.

      I told So Young about your e-mail and says that the treatment is exhausting. She is really tired. She has food aversions and bloating. Her hair has started falling out in earnest. There’s no pain. Sometimes her vision is worse, sometimes better. So Young says that she appreciates your genuine concern. Your comments on the blog lift her spirits, she says.


  10. i think my heart stoped beating for a sec ore two there.keep reading and thinking of So Young and you guys all the time.if you need anything please let me know.

  11. My sweet son, Please rest. Rest in the Lord and sleep today. Let me take your ladies out while you rest. God has done a great job at creating our bodies, but we must take care of them. Let today be a day of rest.

  12. James, this posting made me cry. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. When I read the result, I thanked God for the result. Hope you get rid of this pneumonia soon. I guess your body is run down with all you guys have been through. Take care of yourself till you’re better. You’re no good to the rest of the family while you’re sick. I’m so glad it’s “just” pneumonia.

  13. WOW!!!!! i have been telling so many people about your blog, about so young & you & your family & ALL that God is doing while we were visiting out in CA but have not had a chance to read it in so long & then i read THIS!!!!! james you SCARED me…i was thinking…”LORD…what is this…what is ahppening?” but realizing…there are no mistakes w/ the Lord…He is soverign, good & perfect in ALL His ways! anyways…need to call you guys…still trying to get settled! love to the gage’s!

  14. James, WOW. I am so thankful for pneumonia. While not as severe, I had a doc tell me he thought I had a hairball after seeing my MRI……. yeah, it was my spicy burrito lunch. Continued prayers for all of you. Heal quickly, there is training to do. MCHH is coming up!


  15. “What an awful doctor” was my knee-jerk reaction to your story. Upon some bit of perspective and appreciation that can only be gained after-the-fact in such a case, I felt that the poor doctor was needed to play his role. However one may characterize what happened, it is one poignant story. As I began to read your story, I was overcome with a sense of dreadfulness and despair. But it has left me surprisingly with a strong impression that good came out of it.

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