“Mr. Lee: You have lymphoma.”
Updated: Mar 2
On February 28th, 2020, Sean Lee, Grace Community Church’s pastor of Connection was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This blog includes many topics, but Sean will use it as a clearinghouse of information about his fight.
“Mr. Lee: You have lymphoma.”
I heard those words six hours ago after my visit with my otolaryngologist and they still haven’t sunk in fully. Not me – that’s someone else. But it is me. I kind of knew it when I felt the small “thing” in the back of my throat – like a pill that didn’t get swallowed. I felt fine. I could still work out and lift weights. I was still able to sing – even double Christmas concerts for Grace and Handel’s Messiah in the Roswell Symphony Orchestra Choir. But I kind of knew … something is not right.
I went to my primary care physician, Dr. Rey Martinez, and he said, “Just to be safe, let’s get an X-Ray.” And that’s when they found the bump – just under the back of my tongue.
Dr. Jan Hobbs was initially a part of my care, but because he was retiring, I had to go see Dr. Thomas Reich down in Carlsbad. He looked at the X-Rays and looked at the scope and said, “Let’s schedule a biopsy tomorrow.”
On Wednesday, February 26th, Brenda and I drove back down to Carlsbad for my biopsy. I had to be under general anesthesia, so the last thing I recall was my sweet wife gathering her things to wait while I did my thing.
When I awoke she was crying. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’ve seen this before and it doesn’t look good. We’ll have to wait for the pathology report, but come back on Friday and we’ll talk about it.”
For forty-eight grueling hours, we waited. And that’s when he said the words that changed my life.
First, the actual pathology report is that I have non-Hodgkins lymphoma affecting my lymph nodes on the left side of my neck. And that’s all we know right now. That “bump” is a tumor and will need to be dealt with. But the results on that are unknown; we’re still waiting a second opinion from The Cleveland Clinic. I do not know the grade, stage or extent of the involvement of the lymphoma. I just know that the enemy has been revealed.
Next, I need a well-armed army – special forces, actually. At Dr. Martinez’s suggestion, Brenda had already been in contact with M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston, TX, and we’re now just waiting for them to give us the actual appointment to get things rolling. My forward operating base coordinator is Brenda. She has been amazingly focused and organized throughout this ordeal. I often tell people that she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me – that all good things in my life have happened because of her. It’s true. And now she is fighting for my life. Thank you, Jesus, for Brenda.
How does this change ministry for you?
I don’t know. I know we’ll have to be gone for consultations, treatments, check-ups, tests … I’m worried about the time gone. I hope that some of my treatments can be done remotely – like in Roswell, as directed by MD Anderson, or perhaps Lubbock. I don’t know. But I’ll do my best to complete my work as needed. The Connection Team is the best in Roswell. I know they’ll do their part because it is already their ministry, anyway.
What is the Lord teaching you?
It was Brenda who came up with this great idea: “Why don’t we have a theme word/title, verse and song?” At first I thought – that’s kinda cute – but now, I’m convinced more than ever that she’s right.
Marriage, for us, is OUR discipleship together. God is teaching us to be more like Christ by the way we learn to love each other. “Til death do us part,” is what we promised in 1991 – until now, it’s never been fully tested. Also, both of our children, Hudson and Olivia, are now out of the house, and I’ve wondered: “What will happen for us as a couple now that the kids are gone?” I cannot say exhaustively, but I can say now, it includes this fight.
Our theme words: Not Afraid.
Our theme song: “Not Afraid” by Jesus Culture.
Our theme Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-4.
I’m not afraid of death. Honestly, the way concerns me. But as the old hymn says, “But I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” I have not a shadow of doubt on my heart whither I go.
But I do not believe that time is yet. I have at Grace many people who are cancer survivors. I know they will help me and support me at the right times – I will glean a lot from their experience.
I’m just glad I’m here with the people that I love. The people that I’m not ashamed to live with nor have the privilege of dying with.
How Can You Help Me?
You can pray for me. Pray that I’ll have supernatural intervention on my behalf to miraculously deliver me. Pray that if God chooses to allow me to walk a path of suffering through treatments to gain a healthy recovery, I’ll have sufficient courage to do so. Pray that my treatment team will have wisdom and insight into my condition. Pray for the efficacy of every plan, medication, and radiation treatment.
Please pray for Brenda. She’s never been the wife of a cancer patient, so it’s emotionally and spiritually burdening for her. Some of you may have personal experience of what this is like. You know how to pray for her.
Have patience with me. I’m already feeling overwhelmed by love from people I’ve needed to tell before today … but I also feel my capacity to answer every question from every inquiry is overloading me. I love notes in the mail. Please send them – but just know that I won’t answer all of them. I know you'll have a lot of questions - I hope this blog will answer some of them.
Believe me when I say: “I love you and I’m so glad you’re my family.” The greatest privilege of any person is to find home. Not just a house, but a home: a place where you fit in your community, and that community responds in kind. Roswell is my home. We didn’t grow up here, but people treat me as if I did. My kids grew up here and went to school with our kids. It would be an honor to die and be buried here because this is my home. No one wants disease or death. But it comes. And if it comes, I’d rather it be here with you.
Other than that, stay tuned!