Christian Faith

No Tax on Faith: Matt Lindland Cancer Journal #1

lindland, prostate cancer
Matt Lindland -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

In the previous edition of the Coach Lindland’s Report, US National Team head coach Matt Lindland detailed the discovery that he had developed prostate cancer just prior to the New Year. The initial treatment plan called for, in fact, no treatment. As outlined in the report and below, Lindland’s PSA numbers and Gleason Score allowed for a temporary wait-and-see approach. Treatment was only to become availed once Lindland’s numbers increased to a level necessitating further intervention. That time has now arrived. 

Given Lindland’s strong Christian perspective, this journal entry and others to potentially follow will be located here under 5PM’s ‘Christian Faith’ category. For those interested in prostate cancer and where/how to inquire about symptoms and screening, please refer to the Prostate Cancer Foundation

Communication has been an area that we have wanted to improve in the Greco-Roman program. In the spirit of that effort, I wanted to share something that I have been going through, and how I am handling the situation. 

It was right around Christmastime last year. I had undergone a third prostate biopsy, which revealed cancer in my prostate. This I learned after consulting with my doctor following that procedure. He urged me to schedule surgery immediately. What else should I have expected? He’s a surgeon, of course he wanted to operate as soon as he could. 

My wife Angie and I sat and talked. We went back to my original urologist and decided that the best course of action was to actively monitor any symptoms along with whatever the numbers were from my blood work. 

This was a reasonable and responsible plan due to my Gleason Score and PSA numbers. I had not even turned 50 yet and was, am, in very good physical health. The idea wasn’t to just kick the can down the road as a means of procrastination. It was a legitimate option given my age and health status, along with my PSA readings and Gleason Score. Plus, it provided an opportunity to research and better understand what the next steps might entail if those numbers deviated. 

I consulted with surgeons, radiologic technicians, and patients who have experienced this process. I educated myself on everything that I felt I needed to know about prostate cancer in addition to the pro’s and con’s of each treatment plan. 

By February, we were so focused on the then-upcoming Pan-American Olympic Games Qualifier and the Olympics themselves that it was as though I didn’t have the time to remain consumed with cancer, or even what my diagnosis really meant. I was concentrating on what we needed to do to qualify weight classes and move our program forward. And after the Pan-Am Qualifier ended, I felt extremely encouraged about the direction in which we were heading. We locked down four of six weights in Ottawa. It was a blessing. Only two more to go. We got this — that was my feeling in March, as it is now. 

Then the pandemic hit. 

We had no idea what we were in for at that time. So much uncertainty. Not much has changed. All of the supposed medical experts and government authorities originally told us “two weeks to slow the curve”, and after that, we would be getting back to normal. Even as I sit here writing this, there is certainly nothing “normal” about 2020. I have wondered, ‘Is this the price to pay for being a blessed nation and a blessed people?’ Maybe? But no matter how bad things appear to be currently in the US, there is nowhere else on the entire planet I would rather live. God bless America. 

 Eventually, we retreated to our little cabin in the Oregon woods, to block out the noise and grab a little peace. 

The time in Oregon was precious. I was able to meet with my grandmother, my dad, my sister, my cousins. My kids were present. Angie and I allocated time for daily paddling on the river. We observed herds of elk, witnessed baby eagles take their first flights. It was a spectrum of experiences only nature can offer. We saw the salmon return to the Columbia River Basin, and had the chance to paddle alongside them up Big Creek to their spawning beds. In between, I worked on the property by cutting down trees and chopping firewood. Most importantly, I had the privilege to baptize our daughter Robin, who also got engaged to be married. 

While there, I was monitoring my blood work and my PSA numbers were rising. This was not what I had been praying for. I spoke to my doctor and scheduled more blood work. The numbers? Still increasing. I understood the need to return to Colorado that way I could meet with my doctors and begin a different treatment plan for cancer. During that visit I was asked a lot of questions. We agreed that my plan up to that point had been solid. 

Fortune is always there for us. But the herd provides only so much protection, and only for so long. Eventually, our time comes — be it good luck, bad luck, or ultimately, death. That’s how it goes. Get used to it. Better yet, get ready for it. 

The good news? God so graciously gave us his Son and said, “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). We are allowed into an eternal relationship with God because of his grace. We are strongly exhorted to live with the knowledge and understanding that this relationship is maintained by the same grace in which it began — and not by anything we can do or strive to accomplish. 

There are many things we are called to do as children of God, many ways to serve and honor Him. There are many ways to be obedient, to seek after holiness and demonstrate our faith. But — never fall into the trap of thinking, not even for a moment, that what we do adds to our salvation by grace. As much as we all need Jesus, which we most certainly do because Christ is absolutely necessary for our salvation, Christ is also absolutely and entirely sufficient.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) This concept is manifested in good deeds, and there is a distinction to realize. It is not our good deeds that can save us, which Jesus makes clear when He rebukes those who may think otherwise — “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; away from Me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:23) Nor is it simply belief, as described by James (2:19) when he says, “You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder!” Further in the text, James enunciates this idea by explaining, “You see that his faith and actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (2:22) 

Faith, when true, cannot be separated from good deeds. Rather, a saving faith includes good deeds as a natural byproduct.   

Everything in life costs what it costs. There is always a tax, always a price to pay. And these taxes are not just the type levied on your financial income. There are many kinds of taxes in life. You can argue with them. You can go to great lengths to evade them. Or, you can simply pay these taxes and enjoy the fruits of what you get to keep. 

We know what these taxes look like. Waiting around in an airport or train station is a tax on traveling. Rumors and gossip are taxes that stem from acquiring a public persona. Theft is a tax on abundance and having things that other people desire. Disagreements and frustrations are taxes placed on even the happiest of relationships. Stress, anguish, and worry are all taxes that come attached to success. On and on and on it goes. 

Taxes can incite anger, or you can accept their payment. Income taxes are a good problem to have. Far better than, say, making so little there is nothing left to pay the government, or living in anarchy and having to pay for every basic service in a struggle against nature. In either case, remember: there is a definitive way to get out of paying taxes both literally and figuratively. It is called death. 

Cancer, is this a tax for enjoying a great life? Is this to arouse depression, sadness, or anger? What good can come out of these feelings? The way I see it, why not me? I’m about due. 

Remain calm and accept reality. Stop fighting the battles we are never going to win, and instead, focus on what needs to be done in order to grapple with the real problem and prevail in this bout. In the meantime, it is also imperative to stay grateful for all of the blessings and opportunities ahead. 

The world wants to know if you are brave and steadfast. What opponents have you faced? Do you know how to fight, and what it takes to win? No one can ever know what they are capable of — including and especially ourselves — unless we accept the challenge and step on the mat. Will you hope for a can to crush? Or will you rise up to take on the toughest opponent yet and fight with all of your heart? As my buddy Brandon Paulson says, you have to “love the fight”. Let your actions record a response. Let your actions remind you why being bold and courageous is the most important thing. 

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