The Thought of Cancer (Thriving in Hard Times Week 1)
“Oh no,” the ENT doctor said when he saw the lump on my neck. “That’s not good,” came once he felt it. “We need to get a sample today.” He turned to his computer and began to type.
For six weeks this lump has been growing. I went to my primary doctor the week after I found it. No one has said it’s not a big deal. One test has led to another. Labs, ultrasounds, CT scans, and now, a biopsy. In all this time, no one has said not to worry. And unfortunately, I know the truth about cancer. It is a big deal. It grows. It can kill.
“I’d like you to be honest with me,” I said to the doctor. “I’m not freaking out, but my best friend died from cancer so I really want to know. Do you think that’s what this is?”
“I’m almost positive.” Just the thought of his words still stings. He went on to say the prognosis with lymphoma is good, we caught it early, we can start to treat it as soon as we know.
But at that moment, so much changed.
I’d like to share with you the process of thinking. The realities that have come about. These are not bad realities, nor are they ones that only come in the face of our mortality. These realities have the power to shape and change your life as you never thought possible.
What the thought of cancer changes:
It changes your priorities. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3
For years I’ve multi-tasked to the highest degree. My days are full from beginning to end. It was not necessarily too much nor even from a lack of ability to say no. I’m a wife, teacher, homeschool mom, author, speaker, minister of the Lord. Thinking I have cancer doesn’t change any of that, but it does change my priorities. Now, nothing is more important than God, my family, and my health. How can I draw closer to God? What do I need to do for my family? What is most important for me to be well? Those are the thoughts that fill my mind each day. Everything else falls lower on my to-do list.
It changes your friendships. A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. ~ Proverbs 17:17
I haven’t been the super social person I once was for years. When my bestie had cancer, my free-time went to help her. Then it was easier to lose myself in my writing while going through grief. The possibility of what I may face has reminded me of the friendships I have. I’ve cried on the phone with friends I haven’t spoken to for years, but I know when they say, “Whatever you need,” they mean it. I know if this is the road I must walk, God will bring to the front new friends who know the way. It has also reminded me to have coffee or dinner with friends rather than simply talk about it. Time is precious, as are conversations and hugs. Sometimes we lose sight of that in this age of texting and social media.
You notice more when people smile and perform acts of kindness. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. ~ Romans 12:10
Maybe because everything within you feels out-of-sorts. Maybe because you feel unlucky. I would guess that even the biggest saint has his or her “why me?” moment when diagnosed with cancer. When you face the public carrying this silent burden inside you, a smile from a stranger, someone holding the door open, or offering to let you cut in front of them at the grocery store, shows that they care. It means someone sees you, even if they don’t see your burden. And it makes a hard day a little more manageable.
It changes your relationship with God. Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice. ~Psalm 55:17
This is something that could go either way. I did have the moment of “why” and “how,” but no sooner did the questions come then the Holy Spirit said, “Stop.” Only God knows the answers to those questions. If I dwell on them, I will succeed in dividing my heart and pulling farther from God. Instead, I call on the Lord to be with me. I look for Him in the midst of the hardships, in the doctors and the people I encounter. After the first ENT did the biopsy I mentioned above, he placed his hands on my arms, stared into my eyes, and said, “You’ll be okay.” A peace rushed over me as I felt the words were from the Lord, not him. I read the Bible when I’m scared. I read it when I’m discouraged. I listen to it when I can’t sleep. I will allow this to change my relationship with the Lord. I will allow it to draw me closer to Him than ever before.
Worship music becomes an anthem for your soul. Praise the Lord! Let all that I am praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord as long as I live. ~ Psalm 146: 1-2.
For the first several days I used worship music to drown out my negative thoughts. I tell you, my soul worshiped on a level it never had. Maybe because now more than ever I need God to be my rescuer, my redeemer. The words of the artist became the cry of my heart. They released hope in my spirit. They renewed my soul. I’ve started my FIGHT playlist, those songs that carry me to that new level of worship so whether I’m facing tests, diagnosis, or chemo, I can sing my way to victory.
Time stands still. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” ~ Matthew 6:34
A friend recently asked if the kids were getting excited. I just stared at her, not understanding. That’s when she added “About Christmas.” It’s almost a week into December and we still have Thanksgiving decorations up. I don’t know when, or if, I will have the strength to put up Christmas stuff. It’s not that I’m dwelling on the negative, I’m just truly trying to get through each day. I can’t see past next week, and that’s okay. As the Bible says, today has its own worries.
You rely on the prayers of others. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. ~ James 5:16
It’s not because of a lack of faith but from exhaustion. The thought of fighting for your life is a burden that’s too big to carry alone. When you surround yourself with praying people, the burden lifts. I still pray for myself, though most of the time I simply say, “God, please” because He knows my heart. But the peace that surrounds me all day long? I know that comes from the prayers of warriors who are walking this road with me.
My one week wait has turned into two. But God is still good, despite the complications of the second biopsy (that’s a blog for another time). Regardless of the diagnosis, I’m thankful for what this wait has taught me. That whole “working things for the good of those who love Him?” Yeah, this is just a few ways God will do that. Now to sit back and continue to watch for His glory.
Consider the lessons I shared above. Which are realities in your life? Are there any you need to put into practice? Share your struggle if you feel comfortable so we can come alongside you in prayer. The hard stuff can change us, friend. Our job? To allow it to change us for HIS glory.