I have reached another anniversary date since my cancer journey began last year. This week marks the beginning of my radiation treatments of one year ago. Every week day for seven and a half weeks, I made my way to the Sandton Oncology Clinic for my daily dose of radiation.
During that time period, I interacted with a variety of cancer patients. Since my treatments were scheduled at the same time each day, I had anticipated that I would spend time with the same people scheduled for the same time of day. My assumption turned out to be totally wrong. Rarely did I see the same patients. Instead, I met new people almost daily. Some were quiet and kept to themselves. Others were gregarious and outgoing. Some were positive. Others were not.
What made the difference?
How could some one facing the advent of their mortality respond with love, hope and grace, while another cancer patient to their right or to their left in the waiting room sat with bitterness and despair?
All of us were cancer patients. The cancers we were dealing with had attacked our brains, our prostates, our livers, our breasts, and lungs (and more). The stages of cancer varied from one person to the next. The grades of the cancer cells we were fighting presented different levels of danger and aggression as well. There is no doubt that all of us were in the heat of battle. Yet, the longer I spent at the oncology clinic the more I was aware that we were at various levels of acceptance of our cancer situation.
Over the course of the year, I have observed many people go through hard times and not necessarily because of cancer. Once again, some embraced their challenges with courage and grace while others responded in anger. Soon, they sunk into a pit of depression. Why is there such a significant acceptance divide when difficulties arise in our lives between one person and the next? Why do some lean hard into their God and find His peace and comfort, while others cast their accusations, blame and anger against Him?
The prophet Jeremiah offers an explanation…
This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17: 5-8 NIV
I can tell you in all honesty that some of the cancer patients I spent time with last year felt that they were indeed cursed with cancer. They struggled with their impotency to defeat and kill their cancer foe by themselves. They were angry that such a thing could happen to them and some were angry at God for allowing it to happen.
At such times, we have a choice. We can choose to trust in our human strength to see us through a difficult situation or we can choose to rely upon our God; no matter what the outcome may be for us on earth. For me, I found that drawing upon my God to help me offered a supernatural strength and sustaining peace that I could never have manufactured on my own during the heat of cancer’s intensity. Never.
My confidence was found in my Savior and Lord then, and it is found in my Savior and Lord now.
When cancer came upon me without my notice, I was laid low. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. It was surreal. Yet, in the center of this upside-down-turned-all-around time was my God. As the roots of the tree were nourished by the stream waters, my God nurtured and nourished me with His living waters of love, truth, comfort, strength and even joy. Radiation’s heat was applied to my cancer cells to destroy them. Though its effects were challenging and painful at times, I chose to trust and remain close to my God and discovered God’s blessed reserves.
I had what is called ‘early stage’ breast cancer. For me, and early stage breast cancer patients like me, survival rates are high. However there is a 20-30% chance that breast cancer could return one day and that it could be an advanced stage cancer. The odds are in my favor that it will not come back and my oncologist believes that will be my story. Yet, I have follow-up appointments with my oncologist for many years to come…just to make sure that it doesn’t return.
That’s why I call my cancer story, a cancer journey. It’s a long walk with my God in which He ultimately knows where I’m headed. I continue living with the hope, grace and peace that I draw upon from my God. A cancer crisis entered my life just over a year ago now. The surgery and radiation treatments worked in my favor and I sit here as a cancer survivor. I journey onwards with my God feeling blessed, feeling confident, feeling faithful and feeling grateful for the year I’ve had and for the years ahead that are promised…for as long as my God decides.
Perhaps that is the difference between one cancer patient and another or one divorcee and another, or one fired employee and another or anyone facing a significant challenge. We each have the choice to accept and embrace the will of our God for our lives. We find that when we do, we do not fear. We do not worry. We do not succumb to bitterness of heart. We enjoy blessing, sweet assurance and abundant life on earth. We bear fruit in the name of our God for as long as our God decides.
I want that kind of life no matter how many more days I am given. I hope you do, too.
Photo by casamelo of Flickr