Cancer is Not My Name

“Sorry,” my doctor offered, “I have that effect on people. Let’s check your blood pressure after my examination.”

My heart was racing.

In less than 48 hours, I was about to undergo my third exam.  Chock it up to the thorough and thoughtful care of all three of my South African doctors. In each case, my doctors were evaluating whether my body was still cancer-free. You see, when it’s time for my annual cancer-check, I see all three; my doctor, my radiologist, and my oncologist.  And it’s not that they don’t trust each other and their evaluations – it’s that they all believe they must do their due diligence to make sure everything in me is still fine.

I appreciate that.

However, by the time I had reached my general practitioner on Friday afternoon after being with my radiologist and oncologist for significant amounts of time, and realized he was going to check me over good and proper, and do blood work, too, my fast-beating heart betrayed my anxiety over the past couple of days.

It’s crazy to me that even after almost seven years since my diagnosis, I still feel nervous about a cancer comeback.

It hasn’t helped that in recent months, I’ve been reminded by others that I was that ‘missionary girl with cancer.’

Last month, I encountered an acquaintance that I hadn’t seen in a few years, and her first question to me was, “Are you well? Are you still battling with cancer?”

Um, no.

I was gracious in my reply but realized that she had forgotten our visit just three years ago. She still associated me with cancer. This was probably because I had not been able to do something with her due to my surgery and cancer treatment schedule – seven years ago.

Then, just two weeks later, another acquaintance, someone I hadn’t seen for a while also asked, “How is your health? Are you okay? Has any of your cancer returned?”

And then, drat it all –

Worry, anxiety, fear, insecurity about a cancer-comeback began to haunt my thoughts and dreams.

I’d wonder.

Am I still okay?

Is there any new cancer?

No, I’m alright.


But at night, I’d wake up. I would have a sinking feeling that another chapter with cancer was unfolding.

My fears and worries were not diminished when yet another person – a third person – asked me once again if I was all right and if I had had any more cancer issues.

What was this all about???

Why was I being asked about cancer?

Seven stinking years after my last cancer treatment???

Honestly, it was all I could do NOT to say, “Thank you for your care and concern. However, I don’t want the first thing we talk about to be my cancer experience. I honestly don’t want to be known for cancer. Cancer is not my name.”

But, I didn’t.

That would be rude. And I do appreciate the care.

I responded that as far as I knew, I was still okay.  I had my annual cancer-check coming up fairly soon.

And I did.

And this past week, my caring, assuring Heavenly Father demonstrated His kindness to me.

Three different times I was asked about my health and cancer journey in the past two months.

And three different times, in less than a 48-hour period, with three different doctors, I received three firm confirmations that I remain cancer-free.

What a relief!

Yet, as I consider the three cancer inquiries of the past two months, I realize that I’m not the only one who is associated with this-that-or-the-other-malady, heart-sore, or challenge.

What do I mean?

There are many life issues that we may brand our friends, family, and acquaintances according to a relational, social, health, career, financial or other type of challenge.  We may think or even say:

Of all the people I know, I never thought she would be divorced.

Oh, he’s the kid who was diagnosed with depression last month and he isn’t coping.

I heard he was fired a couple of years ago.

She’s still NOT married???

Did they lose their house because of poor investment advice?

Is their son still on drugs?

Is her husband still drinking?

Is their daughter still making poor relational choices?

She was let go  from her work because  _______________.

They’re the ones who had the moral failure.

He is the one who has that terrible cancer.


No one wants to be identified by or known for their failure, their addiction, their poor relational choices, their disease or health challenge, or for their spouse’s or children’s challenges, either.

Divorce is not their name.

Alcoholism is not their name.

Drug abuse is not their name.

Moral failure is not their name.

Bankruptcy is not their name.

Betrayal is not their name.

Disease is not their name.

Worry, fear, and anxiety is not their name.

We cannot stop people from identifying others with this-that-or-the-other-name.

Hardships, failures, illnesses, and challenges are part of the human experience. It is human nature to label, categorize, and characterize others by the circumstances we see our friends, family, and acquaintances face.

But, we must do something more.

We need to understand that although these insults, weaknesses, hardships, calamities, persecutions, illnesses, and failures may come, and come hard and fast – and often at the  least expected time – we need to see past them. We need to not only observe how our friends are coping, but also ask how our friends, family, and acquaintances are growing and developing and even transforming through them.

We are so much more than the circumstances that besiege us in life.

Do you believe that?

For me, I count us all as loved, loved, loved!

We are loved by God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – not because of what we have or have not done in this life and certainly not because of the disease, failure, or challenge that has come our way – but because of who we are.

I can’t imagine my Heavenly Father identifying me this way, “Oh, look. There’s Heather. She is my daughter who had cancer.”


I believe my Heavenly Father identifies and calls me out by a different name and in a different way by His love.

Perhaps like this:

For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

New International Version, Ephesians 3: 15 – 21

Our name, our worth, our value and our purpose are found and derived from the Father and His love.

That’s what I want to be known for on this earth – I want to be rooted and established in the lavish graces of the love of God – so that I may pour out His love to others with warmth, generosity, blessings, and joy. Cancer was part of my life. But it’s not representative of me or my whole life. Cancer came and through it I have been given some new insights, new appreciations, new joys, and new understandings that couldn’t have happened any other way. 

So, my friends, I have a favor.

If you find yourself calling out some one by their circumstance or branding them by a situation,  instead of by their lovely, beautiful name, stop.

Rethink that.

Reframe that.

Reword that.

Who are they?

What do you love and appreciate about them?

And ask – how are they growing through their challenging situation?

Where do they see Christ and His love, grace and power at work in them?

How are they experiencing the love of Christ – even in the hard times?

They’ll appreciate that.

I know I would.

I know that cancer is not my name – and it isn’t anyone else’s either.  

What do you think, Friends?

10 thoughts on “Cancer is Not My Name

  1. When I first started reading, I had a different opinion than when I finished. We do remember the negative in every situation. Why do we do that?? I will make an effort to stop this, and I appreciate your wise words!

  2. Your writings and insights really spoke to me today, Heather. I want to be known by others as more than just my health challenge with cancer. I also want to remember for myself that I am not just a person with cancer. Thank you for reminding me that I am first God’s beloved daughter and to always be grateful for the amazing gift He has given me out of His overwhelming love.

    1. Dear Kris,

      Thanks so much for writing to me! You are a beautiful child of our God and an amazing friend to me! May you experience the affirming, assuring love of your Savior today in a meaningful way!

      With love,

  3. I so agree. But also there are “names” we have called ourselves…names given us in our childhood…for me it was by my mother and carried in by my brother. I was given the name “untalented, ungifted, “you can’t.” I have to remind myself sometimes daily that is not what my Father calls me! And call myself by what He calls me!

    1. Wow, Sondra. Thank you for that. Yes, we do take on names that were never meant for us. In your honor, I call you talented, gifted, capable, kind, and beautiful. I appreciate you!!!


  4. Shirley Hethorn June 8, 2019 — 11:35 am

    Thank you for the insight. We have gone through “things” as a family and as individuals that have left us reeling and we are still His children and can rely on His love and continued blessing! I am so thankful to celebrate another “cancerless” year. . Our God is SO GOOD! Love, Shirley

    1. Dear Shirley,

      Thank you so much! Life is hard, isn’t it? I celebrate another of your cancer-free years with you! You are a joy!

      With love,

  5. You are Heather. Always was, always will be. Strong, confident, will not be brought down.

    1. Oh my goodness, Shara! Thank you for that! I receive your words of affirmation. In turn, I call you joyous, beautiful, and unshakeable! Sending love and blessings your way!


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