A few weeks back, a friend posted a link to a blog post titled, This is 39. Much of the post was relatable to me but one statement really hit me. The author wrote, “People you love have cancer. Way too many people you love have cancer. It makes you angry. And scared.” And that gave me a jolt because so much of my life the last few years has been watching people I love and care about deal with cancer.
My mother died from her cancer.
A mass was found on my husband’s kidney that was cancerous.
One of my fellow homeschooling mom’s is a breast cancer survivor.
My sister-in-law is a breast cancer survivor.
My husband has two aunts that are breast cancer survivors.
A family we went to church with has a child with cancer.
A kindergarten teacher at my husband’s school just died of cancer. She was younger than me.
I could go on. How many of us are developing these lists? How many of you are on that list? How many of you get scared that you will find yourself on that list?
Once that thief starts to wind its way into your life, you begin to notice changes – some huge, some subtle. You start to feel true gratitude for health. I am not talking about your physique or athletic abilities. I am talking about the ability to get through the day without pain. The ability to do basic tasks like care for your children. So often in this consumer driven culture “healthy” is somehow equated with “looking good.” My idea of healthy has been transformed.
You realize how much of life, you are not in control of. This can happen to anyone at anytime. Treatments affect people differently. Just the nature of cancer brings with it this idea that you are not in control. It can hide until it is too late. It can go away and come back. . It is like a watch and wait scenario. Once you are affected, or know someone who is affected, small changes in your body, lumps on your skin, anything can set off fear triggers.
And, conversely this makes you recognize what you are in control of. How many excuses for bad habits did we use before cancer. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to eat that fast food for convenience? Is it worth it to “relax” with that pack of cigarettes, or too many drinks? How much stress in that toxic job will you sacrifice your health for? Is making money, being “successful,” having stuff worth the time we spend in those pursuits? Is it worth it to hide your true feelings due to fear of rejection? These are the questions I have been grappling with all year. These are the questions I use to push me beyond where I was before cancer began to affect me and those I love.
So, in many ways, I find myself making changes. Loving more. Stressing less. Letting go of anger. Even letting go of future plans. Encouraging people around me. Spending more time with my friends. Spending more hours cuddling with my kids rather than worrying about getting things done. Crying more over sappy things. Laughing hysterically over funny things. Living more “out loud.” Not worrying about what others think. Because in the end, none of this matters.
This is where you begin to understand what faith is all about. Not because you have faith that you will be healed. I watched my dear mother die at 65, far to young. You realize that sometimes healing doesn’t happen. No, you start to grasp onto faith because that is all that makes sense anymore. Faith is how I make meaning out of this life that is full of pain and fear but also full of joy and love. And, these are the things that cancer cannot touch – cannot steal from me. They become my shield in this uncertain world.