I have no idea how many millions of people have heard or will hear that phrase in their lifetime. Those three words can strike terror in the heart of anyone who hears them. Sometimes the doctor who says those words delivers them without passion or preamble. And they say it so casually and without sympathy that at first the words don’t sink in. Then the words “carcinoma” and “cancer” begin to bang around in your brain until they register.
That’s what happened to me when I heard the words: “endometrioid adenocarcinoma”. The doctor that uttered those words did so like she was telling me I had warts. Wham! Bang!
At first you feel disbelief, then shock then denial. “What, me - cancer - no way! There has to be some mistake,” you say to yourself unbelievingly. Everything horrible and awful you’ve ever heard, read, seen or known about people who have had cancer flashes in your mind. Surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and death - oh my! The phrase paints a very bleak picture, doesn’t it?
In the back of your mind, as much as you don’t want to, you witness your own mortality. Even for the most faithful people, even for those who understand the meaning of life, this can be an incomprehensible moment. So we turn to the professional for answers, which means more tests, possible surgeries and months and months of painful therapies in the hope that we will survive—and that’s if your insurance company will pay for it all. Heaven help those who don’t have the right type of cancer and insurance. (But that’s for another piece.)
The one thing we cannot lose is our hope. We hope for the cure and a speedy recovery because without hope, the process would be dismal and disheartening. We have to believe that even cancer is a part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. Odd, don’t you think, to say that cancer, disease, famine and any horrific human event is part of a loving Heavenly Father’s plan, but it is!
For a cotton-headed ninny-muggins consummate pessimist like me, finding the blessings in a disease like cancer is like Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant. There’s a map. It may be a little hard to decipher, but if you find the right people with the right knowledge. Viola! Treasure!
The scriptures tell us that all these things shall be for our experience and if we endure them well we shall have a crown of glory. It’s just hard in our finite minds to translate the pain of suffering into something glorious.
Wise men have said that suffering teaches us compassion for others. When we think of the Savior, do we remember that he bore our sorrows and our infirmities so that he may know how to comfort us? Sometimes we think that he only bore our sins, but wise men have instructed us to cast our burdens upon the Lord. But being a pessimist and a realist, as Tim always reminds me, I can’t help but wonder how this is accomplished.What’s the magic formula for handing off my cancer to Jesus Christ? I’ve got to be honest, I don’t know how to do that, yet many people seem to find strength in doing just that. Do we kneel down in our own Gethsemane and plead with the Lord to let this cup pass from us? But then in humility, do we not say, “not my will but thine be done?”
So where’s the handoff and where’s the comfort? Where’s the relief from pain? Is it only a figure of speech? Is it only in our minds or does it physically happen? We can say that many people are cured of cancer. I don’t particularly know the statistics but I personally have three friends who have survived and gone on to live very happy and normal lives. But I also have friends who have fought diligently only to lose the battle in the end.
Oh, if we could only have a glimpse into the mind of the Lord–why he calls some home and why he lets some linger. So really, the only thing we can do is have hope and faith that whatever happens, we can accept the mind and will of God. If however, you don’t believe in God, that’s very sad, but I’m not talking to those people – those unhappy few who believe that we are just here by chance and when we’re gone—we’re gone! Yikes!
As I sit here in a Catholic hospital looking up at a crucifix of the Savior up on the wall of my room, I wonder who comforted the Savior as he went through that terrible pain and agony upon the cross. How was he able to bear that suffering without murmuring or complaining? Crucifixion is a most terrible form of agony because it is prolonged over a long period of time.
I wish I could say that I’ve found the combination in my life to be able to throw off the anxiety and fear, but even at age 54 I’m still learning what it is to be able to put all my trust in the Savior. I’ve often felt that phrase, “O ye of little faith,” applies directly to me. I also know that faith is an action verb so I’m doing everything I can to put my miniscule faith into action. I believe that in the long run stepping blindly towards my Savior will bring me a reward of peace and comfort to be able to go through this trial even though I still have to suffer.
If I didn’t believe that, I’d run screaming into the night, except I can’t run now because I have a blood clot in my leg. But I have a little vein buddy now. An intervenous umbrella filter to keep the blood clot from my lungs and instant death. Ugly little fellow, isn't he?
So we pray, we fast, we try and do what the Lord asks us to do. We follow the doctor’s recommendations. We put our faith in Christ. We reach out to others who have suffered with similar experiences and we draw on their strength. And we move forward one faltering faithful step at a time and hope for a glorious resurrection free of pain, sorrow and sin.
Tim asked me something while I was sitting in the hospital grimacing in pain. When have I felt the Lord’s love for me? At first I wanted to scream, NEVER! But as I thought and pondered about that, I really was surprised to have things come into my mind. Sometimes the pain in my body is so hard to endure that I toss and turn in bed trying to find a comfortable position for relieve. I offer a tiny prayer in my head for comfort and for sleep. Suddenly I’m sleeping. Coincidence? I don’t think so!
On other simple occasions when I’m rushing here and there and tend to have a lead foot from a stopping position in my car and jump on the gas to race across the intersection only to find myself sitting there, not pushing on the gas pedal when a car runs a red light in front of me and I’m saved from a crushing car crash. Chance? Luck? Hardly!
Sometimes I pray for Tim when he’s face with a particularly difficult problem at work that seems to be going nowhere fast and instantly, the answer appears as if by magic. Magic? Hockus Pokus? Inconceivable!
So do I know the Lord loves me because of marvelous manifestations of Biblical proportions? Absolutely not! Only tiny, tender mercies shown to me day after day after day; so very small I hardly notice them until I sit down and think. Yes. I know the Lord loves me and offers His hand in my life. Will he take away my suffering? Probably not. Will it become easier to bear, a lighter burden? Yes. Do I want these things to pass from me? You better believe I do. But would I learn what I’m supposed to learn because of suffering trials? No. Not really. But I can always ask. Right?
If we don’t gain anything else from a lifetime of suffering, pain, anguish, heartache, loss, grief and torment; at least we can help others face down their demons and have and offer hope. And that’s the way it is–from the view from my hospital bed here in Camarillo on a beautiful summer Sunday morning. See you in the funny papers!
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