Cancer. Similar to Hiroshima or 9-11, when the prognosis is given to you or a loved one, you will always remember “where you were when”. If cancer hasn’t been part of your experience, that may sound like an exaggeration. And yes, the impact of cancer may not be as far reaching as a nuclear bomb or a terrorist attack, yet it can feel like an explosion that drastically transforms the landscape of your life.
Cancer doesn’t always end in death. I know because I’m writing this as a cancer survivor. But what it does always entail is loss. Losses that are both visible and invisible. Almost from the moment of diagnosis, it seems any perceived sense of control over your time, your schedule, your body, and even your thoughts and emotions, can be lost. In my experience, it felt like one minute I was making plans and feeling strong on my regular 3-mile runs and the next, my calendar was filled with medical appointments and walking around the block became a small victory.
Preparing for Cancer?!
At Q4 Impact we speak often of the importance of preparing for the trials and suffering that are an inevitable part of living in a sinful, fallen world. So, how does one prepare to face the many losses that come with the trials and suffering of cancer?
In full transparency, I don’t think there is a way to truly prepare for some of the specific losses of cancer. There is no “dress rehearsal” for the loss of your hair or even parts of your body. Honestly, does anyone ponder how to handle such experiences if they’re not required to face them?!
I don’t want to minimize physical losses (they are real and must be grieved), but I believe facing them, or any loss that cancer brings, starts by first losing ourselves. And by losing ourselves, I mean surrender. Not surrender to chosen or prescribed treatment protocols, but a surrendering of self to the God Whose love we can never lose. On the surface, those words may sound like a cliché. But let me tell you, when facing cancer means facing the loss of your health, your hopes your dreams – and potentially your very life – learning to surrender and rest in the love of God is more warfare than platitude.
Finding God in the Loss
In Psalm 42, the loss is described as bringing forth tears that have become food day and night, and of a soul cast down and in turmoil (verses 3, 5). Yet amid such loss, the writer turns to God, choosing to remember His love and faithfulness. Then in verse 7, we read, “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me” (ESV). I recently came across a description of this verse on crosswalk.com that I loved. “Within the roar of the waterfalls, God’s might rings clear. And as the violent waves and breakers of trouble continue to sweep over the man, God strengthens him and saturates his parched soul.”
And truly, as we choose to seek intimacy more deeply with God, He begins to overcome the many losses of cancer with one of the greatest gifts of cancer. The gift of being reminded of our desperate need for God, and His steadfast love that never ceases, and His mercies that never come to an end (Lamentations 3:22).
Yes, cancer brings many losses, and the journey of each person who faces it, either as a patient or caregiver, will be individual and unique. And while the journey will bring many changes, there is One Who never does (James 1:17). May you know and experience His perfect love in ever-increasing measure, for it is in this way you will experience the God-given strength to face any loss cancer may bring.