“To what do you attribute your survival?”
That was the question posed to me by a newly diagnosed cancer patient in the office when I was working as a patient advocate. He was just a little younger than me and undergoing chemo for “my” kind of cancer so we had a kind of special bond.
I thought about his question for a moment before I answered: “The grace of God.”
I’m guessing he might have been a little disappointed with my reply as he’d been researching all kinds of complementary treatments and nutritional advice for his cancer fight. I imagine he was hoping I had a vitamin regimen or a diet modification he could adopt.
I did tell him that throughout my treatment I drank green tea, but always wondered if the honey I put in it was canceling out the tea’s benefits. I told him about the supposedly cancer-fighting vitamins I took—at least one of which researchers now say may cause cancer rather than cure it. I told him how my husband and I grew all our own vegetables without any pesticides for years. I mentioned that I cut the sugar out of most things, left the skins on lots of things and I added wheat germ to just about everything. (Some crunchies on your cereal this morning, girls?)
Actually, I was a real health-nut before I got cancer. In fact I was pretty disappointed that all those donuts my husband ate and I passed up hadn’t seemed to help me keep cancer at bay. I think subconsciously I even believed that my healthy eating and exercise routine would guarantee that I wouldn’t be sick—after all, I hadn’t had a cold for four years before I got diagnosed with cancer!
So when people ask me what I did to get cured, I refuse to give credit to anything I did or didn’t do. I did what the doctors advised (well, most of it), but I felt so nauseous I ate whatever tasted good rather than what had the best nutritional value. A short walk was all the exercise I could muster because I was too weak and had too many problems with the allergic reaction to one of my drugs.
I honestly don’t know for sure why I’m still here. I feel uncomfortable suggesting that I did something right to survive cancer because that would mean that my dear friends who did not survive must have done something wrong.
That’s why I say it was the grace of God.
After my diagnosis I remember desperately wanting some guarantees. I wanted to hear that the chemo regimen I was getting had a money-back guarantee, not a 20-percent chance of working on me. I wanted to know for certain that it was going to be all right to refuse the radiation some doctors had recommended for me. I wanted to be assured that if I went through all this difficult treatment that the cancer would not come back despite a 60-percent probability it would.
I didn’t get any of these guarantees. And I can tell you that I’ve stopped looking for guarantees here on this earth.
Some of you are trusting in doctors or medical science or alternative therapies for a cure, but despite what you read, they don’t have guarantees.
About the only earthly guarantee I can give you is that all of us will experience difficulties, including the breakdown of our physical bodies. But I promise you—more importantly, Jesus the Messiah promises you—we can face these difficulties with unshakable assurance, remaining deeply at peace. Why? Because Jesus has overcome the world by overcoming the power of death in our lives. Jesus already has beaten cancer and every other illness that strikes us on this earth.
And His kind of peace isn’t just the absence of striving; it’s the presence of something much more. The Message Bible paraphrases it this way: I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. John 16:33
Now that’s a guarantee I can live with!
Let’s pray today with King David in Psalm 20:7 NIV: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Amen.