Aug 09

Serious Illness: An Unwelcome Intruder

 

 

 

 

 

Serious illness is an unwelcome intruder in any person’s life, but for those of us who are organized, well-prepared planners, it can be especially unpleasant.

I’ve always felt you can ward off a lot of problems in life but anticipating them ahead of time. You know, take an umbrella with you in case it rains. Always have restaurant coupons with you in the car in case there’s a last-minute decision to go out to eat. Have an extra wrapped gift at Christmas in case someone gives you one that you weren’t expecting! You get the idea.

Then BAM! cancer hit me at the age of 36 from out of nowhere. I always had been so healthy I hadn’t even had a cold in four years. Cancer didn’t “run” in my family, as I was the first to get such a diagnosis. In fact, I was so young the American Cancer Society didn’t even recommend I get screened for colon cancer for another 14 years! I certainly hadn’t anticipated this and it was too late to get prepared now.

And then something else hit me.

This diagnosis did not take God by surprise. He saw it coming and although I wish He had stopped it from touching me, He was not unprepared to battle it. In fact He would equip me with everything I needed to battle this disease physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The same is true for you or your loved one’s diagnosis. God is not surprised. He is not unprepared. He will equip you with whatever you need to face this unwelcome intruder.

“And everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours.” 1 Samuel 17:47

Here is a prayer you might wish to pray today (based on Ephesians 6:10-17):

Dear Lord, I come to you acknowledging that I don’t like the fact this diagnosis has taken me by surprise. It makes me feel anxious and out of control because I didn’t see it coming and I feel woefully unprepared. And yet I also acknowledge that I believe You are not surprised or anxious and You are very much in control. Help me to put on Your armor each day: the belt of Your truth, the shield of Your righteousness, the shoes of Your peace, the helmet of Your salvation and the sword of Your Spirit. Then I know I will be ready to battle this unwelcome intruder. And most of all I will not be afraid because it really is Your battle and I will trust You to fight through me so that I will not be defeated by this unseen enemy. Thank You, Holy Spirit, that I don’t need to be in control to battle this—I just need to be controlled by You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

(This blog is adapted from a devotional I had published in the book Praying through Cancer:Set Your Heart Free from Fear, copyright 2006 Susan Sorensen and Laura Geist, W Publishing Co., a division of Thomas Nelson Inc.)

(If the music video doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and insert this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x2IpLSfqp8 )

Aug 02

How have you NOT wasted your cancer?

 

 

 

 

I love hearing from cancer survivors and their caregivers about ways they have found to not waste the suffering/trials/changes/hardships/sorrow cancer brings.

Some have walked in relays to raise money for cancer research. Some have volunteered to transport patients to medical appointments. Some have organized bone marrow drives to find matching donors. Some have started cancer prayer support groups, while others have attended those meetings offering encouragement to newcomers. Some have given away many copies of my books to hurting people in need of hope (thank you!)

Some of accomplished big endeavors like starting a boutique for women cancer patients or making thousands of cozy quilts for patients in treatment. Still others have accomplished small things with great love, like taking a meal to a weary friend or sending an inspirational card to another.

To all of you, I say thank you for not wasting your cancer–for allowing God to use this unwanted journey to mold you and make you more like Jesus.

To those who are still wondering how not to waste this trial, I encourage you to read the essay “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” by pastor/author John Piper, written on the eve of his prostate cancer surgery in 2006. ( http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dont-waste-your-cancer ) In it he shares 10 ways not to waste your cancer. Below is #3:

“You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.”

Lord,  Life has broken us. Please spill us out to be supernaturally used by You to help ourselves and others know and love you more.

(If the music video doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiM57qZZuGM )

 

Jul 26

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

 

 

 

This has to be one of the most difficult questions we can ask.
Why do children get cancer?
Why does a young woman fight for her life while an elderly woman prays to die?
Why do some people have so many trials and others have so few?
Why do brilliant minds get dementia?
Why does one person walk away from an accident unhurt and another is paralyzed for life?

Volumes have been written on this topic and I have been enlightened especially by the works of C.S. Lewis and Philip Yancey. But because neither of them is available today to write this blog 🙂 , I’d like to share three reasons God may be allowing suffering in your life or the life of someone you love. These reasons are based on the book For Those Who Hurt by Charles Swindoll, copyright 1977, published by Multnomah Press.

 

Why God Allows Suffering in Our Lives

  1. That we might be prepared to comfort others.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)

 

2. That we might not trust in ourselves.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we never would live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. We have placed our confidence in him and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT)

 

3. That we might learn to give thanks in all things.

And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. 2 Corinthians 1:11 (NLT)

 

I certainly can’t make sense of your/your loved one’s suffering for you, but I hope you will ask God if one of these is might be”the reason” for the suffering. I believe that knowing our suffering has a purpose can make it easier to bear. Perhaps Shannon Wexelberg’s words in the music video will resonate with your weary heart: If I had my way every time I called to Heaven, would I know Him like I know Him today? While I’ve waited so long, He’s been working all along…Could it be He is using all this in my life? Could it be this prayer I’ve prayed is not quite what He’s after? And I will find He’s done a different kind of miracle in my life.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk-omRWod7c )

 

Jul 19

Does Following Jesus Make Everything OK?

 

 

 

 

“Why I Follow Christ”
Reprinted by permission from Believe in Miracles, But Trust in Jesus by Adrian Rogers, Crossway Books, 1997. (Taken from a letter Dr. Rogers’ friend wrote to his own daughter–Emphasis mine.)

I have not seen clear statistical evidence that fewer Christians die of cancer than nonbelievers, or that they are immune in greater degree from the diseases that afflict the human race.  Some of the kindest, most selfless persons I know have had more than their share of bad health.  The fact that they belonged to Christ did not insulate them from disease.  Therefore, I will not follow Christ for promised healing.

I will not deny or dispute evidence of restoration of health.  I will rejoice at every recovery from what seems to be hopeless, threatened death.  I will not hesitate to pray for recovered health for my loved ones and acquaintances.  I will set no limits on what God may do.  But I will not follow Christ for promised healing.

I see no sign that Christians escape disaster and accident more than others.  I have helped dear friends empty muddy water out of dresser drawers and new appliances after a disastrous flood.  I remember as a child taking clothes to a widow with five children whose house had burned to the ground.  A bullet makes no detour around the body of a believer.  Therefore, I will not follow Christ for any promised protection from disaster.

I will not scoff at amazing survivals, nor deny providence has and continues to work for the good of God’s own.  I will continue to pray for protection from wicked men and tragedy, but I will not follow Christ for promised protection from accident or catastrophe.

I do not observe that Christians are especially favored with prosperity.  Like James, we have all seen the rich oppressing the poor, and justice is rarely perfect in this world.  The psalmist has said that he had not seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging for bread, and in the deepest needs of this life that is certainly true; but all of us have known people of integrity who have not prospered.  Therefore, I will not follow Christ for promised freedom from physical want or the hope of affluence.

I am not certain that Christians have stronger personalities or fewer neuroses than nonbelievers.  I do know that there is no bitterness like religious bitterness and no arrogance more insufferable.  I have watched Christians suffer emotional and mental disabilities.  And although it may seem heretical, I am not sure that I would really enjoy living in the same house with either the apostle Paul or Peter.

God wills that the mind of Christ be formed in us, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Christian’s attitudes and actions will be improved by his Christianity.  But I will not follow Christ for any promise of personality enhancement or perfection.

Why then follow Christ? Why be a disciple of Jesus when life becomes more complicated, as He so often warned?

For one reason alone.  In Jesus we behold the face of God.  He is the truth, the everlasting truth, God in the flesh.  I know that in His life, death and resurrection I am reconciled to God, the Giver of life.  I believe that nothing can separate me from the love of God.  He has all power and goodness.  I trust Him in His promises.

To Him I offer my life, damaged or whole, brief or full of years.  It matters not.  He is the one certain thing in an uncertain world.  He is to be worshipped, not so something will happen to me or the world (something already has happened to me and the world) but because He is God, who through Christ has reconciled the world to Himself.  He saves me; He is my justification; He is the center that holds.

To worship the God of our salvation, to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, that alone is our vocation.  We offer our lives to God, not so as to be healthy, wealthy or wise; not even so as to gain strength to do great things for Him.  We offer our lives to Him because He alone has claim on us.  God is not a means.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fZ-tBR7LJ0 )

Jul 12

A Prayer for Healing

 

 

 

 

A Cancer Patient’s Prayer for Healing
(Ed. note–substitute any disease/trial for “cancer.”)

          Father God, I choose to believe that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I believe that you healed people in the Bible, that you have healed people in history since then, and that you are still healing people today.  You are all-powerful.  For you, cancer is very easy to heal, if you so choose.  And your love and compassion for your people is very great.

God, I confess to you that I have fallen far short of your demands for my life.  I have sinned in thought, word, and deed.  I have not given you the thanks and praise you deserve, nor have I treated my family and neighbors with the love they deserve.  Show me, God, if I have an unforgiving heart.  Give me the grace to forgive those who have wounded me.  Show me if there is any other bad attitude or habit in me that you have wanted me to deal with.

Thank you, Lord, that you are a God of forgiveness and compassion.  Thank you, too, for being a God who loves to bless the unworthy.  I ask you to send your supernatural power to destroy my cancer.  I believe that you work through doctors and medicine, and I pray that you will fill the doctors and nurses and technicians who work on my case with wisdom and love.  But I also ask you to do what doctors and medicine cannot do.  In your mercy, immobilize and paralyze the cancerous cells in my body that medicine cannot reach.  Dry up whatever is feeding those cells with life.  Put a stop to the spread of cancer in my body.

God, I trust that you will do whatever is best for me.  If it is your will, you will heal me.  Give me the strength and ability to keep trusting in that truth.  And if I am not healed, please give me the power to trust you then, too.  But most important of all, bring me closer to you.  Open my eyes and heart so that I may come to a deeper experience of your love for me.  Help me to do whatever is necessary to draw closer to you and to know you as my heavenly Father.  AMEN

Reprinted by permission from A Medical and Spiritual Guide to Living with Cancer by William A. Fintel, M.D. and Gerald R. McDermott, Ph.D.  Published 1993 by Word Publishing.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzejd6r9DwE )

Jul 05

An Amazing Story of the First Survivor I Ever Knew

 

 

 

 

“There is something you must always remember.

You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Christopher Robin to Winnie‑the‑Pooh in Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure

I love these words of encouragement from one best friend to another. They were the sentiment of a life-changing pep talk given to me in high school by my dear friend Cecil, who is the first person I knew who survived cancer.

We met in a speech class in the fall of 1968. I was a junior and he was a sophomore at Victor Valley High, where he was without a doubt the best orator. When he chose me to be his debate partner, I was thrilled. I didn’t know that the year before he had been diagnosed with fibrosarcoma (a rare cancer of the soft tissue), only that he always had a large Band-Aid on his forehead and that its self-described “flesh” color did not match his black skin.

I’m not sure if either one of us ever used the “C” word. In the sixties, cancer was something adults whispered about and doctors tried to keep from patients’ knowledge.

“Why do you always wear a Band-Aid?” I naively asked him one day.

“Because I’m very embarrassed about my scars” was his quiet reply.

The scars were the result of multiple surgeries—beginning when he was fifteen—to try to cut away the cancer and extend his life.

“The fibrosarcoma was eating through my skull,” Cecil explained as we chatted on the phone about this chapter.

Back then chemotherapy was in its infancy, and radiation therapy couldn’t possibly be safely aimed at a patient’s head, so his doctors simply sliced away, waited for the cancer to grow back, and then cut it out again.

By the fall of 1968, doctors were so pessimistic about Cecil’s future, they recommended he drop out of high school. “Once it hits the optic nerve, it will go right to the brain. Go home and don’t even worry about school anymore,” they advised.

But Cecil had other plans.

“Not only am I going to go back to school, I’m going to graduate,” he told them. “And not only am I going to graduate, I’m going to go to college. And not only am I going to go to college, I’m going to go to the best college!” he defiantly added.

His equally strong-willed mother approved, saying, “If you want to go back to school, it’s fine with me. I don’t want you to just lie down and die.”

So Cecil went to school, ran track, and played basketball and football, wearing a customized helmet to protect his forehead as he darted downfield with the ball. (Bet that wouldn’t be allowed these days!) Just about every Saturday for the next two years, we were together at a speech meet or a debate competition, eventually becoming the first students from our school to make it to the speech state championships.

But in the summer of 1970, right after I graduated, Cecil’s cancer came back, and more surgery ensued. The hole in Cecil’s forehead was getting rather large, so doctors stitched his left forearm to his forehead for six weeks in an attempt to graft skin there. However, in the fall of 1970, the relentless cancer returned.

Surgeons wanted to operate again and now sew his right arm to his head, but his mother refused. She moved him to another hospital, ignoring the doctor’s warning that if she did he’d be “dead in two weeks.”

Physicians at the new hospital did the same kind of surgery, without stitching his arm to his head. At Cecil’s first recheck, they were pleasantly surprised the cancer had not returned. Three months later, they were shocked to find no sign of it. Three more cancer-free months later, they were speechless.

“We can’t take any credit for this, because we didn’t do anything different from the other doctors,” they told the then-eighteen-year-old Cecil. “The fibrosarcoma was like a runaway freight train on a dry, straight track, and it just stopped. In medicine we call it a spontaneous remission.”

Cecil finished high school, serving as student body president, and went on to graduate with honors from Harvard University, where he played football, ran track, and coached the debate team. As I write, he is a sixty-three-year-old longtime university law professor with many accolades and former students across the country who say his teaching expertise and friendship changed their lives.

“Despite all the dark predictions, I’m alive and doing just fine,” he says. “I believe to this day that God healed me despite all the gloom and doom. And it has never come back because He had other plans for me.”

 

I’m so grateful that meeting Cecil was part of God’s plan for my life. Before we participated in our first debate meet, I was scared and not at all confident in my speaking and writing abilities. I felt insecure because I was the youngest in my class (I graduated at sixteen) and because my father’s job had forced me to twice move midyear to new high schools. But Cecil shared words very similar to Christopher Robin’s with me, and I took them to heart. And as they say, the rest is history.

 

When we face the trials of life. including cancer, we discover the incredible strength of the human spirit as we do things we never thought we could. But I hope you also are discovering that the greatness of God is the reason you are braver, stronger, and smarter than you realized.

 

Find a mirror, look straight into it, and tell yourself: “I am braver than I believe. I am stronger than I seem. I am smarter than I think. God is much greater than I can imagine.”

And then share those words today with someone else who needs to hear them. You never know how God may use them to change a life.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0ynr-qAhUY )

Jun 28

Do You Need a Good Cry?

 

 

 

 

You can beat this. Think positive. You can do it. Stay positive.

I know people mean well when they say those things to people facing serious tough times, but I must admit they often rub me the wrong way.

Many caring people uttered those kinds of “encouraging” phrases to me after my cancer diagnosis, but I always had the feeling that they did more for the person saying them than they did for me.

In fact, rather than being comforting and encouraging, those phrases often created more distress in me.

I’m feeling worried the cancer may return, but I have to think positive so the cancer doesn’t come back.

I’m feeling down thinking about all I’ve endured, but I have to think positive so I get healthier.

And the real kicker: If I don’t get cured, it must somehow be my fault because I didn’t think positive enough!

 Don’t get me wrong, I am by nature an optimistic person, but I am also positively positive that being positive all the time is not necessary for those living in cancer’s shadow and in fact I wouldn’t even recommend it for most of us!

In fact, trying to live life by being “up” all the time can create a new problem: “the tyranny of positive thinking.”

That’s the phrase used by Dr. Jimmie Holland, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In her excellent book, The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty, she explains the phrase:

All this hype claiming that if you don’t have a positive attitude
and that if you get depressed you are making your tumor grow faster
invalidates people’s natural and understandable reactions to a threat to their lives.
That’s what I mean by the tyranny of positive thinking.”
[1]

The truth is, Dr. Holland says,

“stress, depression, and grief do not increase the likelihood that cancer will develop or
that it will come back if you’ve been treated before.” [2]

I can tell you for sure that if not staying positive made cancer recur, I would have been dead many times over.

Now if by some slim chance you are really the kind of person who likes to think positive all the time, copes with life by always thinking positive and finds it impossible to think any other way, I certainly am not going to tell you to stop thinking positive. But, please don’t expect that everyone else needs to be just like you.

I believe we were created to feel many emotions and that life is best lived when we acknowledge those emotions and express them in a healthy manner. Moreover, I believe tears are really a gift and that everybody—even positively positive people—benefits from a “good cry” now and then.

If you ever tasted a tear trickling down your face, then you know they are salty. But tears are much more than salty water. They’re actually a complex combination of proteins, enzymes, lipids, metabolites and electrolytes.

We all have three different kinds of tears: “normal” tears which continuously keep our eyes lubricated; irritant tears which wash away foreign substances; and emotional tears which we cry for reasons like sadness and pain. Scientists who study tears can look at these tiny drops of water and tell the difference between the first two types and the third kind because emotional tears have much more protein and less oil.

Some tear researchers theorize that emotional tears carry hormones from the brain, which release calming endorphins and flush toxins out of the bloodstream. This helps our body return to a reduced-stress state.

I’m glad my dear friend Norma was willing to cry with me throughout my chemo ordeal. Norma, survived three different cancers before she passed away in her 90s. Her second diagnosis was just a few months before mine, and she called me every month to chat.

“Wanna have a pity party?” she’d ask.

I’d say sure, and for the next half-hour we’d trade poor-me complaints about the side effects of our treatments. Pretty soon we’d had enough moaning and started laughing at ourselves for all the complaining we were doing. (The moral of the story: pity parties are great occasionally; just keep them short and only invite friends who still like to laugh!)

People like Norma and me who don’t repress our tears may have better health, according to many “crying” researchers who think emotional tears may remove toxins from our bodies. Some even theorize that women on average live longer than men because they on average cry twice as much as men!

Many of us need to tell ourselves the truth: that weeping is not a sign of weakness or shame; that tears are indeed a gift to express our deepest feelings. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35: Jesus wept. So if the Son of God can cry, I think we can, too.

Lord, I’m thankful that one day in Heaven You will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and until then, I’m positively happy that we don’t have to stay positive all the time! I pray in the Name of Jesus, who wasn’t afraid to weep. Amen.

[1] Jimmie Holland and Sheldon Lewis, The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), pg. 14.

[2] Ibid, pg. 30-31

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J46hMyrTL7Y )

Jun 21

The Language of Cancer and the Language of God

 

 

 

 

 

Tumor markers. Monoclonal antibodies. Angiogenesis inhibitors. Stereotactic radiation. MediPort. Neutropenia. Micrometastases…So how are you doing with learning the cancer vocabulary?

Or how about the alphabet soup of acronyms?

CEA, PSA, KRAS, ER/PR, Her-2/neu, VEGF, and BRCA just to name a few.

Yikes! Someone please get me an interpreter or at least a dictionary! (Never mind the dictionary—I just hit spell check on my computer and it didn’t recognize most of the words in the first paragraph!)

I remember after my diagnosis I felt as if I was thrown into a whole new world I hadn’t even known existed and I would have been just as happy to stay oblivious about it! So many terms and phrases were tossed around and basically all I heard was: “You need chemo and radiation, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

But after a while I was forced to stick my head out of my shell and start to learn this foreign language. I discovered my colon cancer was classified back then as Duke’s C-2, meaning it had spread locally to more than three lymph nodes. I found out that 5-Fu was short for fluorouracil, a chemo drug that had been around for many years and no one in Marc’s practice but me had been allergic to it.

By the time I started working for Marc six years after my diagnosis, I had mastered a few of the oncology terms, but was still in for a real education as I worked for the first time in a medical office. I constantly had to ask the nurses for explanations of medical jargon I heard: What’s a DVT? I thought he had a blood clot?

“He does. DVT stands for Deep Vein Thrombosis.”

Why not BC for blood clot?

One day I noticed the nurse Ruth had written the initials “SOB.” next to a patient’s name on the daily schedule. I was curious why she would make such a disparaging remark about the gentleman as he didn’t seem that cranky to me.

Afterward I asked her and when she stopped laughing, she explained that “SOB” stood for “short of breath!”

My personal opinion is that doctors and nurses aren’t all that much smarter than the rest of us—they just have their own special foreign language so we patients don’t feel as bright! (To all my doctor and nurse readers—that was a joke!)

Anyway, I spent almost 20 years learning medical terms and especially oncology phrases so I could throw them around the evening dinner table with my husband: “So, we thought there was nothing we could do for the patient, but the immunohistochemistry showed KIT positive and it’s a GIST and we can use a tyrosine kinase inhibitor!  Isn’t that great news?!”

My husband barely could contain his excitement as he asked me to pass the salt.

Even though I may have gone a little overboard with learning the medical language, I have been amazed to learn about the human body’s intricacies. Our bodies are so complex that, in some ways, I’m not as surprised they break down, but am more surprised that they don’t break down more often!

The Human Genome Project completed in 2003 identified the 20,000+ genes in the human body and sequenced the 3 billion chemical base pairs that comprise our DNA or hereditary code of life. The head of the project, Dr. Francis Collins explains that the DNA in each human is 3 billion letters long and written in a “strange and cryptographic four-letter code.” The code is so complex, Collins says, that if someone were to read it out loud at three letters per second, it would take thirty-seven years!

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it! Psalm 139:13, 14

Collins is one of the world’s leading scientists and also a man of Christian faith who calls our DNA “the language of God.”

“We have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God,”[1] Collins said when the genome project’s completion was announced.

He later wrote: “Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible.”[2]

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. Psalm 139:15

So just maybe the next time you hear some multi-syllabic medical words that seem overwhelming, you can allow them to remind you that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Creator of the Universe and that your tomorrows are safe in His hands.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:16

Lord, Thank You for doctors and nurses and researchers who are trying to cure cancer and continue to write the new language of cancer. And thank you that our very DNA is “the language of God’  and speaks to us about how wonderfully we are made. In Jesus Name. Amen.

[1] Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, pg. 3, Francis S. Collins, Free Press, 2007

[2] Language of God, pg. 233.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5eMMmKpJCo&list=RDz5eMMmKpJCo#t=51 )

 

 

Jun 14

Finding Peace When You Didn’t Think You Would

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody reacts differently to the diagnosis of cancer or any other life-threatening condition. Your reaction or your loved one’s reaction and mine probably had many things in common, but no doubt there were differences as well. You might have feared this illness for years because other relatives already had been diagnosed. Maybe you checked for lumps and watched for telltale signs, knowing for certain your turn was next. Or you might have thought, like I did, that you had taken such good care of yourself you would never have to face such a diagnosis.

I’m guessing that neither of our reactions was completely peaceful. I’ve met literally thousands of newly diagnosed cancer patients and I’ve yet to hear one say: “As soon as I heard it was cancer, I felt total peace.” (Go ahead and write me if you said that!)

But even though peace is not a natural response to a life-threatening illness, it can be a supernatural one.

Over the years my dear friend Prudence let me bring hundreds of cancer survivors to her country tearoom for free or really inexpensive tea luncheons (with the world’s best scones and clotted cream). And then endometrial cancer struck her.

“That upset me,” she says. “I didn’t want to have anything inside me that wasn’t supposed to be there.”

But shortly after her surgery, despite the fact no one was guaranteeing a cure, Prudence says she amazingly “was at peace with it.”

“Christ gave me a wonderful release from worrying and obsessing about it,” is her explanation of the unexplainable.

In 1998 when forty-five-year-old Chrystine was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, she was shocked and afraid she would die because she’d never heard of any survivors in her situation. But as she describes: “God showed up right away.”

As she was heading into surgery, a female anesthesiologist came over to Chrystine’s gurney and started prepping her.

“She told me she had ovarian cancer four years before and I felt such hope that she had survived,” Chrystine recalls.

What’s really incredible is that a few minutes later a male anesthesiologist came over to her gurney and told the other doctor that Chrystine was his patient and he took over her care.

“I went into surgery feeling totally at peace because God sent me hope in the ‘accidental’ meeting of an anesthesiologist who had survived,” Chrystine says.

It is one thing to read the Apostle Paul’s description of  “the peace of God, which transcends all ­under­standing.” It’s quite another thing to see it on the face of cancer patients and their caregivers.

It is a peace that makes no sense.

It is a peace that cannot be explained.

It is a peace that goes beyond our human understanding.

It is a peace that ­only God can give.

It is a peace I hope you’ll feel today.

I’d like to share with you the rest of the verse from Philippians 4 where Paul writes about this peace because I believe it shows us clearly how to get it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in ­every­thing, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all under­standing, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ ­Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

We get peace from God when we take our worries to Him in prayer, all the while thanking Him for all our blessings. He replaces our worries with His peace and it is enough to fill our heart and our mind.

Would you allow me the precious privilege of praying for you to feel God’s peace that passes understanding today?

Lord, I have no idea what is troubling my friend today, but You do. By the power of Your Spirit please let Your peace come and settle down on her/his life as she/he trusts in You. In the Name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTDRjqVIyVY )

Jun 07

Yes, there IS life after cancer!

 

 

 

 

This past Sunday was National Cancer Survivor’s Day— a holiday to celebrate survivors and remind them and their caregivers that there really is life after a cancer diagnosis.

So when do you know that you or your loved one is a cancer survivor? When the scan comes back clear? When the tumor marker is normal? When the treatment is finished? When there’s no evidence of any cancer?

I was diagnosed June 26, 1990, with Stage 3 colon cancer. I still am cancer-free and count myself as a very blessed survivor. But even if the cancer had returned, I would still count myself as a survivor because I agree with the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship when it labels cancer patients as survivors “from the moment of diagnosis and for the balance of life.”

I didn’t always think that way.

I used to think that you if you lived five years cancer-free after a diagnosis you were a cured cancer survivor.

I remember going in for my five-year oncology checkup in the summer of 1995 (before I started working in Marc’s office) and gleefully announcing to Marc that I wouldn’t be seeing him professionally anymore. (I’m not quite sure how I got that notion, but I hear many others say the same kind of thing. We’ve probably made that association because statisticians often give data on five-year survival rates for different types of cancer.)

“Where did you get that idea?” Marc responded.

It’s five years; I’m cured!” I told him; surprised that he didn’t realize it was such a momentous day.

“Well, the chance the cancer will return has diminished greatly, but you still need to be checked for the rest of your life,” Marc soberly explained.

Talk about bursting someone’s bubble!

I waited five years to be proclaimed a survivor and there was going to be no such official announcement.

Thankfully, a short time after that day I read the above-mentioned survivorship definition from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and proclaimed myself a survivor.

So I hope you’re not waiting for some mythical five-year mark to earn the label of cancer survivor. Anyone who has survived even one minute since diagnosis already is a survivor! Believe it!

Before I retired in 2015, I loved watching and listening to those survivors in my support group who had medically incurable cancer, but still found much happiness. Because of their circumstances others might say these folks have the right to be fairly fearful. But these “incurable” survivors have come to realize—as have those of us who are cured—that we don’t need the right circumstances to be happy, but we do need to believe the right things about our circumstances to be happy.

It’s important what you believe about yourself and your loved ones. When I finished treatment for my cancer, the odds the cancer would come back were greater than the odds it wouldn’t. That doesn’t sound like a situation that would make a person very happy. But what I believed about my circumstances did give me joy.

I believed the truth that I was already a cancer survivor.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:17

And I believed the truth that nothing, including cancer and its treatment, can diminish God’s great love for me.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38

I also believed the truth that God didn’t need good odds to heal me, that there are people everywhere surviving despite their odds.

For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

You and your loved ones have survived a cancer diagnosis. God obviously has plans for your life or you wouldn’t still be here. Ask Him to shine His light on your path and then don’t be afraid to follow where He leads.

Will you pray from Psalm 119 with me? Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again: I will obey your wonderful laws. I have suffered much, o LORD, restore my life again as you promised. Amen.

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewD9aRxnzec )

 

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