“You have cancer.” What comes to mind when you think of a cancer diagnosis? In 2011, this question was no longer a hypothetical. I’m sure my response was normal as I began to wrap my mind around cancer and my name in the same sentence.
I dealt with many different emotions in the beginning.
Denial: I remember telling the doctor that I didn’t have any pain. “How can it be cancer?” (This was my first lesson about breast cancer. Pain is not necessarily a symptom.)
Fear: Would I be around for my younger son’s high school graduation in six months/ We had a diagnosis with no further details. What did my future look like?
Grasping for Control: Immediately I began to network with friends and friends of friends who were in the medical profession or knew breast cancer survivors. I wanted to be informed and ask the right questions so I could get answers. If I could articulate the issues, perhaps I could grasp control and rein in this cancer invading my body.
Going to a Dark Place: Learning and discovering more information introduced me to the sad stories and sadder endings with breast cancer. I began to ponder the new realities in regards to my body, my life, and ultimately, my mortality. Would I feel the same if I had a mastectomy? Would I look like me if I needed chemotherapy and lost my hair? Would there be a future? Would I be there to celebrate my sons’ weddings and dote on grandkids someday?
One evening, my husband and I sat at the kitchen table discussing my cancer as it was a too common conversation topic in those days. The burdens of all my thoughts, fears, and anxieties spilled out as tears falling down my cheeks. I asked my husband, “Will you still love me if…?” and filled in the blanks with the very personal feelings I hadn’t been able to express up to that point.
I desperately needed my husband to scoop me into his arms, reassure me with the strength of his love and answer with a loud “YES!” My husband did and said something that caught me off-guard. It was even better than what I thought I needed from him. He looked me directly in the eyes with an intensity I am not used to and responded, “I am in it for the long haul!” That moment was a turning point in my cancer journey.
We were going to get through “this,” whatever it looked like because I had his heart and he had mine. I have no doubts that God used that conversation around the kitchen table to personally demonstrate His love for me.
As we face crises, we need something, really someone, to lean into and know that we are never alone. We can look into God’s word in the Bible and sense His intense love and unending compassion for us. We can keep on keeping on with confidence because God has promised to never leave nor forsake us.
God wraps us in His hedge of protection and whispers into our hearts, “You are loved. I have always loved you.” Jesus’ death on the cross is the purest evidence for the depth of God’s love for you and for me.
Almost seven years later, I am healthy and remain cancer-free. I still lean into God for His hugs and to hear Him say, “I love you!” My heart responds with gratitude and devotion as I tell God, “I’m in this life for the long haul with you!”
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.