Saturday, September 27, 2014

Don't Deny Your Cancer

We met some people recently for the first time, and learned they have cancer. One couple talked about how they just deny it, they don't talk about it, they don't say the 'C' word.

That struck me as wrong.

For one thing, I don't know how that is possible. My wife, in the two and a half years since diagnosis, has had to talk about it. Just this week she spent more hours on the phone with doctors' offices trying to set up appointments, get questions answered, and deal with other aspects of this disease. Even though people say my wife looks good (and she does), there is still a lot going on and I don't see how pretending otherwise is possible.

But it's also not healthy to deny cancer. To deny it is to let it take the upper hand, to own you. To deny cancer is not to beat it but to give it power. To really fight this disease, and you have to fight it, you have to face it head on. You have to get to know all you can about it so you can attack it strategically.

As a Christian, I would have to say that denying cancer--or any trial you may be going through--is to deny Christ. The Bible is replete with assurances that God is with us through the storm, through the trial. To deny your caner is to live in fear instead of faith. Having cancer is not pleasant, but denying it doesn't change facts or attitude. And denying cancer, and therefore denying the opportunity for spiritual growth and perseverance and character, is to deny yourself the opportunity for blessing in the midst of trial.

My wife and I have done the opposite. We have not hidden from cancer. We have taken it head on. We speak its name, the way Christ spoke the name of demons when casting them out. We have prayed and asked for specific prayers as we fight cancer. And we are better for it.

Cancer has also given us opportunity for witness. My wife tells people in stores, at restaurants, and out walking all about it. This opens conversations and starts relationships. And when we start talking about cancer, we end talking about Christ and give those we talk to hope.

Just the other day, this came back to us. Walking the pier at Grand Haven on a beautiful early fall night, we saw an older couple getting back into their car. The woman was obviously battling cancer. "Keep enjoying sunsets," my wife said to them. When the woman looked at us, my wife explained: "I have stage 4 cancer, and you have to take every day as a blessing, enjoy life. Tonight's sunset is gorgeous isn't it?" The woman responded. "Yes it is! I'm stage 4 too. It's been 25 years now."

Wow. A 25-year stage 4 survivor. We have learned not to look at statistics, because they are based on averages and if there's anything we hear a lot it's that everyone is different. But we know that a stage 4 diagnosis usually means about 6-8 years before cancer comes back and treatments can't overcome it. So to meet a 25-year survivor was a pleasant encouragement. No denying it.

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