On Easter Sunday, I was getting my kids settled in our pew when from the row behind us, a friend’s husband asked, “Did you and my wife have fun the other night?” I stared at him, completely baffled at the question. What had I done with his wife recently? I had no idea. I thought just saying that yes, of course we had fun. But I took the honest approach and asked him to remind me what we had done. The Wednesday before, his wife and I had carpooled to a church-wide women’s meeting. It all came back to me then–and yes, we did have fun!
That’s part of what cancer feels like, two years later. It turns out that having your body pumped with seven rounds of high-dose toxic chemicals makes you stupid. My short-term memory isn’t what it used to be, especially when my brain is focused on a another task. So if I should know your name but can’t remember it, please forgive me. 🙂
That’s one example of how my life is different. I’m also still dealing with the emotional effects of cancer. Yes, even two years later. But I’m excited about the healing the Lord is doing in my life.
A year ago, I was a cancer survivor still living in Cancer World. I thought about cancer every day, usually multiple times a day. I talked about cancer almost every day. I felt most comfortable around others who were intimately acquainted with the reality of cancer, because they didn’t mind my talking about it.
When I was in the Normal World, I wanted to run screaming from the room every time someone talked about raising teenagers or seeing our kids get married or retirement savings. People in Cancer World don’t speak of such things. I knew I would continue to learn how to cope with cancer survivorship, but I didn’t think there would ever be a day when I didn’t think about cancer.
My faithful and gracious God has granted healing. In 2011, He healed me physically of cancer. It took about another year and a half for the emotional healing to take place. I still have scars–physical and emotional. However, I recently had a fantastic realization:
I don’t think about cancer every day. And I don’t live in Cancer World anymore.
I visit there often. I have friends who are battling, and it is important to me to minister to them. A year ago, I would climb into the pit with them and stay there. I would mentally live as though I still had cancer, feeling their emotions and pain, because I thought that was being a good friend.
Now I have learned how to visit Cancer World as a healthy person: to commiserate, encourage, serve and love, and then to return to my normal life without being overcome by survivors’ guilt. I can do this because I trust God’s faithfulness to my friends, just as I trust His faithfulness to me. I may climb into the pit to love a friend, but I know where the rope ladder is, and I can reassure her that God has a rope ladder for her, too.
It took time to learn how to live in Normal World again. But I don’t want to run screaming from the room when someone talks about life 15 years from now, and I’ve even joined in the conversation sometimes. I’ve stopped trying to prepare myself and everyone else for the worst. I’ve decided to leave it the hands of my capable, sovereign, powerful God. I never could have prepared myself for Diagnosis Day in 2010, and yet the Lord was there, providing everything we needed.
There are many days when I think about cancer. Some days, I even cry and beg the Lord to give me many more years with my kids. My life has been forever changed, and there are constant reminders. But healing has taken place–both physical and emotional–and I am thankful.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.