What can I learn from cancer survivors?
What kinds of cancer survivors are there? There are long-term and short-term survivors. There are survivors that gratefully experience remission and those who courageously face the reappearance of the “Big C.” There are the fighters, the encouragers . . . those indomitable spirits who are always ready to explain the hope that they have. Hope that transforms each survivor from a victim into a VICTOR!
Hope represents a very powerful influence in our lives. Hospitals, schools, and churches incorporate “Hope” in their names to reflect their purposes and beliefs. It is a child’s, “I hope our team wins” and a cancer patient’s, “I hope it’s gone forever.” Yet the sort of hope that enriches, empowers, and energizes is neither wishful nor despairing.
Cancer survivors pursue a hope that assures a successful outcome. When faced with the inevitable, they search for ways to “get a handle” on their circumstances. The cumulative results of their cancer experience offer numerous handles: 1) If I alter my lifestyle there’s hope that I’ll remain cancer-free, 2) The statistics for my type of cancer recovery appear hopeful, or 3) We have every reason to hope that we got it all. But what happens when cancer doesn’t behave in a way that fulfills our hopes. . .and that “handle” proves unreliable?
True hope is acknowledging the reality of your situation but staying focused on the redeeming characteristics of your situation. To hope is to be able to focus on what matters most to us—what we truly value. What relationship in our life is more valued than our relationship with cancer? Cancer is not a matter of life or death, but our relationship with Jesus Christ. “Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power. They are natural human bodies now, but when they are raised, they will be spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, so also there are spiritual bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:43–44).
Christine Clifford’s “Cancer Has Its Privileges: Stories of Hope and Laughter”1 clearly illustrates the opportunities and privileges that we have when facing the “Big C.” To those who have never met cancer face to face, humor seems inappropriate. When we acknowledge our right to wield the weapon of wit, hope thrives in abundance. It’s reassuring to know that even when we become “undone” God doesn’t let go! “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV). Rejoice when translated into Greek is chairō (happy, well-off, be well, be glad, God-speed, joy). “Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope” – Gilbert M. Beeken.
Ultimately cancer survivors must have high expectations. We expect the best treatments, the best considerations, and the best quality of life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that a medical staff personally loved you and valued you more than even their own lives? Imagine facing surgery and extensive chemotherapy/radiation with the expectation and assurance that our infection will be replaced with affection. “And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is” (Ephesians 3:17b-18). “Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or HOPE” (Ephesians 3:20).
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