Living With CancerQUESTION: Can I have a fulfilling life while living with cancer?ANSWER:
The prospect of living with cancer doesn’t need to blur your future. The good news is: Individuals personally or vicariously touched by this disease can actually benefit from their experience. Even though a disease demands
our attention and detours
our lifestyle, we can achieve extraordinary results. But we must first recognize the reasons that joy seems so elusive to a cancer survivor.
Pain and suffering touch us daily. Sometimes we “tough it out,” even admonishing our children when they fuss over a skinned knee or immunization. Others choose to suffer silently while burying their pain so deeply that it festers, causing additional suffering as time passes. Trying to detach oneself from the pain and suffering through isolation, work, or recreation is a third strategy. In each case, the results are counter-productive and self-destructive.
Living with cancer involves dealing with pain at some point. Pain demands our attention. Whether it’s hitting our shin or undergoing cancer treatment, we must stop what we are doing and address the issue at hand. Imagine the consequences of an expectant mother, exempt from all labor pains, with no hint of her infant’s arrival! Pain can be a helpful motivator, compelling us to take action that will improve our quality of life. It can stimulate us to greater achievement. When subjected to pain, the body’s defenses mobilize to meet life’s emergencies. The apostle Paul understood physical as well as psychological suffering, while remaining confident. “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going”
(2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
How could anyone be joyful when centering a life around cancer? If suffering and discomfort become the target of our daily mindset, desperation serves as the bulls-eye. With habitual “practice” we will certainly hit that miserable center frequently. To live with cancer is not a matter of desperation, but of INSPIRATION! While desperation “overcomes by a sense of futility, inspiration “guides, affects, and arouses by divine influence.” We need to develop an appreciation for difficult circumstances that cause us to draw closer to God. “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad -- because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world”
(1 Peter 4:12-13).
Living with cancer and affliction detour us from our original plans. We can choose to retreat (run) back to our former, self-structured lives. We may even ask ourselves how we can accept God’s decisions and plans for our future instead of our own. When we refuse to move ahead in trust, we nullify what God desires to accomplish in our lives. A “divine detour” requires placing trust in directions that will bring us to a safe destination. We need the confident assurance that there is a God-given way of relieving, managing, and rising above the confines of cancer.
Gervase Markham was a college student who developed a cancerous lump on his neck. Throughout the process of surgeries, CAT scans, and life-threatening complications, he somehow managed to persevere. He shared the times when he cried, felt drained of energy, and wondered if his life plans for a career would be derailed. Gervase lost nearly 60 lymph nodes, a salivary gland, and the use of a right arm muscle. He is scarred in body, but not in mind or spirit. A year later he knew he was in great shape: “The point of this entire account is to pay tribute to Him who sustained me throughout the entire episode, and without whom I would have fallen apart -- Jesus Christ. He helped me to focus on, and do so well in my exams, and kept me from fear.”
When we face something and overcome it, there are always prizes rewarded. Without testing, we would never know what we are capable of doing, nor would we ever grow. The prizes offered are joy (John 16:22–24), courage (Psalm 34:4), confidence (John 10:28–29), hopefulness (Romans 15:13), and strength (Isaiah 40:28–31) to experience an extraordinary life!