Sigourney Cheek in Between Flights observes: “cancer survivors are never the same: Only once are you a well person, an unsuspecting person, a discovery of a lump or a bump that is surely nothing and will soon go away to the confirmation that you are a well person—no longer, never again. The planets had realigned, the orbit has tilted, bending in another direction.” Sigourney quotes Reynolds Price, a novelist who lived in a wheelchair from an operation to remove a tumor from his spine: “When you undergo huge traumas in middle life, everybody is in league with us to deny that the old life is ended. Everybody is trying to patch us and get us back to who we were, when in fact what we need to be told is, “You’re dead. Who are you going to be tomorrow?”
I’ve met dozens of breast cancer survivors; some of them have gone back to their “normal” lives, but most of us have been changed forever. I had wonderful doctors; it wasn’t my outward appearance that changed as much as my inward appearance. With 8 surgeries in 2 years, I had lots of time to contemplate the question, “Who are you going to be tomorrow?”
Questions dance in your head at the initial diagnosis: Will I live past 6 months? Will the reconstruction make me look different in or out of clothes? Will my husband and friends still love me? Will I be able to play golf again? Will I be able to afford the treatments? Will I have pain?
I was fortunate to re-read a Bible verse from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 within days of my diagnosis:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Looking inward, I realized I was conceited and self-centered, caring only about myself and my success. Add “judgmental” to the list as I always had someone to blame for any insults or calamities; nothing was ever my fault.
But my cancer taught me that I could be a new person, receiving grace and mercy for my past sins and moving on to a new life, recognizing that I have power over nothing and that everything belongs to God. It is in my weakness of the thorns in my life that I have learned to trust God for everything, letting the “power of Christ rest upon me.”
Has there been a huge calamity in your life that is difficult for you to bear? Perhaps it is a physical illness, a broken relationship, an elusive job or a failed business. Your old life is dead. In your weakness, let Christ move you closer to your new life with Him.