It was like my eyes knew what to do before my mind could comprehend the words, and the tears began to drop, one right after the other, onto my white ruffled blouse with the rhinestone buttons. I remember like yesterday looking down onto my round belly which held my (now 11-year-old) Lily as I heard my dad tell me hisdiagnosis. It’s funny how clearly the mind can remember those moments we first receive bad news.
It was my first real encounter with cancer. And though it wasn’t my diagnosis, cancer became a part of my life. Uninvited. Unwanted. Inescapable. We braced ourselves for a fast and furious ride wherever it wanted to take us, with an abrupt and painful end. We knew the statistics that pancreatic cancer boasts. But, it would turn out to be a different path that my dad found himself on, with those of us close to him following always behind.
And for over 11 years now, we’ve been walking down this path with my dad, watching him carry the load of cancer without really being able to help him. We’ve seen how cancer has tried to trip him up, steal his strength, and wear him down. It’s been relentless. It never lets up, and it has never left. But neither has our God.
Through it all, God has never failed to give us peace when the waves of doubt and fear have crashed down. He has never left us to drown in the deep. So many of you have prayed, and we have felt it. And God has graciously extended my dad’s life way past what we thought in those first days. God has been very near to us. His strong arms have lifted us time and again.
And it was His arms that held me once again when I got the call from Denise, my best friend of over 35 years. The silence told me everything I never wanted to hear, and I walked straight out of the house to be with her in those first, raw, life-changing moments when cancer becomes a part of your life. Just days before, we had sat in our house and screamed “Happy New Year!” with a roomful of us who expected it to be just that.
But, “just another year” it’s not. Already, there has been surgery and recovery, bad news and good news. And today: the first round of chemo.
Denise has already won the first battle with cancer through surgery, for which we thank God. But the fight isn’t quite over. And even in these first short months of 2014, God has proven Himself to be everything He promised and more. Heartache? Disbelief? More tears than you can count? Yes, we’ve had them. But we’ve also felt amazing peace when it seemed we should be in despair. And we’ve been able to laugh ’til it hurt when we thought we’d lost that chance.
Have I made friends with cancer? No. It’s not welcome in my life, but that doesn’t mean I may not have to face it again sometime. And you may have to, as well.
So what can you do when life hands you cancer?
Cry your eyes out if you want to. Stay in bed until it sinks in if you need to. And then get up and keep living.
If you’re not the one with the diagnosis, be whatever your friend or family member needs you to be. Every person is unique, and handles cancer differently. Help in the way they want help. With whatever you’re doing, ask yourself if you’re doing it to help them or if it’s really just helping you. It’s very hard to do nothing when someone close to you is diagnosed, but if they really don’t want or need the help, be willing to accept that.
Let them be honest with you about what they want from you, and then don’t be hurt if it’s not what you had planned. If they need time alone, stay away. If they need you there, try as hard as you can to be there.
But, above all of this, run to God. It’s exactly what He wants you to do. He wants us todepend on Him, to need Him, andto ask Him for help. And not just long enough to help us get through our suffering. He wants us to need Him and rely on Him every day of our lives. Andcancer isthe very door that leads some peoplestraight to Him.
If you don’t know Him, there’s no better time than now. Don’t just ask people to pray for you, talk to Him yourself and find out what He wants you to learn through it all. And if you can’t find the words to pray in those first aching moments and days, don’t worry. He knows us better than we’ll ever know ourselves anyway.
If you need to know more about how to start a relationship with God, contact me. Don’t climb the treacherous path of cancer and miss the chance to have the perspective only it can give.
I don’t want to presume to know what it feels like to be diagnosed with cancer myself, and I don’t want to offend anyone by appearing that I do. But, I’ve traveled a path of my own as I’ve watched those close to me, and I’ve learned great lessons from them.
I’ve seen how God gives strength in the weakest moments of life. I’ve seen His grace flow through those I meant to encourage, because they end up encouraging me.
If you will pray for Denise during these next several weeks of chemo, I will be forever grateful. She has amazed us all with her attitude and sense of humor through these difficult months. She’s always been the life of the party (and I’ve shown you several of her parties here on the blog), and we will have plenty to celebrate again when this is all over.
We’ve been friends together in sunshine and in shade, we’ve endured bad hair days,and we’ll endure the no-hair days. And we will look forward to brighter days ahead.
If you have traveled this journey and would like to leave a message of encouragement for her, she will see it here. And if you have other helpful advice forthose facing cancer, or if you’d like to share your story, we’dlove to hear it. Please share yourcomments below.