My cancer diagnosis came all at once. There was no waiting for test results, no need for a biopsy. It hit hard, a sledgehammer destroying in one blow a wall of good health that had always kept storms and danger at bay. Surgery was scheduled before we left the doctor’s office. There had been no symptoms, no concerns, just a routine test. We were stunned, dazed.
We went home and had lunch, and sometime that afternoon I went to the file cabinet next to the desk in the family room. I found the life insurance policy and for the first time ever, and never since, I read the entire thing.
When I tell that story, other cancer survivors often say, “Oh, you too.”
You have to do something, and reading the fine print in a life insurance policy is something to do. You may weep or you may rage or you may get out a bottle. Some people pretend it isn’t happening. You have to do something. Reading the fine print in a life insurance policy is probably a better thing to do than raging or drinking or denying.
I have not read the fine print in the life insurance policy since that day nearly 14 years ago. But during the eleven days after diagnosis and before surgery, I wondered about funeral plans and thought a lot about our kids and their futures. Becky was there all the time and so were friends close by and far away and from every chapter in our lives. People prayed.
The surgeons did their work on the scheduled day and it was followed in time by the chemotherapy the oncologist recommended. Everything worked out and nearly 14 years later, I tell the story.
Things don’t always work out, though. I remember Jim, an acquaintance from around town. His diagnosis, the same diagnosis as mine, came a few months before mine, and once in a while we shared the same appointment time at the clinic where they dripped the chemicals into our veins. Jim died two years later.
The lessons from my journey with cancer come back from time to time, and I have been wondering about them since the election.
I am not suggesting equivalence between cancer and the aftermath of an election, but cancer taught me some things I must not forget.
I am aware of some of the important and good people in my life who find great encouragement in the possibilities of a new administration in Washington, D.C. Scripture calls me to rejoice with them, and I am trying to figure that out.
I am also aware of the important and good people in my life who are caught in the unexpectedness of the election results. They are stunned, dazed; some of them rage and find themselves sinking into the despair of worst possible outcomes. Scripture calls me to share their sorrow, but it is a sorrow deeper and darker than my sorrow. I wonder how to enter it without being trapped by it.
I made the journey through and to the other side of cancer by the grace of God. Becky was with me every step of the way. Our children were wonderful and friends were good.
Before chemotherapy began I decided I was going to be the best chemo patient ever. I was not going to let it get me down. I was a good patient, but not the best; there were days when it got me down.
For two years or more I thought about cancer every single day. It took time for a new wall built block by block in the passing of time and held tight by the mortar of God’s grace to rise and keep the storms of doubt and fear at bay.
It is not possible to enter fully into the world of a cancer patient. What I experienced and learned from cancer are not the same as another on the same journey will experience and learn. I would be foolish to think so.
Important and good people in my life are caught in the unexpectedness of Tuesday’s election results. They are stunned, dazed; some of them rage and find themselves sinking into the despair of worst possible outcomes. Scripture calls me to share their sorrow, but it is a sorrow deeper and darker than my sorrow. I wonder how to enter it without being trapped by it.
Cancer taught me to trust God and not just because I can tell the story of a journey through cancer 14 years later. Jim, who I knew from around town, died two years after his cancer diagnosis, the same diagnosis I had received. Before he died he talked about learning to trust God.
Cancer taught me to stay away from the dark places of thinking about worst possible outcomes, though, many of us read life insurance policies and planned funerals in the days just after our diagnoses. Cancer taught me to do what I needed to do. I never missed an appointment at the clinic where they dripped chemicals into my veins. I wasn’t the best patient ever, but I was good; it got me down, but not out.
To my friends in deep despair after Tuesday: weep, but, please, do not rage – it tends only to evil. Do what you need to do in these days soon after, but be prepared, in time, to do what needs to be done. Don’t post another rant on social media. Pray. Instead of rage and anger at fellow citizens, bring food to a food bank, volunteer at a school, advocate for an immigrant. Don’t tell me I am naïve until you have tried it. It is amazing what can happen in a world where things are changed for the better one life at a time.
God is faithful.
See you Sunday