A Whole New Perspective
My husband and I worked in ministry overseas for 25 years. Once we lived in a country where our house was robbed five times. I always felt anger, fear and insecurity because someone had been in my home without my permission and took many favorite things.
Cancer came like that – without my permission. It introduced vulnerability and weakness and took away some of my favorite things. It was difficult to deal with the symptoms of tumor growth in Mongolia. The people don’t have the breast cancer that is common to the Westerners and Europeans.
So in June 2000, I went to Beijing, the capital of China, in order to find a foreign clinic that had a mammogram machine. The doctors confirmed a definite indication of cancer and there wasn’t any way to treat it except to return to the United States. Within that same month, I came to the central coast of California and started chemotherapy treatments that were to last for over a year.
Dealing with vanity
One of the most difficult things about the treatment was losing my hair and adjusting to being bald. I had to learn how to use scarves, hats and wigs. I also had to deal with the reality of losing a breast - something special about the attractiveness and identity of a woman.
I struggled with tiredness and felt inferior and weak. To me, being strong was always important - vanity of a different kind. I liked to get things done, and a lot of pride comes in that, yet now I had to sit back and take things in.
I actually thought I’d read a lot of books and even get into deep Biblical and theological study. Truthfully, I didn’t have enough energy to do that and I’d often sleep for twelve hours a day. God ministered to me through the simple things of life. I found that the beauty and life of creation kept me in touch with my Creator.
“Diane, why would God give you cancer?”
Many people asked me that. I truly believe that He didn’t give me cancer. I live on earth where there is disease and death; I don’t expect it to be any different until I get to heaven. What God did in fact give me was a real sense of peace. Yes, I did feel dismay in that negative sense of, “I really wish physically this didn’t have to be,” yet I never saw God as anyone to blame. There was peace instead of panic.
The book of Psalms in the Bible became my lifeline. Psalm 23 spoke to my heart and mind over and over: “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…you are with me…” (Psalm 23:4). Peace was there from the beginning.
The reason behind my joy and peace
I cannot imagine not knowing the God of all hope while dealing with a life and death illness. In the midst of this ordeal, He gives me the joy and strength to deal with things as I trust Him. I know that my life will not fizzle out into nothing but that when I die I will be going home in a very real sense.
The reason for this hope is because I trusted Jesus Christ with my life at the age of 18. I entered college searching for answers about spiritual things and it was my husband (then friend) who introduced me to Jesus. He shared with me the basic outline of the Christian faith - a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. So one night, I prayed all alone in my dormitory bunk bed and invited Jesus to be my Savior and Lord.
I was joyful, relieved and excited - I could finally see the truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ! This was a great turning point for me as I now knew my Savior Himself and not just His beauty in nature and music.
There has been much to reap
There have been positive aspects to this cancer. In a human sense, cancer brought me into a broader network experience where the gifts of caring, concern, friendship, love, medical personnel and informed support leaders enriched my life. Instead of being so smug and proud about being strong, I learned compassion for the disabled and sick. That awareness made me more sensitive, kind and helpful, and less judgmental.
Even with regard to the awareness of vanity, I learned about myself and my roles as wife, mother, grandmother, friend, mentor, worker etc. I learned to do the very best in all these roles, still being myself. Baldness helped me reach that conclusion. I gave up “looking good” and progressed towards feeling good. Facing a death helped me to be real. Mostly I learned not to put important things on hold. I have a desire to move on and enjoy my family in a new, deeper way.
I feel a sense of reward in terms of being able to relate to any woman who is going through chemotherapy, surgery or radiation treatments. I enjoy talking to them and sharing any information that I can with them. When people have a traumatic experience in common, there is a bonding that makes it very easy to relate. As we talk about dealing with death, it offers an entirely different perspective and I can often share my faith. I feel an affinity with a whole area of women whom I never would have met!
What about you? Are you searching for Jesus who can give you the strength to deal with any situation? If you would like to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you can say this prayer:
Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make the kind of person You want me to be.
If you prayed this prayer today, we would love to hear from you!