I know; I’m supposed to be wickedly angry. After all, my mom’s coping with Stage 4 gastric cancer, and I’m supposed to want to take cancer down like an ultimate fighter.
I should want to kick cancer where it counts and call it every four-letter word in the book (Yes — even nice Christian ladies are occasionally known to swear like sailors when provoked just enough. Thank God for His unending grace).
Two people I love dearly (and the grandson of one I love dearly) are currently coping with some stage of some form of cancer. So don’t get me wrong — I do want to take down this insidious monster that wreaks havoc on so many lives.
I want my friends and loved ones to triumph over cancer — to dig deep, to pray without ceasing, to wage war and fight the battle of their lives. I want to raise money for research; I want to eradicate cancer from the earth.
But cancer’s got its blessings. I know that might sound like heresy, but hear me out.
God does not promise us that life on earth will be easy, or pain-free — but that He will walk through the fires with us, as we’re told in Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Part of maturing in faith is recognizing the brokenness of the world — and learning to navigate its challenges with faith, grace and fortitude. Horrible, tragic events happen every single day, and cancer is just one of them.
But I’ve discovered that when I stay prayerful, steeped in His love and mercy, the blessings of cancer will overcome its trials.
Yes — I said the blessings of cancer will overcome the tragedy.
When my mom was first diagnosed, the most painful part for me was not living in close enough proximity to be of real help to her. I was more than relieved and grateful to discover that she enjoyed an outpouring of love — cards, calls, gifts, and promises to blanket heaven with prayer. She received handmade blankets, homemade meals, books, visits, and countless gestures of thoughtfulness. It brought her comfort, and me, relief. And I thanked God for the opportunity cancer had given my mother to bear witness to just how much she was treasured.
For a time, my mom rocked chemotherapy, working full-time throughout. She talked to me about dying; she refused to let me put my head in the sand. She shopped for earth-friendly urns; she ventured to Disneyworld in all of her bald glory. She exuded her signature humor and courage — and her resilience inspired everyone around her.
She tells me it is perhaps, a final lesson she can offer as a mother — to show us how to die with grace and acceptance. I know she wants more days on earth — and I want more of her.
But my mother’s enjoyed an intimate relationship with the Lord, praying without ceasing — and I take solace knowing she will find rest in His arms when it is His will to call her home.
Cancer takes life away; it’s true. But it also adds to the life we’ve got — so I have to thank cancer, too. For making certain I cherish every moment with her. For showing her when to fight hard, and when to yield. For inspiring all of us to let go of the past, entrust God with the future, and just reside in today. For ensuring we continue to pray without ceasing.
For helping me understand that cancer, like so many of the curve balls in life, can deliver some unexpected blessings. I only have to be willing to see it that way.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Meehl worships, serves and enjoys fellowship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.