I am not good with dates. Just ask my friends. I’m the worst with birthdays. I love my friends and I am so glad they were born, but I just can’t keep the days straight. Or, you could ask my husband. He could tell you about how we celebrated our anniversary on the wrong date for the first 5 years of our marriage and every year we still question if it is the 23rd or the 26th of November.
I guess that means he is not very good with dates either, but in any event it is not that things aren’t important to me. There are lots of unforgettable moments in my life for which I can recall uncanny details about the season, the place, and every word of the conversations, but just not the date. March 2, 2010 is exactly the opposite. I don’t remember many details but I can’t forget the date. It’s the day they took part of my right kidney and with it, the large cancerous tumor that had taken up residence in my abdomen.
It’s a very weird sort of anniversary. It doesn’t call for diamonds, chocolate, balloons or parties. But it does prompt a kind of reflection. Today it’s been five years. People always talk about five years like it’s a magic number. Five years and I’ll never have to worry about kidney cancer again, five years and I’m cured. That’s one thing I’ve learned in the last five years. People always want you to get to a point where you have some kind of guarantee that you are finally safely out of cancers evil clutches. But I’ve learned that I can never be out of the clutch of death because no matter what, humans die. I might not die from kidney cancer or any kind of cancer, but I will die. That sounds morbid and somewhat depressing, but for me it is exactly what I needed to come to terms with to be free from the fear of cancer.
It was the truth before I had a cancer diagnosis, but hearing the words brings you face to face, actually it kind of slaps you in the face. I didn’t do anything to cause the cancer and I can’t do anything to guarantee that it will never rear its ugly head again. At first that truth is terribly terrifying. But in the end it is the most freeing knowledge I have found. It reminds me to let God stay in his position, while I stay in mine. He can keep up with knowing what the future will bring, and I can keep walking in faith knowing that no matter what it brings I will be more than just ok. It has allowed me to see that my security can’t be found in my health. Don’t get me wrong, I think we do have a responsibility to care well for our bodies. I have loved learning about healthy food and I know that the way I eat directly affects how I feel. I just also know that it can’t make me eternal here on earth. Vegans get cancer and so do people who eat a steady stream of fast food.
At the time of my diagnosis I had 5 children ages 16, 14, 8, 6, and 2.
Of course I immediately found myself wondering what they would do without me. What could I do to make sure that they would be okay, even if I was gone? Who would help Glen care for them? Would Peter, who was 2, even remember me? Lots of tears and prayers surrounded these questions. Fortunately God answered them all with one revelation to me. I did not have to be God to my kids. I only have to by Godly and let him continue being God. Wow! Talk about freedom. I can’t make sure that no trouble will befall my children any more than I can guarantee I won’t get cancer. That truth has allowed me to parent my kids in a way that makes sure they know that I am relying on God for what I need day-to-day, and in the unforeseen storms such as cancer. It allows me to focus on knowing Jesus better each day myself. It allows me to know that no matter what happens, my kids can be more than alright. Even the hardest things don’t have the power to ruin us if we are rooting ourselves deeply in God’s word. Not in our best friends words, or our pastors, or the author who promises that if only I will follow his directions I can rid myself of all sickness and avoid death altogether. In God’s word. For a long time this has been a favorite passage of mine.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
There have been times in my life when I have faced trouble or ‘drought’ as Isaiah calls it and have felt like the ‘bush in the wasteland’. But as I have grown in my understanding of and commitment to God’s word in my daily life I have been able to face the unexpected, even cancer, and be like the tree that continues to grow and even to bear fruit. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything or struggle in facing life’s situations. It just means that I am willing to let God’s word speak into my life and help me see through my feelings.