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For the past month I have been working on stories for my newspaper’s month-long emphasis on breast cancer.
I’m up to my eyebrows in breast cancer research and have talked with a number of women who are actively in treatment for this disease or are counting months and years of being a survivor.
As it always happens whenever I write about a disease or medical condition, I convince myself that I’m next to get it. When my husband had open hear surgery, I thought I had heart disease.
It took three to four doctors to assure me that I did not.
In my imagination, I’ve had cancer in every part of my body; I’ve had brain tumors, Alzheimer’s and Tourette’s syndrome. About the only disease I haven’t had is prostate cancer although I haven’t eliminated the possibility of a one in a multibazillion chance that I might be the first woman to ever get it.
All kidding aside, I’ve never been sick, other that the usual colds and strep throat and even that is rare.
Because I don’t know how to be sick, I’m afraid.
I’m afraid that I would be a bad patient, that I would cry and that fear would make me deny that I was even sick and I would refuse to deal with it until it became incurable.
I’m afraid that I would be angry with God that I would doubt his goodness. I’m afraid he might not be there in the darkness. I’m afraid of pain and suffering and of throwing up. I’m afraid of being ugly and my body becoming deformed, afraid I won’t be brave or strong.
Of the women I talked with, if not all, I would call brave and strong, although they probably would say they’re not.
One woman said, “I had my first chemo treatment on my 70th birthday. I’m a survivor, but not a real blessed one. I’m still wondering “Why me?”
Another woman I talked to has incredible faith. She’s fearless. Her attitude is: So I die and go to heaven. That’s good!
I’m not afraid of death, just afraid of dying.
I tell myself, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,” but I do fear evil. I fear suffering- I’m a weenie.
One of the women I talked with told me about how she confronted God, demanding “How could you do this to me?” She had been through enough woe prior to her diagnosis- a string of losses, including her business and her home. By the time she learned she had breast cancer she didn’t think she could take anymore, so she shut down.
But God didn’t.
He carried her through, through a diagnosis of stage three “really bad” cancer, through a failed reconstruction surgery and a “do over” surgery, through losing friends who also had breast cancer yet died even as she lived and still lives.
Eventually, she came to be able to say, “I’m blessed. God has been good to me.”
I don’t know where I’m going with this except to say that bad things happed and not one of them surprises God, nor does he let them happen arbitrarily. Every pain and every suffering, has a purpose even if we never know what that purpose is.
And God doesn’t let his own “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” without also being right by their side.
One time I heard someone say, “The moon is always round.” The person had had a horrible life and she said that’s what she continually tells herself as she struggles to stay sane.
The moon is always round, but on most days we only see part of it. The truth is, no matter what happens, God is always good, always in control, always at work on our behalf, even when it looks like he’s off getting a sandwich or vacationing in the Bahamas’s. But he’s not on vacation or even taking a nap and he’s never uncaring.
And so, if I find out tomorrow that I have cancer and even if I get angry with God or lose my faith or lose my hair, the moon will always be round and God is always good and he will never let me go through anything alone.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria – I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at email@example.com.