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Snapshots of a Mother’s Cancer Experience — The Difference

When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in 2000, I came face-to-face with my own mortality—and learned some profound lessons that transformed my view of reality. I would never sign up for my cancer experience, but neither would I trade away the treasures mined from it.

Above all, I learned to live with the awareness that we all really do have an impending, inescapable appointment awaiting us. We all have an appointment with God. No matter how busy or distracted we are or how distant that appointment may seem, one telephone call can change everything.

My call came when I was a 40-year-old mother of two preschool children and a happily married wife. The following post is Part 16 in “Snapshots of a Mother’s Cancer Experience,” a series that chronicles my journey through diagnosis, surgery, and beyond. (You can find a chronological list of the previous Snapshots here.)

cancer experience

Sunday, July 30

“This is so scary,” whispers Sara, a dear friend who arrived bearing succulent lemon bars and a tuna-and-green-bean salad. As dusk approaches, dimming the view out our front windows, the pink light of a summer sunset lingers, gracing our patio doors.

Scary?  Is this scary?  I suppose…but fear does not dominate my thoughts.  Instead, I’m reminded of Russ, a friend who still laughed and loved people as he battled Lou Gehrig’s disease. Roger and I recently talked about how adversity and illness create the opportunity to show the world that Jesus makes a difference.

“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“I will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

“There is one who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24)

Strange as this may sound, although I wouldn’t have volunteered to be diagnosed with cancer, in a Job-sort-of-way, I feel privileged. This may be the toughest challenge I’ve faced, yet, since I turned to Jesus, it’s been on my darkest days that God’s Presence has been most pervasive.

Two occasions come to mind:

My father became my dear friend before he passed into eternity, but we had a difficult history. Once, during my adolescence, I thoroughly provoked him, and he—hurt, angry, and deeply disappointed—poised his pen to sign me into permanent foster care.

Thankfully, my mother intervened.

The penetrating pain of that event resurfaced early in my marriage as I worked on a magazine article about father-child relationships. My research suddenly shifted from intellectual and objective…to emotional and deeply personal. Quite unexpectedly, like Alice into the looking glass, I tumbled into my “father wound.” But, instead of landing in Wonderland, I landed in a black hole.

father wound

I felt indescribable grief and overwhelming despair. Yet I did not feel alone.

In that moment, Jesus’ Presence felt as tangible as a gentle hand wiping away my tears.

* * *

Several years later, Roger and I had an intense conflict. Most of the details are a blur now, but I possess a sharp recollection of how Roger seemed to withdraw his love. As a result, my abandonment wound (closely related to my father wound) burst, spewing toxic fear and rage like a ravaged tanker.

spewing toxic fear and rage

It was a dangerous moment….

I’m susceptible to making dramatic displays when deeply hurt. I felt rejected, abandoned, and ugly. Yet, thankfully, I cried out to Jesus.

Comfort enveloped me as if He had wrapped me in His arms. His still small voice reminded me: I know everything about you—including the gruesome details of your most depraved acts—and still I love you.

He loves me because He is Love, not because I’m lovable. He took the burden of my baggage upon His back. He suffered the cross to set me free. And, if I yield my will to His, He will bring beauty from ashes.

My “natural” reactions and deeply embedded patterns urged me to lash out, harbor my hurts, seek independence from rather than interdependence with Roger. But Jesus answered my cry with a gift of divine self-control.

After a time apart from Roger—during which I prayed to overcome many destructive impulses—we came together and found our way back to a place of compassionate communication. And we resolved our conflict.

Now Sara and I sit at the dining room table.  Its blonde oak surface feels smooth beneath my forearms. I clear my throat before responding.

“This would be a lot scarier without Jesus.”

♥ ♥ ♥

Do you have a story to tell of a time when God met you in the desert or in the furnace? Tell us about it! And come back next month to read the next snapshot.

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