Six years ago I was diagnosed with cancer.
Five years ago I started processing it.
A year and a half ago, a doctor told me I had PTSD because of it.
Apparently I had some things that hadn’t, “been put to bed”.
I’m not sure how accurate that actually is, because I no longer have symptoms of PTSD and I never did go see a counselor or a therapist. I also saw another doctor shortly after who told me my symptoms were not related to my battle with cancer.
But let me tell you something, regardless of what anyone says or thinks, it has been a battle. It is still a battle. Things that “normal” people wouldn’t think anything of – certain ailments, certain conversations, they send my anxiety into a what has only recently become a controllable frenzy. The paranoia of thinking you have cancer again. The struggle of not wanting to forget what you went through because you never want to forget what it taught you, yet being haunted by so much of it. The needles. The wigs. The surgeries. The vomiting.
I don’t mean to be gross, but I do mean to be real. And that’s the every day reality of someone who’s fighting cancer. I’m not here for pity. I’m here to let you know you’re not alone. And what may feel like the end of the world, isn’t.
As much as I’d like to consider myself an optimist, I’m also a realist. So, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that as long as you stay positive and keep a smile on your face, cancer treatment is a breeze. It’s not. It hurts. A lot. In every way. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. And the first three, well, you’ll battle those more after it’s a bit in hindsight and your view of the situation is 20/20 instead of being in the middle of it all. You’ll start to process. It will all begin to sink in. The numbness wears away. And I think that’s what I really want to hit on here, because the reality is, in the moment you’re diagnosed with cancer, you will not process it. It will not sink in. You go numb as a defense mechanism without even realizing it so that you can do what you have to do to survive. People say, “I don’t know how you’re doing what you’re doing.” Well, if it was the only option you had for staying alive, you’d be doing it too. It’s called survival mode. And cancer’s not the only thing that causes people to enter into this zone.
But when you exit survival mode, when the numbness wears away from whatever trauma struck you, when you look back and think to yourself, “Oh my gracious, I was diagnosed with cancer. I fought cancer.”
When that happens, can I offer you some advice? I would recommend doing these as much as possible from the moment of diagnosis, but also months and years after the cancer is physically gone:
- Talk about it. You’re not a burden. Your story is not a burden. It’s a ministry. Someone needs to hear it, and you need to share it. If it’s kept inside, you won’t be able to process it. Don’t let what you’re going through only change you. Let it change others as well.
- Cry. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. Crying is simply an expression of emotion, not a sign of your ability to handle what you’re dealing with in life. In your weakness, He is strong. Those are the moments you’ll feel Him the most.
- Live life as normally as you possibly can. Don’t let people treat you differently. And if they do, don’t let it get you down. This is just a season. It grows you, not defines you. Don’t not do things because you feel limited. (Be wise. Follow doctors orders. Stay rested. But if you’re able, when you’re able, don’t sit around doing nothing all the time while you want to be out doing something.)
- Keep things in perspective. In light of eternity, this is but a momentary affliction. However, it will eternally change you.
- Last but not least: When you want to know why God let it happen to you, ask Him. Ask Him what He wants you to learn from it all.
We must constantly acknowledge and praise God for who He is:
good and sovereign.
When we don’t, we lose sight of that.
When we forget to acknowledge who God is in our hearts and minds, our circumstances become bigger than our God. We let our fears bow down to our situations instead of our God. So today, the first January 9th that I’m officially declared cancer free since the day I was diagnosed, I want you to know that one day, you will be here. You will be on the other side. And you will be better for it.
And if tragedy of some sort hasn’t wrecked your world, it will. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. And whatever that tragedy is, I hope you’ve invested for a while in a God that’s way bigger so that when the time comes, you know where you stand. In victory.
When you realize you got diagnosed with cancer, or your mom dies, or you can’t make the rent, or your spouse walks out, or your best friend is paralyzed by a drunk driver:
don’t fight for the victory He already won.
Stand in it.