Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Love Cancer

I was surfing the web recently trying to find some teal-colored cancer-awareness bracelets. In the end, I decided to just go to a bead shop, buy some teal beads, and make my own. Every site I stumbled across had bracelets with a phrase like, “I HATE CANCER!” engraved on it. My online shopping spree was the result of my mother being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer about two or three months ago.

Rewind to about thirty years ago. I was 7 years old and my grandmother had just died. It was the first funeral I had ever attended. My first experience with death. I barely knew my grandmother as we lived out of state at the time. We flew back to MN to see “my grandma’s" funeral. The reason I put that in quotes is because in my child-centered world, she was a person of significance because of her relation to me. I was too young to realize she was attached to anyone else’s world.

At the graveside, I experienced something that profoundly changed my life. My mom began to cry (another first) and she was muttering through her tears, “Mama, Mama, don’t leave me, Mama….” I was very confused. Why was my mom calling my grandma, “Mama?” I tugged on the sleeve of her black sweater dress and inquired, “Mommy, why are you calling Gramma, ‘Mama?'” She leaned down and whispered tearfully into my ear, “Because your gramma is my mommy.” A light bulb went on in my head and I understood. But the light was immediately extinguished when seconds later the thought came, “Wait…if mom’s mommy can die…someday so will mine.” All of those Sunday school stories about Adam and Eve being shunned from the garden suddenly found its place in the real world….my world.

From that day on, I lived in fear of losing my mom. Many times as I got older, we would be sitting on the couch together and I would hold onto her arm or hug her and be thinking, “Appreciate this moment…some day she’ll be gone.” Taking advantage of every moment to not waste the time I had with her became an obsession fueled by fear. Thoughts would flash through my mind….me standing by a sliver blue casket crying, “Mama, Mama…don’t leave me…” would instantly evoke tears. I would pray, “God what will I do? How will I ever go on without my mom?”

Corrie Ten Boom’s now famous “train ticket” analogy would often be what got me through those times. I felt the Lord telling me that I did not need that kind of grace right now, but when I did, it would be there for me.

And so there I was, eight weeks ago or so, standing in a hospital room. Mom was in bed where she had been for nearly two weeks – growing weaker by the day. Dad stood at the foot of the bed. The colon surgeon was on the other side of the bed, across from me. She took out her clipboard and opened her mouth to speak.


It shot out of her mouth like a bullet – linguistic steel came thrashing towards me. I could almost see the word, spelled out, like a train of letters, barreling through the air straight towards my face. And then, a soft brush on my shoulder and a faint whisper in my ear, “Christ is a bigger C-Word.” And then, right as the bullet was about to crash into my face, it hit an invisible wall - the nail-piereced hand of Jesus - just millimeters in front of my nose. The word-bullet shattered and fell crashing to the floor.

It didn’t touch me. It couldn’t. It could not lodge into my heart, it could not reach my bloodstream, causing blood to rise and turn my face red. It could not reach my tear ducts to release hot salty tears and send them spilling over my eyelids. It could not touch my limbs, causing them to shake until I succumbed to sitting down. It could not touch me.

I stood there feeling like I was standing a foot off the ground – completely ensconced within a bubble of complete tranquility. I cannot say I didn’t feel anything, because that would infer shock or denial. I did feel something – and it was good. I felt the presence of Christ in that room and I felt no fear. Total, deep, and utter peace.

A lot has happened since that day in the hospital. Mom has started chemo, regained a lot of strength, and much of the original news (which predicted fatal results) have been downgraded. Lord willing, she will heal and go on with life.

Much of my childhood fear of losing my mom is now gone. I realize that if God was able to give me sufficient grace for a false alarm how much more grace He give me when it is truly needed.

And so, wearing a bracelet that declares, “I Hate Cancer!” would be the same as saying that I hate the sovereign work of mercy that God chose for my family’s good. Would a Christian wear a bracelet that declared, “I hate Romans 8:28!" No. So, I can honestly declare, “I love cancer!” -- because it ushered Christ into my family’s life in a very real way. It humbled us, it led to the tearing down of strongholds, it erased grudges, it invited serving one another in love, it strengthened family bonds, it increased personal prayer, it revealed self-centeredness and sin. It crushed my life-long fear of losing my mother and it taught me to trust wholly in the sufficiency of God’s grace to be there when I need it.

My parents and I take a lot of time now to talk about God’s goodness to us and we marvel at how graciously he has treated us. We feel more loved by one another and more loved by God than ever before.

The gift of Cancer is not that mom’s diagnosis has improved and that she will likely live. That foundation is sinking sand. If healing is my rock, it will eventually crumble. Fact is, if not now, at one point, my mother will die. The real gift of Cancer is the sin-killing, laser precision effect that it wrought in my family’s lives and nothing – not cancer, not death – can now take that gift away from us. It has been given, we have received, the transaction is complete.


Blogger Kathy N. said...

Wow, Vickie. What a story. So glad to hear your mom is on the mend, but more glad to hear of the transforming work of Christ in your life and that of your family's. You are a dear sister in Christ and I'm glad to reconnect this way.

And what a gifted communicator you are!

Much love,

Kathy Norquist

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Veeky this is truly awesome. Been so encouraged by your blog. How you rely on God's mercies through life's trials and difficulties. May He remember you with His goodness Vicky may His strength and love overwhelm your family. I never met you, but i love you sis. His Work upon your life is a testimony of His Faithfulness. Truly blessed i pray for your mom's healing #onlyBelieve!

10:12 AM  

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