Note: Pastor Dawn was diagnosed with breast cancer recently. It was detected very early so she has a great prognosis. (Are you getting your mammograms women? Please do!) This is her first blog about her experience with cancer.
“It’s cancer.” Well, crap. That’s not what you want to hear when you’re in between taking your son to piano and your daughter to horseback riding lessons. But after my annual mammogram, the suspicious looking calcification had been biopsied, and wham. There you go. No one in my immediate family has ever had cancer. So you know, I’m special like that.
When I was pulling up to the doctor’s office, I took a minute in the car before going in. Because I knew, really, that the doc hadn’t said to come see her to get my test results because they were good. So I paused and prayed by saying, out loud, “Whatever it is Jesus, you and me, we got this.” After the shock wore off, and the swirling questions in my mind ceased for an ever-loving minute, I knew that would be true. And it has been.
There’s a lot of theology that works for a lot of people that doesn’t do squat for me. I don’t begrudge people their “everything happens for a reason” and “If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it” sayings. I might be a little jealous of them, even, because their comfort seems within arm’s reach. I reach across decades for my comfort. Decades of journeying beside people who are sick, abused, addicted, dying, laughing, living, growing, and soaring, then desperately digging in to Scripture and Christian tradition to seek out some things that seem true and not just trite.
So far, what I’ve discovered before I got here, still holds.
I believe I got cancer not because it happened for a reason, nor that God “brought me to it.” I believe I got cancer because our world is broken. I’m made from our world’s dust, and I live as a part of it, so I’ll get broken sometimes too. That is okay with me, because God knows how much I love this messed up, gorgeous world. I have no desire to live in a bubble to protect me from sharp edges.
I believe that God doesn’t want the world to be broken like this. This wasn’t in the original plan. God wants mothers to live to raise their children. I think that’s a given we should all agree on! Cancer surely wasn’t somehow in God’s design for me, or for anyone. I just can’t get down with that.
But . . .I believe God can work the presence of cancer into something that will be good, purposeful, even beautiful, in my life.
I wouldn’t choose to have cancer, of course, but I will choose to learn what it can teach me. Because I’ve seen God’s grace shine brightest in brokenness, like on the cross.
I’m hanging in for that.
When I went in for my CAT scan with my belly and veins full of barium, it was freezing cold in that room. The hospital gown, uh, didn’t help. My teeth were chattering. Christine, the radiology technician, put a warm cotton blanket over me as I went into the machine and I remembered Genesis 3 where God sews clothes for Adam and Eve. You remember that one? They have to move out of Eden into the world’s brokenness. And they don’t want to be naked out there. So God dresses them with clothes the seamstress God made by her own hands. God places the handmade garments on their bodies tenderly. Just as Christine covered me with care. Grace enveloped me.
You know, there is one saying I will buy: The worst word is never the last word.
“It’s cancer,” she said.
Think again, I say.
It’s more. It’s a moment for grace to shine.