Talking about cancer is difficult. In fact, the entire process is one of the most humbling experiences a person can go through. It’s easy to understand why a lot of people never share their struggles or suffering with others. It’s hard enough to properly communicate the trials and tribulations of a bad day, apart from a cancer diagnosis. Magnify that by life-threatening proportions and one can begin to appreciate how survivors wrestle with emotions that might make them feel as if they’re standing on the narrow side of a steep cliff. One false move and it’s easy to appear helpless, hopeless, or full of pity.
There’s a part of me that wishes to hide that vulnerability. It’s more convenient to think that everybody understands. They probably do. But I write about my weaknesses so that others can see that they aren’t the only ones who go through similar struggles. If nobody was honest and open, then we’re all likely to believe that life in a broken world is fair and just. It’s not. The world’s most unfair conviction came at the hands of the most undeserving human to walk this earth, Jesus Christ. Therefore, to expect the world to be fair to me is futile and arrogant.
I am no martyr. I don’t want to glorify falling on the sword. I’m not the first person to ever write about their challenges, and I won’t be the last. In fact, the temptation to not say anything is always looming. Every decision to post a blog about my journey is based on a decision to avoid not writing anything at all. I’m constantly tempted to act as if what I’m going through is normal, because I desperately want it to be. I want a life immune from suffering, removed from the tediousness of constant blood tests, and free from the unknown hazards of chemotherapy. I’m constantly tempted to believe that I have nothing to say, that I’ll be judged based on my decisions, or that I don’t have the energy to sit down and put it all out there. I’m tempted to rely on myself and to distrust a God who has allowed for this to happen. Beyond the temptations, I just want it all to go away. I’ve said this before, but if it were up to me, I’d rather not go through any of this at all. John 10:10 says,”The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy”. If that’s the case, then the thief is still in business.
Although temptation is real, so is the word of God. Thankfully, I can see that so many people have struggled throughout the history of the world. I am not unique. The Book of Psalms balances heartache, frustration, and praise. The Book of Job describes a life full of suffering and the blessings that come from it. The Apostle Paul constantly refers to his weaknesses amidst injustice. In the end, it’s not the frailty of the human condition that is praised or criticized, it’s the resilience, or lack thereof. If, by my weakness, I see the perfection of a loving, compassionate, caring God, then I see that what I once thought of as weak, is now my biggest source of strength. I’m given the freedom to struggle, without shame, because I know that I was created amidst an eternal struggle that will one day find resolution.
Apart from faith, the world doesn’t make sense. I’d be right to hide my vulnerabilities. Apart from God, I am in charge of feeling perfect. It is justifiable to not expose myself as imperfect. The responsibility of anger against an unjust illness becomes warranted. In other words, apart from God, everything that I could feel as a human being would be righteous. Apart from faith, a world created by God would revolve around me. My emotions would guide me, my instinct to survive would be my conscience. I would be a walking nightmare. We all would.
When I’m having a hard time, I remember the words of Paul, “..Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
Something about Paul having a “thorn in his flesh” makes me realize that I am not unique in my burdens. If anyone, other than Christ, was to deserve a life free of pain and heartache, I have a feeling it would be one of the men Jesus chose to etch his life into eternity. However, how empty is it to know that a life free of struggle would eclipse God’s efficient grace. A perfect life might finally make us admit that we’re manipulating a world that we’re trying to make work for ourselves.
Therein lies the strength. I am not living an existence that revolves around me. My leukemia is not purposeless. I am not the only one who has forged ahead unjustly. I am not the only one who has struggled. And I’m not isolated in my weakness. Therefore, I can celebrate those things. I can proclaim God as good when I’m given bad news as opposed to good. Most importantly, I can delight in the promise of knowing that one day, it will all be restored. The more I endure, the more thankful I become.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13
This has been a rough month. Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, concerns. I can’t say that enough. Hopefully, I’ve captured a glimpse of what it’s been like along the way. My effort will be to continue this until its completion. Understand that even though my leukemia doesn’t appear to be a blessing, I have been blessed immensely. The past month in Houston has been a period of tremendous growth, and it will be difficult to return to a life outside of MD Anderson. There’s still a lot of into that I need to write about, but even amidst bad news about my eyesight, I’m bursting with a spirit of thankfulness.
Thank you for reading.