A Perspective on Cancer (Relay for Life)

This September it will be 10 years since my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I can still remember getting the phone call from my dad in my dorm room at college. She had stage four ovarian cancer, and the survival rate at that time was around 5%. I couldn’t make it home right away, but when Dad called later and said she was in the ICU and they weren’t sure she was going to make it through the weekend, I fell apart.

I think cancer is hated so much more than other diseases because is so sinister. You don’t really see an abundance of rallies and walks for strokes or for diabetes. They exist, but the fight against cancer seems so much more concerted. I’m thankful for this evening’s Relay for Life here in Park Rapids. It brings to the forefront of our minds the battle against this menacing foe, which it did for me tonight.

I think the hatred against cancer is for this reason: cancer doesn’t take you quickly, like a heart attack or stroke; it eats your life. I watched my wife’s uncle go from a healthy man to one who could do very little for himself in a matter of months. I watched my aunt go from a vibrant mother to living at hospice. I watched my mother going from running to using a cane and a wheelchair.

When this loss of life is painted in such stark terms, what usually happens is a mourning of life: life that was and life that could have been. In the case of my mother, who is still alive, it is the mourning of the vibrancy she could have had. She could have still worked, and wouldn’t need as much help. We can mourn the loss of potential, but let me offer a new perspective on cancer.

Moses says this in Psalms 90:12: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Instead of counting the days that our loved ones can’t live, we need to focus on the ones that we do get. My mother isn’t able to do many things anymore, but she was able to see me marry and give her four grandchildren. To me, every day since that phone call ten years ago has been bonus. We get so many days and then we die. But if God brings us to the brink and lets us live, we ought to count those days precious and as an added gift.

We get bitter at God when we feel we are “owed.” Cancer does take life, but we are never promised long lives by our Creator, only that He knows best. Let us number our days and thank Him that we get one more with the ones we love.

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