I know firsthand the baffled feeling that immediately follows a cancer diagnosis. It’s as if you’ve been struck by lightning, and all your circuits are blown.
It happened to me as the flowers bloomed on a lovely spring afternoon in May.
How could anything bad happen on a day like that?
If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with the “C” word, you realize it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what your name is, where you live, who your friends are, or what the season is, cancer can strike anyone at anytime.
I remember after I returned from the doctor, I sat down on a bench outside my back door, and felt paralyzed, not knowing what to do next.
When the shock wears off, you’re going to need a plan to get through the next few days.
Here are 6 things to do to help navigate these present choppy waters:
1. Don’t put your trust in statistics. Everyone wants to make a good treatment decision, so information is critical to that goal. However, surfing the internet ten hours a day, reading every possible scenario, constantly absorbing what can be negative survival rates takes a toll mentally. You are not a statistic. You are a precious, beloved child of God. God deals with you individually and hears every prayer you pray. Make an informed, intelligent decision, but put your trust in a mighty God.
2. Hang out with Godly encouragers. If possible, limit your interaction with people who went to the Eeyore School, but be prepared for a few negative remarks. Someone may want to tell you in detail about Aunt Susie’s long, terrible and terminal fight with cancer (I heard stories like this). NOT what you need to hear right now. Choose to spend time with people who offer you hope and the word of God. If the caller ID flashes the name of a negative person, you don’t have to answer.
3. Stay engaged. Don’t adopt a sick person mentality. Continue to live your life as normally as possible. Of course, things will feel upside down, but go to your son’s soccer game, your daughter’s ballet recital. Attend that family wedding.
4. Ask for help. If you need assistance in some way, others may not know unless you tell them. Usually, people are more than willing to bring a meal, to pray for you, or just be with you. But they may not think of it on their own. It’s okay to need help.
5. Stay grounded in scripture. When the fear monster rears its head, holding to the word of God will sustain. And as I suggested in 5 Things to do when it’s scary and your waiting, make sure you remind yourself of scripture throughout the day.
6. Look for beauty. God can use a cancer diagnosis to reorient our lives to the goodness of his hand. Notice the small gifts of grace in your life. You may find it transformative.
Of course, when treatment begins, some of these suggestions are not as feasible as others. But you get the idea.
One of the scriptures God brought repeatedly to me was Romans 5:3-5. Here it is from The Message:
“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”
I believe cancer is part of the brokenness of this life, but if God has allowed it, he can definitely use it. So, even during this time of finding a new normal, round up those containers for all that God would pour into your life.