I am a Christian – I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in 1983. He has walked me through the last 30+ years. I have taught Sunday School for 21 years and I try to read my Bible most days.
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, I went home and looked up my cancer and my prognosis on the internet – and it said for stage 3, the average was 27 months . I thought there must be a mistake, I had been healthy – never smoked or drank to excess, I exercised, ate pretty well and had pictured myself as a woman who would live to be 90. But the International staging for Multiple Myeloma said if your beta 2 microglobulins are over 5, you are stage 3 (worst stage) – mine were 8.5. I was stunned. Maybe I wouldn’t even live 27 months… I hoped a bone marrow transplant would allow me to have a normal life span, but when sitting at the table with my transplant coordinator just before the procedure, I asked, “how long will this stem cell transplant give me?” She said 2-5 years on average.
So, I faced my mortality for the first time – and God, to whom I had prayed many times daily, now seemed huge – immense and scary. It was as if I didn’t know Him at all. How could we live just long enough to love and become part of so many lives and then die? I felt angry and out of control and I accused Him: “Why did you create me? You don’t know how it feels to feel so small and helpless and out of control facing pain and death.” – and like a bolt of lightening He answered- Jesus. Ah, Jesus did know what it felt like. Before this I had no idea what a comfort it is to people who are suffering that Jesus suffered. Jesus became my life line I – I talked to Him constantly. I told Him my feelings – Jesus would know what I felt like. (yes, yes, I believe in the Triune God – but Jesus was the only way I could approach God at this time. And to this day, when I wake at night, my prayers are to Jesus.)
Cancer brought my Christian walk to a whole new level. Suddenly, I really understood that I will die – that this world is temporary- But peace came when I realized that this life is not all there is; “For God so loved the World, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever should believe in Him would have eternal life.” (John 3:16). I repeated that many times per day and clung to it when I felt anxious. The Bible says that we are sojourners and travelers on this earth. It isn’t a question of IF I will die – everyone is going to die. This blog is full of ideas of ways to prolong life and health – so I am not indifferent to death – but I believe my life is in God’s hands. I seek His guidance and help as I research and implement new ideas.
Jesus understands our dread of death . I appreciate that the Bible records Him weeping when He saw Mary and Martha grieving their brothers death. And while I don’t know all of what Jesus faced on the cross – I know he faced pain and suffering – He faced separation from God the Father while bearing our sins and He experienced death itself. I don’t know all of what He thought about in the Garden of Gethsemane – the Bible says He had planned from eternity past to suffer and die to save us. But all of that is mysterious to me – I know that He sweat drops of blood and asked God to take away the “cup” that He was facing. I am glad I can talk to Him about my dread of death and He knows what I feel like. I don’t have to face a time where I am separated from God. He promised to walk through everything (including death) with us. He will NEVER leave me or forsake me. I take comfort in the fact that He knows what it feels like, not just to face death, but to actually die and He knows that He has planned a resurrected body for me.
I might live one year or 15 years – but I trust that Jesus has a plan for my life on this earth and with Him after I die. Struggling through the thought of death and accepting my mortality took a veil off life. Now, everything is different because I know that this life is only part of the story. If you think about it, many Bible stories would be down right depressing if there were not heaven waiting for us. The disciples, including Paul, were martyred- killed violently and painfully. All the pious Old Testament followers of God got old and sick and died – BUT this world is not all there is! You can’t stop with the apostle Paul having his head cut off – you have to follow him to the hero’s welcome waiting for him in heaven! THAT is the rest of the story. and that is why having cancer has brought incredible blessings. It has freed me of some things – mostly it has freed me from being too caught up in this world. No matter how nice your house might be, you are going to leave it.
Knowing that this life is temporary and that where I am going is eternal makes me much more bold in my faith. I don’t worry as much about offending people by being open about my relationship with Jesus. He is forever and everyone here is short term.
As strange as it sounds, I alsowent through a time of feeling guilty about dying. I felt like I was letting people down – other people were counting on me and to leave this world felt like “shirking my duty”. As if I I were not fulfilling my responsibility. But, I have come to put my responsibilities and family in His hands, too. Jesus will care for my loved ones. He will still be here when I am gone and He will watch over my loved ones – I put them in His hands.
A funny thing is that when I realized that I will not be here forever, I realized that I am not God even now and realized I was feeling responsible for things I could not control- my parents health and happiness for example. I cannot “save” my family or solve their problems or make them happy. Other people need to deal with God directly. I will try to do my best as a wife, mother and daughter, and Christian – but I am not God. That is a very freeing realization! My family cannot rely on me for things that only God can provide. What a weight off my shoulders 🙂
Update Sept 2015 – I was recently diagnosed with Macular Degeneration – probably from the heavy chemo drugs I was given for the Bone Marrow Transplant (ASTC). A little grieving but then assurance that God has a plan for my life and we will go on together – and I am taking Lutein to try to slow the Macular Degeneration.