Saturday, August 8, 2020

My thoughts about cancer

Living is a strange thing. We all know it's temporary. We all live with the knowledge that at some point in the future, death is going to come for us and the people we love. Yet we keep on living and planning for a future that might not even come to pass because of things like cancer. 

Cancer has to be one of the scariest words around. It often feels synonymous with death, even though it isn't. 

I know far too many people who have died of cancer, but there are survivors too. I know just as many survivors. Despite that, the first thing I think when I hear that someone has cancer is, "Oh no! They're going to die!" That's my gut-instinct reaction, because cancer is scary.

When I learned I had cancer, I didn't immediately think that I was going to die. I thought, "Okay, what do we need to do to get rid of it?" The only time I worry about dying is when I think about the survivability statistics for my type of cancer - Melanoma Stage 3c. Those stats scare the dickens out of me because the odds are against me still being here in five years, and they're really really against me being here in 10 years. 

But as my sister-in-law pointed out, those are other people's stats. They don't apply to me. 

I must confess, I was never very good at statistics. I scraped by with a Bursary pass-mark and then never thought about them again - until I got cancer. Now I find myself doing the dishes and trying to calculate what my personal survivability stats might be if I add in the following factors:
  • My surgeon's patient melanoma recurrence rate is 12%. As in, only 12% of the patients he operates on have their melanoma come back.
  • I'm doing Keytruda immunotherapy, which increases the five-year survivability stats by something like 50% and, if it works, could potentially be considered a cure for life.
  • I'm trying to eat the right things and help my body heal and fight the cancer from the inside out, which has helped other people with more dire outlooks than mine beat back their cancer.
  • Many, many people are praying for complete healing for me. 
I know that the first three factors above don't even matter if God decides to answer the prayers of the people who are interceding on my behalf. His power is such that he can simply remove this cancer from my body like it was never there. 

Still, I have no way of knowing if he's going to do that. God sees the end from the beginning and, in his goodness and wisdom, might make the choice that I wouldn't make for myself. Either way, I win. Either way, I get to walk with my Lord. But I would prefer to stay here on earth for many years to come, so I can be here for my husband and children, and for the other people who love me.

It's one of the things you find yourself asking yourself when you get cancer - "Do I want to live?" At different points in my life, I might have answered, "No," to that question. At those times, life felt hard and I felt pointless.  

But I believe that God has allowed me to journey with cancer, partly so that I can come to understand that my life does matter. It matters to a lot more people than I would have realised if I hadn't got cancer, and it certainly matters to God.

If I have five years, ten years or fifty years left on this planet, I hope I can use my life to love other people well, and to bring glory to my Lord.  

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