The Cancer Question and Being Wary of Hope
August 9th is nearing. And that’s when I’m supposed to find out whether or not I have cancer.
Statistically, I probably don’t, since the kind of cancer that we’re talking about is rare. Of women that have uterine fibroids (leiomyomas) only about 1 in 1000 become cancerous (lieomyosarcoma). Even so, I am rather a rare individual, already living with a debilitating motor neuron disease that only affects about 1 in 6000. That and ultrasound imaging that shows rapid growth of the outer fibroids but not the inner one leave me with no feeling of assurance.
On my optimistic days (which far outnumber the pessimistic ones) I have confidence in the mercy of God and the reality of miracles. Whether it started as cancer or not, I believe that God can cure it. On those days when I feel like I probably do have cancer, it’s simply an acknowledgment that we all have to die of something… God works in mysterious ways and enables all suffering to work for the good in His Masterpiece, the big picture.
I am too small to see the big picture. Right now, God knows what is happening inside of my body and what is best for me and the people I love. I don’t.
Having said all of that, I can see something inside of me, a truth about my particular personality, that is making this waiting period a little more difficult.
I am wary of hope.
In writing my memoir this year, I see consequences of certain events and how patterns have developed in my life. When I was six years old, I believed that becoming Poster Child for the New Hampshire Chapter of MDA meant that I would be able to walk. I guess I thought that I would just be cured and get up out of my wheelchair, simple as that. My mother informs me that I even told her that I didn’t want to start school unless I could walk. The odd thing is that I don’t remember any of this. But, imagining how hearing these words from her bright and usually smiling little girl would have made a hurtful impact upon my mother, I do not doubt that she heard them.
Obviously, I didn’t get what I wanted.
While Poster Child at ages 6 and 8, and all through the years of the MDA Labor Day Telethon, I often heard the slogan “Hope for a Cure”. I’ve always been a curious child, my active mind thinking and rethinking, and it was clear to me that this hoped-for cure would not come in my lifetime. If it came at all. This was a kind of pessimism, I guess you could say, but only in the zeitgeist of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, with fundraisers gung ho on eradicating diseases and parents and patients understandably wishful.
In truth, however, my lack of hope was realism. After all, my hope to be cured before school started didn’t come to pass. Our prayers during a healing service of a famous priest were not answered with the reversal of my disease. When people told me that, if I had enough faith and was a good girl, then God would cure me, I did pray and I did try to be good. And I still couldn’t walk…. Why should I hope for a cure that wouldn’t come?
When I was a teenager, I sarcastically and delightedly noted that hope is a four-letter word.
Reading all of this may make you, dear reader, think that I grew to be a depressed and downtrodden or bitter and angry kind of person. But, I didn’t. I am simply realistic. And, most wonderfully, I am accepting. I came to the conclusion that I am supposed to be disabled and to do the best that I can. All of the prayers for a miracle that the myriad people offered up to God on my behalf were, I believe, answered with a resounding, if not mysterious, “Yes”. The miracle, as my mother often says, is that we accept. We accept the disappointments and hardships of our lives with the knowledge that the love that we have for one another with the love that we receive from God is the greatest treasure and power – and that life, no matter what, is a sacred gift.
I don’t know the future.
I believe that God can cure my leiomyosarcoma, if indeed that’s what I have, in a true miracle. And I also believe that, if I do have a cancer that is not cured, God’s miraculous grace will still be fulfilled. God willing, I will continue to receive divine love and grace to live my life, no matter how long it is, in goodness, beauty, and truth, knowing joy that lasts forever – even through pain.
Okay, I am a realist, though, remember? So, yes, it would suck if I have cancer. It would not be pretty. And I don’t want it.
Thinking about it makes me immediately sad, as my nephews come to mind and my sister… I don’t know why, but it would seem hardest to leave them. Perhaps, because I think that they are the least prepared? I almost include my brother-in-law in this, except… Well, he has come to believe in Christ and, so, has some greater knowledge of the mystery of divine will and the reality of ever after. Yes, my parents have this, too, but they also have over four decades of living with me, day in and day out, in a good life, a truly good life of loving each other and the three of us enjoying largely the little things. They will miss me, of course. Everyone who loves me will have some heartbreak – and I can say that without any pride, for it speaks to their love, not my lovability. But, I envision peaceful golden years for my parents after my death, whenever that is, and, so, I don’t feel sorry for them.
I do, however, feel a little sorry for me. I don’t want to leave, yet. There are many things that I can do, it’s true, perhaps a mission as yet incomplete. But, there are also so many things to wonder at, to contemplate, to enjoy….
Of course, I have to leave some time. We all do. Just, not yet… I hope.
But, as I said, I am wary of hope. Even the theological virtue of hope, which is, not only the desire for heavenly union with God, but also the trust in Christ’s promise that heaven is real… well, even that eludes me sometimes. But, that’s for another reflection.
Please do pray for me that God’s Holy, Perfect, Positive, Ordained Will be done.
© 2017 Christina Chase
Decay and Flowers, © 2017 Dan Chase
Girl in the Aqua, Caroline Hernandez
Christina Chase View All
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.
Thank you for sharing with us your desire to not leave this life yet.
In my work (psychologist), I talk to so many people whose emotional wounds or mental illness lead them want to depart this life. Even when you do not feel hope (or do not trust it), in your writing here, you are a hope-giver.
I am not trying to make you a “poster child” again. Certainly your physical condition adds an added dimension of power to your words. (Which of us able-bodied readers could imagine enduring your hardships and still remaining faithful, wanting more of life?) Yet, your hope-giving does not spring from your disability but from your heart consecrated to the heart of Christ.
All praise to Him.
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I appreciate everything that you have written here for me – and for everyone. Although I do suffer from physical disease and disability, I have always been grateful to be psychologically sound with a true love of life. Having family members that suffer from depression, and a cousin that ended her own life, my heart goes out to people who struggle with peace and joy.
Hopefully, (yes, hopefully) my struggles and joys can give someone somewhere a sense of hope, as you said. If so, glory and praise to God, indeed! Thank you for reflecting with me!
I eagerly await your promised reflection on “Christ’s Promise that Heaven is real”.
Your words give me such Hope in navigating the impossible struggles I’m living through today and those on the horizon. Frank’s day is August 15.
You are in our daily prayers, dear Christina.
We praise God for placing you in our path…..
You, Frank, and all of your family are in my prayers – I will be praying for Frank especially on the 15th (Feast of the Assumption!) Glad that God brought us together, too!
As a cancer “thriver” (I not only survived but thrive), I am sending prayers and positive energy your way as you face August 9th. The unknown and the waiting are difficult and angst ridden, but isn’t that true with many things in life? As a realist, who also believes in miracles and faith, I will say to you positive thinking is the greatest gift you can give yourself right now. Worse case scenario you find out you do have a malignancy, this does NOT necessarily mean you won’t “thrive”. Any and all things are possible especially someone with the faith you have. One tool which helped me during my radiation treatments was visualization techniques. It’s not too soon for you to use this now! I know it sounds weird, but just picture in your mind the area of your body and tissue impacted by this condition, and imagine it being benign and healthy rather than malignant and unhealthy. Relax and focus on this part of your body being calm and peaceful rather than angry and aggressive. If nothing else, you will feel as if you are doing SOMETHING positive to help yourself. My gut feeling is you will get good news in August, but, no matter what, I will continue to offer prayers in your name.
Thank you! You know, I’ve used that visualization technique to actually help me get over my fear of needles! I still use it to help relax spasming muscles, it’s very helpful. And, yes, I am thinking positive – but not because I believe that positive thoughts themselves will make an unhealthy thing healthy, I know that there are limits to mind over matter. I am, however, a naturally positive person – thank God!
I’m so glad that you are a cancer “thriver” (I like that). Although I wouldn’t be able to have surgery, because of my underlying condition, don’t want chemotherapy, and even though radiation isn’t recommended here, I plan on still being a thriver no matter what. I’ve lived with the knowledge of my own mortality since I was a child, so I know that every day is a gift and have been treating each one, now more than ever, as precious. Loving my family, taking good care of myself, and sharing my story – these are my favorite techniques. 🙂 And striving to grow ever closer in relationship with the One who loves me beyond imagining. God willing, I will be able to continue these for years to come.
Thank you, again, for reflecting with me! I think of your mother often with fondness. Hope that you and your family are well. Thank you for your prayers!!!
another Christina 🙂
I know surgery is unlikely to be an option for your fibroids, but I saw my niece last weekend; the fibroids she had removed weighed in at 2 KG, more than 4 lb English measure. She really looked better than I’ve seen her in a long while. Whether the drugs can work such a miracle (I don’t use the word lightly) I do hope you get relief from your discomfort and joy in daily life..
Your faithful following of Agnellus Mirror is much appreciated. A shame we don’t live nearby, or I’d be bringing apricots from our golden surplus. Right now it’s raining – music on the skylight windows in the kitchen and bathroom, and no doubt welcomed by the frogs – but it will bring more fruit to the ground. Jam tomorrow?
My son is on skype, so I must go and join the conversation.
I am TRULY happy for your niece, what a relief for her! Four pounds, yikes! And thank you for the weights standard “translation”. 🙂 As for me, yes, here’s hoping modern medical marvels and mysterious miracles do the work and all is well. (Thankfully, and this may sound a strange thing to be thankful for, I’m very used to discomfort.)
Raining here, too, lovely plump drops playing music on the flowers in the window boxes, grasses sighing with relief. Hope the ripe blueberries hold on until we can gather them up! Would enjoy sharing our bounty with you, too – but words will have to do.
Blueberries – they won’t grow on our chalky soil, so we hoped to gather enough billberries (tiny, wild, richer tasting blueberries) to do something when we visited my mother in Yorkshire. Our favourite bank had been uprooted to make a little park. We were not impressed and had no time to look further.
But when the apricots are over there are brambles and wild plums and … “Kent, sir – everybody knows Kent – apples, cherries, hops, and women.” Dickens, Pickwick Papers. The cherries are almost over; a father of three daughters, one about to marry, will keep his counsel regarding the women, but the fruit and hops are very much appreciated!
Funny! You bring me to England every time you write. Our high bush blueberries aren’t as sweet as the wild, low ones, but they do like our acid rich soil – thanks to the many pine trees keeping watch around our sunny acre and a half. My father can pick at least 12 cups a day (not counting the ones that don’t get measured before they are eaten). And no, sorry, I can’t translate that into metric – I’m American! 🙂
Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming wedding! Love, beauty, fidelity are gathered up in one day… Something to look forward to. The fruit and hops will come in handy for celebration. Blessings!
Hi Christina, Your reflection blends so well with sermon I heard this morning at St. Basil the Great Orthodox church. It was about one of the healing stories told by Matthew. According to our priest these two disabled persons were in the crowd but had trouble making their way up to the front. They kept calling out, but Jesus seemed to ignore them. Undaunted, they persisted. After a rather long while, Jesus turned and acknowledge them. When they asserted their faith in him, they were given sight. Fr. Martin focused on the delay. The waiting. He said God heals in his own good time, not necessarily according to our hoped for time table.
You know that, of course. And I did too, but hearing it this morning in a sacred place with candles and and chanting and restless children and distracted or tired parents and contented, smiling elders — it really hit me what faith means and how healing takes place often while following along together and praying but also waiting, often impatiently but always believing.
We’re all in this together– you, your parents, your extended family, our “extended family” — all of us tagging along, somerines dragged along, the way, praying together and encouraged by each other. No one, if I recall correctly, first approached Jesus alone. (I myself feel less alone when I read your words, and picture you talking to your electronic typist. 🙄)
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Yes, all in good time – God’s time. 🙂
When considering Christianity, that is, whether or not to become a Christian, I was afraid that this particular religion was too concentrated on people having enough faith to be cured. (I came of age during the televangelist scandals of the US, that could be part of the problem.) Reading the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, however, gave me reassurance that the point of faith is not physical wellness. Jesus goes off to pray by himself early in the morning and, when the disciples find him, they tell him that there are people waiting for him, presumably people waiting for more healing miracles. But, Jesus says that he is going on to the nearby villages to preach the Good News of Salvation, for that was why he had come. In other words, he was willing to leave people physically unwell because he hadn’t come for our bodies, but for our souls.
I know that God has the power to cure me, to heal me physically. I feel like that leper who kneels before Jesus and says, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” If you wish, Lord…
The passage that you wrote that begins “hearing it this morning in a sacred place…” is beautiful! You are a gifted storyteller, Albert, you really bring me into the places that you write about and into your heart. If you’ve never written a book, I think that you should. Blessings and thanks to you,
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I’m praying for good news on Aug. 9th. You are in my prayers.
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Well this was particularly beautiful….and there is something very profound in the part about the miracle being that we accept what we cannot change. That really is quite miraculous.
Death comes for all of us eventually. That said, I am in no way ready to lose you. My money is in you and your continued life. You are not finished yet.
Well, technically… you and I both believe in life after death, so life does continue, right? 🙂 But, I know what you’re saying. And I agree – I don’t want to leave, yet! One day at a time. What kind of miracle I’ll be getting will be known soon enough. Love and peace to you, Jacqui
Sending you lots of positivity xx
Thank you! Update coming tomorrow… It will be called Good News
Thank you for these beautiful words. Such a touching read.
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Reblogged this on LIVING THE DREAM.
Hi thanks for possting this
Thank you for reflecting with me! I appreciate your visit and wish you well with your new blog.