Friday, February 19, 2010

Mature and Complete - Not Yet, But Still Learning!

It's been FOUR years! February 20th, 2006, was the day I found out that breast cancer was a part of me. A big part. Never, not ever, did I imagine that it could possibly happen to me - a runner, a healthy mom of three young children, and a woman with no risk factors normally associated with the disease. Words cannot describe my emotions when I found out. Like all of us who've been through it, I think we can all agree that hearing, 'You have cancer,' are words that have affected us beyond our imaginations.

Ironically, some survivors proclaim that their cancer has actually been a blessing to them. Unlike those individuals, I cannot (and never could) tie the words blessing and cancer together. Oh, I tried, believe me. I remember numerous conversations with many sympathetic, well-intentioned people, when I valiantly tried to link the two nouns together as I spoke. But my attempts failed miserably at this ruse, numerous times. Sadly, I couldn't help but sense that oh-so-familiar, knot-like feeling growing stronger within my stomach each time I heard myself using those two words in the same sentence. I just couldn't proclaim it - and really mean it - that cancer was a blessing to me.

Initially, a big part of me actually felt embarrassed or even somewhat guilty when I was unable (or perhaps, unwilling?) to see the journey as a blessing. Yes, I realize that there are countless scripture verses that encourage us to view our struggles as blessings and to actually find some joy in them.

One of my favorite verses is found in the book of James 1:2-4: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Those verses, especially the last one, have made me ponder long and hard about the nature of becoming mature and complete. Just imagine how wonderful it will be when we find ourselves so fulfilled and spiritually whole, that we lack nothing! In other words, there will be a day when we will continuously practice courteousness, humility, selflessness, altruism, forgiveness, and sacrifice, without fail. Sounds a lot like the attributes of Christ, don't they?

So, over the years I've begun to think of cancer in a different way: I may not feel blessed by cancer, but I know that I have been changed by it. And I've listed a few of these changes below:

First, I've learned to believe in the old adage: "Never say never."

Second, people generally love the opportunity to help you when you need it, so I've learned to swallow my silly pride, at least for a little while, and ask for assistance when necessary.

Third, life is way too short to hold on to anger. When you stop and think about it, it's generally not worth it, so I try to let it go.

Fourth, birthdays will never again be days that I dread. Each birthday I celebrate is a true blessing. I can't stand it when people bemoan reaching the age of 40, or 50 or whatever birthday they happen to be celebrating. (That old "knot" starts to tighten up once again!)

Fifth, I have learned to take each day as it comes, the good with the bad. Only God knows what tomorrow will bring, and I need to constantly remind myself that He is in complete control. Fretting on my part is unhealthy, unproductive, destructive and time-consuming.

I know that I have long way to go in order to being fully mature and complete. It's been four years, and I still feel like an infant when it comes to mastering spiritual maturity. But really, when I stop to think about it, maybe the blessings that I've been unable to uncover within the word cancer have been there all along. I just need to view this struggle through Christ's eyes, not my own. Because when I do that, it is then - and only then - that I will truly be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I am just curious, friends: How has cancer - or for that matter, any trial - changed you?


WhiteStone said...

Isn't God good! Sometimes I hear negative remarks from cancer patients who dislike my 'gratefulness' and dislike the idea that God brings all things into our lives, even the bad ones, to bless us and to test us. They see nothing positive in all of this...and yet in everything we rejoice.

Betty said...

Thank you. I too don't feel blessed by cancer, and at the same time I do feel blessed by those who have stood by me. Like you I have been changed by having bc. Your list of lessons learned is a good list for me. Thanks.

Debby said...

Karen, cancer has changed everything. I am so thoroughly changed by the experience that nothing is the same for me. I walk in the same world, but I see it very differently than I did before. I've been counting my blessings too.

Hopesrising said...

Karen, Thanks for your thoughts on my painting.
Cancer does change everything. I think each and every person copes and handles it in their one way.
I think now its coming up on 13yrs as a survivor.
It took me a long time to understand that its not a bad thing to feel blessed by a bad situation. Cancer indeed is one. But I felt so blessed and empowered by those I met due to it. Those who supported me and stuck with me through the experience. There is such an awesome understanding and difference in my life.
I went in to cancer thinking I was spiritual mature but I found out differently to that..Wow there is just so much more to understand. Maybe to I viewed faith and spirituality as two different things then.
Now I see them as one as the same and know I can't do it less it all works to the greater good. IF that makes sense??
I just have to put it in His hands. Like anything else in life that is tough. If I don't its to hard at times.

PFunky said...

As a mother of three young kids myself (5,4,2) I am trying to yell a little bit less and laugh a little bit more. I am trying to appreciate my hair growing back and the fact that my body has been able to continually do normal things though nothing about the treatment was normal.

It is awesome how you've been able to be so positive in a situation that can be so negative...

Congrats on celebrating another anniversary!

Kerry ABOUT ME said...


Well said and all so very true! I know I am definately a work in process. I only thought I was mature when (in hindsight) I have learned I truly wasn't! Life is so precious and God is so good. Life is best when we are growing and learning to become more like him. Loved the post! Have a blessed day,