Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Why Cancer?

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

What consequences have you experienced because of your wrongdoing?

I stare long and hard at this question on my bible study paper. We are studying the book of Joshua and how the sin of one person can affect not only herself but the community at large. But this question – this asks ME what MY wrongdoing has caused; ME.

My wrongdoing is anger. I’ve talked about it here before. Anger had started before cancer…years before.

I sit in my Bible study group, silence, crickets, after our leader reads the question, I sigh loudly and start. “I’m just going to say this, but I don’t want to talk about this. Please understand that what I’m saying has no bearing on any one else but me. No conclusions can be drawn for anyone but me. I believe my sin, specifically anger, is partly why I got cancer. I believe God revealed this to me when I asked why. I can’t say this about anyone else but me, please understand. But for me, cancer is the consequence of my wrongdoing – consequence of my anger.”

The room pulsates silence. A few mumble thanks for sharing. My heart pounds in my chest. I vainly swallow the lump in my throat. I don’t even know this group yet – it is only week two. But somehow, I know that I need this truth I’ve learned to be out there. MY anger caused MY cancer.

It is shortly after my diagnosis and Jerry asks me, “Do you think you have cancer because of the anger you have towards women who think you are pregnant?”

“Yes, I do.”

I have an odd shaped body. From the side, it looks I have an egg crammed into my insides where the rounded part of the egg is my bottom and the pointy part of the egg resides right under my chest. Having three kids and experiencing substantial weight gain has only exacerbated the oddness. I have tried everything: crunches, dieting, shapeware, flowy tops, creative layering, and accessorizing. Without substantial weight loss and possibly surgery I will never have any semblance of a flat stomach, especially where I want it, right under my rib cage.

I regularly have strangers ask me how far along I am or when I am due, as if it is obvious that I am pregnant. It has been years since I’ve carried a baby, and it was never easy or fun. My anger and bitterness towards women who asked or thought I was pregnant over the last few years has grown considerably. I didn’t realize how long it has been growing. Every interaction so shocking to me…so odd that so many felt they needed to talk to me, a stranger, about this.

Each time I was asked, the anger grew and festered until I remember once the anger exploded into rage for several hours. (Thankfully not towards the stranger, but at home.) I was a mess and all I could think is, “What is wrong with me?” Yet, I allowed it to fester and grow…I didn’t ask for forgiveness, didn’t try to resolve it, didn’t pray about it.

Now I realize how damaging this can be, how cancer grows exponentially and eats away at all things good, just like this anger was eating away my positive view of myself and others.

So, I ask the question, “God, why do I have cancer?” I don’t even need to hear a straight answer…it’s like he’s just nodding, saying, “You know why.” I pray, I cry, I ask for forgiveness. How do I expect to meet a holy God with this sin choking me? Forgive me, God. Please keep me from sin. Help me to live in your grace. I realize now that each day is a new opportunity to be free from this anger.

And that opportunity comes more quickly than I wanted. I’m at the hospital for yet another test. The check-in person at the Women’s Health Center asks me when I am due. I say no, that after three kids this body didn’t bounce back – I have a weird shaped body. That I was so big with each kid that I wished I looked this cute when I was pregnant. I think she didn’t know what to say, but she smiled and laughed. She leaves, I pray against anger, I rationalize that she is waiting for grand kids and is excited. I remind myself that this means people actually think I’m still young enough to have kids. And I believe God helps me let it go.

As I lay there reflecting that night I felt God saying to love all women, no anger, no back talking, no hate – just love. Yes, love. Just love.

Losing Concentration & Anger

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I’ve never thought of myself as an angry person, but really, anger manifested itself several times in my life. There are people in my life whose angry behavior I often observed, but I can’t use that as an excuse because at some point, the anger becomes my own and I can’t fully explain the process.

I remember being in high school, so full of rage one day that I tore apart my whole room. I can’t even remember why. I only did this once and I don’t think I really broke anything – so it must have been a controlled “burn”.

In my late 20’s anger was a daily part of life. I didn’t realize how bad it was until the overwhelming dread of how hard life was had enveloped me. Through deep prayer and consultation with my uncle, a pastor, and his prayer team, I was freed from that anger.

With the advent of cancer, my old enemy came saddling up and I deceptively agreed to his terms. Yet, I didn’t even realize the depths of what I was agreeing to.

It is two weeks after my diagnosis and the day mixed up. I’m trying to help the kids focus on school, yet my fuzzy focus makes simple decisions seem impossible. I forget why I’m doing things, why I went into a certain room. It’s like “mommy brain” but so.much.worse. It’s very difficult to concentrate. People keep asking me how they can help, and I don’t know what to tell them because I can’t seem to have a complete thought about anything.

I want us to finish this homeschooling year strong, but I see that goal quickly fading. Every single day I do something cancer related. A phone call, a test, a conversation with another specialist, planning for the next whatever. I just want a normal day, to clear my head, to not allow the word cancer to enter my brain. But it doesn’t look like any normal days are coming anytime soon.

Today, two years later, I can see that this is where the anger began. This is where that hot rage boiled over into a text message to my sister Rachel, “Let’s give a woman who hates needles, doctors, and anything medical related and let’s give her f&*%ing cancer.” I feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. I want to punch something or break something (there’s a lot of glass in my kitchen…). The devastation of this has only begun. The darkness was moving in like a grey cloud that eventually shifted to black.

The anger began to take over and I didn’t even realize it. That undercurrent of rage / lava built up under the surface, yet I didn’t have time to be angry. All I had time for was surgery, treatment, blood draws, and tests after tests, and doctor’s appointments after doctor’s appointments. All energies were spent on gathering information, analyzing treatment options, ensuring that all tests were covered so that a clear treatment path was obvious. Ain’t no time to be angry when focused on survival.

But despite all that focus on life, survival, forward momentum, anger continued building silently, quietly, forcefully.