After surgery to remove my tumor I was fortunate to hear the words, “We think we got all the cancer.” But in spite of that, I started to have moments of panic. I would wake up in the morning and start poking around my abdomen, trying to figure out if anything was there, if any tiny cancer cells had taken hold and were making a comeback. I sent an email to Toni, my cancer “surviving and thriving” friend and asked, “Is this normal?” With her permission, I am sharing this conversation.
Me: I have been having dark thoughts. My fear is that the tumor will return. The last month before surgery it grew so rapidly that now I am worried and am checking my abdomen to see if it is growing back. My doctor was hopeful that everything was "clean" after removing the tumor, but it was an aggressive form of cancer and may have thrown off tiny, undetectable cells. I try not to focus on this, because I know that nothing good can come from fear. I also have a hard time knowing how and what to pray. I know our lives are temporary here, but I don't feel ready to go yet, even though I know that heaven is our eternal destination. I hope if it is God's will for me to die early I will have a Godly attitude about it and not become bitter.
Toni: Regarding dark thoughts: oh, so normal and nothing wrong about it. Once we have been dealt this beast, it never quite leaves us. I still feel lymph nodes in my neck occasionally, but promise that once you get through it, the thoughts will lessen greatly. Each little victory (chemo treatment, hair loss, etc.) takes you one step closer to being on the other side. These victories become enormously encouraging and you hang onto them with all your might. If you have strength to pat yourself on the back (not the tummy), do it often and know you're moving ahead in the battle. I latched onto Psalm 91 early in my treatment and it gave huge comfort. I will pray those verses for you and hope you will read through them and be comforted as well.
Cancer is a battle. It is a battle both physically and mentally. It is a struggle to get up and out of bed. It is a struggle to push the dark thoughts and “what ifs” out of your mind and cling to hope. It is a struggle to accept the future with grace.
Most importantly we must remember where our strength comes from during this battle. It does not come from our own internal well. It comes from a place deeper, a well that does not run dry—God’s eternal wellspring. My friend, Toni, is very wise and has been a great coach to me during this battle. Let’s take her advice and turn to the One from whom we receive our strength.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:1–4).
Excerpted from The Bald Headed, Tattooed, Motorcycle Mama’s Devotional Guide for Women Battling Cancer & Those Who Love Them Copyright 2013 Sara Nelson O’Brien
All photos courtesy of pixabay.com.