Setting the Stage for Your Next Stage
The fight of a cancer fighter is a long game. As much as we would love it to be short and then move on, that is not the case for the majority. So, here’s a look at one battle faced by a fierce and faithful fighter.
“I was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer in November of 2016 at 45 years old. After a colon resection and lung lobectomy and 5 months of chemo I was NED (no evidence of disease) until November of 2018. Then I had a hysterectomy and during that surgery, the surgeon found cancer in my peritoneum. I had cytoreduction surgery and was NED for 3 months. Then, I started FOLFIRI (a form of chemo) in October of 2019 and have been on it every two weeks since then.
I have a strong faith in God and a wonderful husband and kids ages 21, 18, and 16. Up until now I have really been able to stay positive and take 1 day at a time. My scans show my cancer is stable and that is a blessing, but I am having abdominal distress which is worrying me. Like so many, I am just tired. I also don’t look like I have Stage IV Cancer, so people don’t know what we’re going through. I want to live to see so many milestones in my kids' lives. I will keep fighting! I don’t know what God’s plan is, but I trust Him. It hit me that I need somewhere I can vent when I don’t want to worry my husband. I see the pain and sorrow in his eyes when I’m not feeling well. I need a community…”
Since my journey began in 2019, I have had hundreds of conversations with cancer fighters and this story helps all of us relate to the fight. Each person’s journey is different, but there’s a lot we share in common.
Stages exists for this purpose. I urge you to read through this story again. This time have your eye on a bigger picture. There’s the cancer fighter and her fight. There’s the husband and his. There’s children and their fight. There are the unexpected stages or battles within the fight (NED, but then surgery, then NED, then recurrence, then ongoing chemo). So, how do we set the stage for the next stage? How do we do that when we don’t know what lies ahead?
It starts with what God has put within us. I’m reminded of Romans 8:18ff, where Paul describes this wait, albeit impatient, that groans within us for everything to be set to rights. Paul understands that our hope is in something we do not currently possess or see as he says, “...hope that is seen is not hope…” But, he says if we have hope in what we do not see, what we are not experiencing right now in present circumstances, we can learn to wait for it patiently. But, the KEY to this passage is hinged on one pronoun and that pronoun is WE.
The WE is so pregnant with meaning. Sure, we could reduce it to community - we are part of God’s family. But, I think if we end it there, it is so passive, and Paul never commends passivity. We’re to not just read this as individuals who need to put their hope in the promises of God. We’re to read this as active members within a family who can see the suffering and battles others are facing and we rise up into action.
What I love about God is that He takes action right away. Paul says that the Spirit comes into this fight that we’re in, and when we don’t even have words, when we don’t even know what to pray for anymore, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. When God jumps to action first, how can we not follow His example and do the same for those who are in the thick fog of a battle?
We set the stage for the next stage by coming together and giving presence along the path. Again, those words can sound very trite or lacking in depth. So, let me again turn to a story, my story.
Weeks after diagnosis, I had a close friend named Ben give me a piece of men's jewelry that serves to remind me each day that I am not alone. More than that, he backed it up with his presence. He made himself available any time of day to talk, to cry, to just go for a ride...he will be there. Ben, then started working out with me every morning in my garage when I was too ill to work at the gym. Then, we moved to the gym and he works out with me every morning. Ben is a tangible and visible HOPE stone. So many times throughout the Bible, we see God’s people build altars or pile stones as a reminder of what God had done for them and continues to do for them. Ben is a living stone in that regard. His presence keeps me filled with HOPE, despite what I’m going through.
In upcoming posts, I will share countless stories of others in my life (my wife, Tim, Theresa, Dave, Bill and Laura, Rick, Harlan and Melissa, Jenna and Sean, and so many more) who felt the call to not be passive, but to be active by walking with me on this path. It’s impossible to express what those people mean to me.
HOPE is the stage setter for the next stage. We find HOPE and we live in HOPE through God by loving each other with active, present, love. This love doesn’t become passive when we don’t know what to say. This love doesn’t wait for the fighter to text, to call, to reach out - because that is so lonely. Love brings HOPE through a determined presence.