Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The C-Word

My biggest shadow-fear, it lurks
At least inside my mind
Threatening to suck life’s juices
And cast aside the rind.

It haunts the corners of my day
And nudges every door.
At dawn and dusk my knees can feel
It press up through the floor.

And though it strengthens every pain,
It sharpens every noise.
It gives each moment deeper tang,
And deepens all my joys.

My children’s cries become more sweet;
Dawn glows more vividly.

But in the lonely dark I meet
My patient enemy.

I discovered at one point in this long illness that I had some major emotional baggage that was impeding my recovery. It was this: I felt duty-bound to die young. My life has been so easy, my children healthy, my marriage deeply satisfying, etc. And besides, both my mother and her mother died young of cancer. And there are people my age dying of cancer all the time. Of course, it was my destiny to die young of cancer. It was only fair.

With the help of a couple of counselor-friends I was able to pull this belief out of my subconscious and really look at it. And of course I see it now as the lie that it is—and yet I still have to fight against it regularly. It’s part of living, I think, to have to face the absurdity of happiness in the face of other people’s misery, wealth in the face of poverty, peace in the face of war (both internal and external). I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t grapple with that regularly. But I think I’m doing it more healthily now. A lot of it comes down to what I believe about God. And here’s what I believe:

God knows that there is misery in the world. He expects me to do what I can to alleviate it in small and, if possible, big ways. (What those ways are is an ongoing dialogue between Him and me.) BUT he does NOT want me to atone for the fact that there is misery in the world—because He has already done that. He expects me to accept all the gifts He has given me with full, humble, gratitude and joy. And He expects me to enjoy them to the fullest as well.

I am determined to rejoice to my fullest capacity in all areas possible, and I’m determined that this is the very best form of worship there is. (And I’m not talking about a pursuit of pleasure with wild abandon. Because when you analyze what truly brings joy, you realize that selfishness and pleasure-seeking isn’t it. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to take pleasure in righteousness!)

Meanwhile, in conjunction with changing my outlook, I took another step to help me get over my sub/conscious obsession with cancer by deciding to have genetic testing done. There is a test, called the BRCA1/BRCA2 test, that can determine whether you have a certain genetic mutation which has been shown to bring an increase in likelihood of cancer. (If you have the mutation, you are 85% likely to get ovarian or breast cancer in your lifetime. If you don’t, your chances are the same as the rest of the population, whatever that is.) Because of my family history, I was a good candidate for the test, and chances that I have the mutation are at least reasonably high. Also because of my history, medical insurance will cover the testing. And, as I’ve already met my deductible, why not? (But it’s a very expensive test, and my 20% is still awfully high.)

There are all sorts of questions you have to face when you have the prospect of gaining new knowledge. Meaning, of course, what will you do with that new knowledge? So as we have awaited the results, we have talked about preventative (prophylactic) surgery. What would I do? Have everything to do with being female removed? Take out some and leave others? Replace some with silicone substitutes? Weighty decisions.

Today I got the results of the test. And the result was exactly what I predicted it would be . . . negative. (You thought I was going to say positive, right? Because of my fears? But ever since I have brought all this out to a conscious level, I have felt deep down that I would NOT have the genetic mutation, that God actually didn’t plan on taking me young with cancer.)

Anyway, as the genetic counselor said, we don’t know whether my mother and her mother had the mutation, so we can’t be sure that I’m “off the hook.” But we do know that I don’t have this particular increased risk, and I’d say that’s better news than the opposite! So I am praying today in gratitude, and rejoicing in my life.


Jennifer B. said...

I'm happy for your good news. Thanks you for this insightful post.

Brooke said...

This is so beautiful and I'm so happy for your good news.

I also have felt that sort of "destined for tragedy" feeling in my life at times. (This could come from reading too many tragic novels as a child, I'm sure.) But have also come to the same conclusions: there already was an atonement. I don't owe my life-- just my very best, which I'm willing to give.

Thanks for this!