I've got less than one week before my last chemotherapy infusion. After that I still have radiation and a pretty extensive surgery (I'm leaning towards an updated version of the tram flap, a diep flap operation, which I'll explain in a later post) but once I'm finished with chemotherapy I will have the hardest part of treatment behind me.
Which means I've been thinking about what it means to "return to normalcy." While life without chemo sounds fantastic (no more achy joints, no more nausea, weakness or rapid heartbeat!) I'm not sure how to be normal again, or even if I want to be.
While this is a hard point to get across, I really do feel that, in many ways, cancer was an answer to my prayers. I've mentioned that I'd been praying for a deeper walk, to know God better. I'd been praying for meekness and an eternal perspective. Being diagnosed with cancer gave me all of these things in bucketfuls (although the battle for outspoken-me to be meek will probably be a life-long fight!). But I've been thinking about something a lot...
If given the choice of not having cancer and subsequently not growing in Christ like I have, would I choose that option? In a perfect world I would have preferred God to use something more gentle than a fatal illness to get my attention. But who knows- maybe cancer was the only way? Maybe I was too selfish to pay attention otherwise.
Before I was diagnosed I thought that donating to charity and doing one or two service projects a year was enough. Now I know that every day I don't help someone is a wasted day. Every day I see people around me but don't try to understand their circumstances and struggles is a failure. (Romans 12:13-15)
Before cancer I thought that if my friends and family needed help they would ask for it. Now I know that God told me to help and I shouldn't wait for an invitation. (Acts 20:35)
Before cancer I thought that reading my Bible two or three times a week was enough. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Meaning that when we neglect to read the Bible, we are choosing to walk an un-lit path. Without a light, how do we know where we should go?
Before cancer I thought that I had all the time in the world. But Psalms 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." And now I understand that if I don't "evaluate the use of time in light of the brevity of life" I'm a foolish person. (Quote from The MacArthur Bible Commentary.)
Before cancer I thought that being a Christian was easy. Now I think maintaining this level of intimacy and passion for Christ takes work, selflessness, sacrifice, and diligence regarding my every behavior and every thought. Before, I didn't know what it meant to "take up my cross."
Mark 8:34-35 says, "Jesus then told the crowd and the disciples to come closer, and he said: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it."
Since my diagnosis I've become too aware of heartbreak. I've seen the sad side of our sad world and I better understand what Jesus meant when He asked us to give up our lives for Him.
It's obvious how much cancer has changed me. And, yes, I'm anxious to get back to normal. But what will that mean for me? How will my new perspective permeate my every day actions so that I look like a person who has seen death and sorrow up-close? How do I continue living like a person who understands the horrors of hell and loves even my enemy enough to die just to keep him from such a scary outcome? How do I prevent myself from slipping back into blissful ignorance? It was much more peaceful to live in ignorance. Much easier to be satisfied to be a "baby" Christian.
When all of my treatments are over and I'm able to crawl away from the cold doctor's office, when I'm able to take off the wig, have a "whole" body again, throw out the pills, and leave the "patient" title behind, how will I maintain this level of intensity for the lost and hurting?
What does God have in mind for my new normalcy?