“Joan?” the nurse called from the waiting room doorway. “Is Joan here?” We all glance up to see a woman of about forty get up from her seat and follow the nurse. She looked healthy enough now. What kind did she have? How long ago?
This is the Cancer Clinic and we are all here for our regular checkups. Mine is once a year, thanks be, but many of the people sitting here are still having checkups every three or six months. Some are having weekly chemotherapy like I did way back when.
All of us seated there feel a varying degree of uneasiness–perhaps dread. At one point our lives have all been jarred by those unforgettable words: “It’s cancer.” And having heard them once, we know that we could hear them again.
I gaze around the room and see people weak and pale, with thin hair, some wearing a wig; it’s apparent that they are still in the early stages of recovery–or death. With others it’s not quite as visible and some, like myself, appear to be in perfect health. How long ago did they go through it? Will they get a clean bill of health this time? Will I?
Going in for my checkups I can’t help but think back to my bout with cancer. Can it be that ten years have passed since I heard those awful words? Actually, I had to squeeze it out of my doctor; he would have preferred mumbling vague terms like “malignant tumor” until I asked him point blank, “If it’s malignant, then it’s cancer?”
He was a young doctor, not hardened to suffering; this was tough for him. He looked away for a moment, then said through clenched teeth, “Yes, then it’s cancer.”
Initially he had tried to reassure me that “it’s probably just a cyst, nothing to worry about,” but he knew right away that the truth would be much more painful. By my second visit we both knew it. I asked him what the surgery would do to me and he made an attempt to explain about the operation and the scar, but he soon faded away into silence. It wouldn’t be nice.
The “valley of the shadow of death” was a dark one, but the Lord held my hand all the way and I praise Him for it. I had surgery, then a heavy dose of chemotherapy which made me lose my hair, but I was never horribly nauseated like some people. The worst was the depression that followed several months after the treatments, but even then the Lord was there to help me when I got really down. I am alive today and very thankful for the modern medical “miracles” that happen every day.
On one of those chemotherapy days, when I was called in for my treatment the nurse found the room occupied by another patient. The nurse told me, “We’ll move Mrs… to another room and you can go in here.”
Soon a very thin lady in a wheel chair was brought out of the treatment room; as they passed me at the door I heard her say to the nurse, “I want to ask the doctor how much time I have left.”
The nurse answered, “They really can’t say, Mrs… They just don’t know these things for sure.”
I looked down as the nurse wheeled her by and saw this tiny person wasted away to skin and bones because of the disease and/or the treatment. It was apparent to us all that she would not see many more days in this world.
When Isaiah writes about Jesus he calls Him “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” Referring to Jesus’ death on the cross, he prophesied that “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
I read these verses one day and envisioned Jesus dying on the cross. Then I remembered the sight of that tiny lady who was wheeled past me. The Lord showed me something that has been a comfort to me all these years since.
We all want to die healthy, to go quietly, peacefully. A heart attack maybe–preferably just fall asleep and never wake up. Nothing traumatic, no suffering, nothing that will waste us away in mind or body, no incapacitating surgeries. Spare us all that!
But we all know of dear friends and loved ones who suffered terribly and perhaps their form was even so changed or disfigured that it was hard to look at them. We know it happens and we all wonder at times if that will be our lot someday.
“Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6
At this time of year we’re focusing on how Jesus submitted Himself to the cross, how He suffered that we might be reconciled to our Heavenly Father. To Christians the cross represents death–the death of our Lord and also death to our SELF. The Bible tells us that if we would be a child of God we must die to selfish desires and goals, to pride and hurt feelings. We must even die to our own human reasoning, to our right to determine our own path through life. We surrender it ALL to God.
The day I discovered I had cancer all my hopes, my goals, the plans we had made for the future, these all died. At that time I looked at cancer as a death sentence: if you have cancer you’re history! I was not afraid, though, for I believed that the blood of Jesus Christ covered my sins. I felt very unworthy, yet I knew that Jesus had paid the price for my salvation and the pearly gates would swing open for me because of the reconcilliation He had accomplished on the cross.
I could almost see into Heaven! Seldom has it felt so near to me as it did in those few days before I saw the surgeon! But once I saw him I got a different picture: I realized that cancer is treatable, that I was going to live, but that my life would be different. From then on I would have a cross to carry. I remember how heavy it looked when I first saw it and how hard I thought it would be to carry–but it has turned out to be a very light one.
Who knows what may someday come to pass? Someday I might be old and weary of life; I may be senile; I may be seriously ill. I may be disfigured by disease. Yet those verses from Isaiah tell me that if I will embrace the cross today and the death that it represents, then in my hour of need the Lord will embrace me.
If I commit my life to Him today He will never forsake me; He will love me and stay by my side even if I look so awful my own loved ones have to turn away. And when it’s over He will carry me over death’s sea to those “many mansions” we read about in John 14:1-3.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23: 4,6