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Remember Me

Posted by: John_Hamilton on 06/20/2012 08:27 AM Updated by: John_Hamilton on 06/20/2012 08:35 AM
Expires: 01/01/2017 12:00 AM

Respirit – Week 20 “The Definition of ‘Fighting’ Cancer” By Catherine Lewallen

Murphys, CA...“Fighting cancer” is perhaps the most common way we describe surviving this dreaded disease. But if you haven’t dealt with it yourself, or closely helped someone else through it, the word “fighting” might be a little abstract. I know I had a dramatic image of intense pain and some serious stoicism. I also pictured of course never quitting, no matter how horrible a procedure or treatment was. I now know that these are in fact components to the battle against cancer. But the vast majority of the fight involves things I had never considered....

I fight the actual physical pain. This was no surprise. This can be pain from a tumor, or pain caused by surgery, or pain involved with treatment side effects. I have experienced all three, and each one is different and creates a different mental challenge. Tumor pain made me squeamish. I really felt like a diseased individual. A lot of people have cancer and never even feel it. Unfortunately, several of my tumors were obvious just by touching my skin, and were uncomfortable around my torso, particularly between my ribs. Surgical pain was intense, teeth-gritting pain. It is a type of pain to which most people can relate. The location or severity may be unique or present some additional challenges. When my lung was cut into, I was amazed at how difficult just breathing could be. The last type of pain I’ve experienced is caused by treatments other than surgery. A patient may endure joint pain or stomach pain or headaches, etc. This pain is tricky because you feel guilty complaining about it, particularly when the treatment is literally saving your life. There is nothing more annoying though than when I say, “Wow, the pain is really bad today,” and someone retorts with, “At least you’re not dead.”

I fight to remain unafraid. I must continue to keep my confidence up, because I know my young son is constantly watching. He is forming his reaction based on my reaction. Also, I fight to not allow cancer to cause my trust in God to weaken.

I fight to protect and prepare my loved ones. It is tricky to know when and how to divulge information. I constantly try to balance hiding things (“faking it”) with being honest and seeking much-needed support. I try to gauge when my friends or family just need a break.

I fight to be patient. A lot of enduring this disease is waiting. Waiting for results. Waiting between appointments. Waiting in line at the pharmacy. Waiting in the waiting room! Waiting for good news to turn bad. That last one sounds so dark and pessimistic, but you know I have to keep it real. Cancer patients, even the most faithful and optimistic, can’t help but wait for its return.

I fight through selfish doubt when I hear about another survivor succumbing to the disease. Even if I don’t know the person, any time I hear about someone dying of cancer, my stomach tightens. I see people around me stiffen. It is too close to home and definitely scary. A cancer death brings about a strong series of emotions.

I fight depression. Thinking “poor me” is a common thought. It is frustrating at times to look around at “normal people” just going through their lives so carefree. Cancer is a burden that is difficult to carry all day every day. Maybe I should have said, “I fight being a grump!” because there are definitely days that I know I am not the sweetest person in the world because I am simply worn down and worn out by this disease.

And I fight relentlessly. I think for me, this is the most difficult. There is no break. No matter how hard I try, I cannot forget about it for a day. I don’t think I forget about it for even an hour, no matter how much fun I’m having. First of all, there are tangible reminders, like having to take pills, or people asking questions, or the physical symptoms. But more insurmountable are the emotional reminders. I can’t look at the sky the same as I used to. I can’t watch my son with less intensity. I can’t celebrate a holiday with the same carelessness.

Okay, so now I think I have clearly defined what is meant by “fighting” cancer. I’m sure I left out many aspects, as these were just the ideas that came to mind quickly. And I’m sure I made it sound horrible, which in many ways, I’m not going to lie to you, it is. But there is some good news, particularly for the Christian.

God’s purpose is worth every bit of the fight. His plan, even when I don’t understand it, creates a peace and a pleasure that is often indescribable. I experience faith at its highest. Having your dreams for the future potentially crushed, being imprisoned by an incurable disease, and being worn down with no relief on the horizon, and still being able to thank God and praise Him for the wonderful life He has given me, creates a closeness with my Heavenly Father that is unshakeable. This is a glorious point for any true Christian.

Charles Parkhurst wrote, “Great faith is exhibited not so much in doing as in suffering.” I worship a loving, sympathetic God who is also a savior who suffered. For each of us. Not just for all of us, but for each of us. I love that. That means He would have died that horrible death just for me alone. How do any of us ever struggle with issues of self-worth when we know what the King has done? One of the happiest parts of my life has become ministering to others. I would never have been able to help others without first drinking from the cup from which Jesus drank (John 18:11). In 1st Peter, we are taught that since Christ suffered in his body, we should arm ourselves also with the same attitude. As a result, we will not live the rest of our earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. And, of course, that will bless each of us with the most purposeful and the most fulfilling life possible.

Editors Note...Catherine's fight with cancer and the manner in which she has fought it publicly has been an inspiration to many. If you would like some context and a more personal look at her battle you can find it on the Caring Bridge Website Here! We would like to welcome Catherine as one of our contributors and we hope her story can help you along your journey in life.

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