It’s not about the cancer

There is no way to skirt around bad news. You can only wait for it to go away. Then you struggle with the next bad news. (Not that we’re pessimistic or live with an “other shoe will drop” mentality. We are not, but we are biblicist residing in a fallen world: bad stuff happens to people.)

On November 1st the bad news came; Lucia has cancer. A week or so later we learned she had an 85% chance of full recovery. The cancer “bad news” slowly mitigated, and a new bad news supplanted it. The new bad news is the mastectomy. That has been the hardest bad news to process throughout this journey.

Granted, if her chances of a full recovery go down, the cancer will replace the mastectomy as the worst bad news. That has not happened yet, and we’re not projecting a change in the current bad news.

So we’re stuck with our current and most troubling bad news, which is the mastectomy. That has been a hard pill to swallow. I have personally hurt (from the sidelines) as we often chat about the upcoming surgery.

I can’t hurt the way she hurts, but I can hurt like a husband should. The closest approximation illustration, which is not entirely accurate, is phantom pain. It’s not that, but it reminds me of that as I hurt for her. My soul cringes when I think about the mastectomy, which helps me to enter into this challenging season with her.

She has tried to figure out ways to get out of this, but she knows there’s nearly no way for that to happen. The issue here is not about vanity. Lucia is not a body-image-vain-person. She has never been that person.

How to pray

Because what we’re going through is not primarily about cancer, hearing about breast cancer survivor stories don’t help. Maybe I can say it this way: It’s like a guy who loses his arm surgically, and someone says he’s doing great today; he’s recovered fully.

Well, not really.

Yes, the one-arm man survived the disease, but he lost his arm. It stopped being about the disease for him. It’s about losing a body part. I’m glad he survived the disease, and would never want to minimize that great outcome, but there is this other thing hanging out there. Or, in his case, not hanging out there at all.

If Lucia’s cancer has a second coming and there have to be more surgeries to get rid of it, the survivor stories will probably be a form of encouragement…at that time. But for this season, those “cancer success stories” do not discourage or encourage. We quietly dismiss them as we focus on the main thing. It’s that blooming mastectomy.

We’re okay with what we’re going through as much as one can be all right with losing a body part. We know how to run errant thoughts down and bring them under the obedience of Christ. Honestly, we’re not struggling in a way that incapacitates us spiritually or relationally. We’re doing quite well, but there are those thoughts we have to submit to Christ a few times during the day. Pretty much every day. It’s the thing we talk about more than cancer.

You can pray our good LORD will continue to provide the persevering grace that enables us to get after those thoughts when they seek to captivate our thought life. That is where focused praying helps the most.

And I suspect there will be a slightly altered iteration of those errant thoughts after the surgery. They may be worse. If so, I will let you know.

Thank you for actively and practically loving us. That is what helps most of all. Experiencing the care of the body of Christ in tangible ways cannot be overstated.

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About RickThomasNet

Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking. In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).