Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fighting Cancer {A bittersweet battle}

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.  ~Dorothy Bernard

Today, it has been 9 years since my cancer diagnosis~ it is a bittersweet day.
Cindy and I~ High School Years

Because, just days ago, my lifelong friend, Cindy, was told that cancer had, once again, invaded her body.  As we spoke on the phone this morning, I was moved by the resolve and strength in her voice and marveled at God's Grace in her life.  

We allowed ourselves a moment to curse cancer together, shaking our fists at it and telling it off.  Then we laughed in the face of it as we confirmed our belief in the promise of heaven. Wrestling through the tension between "praying for a miracle" and "living with the "end" in mind,"  we decided there was wisdom in embracing both.  

This afternoon, Cindy scanned a few pictures and posted them on-line~ pictures of the care-free days of our youth.  Old friends began to dialogue, reflecting on memories, recalling names of friends forgotten and chuckling at the awkward fashions and hair styles.  
It was a hard, sweet, and ultimately rich day.

As I head to bed tonight, my heart is aching and tears pool in my eyes.  
I'm leaning into the deep sadness that comes when cancer invades 
the life of someone you love~ 
Cindy, you are loved, cherished and prayed for.  
Know that we are in the bunker with you, ready to take on the fight!

{Sometimes loving someone simply means standing with them when life gets hard.  
One of the most powerful things my friends did for me when I battled cancer was their  
"grab~my~shoulders, look-me-in-the-eye" speeches that went something like this:
"Do not lose hope~ I'm with you all the way."
"I think you are very courageous."
"I know you're scared. I will stay close to you."}
I am reposting my reflections from 4 years ago.  It is lengthy, but my friend Stephanie, who was battling cancer at the time said it helped bolster her in her fight.  Maybe someone you know who has cancer will be encouraged by it.  My kids have grown since this was written, and the details of life have changed, but the sentiment and truth remain the same. 

Reflections at the Five-Year Mark

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride!”  -Unknown 

Five years ago today, Dr. Knox told me that cancer had invaded my body.  In the moments that passed after hearing the news, my mind blew past every possibility of a cure and went straight to my funeral.  As messy as life was on earth, I loved doing life here, and the thought of missing out on any part of it was more than I could bear!
Today, I look back giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for giving me five more years. I’ve seen Blake and Emily go in and out of braces and Austin outgrow countless pairs of blue jeans.  We’ve rejoiced in first dates, district basketball and volleyball wins and jammed to the music of Blake’s band, Midweek.  I’ve stood on the continents of Europe and Africa and taken a cruise through the Caribbean.  The sweet things in life go on…
All of these things, however, are enjoyed in light of the fact that…. On Tuesday my friend, Paula, will have her second round of chemotherapy, and last year, I tucked my friend Becky’s God-honoring obituary into the pages of my journal.  My joints ache from chemo-induced arthritis and there are days when I think I’m going mad—a hysterectomy last spring robbed me of the last drop of hormones that were keeping me sane! Over the past five years we’ve had car accidents, speeding tickets and the flu.  Yes, life certainly does go on….
I’ve learned that the things that delight us—sunshiny springtime days like today, for example, are grace-gifts from the hand of God— just for our pleasure.  I’ve also learned that the hard stuff mixes into the good stuff and often feels like it’s weaving into tangled vines that obstruct our view of God.  The truth is— when life gets hard, every round of questions, every wave of anxiety, every pulse of fear, pushes us through the doors of the sanctuary, past the pews and the stained glass windows and up the stairs to the altar.   The question now becomes, “What will we do when we get there?”
           I have traveled that journey to the feet of God so many times; you’d think I’d have it down by now.  Over and over again, I return to the altar longing to hear Him say, “I have heard your cry for help. Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.”—and over and over again, He has whispered the words I long to hear.  It seems that the answer to all of life’s questions involves trust, which we can only fuel by coming into God’s presence. As Brennan Manning says, “Like faith and hope, trust cannot be self generated.  I cannot simply will myself to trust.  What outrageous irony:  the one thing that I am responsible for throughout my life I cannot generate.  The one thing I need to do I cannot do.  But such is the meaning of radical dependence (on Jesus).”
In the past five years I’ve done a lot of thinking about eternity.  Honestly, I used to think that floating around on a cloud all day sounded incredibly boring compared to the roller coaster of life.  God has created an electrifying, entertaining, adventuresome world for us here—I love the thrill of the ride!  I've learned that we miss a huge blessing if we downplay the grandeur of heaven. 
Until cancer came on the scene, I had done more research for my 3-day stay in England than I’d done on my eternal stay in heaven.  John Alcorn has written a sort of “Frommer’s Guide” to Heaven, which has given me great hope.  I can safely say that heaven is now on my list of “top ten places I’d love to visit.”  On his deathbed, D.L. Moody spoke these words, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead.  Don’t believe it for a moment.  I will be more alive than ever before…Earth recedes…Heaven opens before me!"   I now imagine that as much as I delight in watching Blake ruffle the hair on the top of Austin’s head, seeing Emily flash her radiant smile or the comfort of Dwight’s embrace-- heaven will delight me even more!
   My five year celebration began when I jumped out of bed this morning shouting a big “Ya Hoo! I’m ALIVE!" Then, as the morning went on, I began to evaluate my faith. The truth is…fear still often oppresses me and, although my faith is growing, I am in desperate need of my Savior! 
So today, Jesus and I had a party.  Climbing into His arms once again, he whispered the words I longed to hear…"Sharon, keep trusting me, heaven is waiting for you, and while you wait, I will be giving you the ride of your life!"


  1. Amazing! I needed you to write this this week! Sc

  2. Thank you for sharing the gift of your writing today. What a sweet picture of you and your dear friend. Praying for your friend and for you as you stand with her.

  3. I celebrate with you today ~ 9 years cancer free! And, I grieve with you on the news of your friend. My prayers are for her complete recovery so that years from now she will look back and celebrate being cancer free. I'm sending this on to my sister, who is battling the same thing. Thank you for sharing.

  4. How in the world has it been 9 years since we had all of those chemo parties? I am so thankful for your health and how you have used your experience and how you have used it for the comfort and encouragement of others. I love you!