"A diagnosis of Breast Cancer brings with it confusion, fear, hopelessness and isolation." So says the website of Breast Cancer Support Services, Inc. This is not the case for everyone.
I was not surprised when I was told after my annual mammogram that I needed to go back to the imaging center for additional x-rays. This was the sixth time in 10 years that I had been called back for additional tests. The call from my doctor a few days after that was unexpected. I had expected a letter from the imaging center saying that everything was fine or that I should return in 6 months. Since I only saw Dr. Wratten for the first time last spring, I don't know when she personally calls her patients with test results. My last family practice doctor routinely did that, but I didn't really expect it from my gynecologist. I certainly didn't expect her to tell me that I needed to have a core needle biopsy.
Let me back up a few months and set the stage for what I am about to tell you.
In late August, a lady at work (let's call her Molly) was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma. She had surgery and seemed to be recovering. Then, I found out Molly had been hospitalized after having a severe reaction to one of the medications she was taking. I visited her a few days after she was released from the hospital. Molly told me that she realized she needed to find a local church family. She had been in San Antonio for almost two years and had not done so. She said she missed the relationships she had developed with her previous church family. As I thought about my visit that evening, it occurred to me that perhaps this was God's 2X4 for Molly. When I was much younger, "a 2X4 up the side of the head" was an expression used to figuratively describe what was needed to get some stubborn, hard-headed people to listen to reason. Perhaps God was using this illness as a means of getting Molly to see her need to be involved with a local church so that she can use the talents God has given her to encourage and build up the body of Christ and, in turn, so that she can be encouraged and built up.
Now, I know God doesn't go straight to the 2X4 to get our attention. How many times do we have a feeling or thought that we should do some particular thing, but ignore the feeling or thought? I don't know Molly's situation, but I know mine.
In December 1999, I was laid off from a great job that I had started in February. I knew the lay-off was coming and had sort of planned how I would spend my time between interviews and searching for leads. Included in that plan were daily exercise and Bible reading, something I had not been doing, but knew I needed. As I sat in the pew waiting for the morning worship service on the first Sunday after New Year's Day, I prayed about my job situation. I knew I would get a job, but, naturally, I preferred not to have to wait very long. As I paused in my prayer, I felt the tap of God on my shoulder, so to speak. There was no audible voice, yet what I heard was as clear to me as if it had been spoken aloud. "How do you expect to do your daily Bible reading when you go back to work if you can't do it now?" Well, that got my attention. I went for more than a year after that without missing a day of Bible reading. Then, the day came when I realized that the reading had become a legalistic obligation, rather than something I was doing because it was feeding my spirit. My reading became somewhat sporadic.
Over the last several years, I have spent a significant amount of time reading the Bible and have a strong desire to spend much more time in deep study of biblical truths. In 2005, I attended my first session of First Place, a program I knew would help me structure my time for Bible Study and exercise. I did well on the program, losing 30 pounds and completing several First Place Bible studies along the way. My commitment to the program began to wane during my third 13-week session as I found it increasingly more difficult to find the time to complete each day's Bible study lesson and the exercise sessions. It has been several months since my last session. While I have been reading regularly, exercise has been very sporadic for the past several months. Bible reading has continued, in part because I have a strong desire for more understanding, and, in part, because I am now an Ames Bible College student.
How does the idea of "God's 2X4" fit into this? Well, I made a commitment to daily Bible reading and, subsequently, to daily exercise. This was a result of God's tap on my shoulder that Sunday in January, 2000. That commitment eventually wavered and I fulfilled it only sporadically. There were certainly other taps along the way that should have grabbed my attention, but I chose to ignore them or didn't even feel them. So, is this cancer diagnosis God's 2X4 for me? Perhaps.
I have now completed nine of the 22 courses in the Ames Bible College curriculum. The final course in the curriculum is "Battle for the Body," a study of healing as discussed in the Bible. I have taken several courses out of sequence, and this is one of them. Part way through the course I said to myself, "I think I need to do a topical study on healing." I mentally put that on my list of studies to do soon. I completed the course on Monday evening, Dec. 11th. The next day, Dr. Wratten called and told me I needed a biopsy.
I had the biopsy on Thursday. The following Tuesday, Dec. 19th, Dr. Wratten informed me of the results, malignant.
The course "Battle for the Body" examines various healings described in the Bible and extracts from those reports the various reasons why people get sick. One of those reasons is so that the glory of God will be revealed. The text suggests that the way God's glory is revealed is through our testimony as we go through the illness.
After I had the biopsy, I prayed that God would help me respond appropriately when I got the results, knowing that if it was cancer, I was in His hands. Having heard stories of the reactions of other people when they've received a cancer diagnosis, I was somewhat surprised at the calmness I felt when Dr. Wratten broke the news. I know what that was. It was the peace of Christ that results from placing my full trust in Him. He paid the penalty for my sin and in doing that, He also dealt the fatal blow to disease. Remember Isaiah 53:5? It says that by the stripes or wounds of Jesus, we are healed. Not might be or could be, but are.
Was I upset, distressed, confused, afraid, or angry when I received the news? No. I knew the road ahead would not be easy and was not the path I chose, but that Jesus has promised to be with me always, and that includes going through cancer treatment.
I trust in God and His ability and desire to heal me and do only good to me. I know that when I am healed is totally in God's control. He can heal me now, without medical treatment or through the medical treatment. He may choose to do that. He may choose to wait until I enter Heaven. Regardless, I will be healed.
For me, the diagnosis has brought with it peace and calm, founded on the hope I have in Jesus Christ, the Great Physician and Ultimate Healer. Within minutes of sending an email to inform many Christian friends of my diagnosis, I started receiving emails with expressions of support, offers of help, and promises of prayers. I have received the same in person, along with many hugs!
"A diagnosis of Breast Cancer brings with it confusion, fear, hopelessness and isolation." I beg to differ.
Copyright 2007, Star Ferdinand
Star Ferdinand is the author of The Prayerful Bible Study Series of study guides, numerous devotionals, and other Christian writings. You can read more of her writings at starferdinand.wordpress.com.