Almost ten years ago, we experienced one of the greatest joys of our life in the birth of our first child, Turner. Five weeks later we experienced one of the greatest lows of our life in the words “It’s cancer.” A softball size tumor was discovered in Angela’s colon that, according to the doctor, was just weeks away from spreading.
Today is a special day in the Davis home. We call it ‘No Mo Chemo Day’ celebrating nine years since Angela finished a long, grueling ten months of chemotherapy.
So, on this ninth anniversary, I thought I would share seven lessons we learned from cancer.
Cancer can be a gift
This sounds so odd. Cancer was terrible. Chemo was more horrible than I imagined. No one should have to wonder if their baby will remember his mom. Even so, we can now call cancer a gift…and not just because she survived.
Cancer has a way of reprioritizing your life. It makes the shallow things more shallow and the rich things more rich. John Piper says, “The aim of God in our cancer is to knock the props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on Him.”
The gift is that we get to see God more clearly. But, like the lost package behind the Christmas tree, it’s a gift you have to look for to find.
Our hope is not in a few more years
Angela had a friend with the same kind of cancer, the same prognosis and the same oncologist. She died the next year and Angela is now cancer free. The blessing of a few more years certainly is not lost on us, but our hope is not ultimately in a few more years.
Our hope is in an eternity with God. It’s hard to see now, but there will be a day when 100 years feels like the blink of an eye. So, whether the years are short or long, they will ultimately seem inconsequential compared to the glory that awaits.
Take time to slow down
2008 was an all stop. I had a new job in a new town and was starting a seminary degree. For someone who values productivity and efficiency, this felt like getting punched while I was down, that is, until I began to see the blessing of slowing down. Some of our sweetest memories came from doing nothing together. We sat for hours in a chemo bay just talking about whatever. We would lie in bed in the middle of the day just looking at our new baby. We spent days during the middle of the week with our parents.
So, how does this translate into life with four kids, kids activities, church, two jobs and still working on that degree? In a word, Sunday. But you can read more about that here.
Don’t take community for granted
We had just moved to Starkville when all this happened and were barely new visitors at First Baptist Church. Our few new friends and Sunday school class showed us love and support that year though that has forever seared in us the blessing of community.
They fed us, prayed with us, baby sat and even visited us at the oncologist. It’s easy to take friends for granted until 1) you really need them and 2) they really come through for you. We will never forget our friends in that season.
Love your spouse well while you can
I remember well when this hit me. We were flying to Orlando to bring our new baby to my parents house for the first time. Angela was in a wheelchair with a mask on being ushered through every check point by an unbelievably gracious airport crew. They carried our bags, played with Turner and never left our side. They gave us priority seating near the bathroom because…well…chemo sucks. Why would they do this?
They did it because they saw our situation more clearly than I did. A new mom fighting cancer. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is. I began to wonder on that plane how many more anniversaries we would get to celebrate.
It’s easy to assume that there will be decades ahead together and take those you love most for granted today. Take time to do something small each day to show your love.
It’s good to think about death
Sounds morbid, I know. Thanks to the miracle of modern science, death is far removed from most of us. Our lives have been prolonged and when we do die, it is generally out of sight. Our culture allows us the opportunity to really not have to think about death until it comes for us or someone we love.
The truth is that we will all die and thinking about that fact will benefit us. The Bible tells us to number our days (Psalm 90:12). We are to consider the fact that there will be an end to this life and as we think about our end it will affect the decisions we make now.
Make the years you have count
Play with your kids, go on dates, read good books and most of all make your life count for the Kingdom. Money, material possessions and recognition will all pass away, but love continues. Love well. There will be a Day we all stand in front of Jesus. Love with that Day in mind.
God uses even the worst things for our good
In Christ, the challenges of this life are no longer punitive, but purifying. I have experienced both the delivery room and the chemo bay. There is pain in both rooms, but one kind of pain leads to life and the other death. For Christians, God uses our pain to lead us to life and cancer is no exception.
We are different because of cancer. I don’t hesitate to say we are better. We are better because He has used it to conform us more into the image of His Son.
I just finished reading Out of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. In his words,
And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes.
The danger leads us to life.
Today Angela is cancer free and we praise God for that, but we know that we are all only one phone call (and that call will come) from pain and grief once again. For that reason, we pray that our lives would be used to show others the ultimate grief of God’s wrath that Jesus bore in our place and, because of that, the joy awaiting us in eternity.