I was diagnosed with stage four cancer at only 33 years old. For some reason the thought of “Why ME? Why is this happening to me?” never repeated over and over in my mind. I certainly wasn’t expecting this diagnosis, but I know the statistics.
Shockingly, cancer has become so (dare I say) prevalent experts say 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will face it during their life. Everyone knows someone facing cancer right now, and it impacts all of our lives at some point.
Knowing over 1,500,000 are diagnosed with cancer every single year — and that’s just in the United States — I think I felt more “Why not me?” I just didn’t feel there was anything about me that should make me somehow get to be immune, or exempt, from cancer. Michael Douglas was facing his cancer at the same time as my 2010 battle, so I knew even rich celebrities aren’t immune. We can think of so many cases of “famous people” facing cancer, from Robin Robert’s brave battle to Valerie Harper.
As a baptized and confirmed Lutheran, I’ve known the Lord’s Prayer for as long as I can remember.
Before I truly grasped the meaning of the words, I recall folding my hands and bowing my head and saying, “… thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven …”
These words came to me, and comforted me greatly during my journey. I truly put my faith in God and repeated them over and over, trying to prepare myself (as I think anyone diagnosed with cancer does, but especially when you hear stage four cancer!) to hear that I might be terminal (Aren’t we all?) and just have a very short amount of time left to live on this Earth. I knew — and still know — God has a plan for my life and just prayed that his will be done here on Earth. I vowed to try to faithfully and cheerfully walk down whatever path he had intended for me.
Then something very interesting happened after my first six chemo. treatments. I achieved remission and embarked on two more years of maintenance chemo. treatments. Well, that’s not that interesting I suppose. The remarkable and interesting thing was the day my life’s purpose was revealed to me — the day I got the idea (from God) to help others (those millions globally every year who will receive a cancer diagnosis) who have to face cancer face “Cancer with JOY,” quite literally since my name is Joy and I had just ‘been there” suffering complete hair loss but figuratively too. You see, cancer doesn’t have to steal your joy!
So now I’m on quite a mission. But I actually think quite often about how I faithfully prayed these words and how it all turned out. By no means am I saying pray and you’ll be healed. As I said earlier, we’re all “terminal,” and will pass someday. I’ve helped many others with strong faith facing cancer and they pray thy will be done on Earth too and their loved one passes. So was it God’s will for their loved one to pass and for them to be in pain? My Grandpa passed 60 days after my diagnosis, and
I had “chemo. and a funeral” within 48 hours of each other!
As painful as that time was, I truly hope that those are my darkest days. I was praying “thy will be done,” and that happened. I certainly don’t have the definitive answers; I raise the questions for deep thought and discussion to hopefully help all of us facing cancer, either directly or whether we are supporting someone with cancer.
There’s other interpretations here to this phrase. I know older folks who get diagnosed with cancer, feel they’ve “lived their life,” and upon realizing how hard the chemo. will be on their aging fragile bodies decide to just pray “thy will be done,” refuse treatment, and let nature take its course. I’m not aware of instances where hospitals took them to court to force the chemo. treatment on them. At what point did it become “their” decision?
Because then there’s a very recent case in the national news about the young Amish girl whose parents wanted to discontinue her chemo. and use natural remedies and the hospital sued them to force them to continue the chemo.
At stage four I felt there wasn’t a lot of time to waste, and I was confident in my oncologist’s ability to “fix this.” I pursued a combined course of three years of traditional infused chemotherapy treatments (that he recommended, and my second opinion agreed on) combined with praying those words I’ve always prayed. Knowing that “Laughter is the best medicine.” I found it doesn’t hurt to face “Cancer with JOY” too. I think those in mind-body medicine will agree as we learn more and more about that mind-body connection and “mind over matter.” Of course no one’s happy they have cancer, but you can have cancer and still be happy. That’s my message. Facing “Cancer with JOY” even in terminal cases infuses those last days with happiness and even laughter, which beats wasting your last few years, months, weeks, or days on Earth in a bad mood.