As children we recognize that cancer exists, but we like to
believe we are invincible to such diseases. I never understood what cancer did
to the body, but that lack of understanding was likely the basis for much of my
fears. In school, I had learned that the disease was produced by an
uncontrollable division of unusual cells in the body that can spread rapidly to
other organs and tissues. Even after learning about it, it was still too easy
to assume that it was something that happened to other families and would never
affect my own.
Then in December of 2012, my father came to my siblings and me
and said the most devastating words I have ever heard in my life, “Your mom has
cancer.” I still do not quite understand how he found the strength to say such
upsetting news so calmly. I knew my mom had put her trust in God. She knew that
although she could not make everything vanish instantly, it was still going to
be okay. For a while, I thought that if I did not acknowledge the disease, it
would go away. I felt as if I was stuck in an infinite loop of the same
nightmare, and every day I kept expecting to wake up. When a member of the
family develops cancer, it seems as if everyone has the disease as well. In
the process, it changes everything about how one’s family works from day to day.
There is a saying by Friedrich Nietzsche that goes, “That which does not kill
us makes us stronger.” The Bible makes it clear from where this strength comes
in I Peter 1:7, saying, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your
faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by
fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” My hope was that the experience would make me
stronger as well.
Throughout the next few months, I tried to be more
independent and rely less on my parents. After my mom came home and recovered
from surgery, she began chemotherapy. The treatments caused her to often be
sick. Being homeschooled, I had many opportunities to help around the house. I
was fully responsible for making sure that I completed my schoolwork. If my
mother was not feeling well, I was to prepare food or clean the house. If
something had to be done, I quickly dropped what I was doing to help. Suddenly,
it felt as if I was in charge of the home.
It has been roughly six years since my mother was diagnosed
with cancer. 2013 was a difficult year that pushed me far out of my comfort
zone. I was forced to take on more responsibilities than I thought I could ever
manage. It was an experience that greatly helped me grow into the person I am
A terrible experience became a great lesson. Anything can
happen, but it is the perception that makes a difference. Cancer was a learning
experience, that taught me to use those kinds of moments to an enhanced accountability
and strength. It led me to an understanding that this word we fear,
cancer, can be overcome by courage.