Every year I get a colonoscopy. It’s a fact of life that I’ve grown to accept. Although some years bring the anxiety and fear I wrote about in today's meditation, when I continue to recognize negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones, things get better. I find peace despite so many unknowns.
I’m happy to report that I am currently in good health. I’ve had clear scans for many years, and my blood work is normal. There are no signs of cancer, and I praise God for healing me. He led us to understand the genetic syndrome behind my multiple cancer cases, Lynch syndrome, and I’m under the careful supervision of doctors working to prevent another diagnosis.
Purpose in Pain
A common phrase I hear both in patient and faith communities is “you find purpose in your pain.”
I’ve been a cancer survivor for half of my life now (I was diagnosed at age 17 with colon cancer), and that phrase challenges me each time I hear it.
Would I wish this disease on anyone? No, absolutely not. Yet would I be the same person had I not been diagnosed? The answer is the same — no, absolutely not.
I look at my beautiful daughter whom we adopted, a path set for us because of my cancer, and I am grateful that cancer led me to her.
I hug my husband tightly, and memories of when we first hugged after I was diagnosed flood into my mind. We were just 17 and 19 years old, facing issues of “in sickness and in health” years before we ever said our vows. Would we have stayed together had we not fought cancer side-by-side? Would we be so close now? It’s hard to say, but I’m certain cancer had a big role in showing us what we wanted in a spouse and helping us recognize that a person like that was holding our hand.
From close friendships to opportunities to travel, speak, and write — cancer has brought a lot of blessings into my life. But it’s taken me a while to see them.
The healing process
It’s easy as believers to feel pressure to be optimistic, even joyful, when we’re first diagnosed with a scary disease. We know the verses telling us to rejoice in suffering (Romans 5:3), reminding us of the promises that God works for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28), and assuring us that God doesn’t give us temptation beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). If we don’t know the verses, well-intentioned people will try to remind us.
People hate seeing us suffer as much as we hate suffering.
And although the verses are true, it often takes a healing process to receive them as a blessing and to really believe what they’re saying.
Cancer (or any disease) is bad and brings hard, painful, and unhappy thoughts and feelings. We must let ourselves get angry and upset if we want to heal. Grief can be a good thing, although it is uncomfortable. Jesus promises us, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matt. 5:4). We must take our frustration to God. God can handle it.
Through our mourning, we will find God.
It will start as a little light, a tiny sliver of hope. But with prayer, counsel, scripture and time, the light will get bigger. In “secret place” encounters, we will meet God and experience God taking on our pain so we can live free.
That’s what happened to me, and it’s why I can find divine purpose and new hope because of cancer.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess is a two-time colon cancer survivor first diagnosed at age 17. She lives in the Kansas City area and writes about cancer survivorship, baking, faith, and everyday adventures of life with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and beautiful, mixed-race, adopted daughter. Learn more at DanielleRipleyBurgess.com or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleisB.
I could not have found The Upper Room Moments of Prayer (on Facebook Live) sooner. For it is during these moments of centering spiritual practices, meditating on the words of scripture, praying with and for the world, that I find moments of transcendence, hear whispers of peace and hope, see glimpses of truth and justice, behold visions of love and beauty amid all the stark realities that are around me.”