I attended a faith-based cancer support group a couple of weeks ago.
This seemed like a good idea at the time, although I had no clear direction from God to go, and I’m still not sure what I was expecting. Maybe lots of healthy women who were cancer survivors, discussing how great it was to survive. Telling me I would be a survivor too.
The group began with the leader reading aloud from Lamentations 3. “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath,” he quoted. “He hath led me and brought me into darkness, but not into light.” Hoo, boy.
Then, since Jerry and I were newcomers to the little group, the leader instructed the established members to introduce themselves and tell us about their journey. The elderly gentleman to my left was the first. He explained he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer and “the doctor gave me nine months to live.” He’d outlived his doctor’s prediction by a few months.
The leader explained the group was not just for cancer patients, but their caregivers as well. He introduced “Mary.” “She’s been caregiver for…what, four patients? Right, Mary?”
Mary cheerfully accepted the floor and started in. “My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he lived four days,” she said. The story of her husband’s death went on for a little while and segued into the next. “Then, there was my friend Sue. I was in the house when she died. I talked to her for two hours. I literally talked her to death.” As Mary really got her back into it, I realized she was just on story number two. There were two more deathbed stories to go.
For the five months of living with my breast cancer diagnosis, I’ve been feeding dry bits of grass, twigs, leaves…anything flammable, to the flickering fire of my hope. Hope is a living, burning thing in my heart. Some days it’s just a tiny pilot light. Other days it’s a roaring wildfire. But sitting in the cancer support group felt like channeling a gushing river toward the fire. It was time to leave.
I turned to Jerry and saw it in his eyes, too. I picked up my purse. “I’m sorry, I’m just not ready for this. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m so sorry.”
I cried all the way home. It took me days to shake the miasma of the cancer support group.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3: 22-23