When Faith & Cancer Collide

06-01-2017The Well

I have been a parish nurse at Holy Spirit for 13 years. I have observed parishioners face the greatest threats to their lives, asking, as did Jesus on the cross, echoing the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” They may be so overwhelmed and frightened that they may lament, “Where is God? Has God abandoned me? Has God done a disappearing act just as the enemy, cancer, is at the door?”

We tend to forget that our God is the God of the difficult times in our lives as well as the good times. When the threat of cancer arises, our faith, the foundation of our hope, is challenged, as we see the possibility of death. The reality of the threat of no longer being here as a living, breathing person, stands in contradiction to our hope, even threatens our hope.

It is an act of faith to cry out in protest to God. Our anger and even our outrage, is the beginning of a new journey through the darkest of times. Like the writer of Psalm 13, we wait in the darkness of the threat of death, in “disorientation,” until we sense, hear, or feel a response from God. The response may not be the answer to all that is happening, but it brings us to a time of new orientation in which we, in faith, reconsider all of life and set new priorities while giving thanks and praising God that we have not yet been overcome by cancer.

So often, those experiencing cancer speak of hope, “clinical hope.” They are talking about hope based on what medicine may do for them. After all, they are about to trust the world of medicine to save them from the rapidly multiplying irregular cells called “cancer.”  The “hope” that comes to us through faith transforms our present as well as our future. Living in the present hope may mean seeing the reality of the “now” while looking to the future reality, and being present to it while looking forward to God’s future. As Christians, we certainly hope that modern medicine can cure our cancer, alleviate our pain, and give us more meaningful days, but we find our ultimate hope in God’s mysterious gift, Jesus Christ.

It is not surprising that one of the most popular and familiar song is Amazing Grace. It is song of disorientation and new orientation, being lost and being found. Even those who can’t give a definition of grace have come to know firsthand what grace means, as they have experienced horrible loss and fear followed by a strange inward assurance that God is touching their lives. Even in the midst of recovery from surgery, the side effects of chemotherapy, the clinic and hospital visits, and the anguish of not knowing, cancer patients can and do find themselves saying with the psalmist, ”Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? ... I come to the end—I am still with you” (Psalm 139:7–18).

If you have any questions or concerns about your family's health or any topic, feel free to contact Kathy Ford RN/Parish Nurse and Coordinator of Pastoral Care at 630-922-0081 ex.28 or pastoralcare@hscc.us.