Just over a year ago, I picked up the phone to hear my Dad say the words he didn’t want to say and I didn’t want to hear. “Mom has multiple brain tumors, and it is metastatic cancer.” What followed that phone call was Mom going through brain surgery, whole brain radiation, more radiation elsewhere in her body, and several other forms of treatment throughout the past year. The actual diagnosis was Stage 4 Lung Cancer which in the medical community is sometimes referred to as Incurable Cancer.
I don’t believe in things that are Incurable because Jesus is the Great Physician, and He can heal someone if He chooses to do so. If Jesus chooses not to do so, then I trust Him. I know people who God has healed. With a close friend, a doctor shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I’m not sure what happened, but he had outside help. He shouldn’t still be here.” And while we’re at it, thanks to all of you who have prayed this year, and thanks as well to all of you who don’t pray and believe in God, but you’ve sent kind words and thoughts our way. Our family has been loved so well this past year. Also, this isn’t a writing about miracles. But I believe in miracles, and I am pro-miracle, and I hope you are too. (Also, I don’t live in denial. I live in the reality of life is finite, and none of us are promised tomorrow. So you don’t have to email me about that one. Thanks in advance.)
Well, I learned some things from this past year. I learned a lot from watching my Mom face cancer head on, and I think she has given cancer a pretty good kick in the teeth (even if sometimes she’s the one who feels like she got kicked.) It’s not easy to face that kind of sickness, but she’s courageous, and my Mom is a fighter. I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned from Mom and some things I’ve just picked up along the way.
We remember the memories we make, not the lives we imagine. What if is a terrible game to play every day, because you end up putting off what you want and daydreaming about it instead. You’re alive once. Make the memories instead of imagining them.
The Word is powerful. Yeah, I’m talking about God’s Word. After Mom had brain surgery, she was in so much discomfort that she often had stress written on her face. We would read the Word of God to her (Psalm 121-135 specifically), and the stress would fade away. The Word is powerful for us to. I spent a lot of time in the Psalms in 2015. Thankful for the refuge of God’s Word.
Make the adjustments you need to make in life. Mom changed her diet and eliminated so much sugar and other things, because those are bad for you if you have cancer. Mom was already in great shape, but she has lost a lot of weight because she stopped eating sugar and such things. Sometimes, you have to make the adjustment for life.
Be fit. The doctor said it was a good thing for mom that she was in good shape when she went into surgery. Throughout this year, Mom has continued walking 2, 3, and sometimes 4 miles in a day. That’s pretty amazing. The neurosurgeon said it was going to help Mom that she was in shape after surgery, because her recovery would be much quicker. Thankfully it was. This has encouraged me to be in better shape in the future.
Laugh. Laugh. Laugh more. When Mom and I talk on the phone, we laugh a lot. When we hang out, we laugh a lot. Sure, we could be serious all the time, but we like laughing. You feel better when you’re laughing so, laugh, laugh, and laugh more.
Say I love you a lot. (Words of affirmation is my secondary thing. Saying “I love you” feels great.)
If there is anything you need to say, then say it.
Hug your family a lot. (Physical touch is my numero uno thing.) Well this is one I like, and I understand not everyone’s favorite thing is to be touched. Let that prickly nature go and get some hugs in. Get your hugs.
When you get a good cry going, enjoy it. This may sound crazy, but there can be a point in crying when it just feels good to be crying. Why stop it? As Mom says, “Tears are healing rivers.” (Yes, you can tweet that.)
Be a student. Mom is constantly learning new ways to fight cancer, and feel better.
Ask good questions. Ask hard questions. If I want to know something, then I’m going to ask a doctor. I would rather know than not know.
Deal in reality. Really, this is the only way you can pray for miracles is to be grounded in the reality you are in.
If you’re going to pray for healing, it may help to be specific. Healing is kind of abstract to me, so instead, I ask for a specific number of years for Mom to have great health. I can picture that, and it allows me to be more diligent in my prayers. (I got this idea from a mentor, and it quickly changed how I focus my prayers.)
Wear a Kristaps Porzingis jersey. (Mom’s side of the family is from Latvia, so I bought a Porzingis jersey since he is from Latvia. I shipped it to Boise, and asked Mom to try it on. As you can see in the pictures above, Mom rocks the Porzingis jersey. It is a Latvian thing.)
Be honest about how you feel. Drop the perfectionist if tendencies. Saying, “My shoulder hurts” doesn’t mean you’re not “Rejoicing in the Lord.” Come on, let’s drop the perfectionist act. Be honest about where you are. Then, you can actually rejoice in the Lord because your situation may not be much to rejoice in.
Eternity is forever.
Pray and leave the people you love in God’s hands.
Celebrate what you have instead of fearing what you won’t.
Jesus is Lord. Cancer is not Lord. This life is not Lord. Death is not Lord. Jesus is Lord.
You don’t care how many likes you get on Instagram when your mom is in ICU. You won’t care how many likes you got on Instagram in 15 years. Don’t let that preoccupy your mind, and keep you from being with the people you love.
If people say the wrong thing, it’s usually just because they love you and want to help. Find the value in the love.
Prayer works. Not always how you want it to, but prayer works.
It’s good to have friends when suffering hits.
Suffering isn’t going anywhere. It is part of being human. To be human is to suffer. Our pain connects us to one another.
I don’t know exactly how you feel or exactly what you’re going through. I don’t know how you feel or what you’re going through. But I am with you.
We don’t actually think death is normal in America. It is almost treated as an absolute evil.
Courage is not doing what’s right when everyone is cheering for you. It’s doing what is hard when you are scared.
It’s okay to be disappointed.
You don’t see life the same after something like this.
It’s okay to rest.
Find out how others are doing. Ask a lot of questions. Write them a note back.
There is a weird moment when you get texts from people and you realize, “Oh, we’re the ones who are in need.” If that moment ever hits you, don’t run from it. You can’t. Receive their love and care, and let yourself be overwhelmed. You don’t have to have the right answer to anything in that moment.
Get specific on your prayers.
Have some fun doing the things you love to do.
Have a piece of chocolate. Why not?
It’s okay to let people in. It’s okay if you don’t let everybody in.
Hope is very important.
Don’t forget to have fun along the way. Life is too short to be serious all the time.
Heaven is real. If Jesus doesn’t give me grace, then I’m not getting in.
Keep the conversation going with God.
Put on some praise music. 10,000 Reasons is a great song to worship to.
Worship is a reminder that God is faithful, constant, and forever the same. These earthly situations will be good and bad. God is the unchanging one, and He can be trusted and praised forever.