I don’t really talk about the part of 2012 when we found out my mom had lung cancer. Or when she had surgery. Or when she went through chemo treatments. Or when she was healed.
Part of this is because it’s my mom’s story, not mine. It’s a powerful story that I watched play out in real time and it still brings me to tears if I think about it long enough.
I also don’t talk about it because my mom’s still here. She survived. Cancer didn’t get her. And sometimes that makes me feel guilty.
One of the myths that World Cancer Day wants to dismiss is that we don’t need to talk about it. So I’ll share what her cancer taught me.
The other day I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing a cancer survivor. She said that she looked at her cancer cells under a microscope and was struck by how small it was. That this small group of misbehaving cells was about to wreak havoc on her life. Something about literally looking at her cancer empowered her, and let her know that she could beat this. And she did.
My mom never looked at her cancer cells under a microscope. But she did look at Him.
My mom can be a worrier. If one of us coughs too loudly she is giving us this look. It’s a mixture of concern and anger. Mostly anger. She’s angry that you’re sick. She’s angry that you haven’t been taking the vitamins that she bought for you 3 months ago. She’s angry that she can’t take away whatever is hurting her baby.
She can try to hide the look, but it’s impossible and hilarious. At Christmas my brother had developed a kink in his neck and couldn’t look over his shoulder. We were at a Christmas party when I noticed he was doing a rhythmically challenged version of The Robot.
Me: What’s wrong with you?
Bobby: My neck. It hurts.
Me: Does mama know?
Me: (Evil laughter)
I go find my mom. She’s with a small group of friends, and I pull her aside.
Me: What’s wrong with Bobby?
Mom: What? What do you mean?
I point across the room to Bobby who is in the middle of a painful-looking attempt to work the kink out of his neck. Before I could look back at my mom to put more thoughts in her head she was marching across the room with her angry eyes on ready to give Bobby a physical right there in the middle of the party.
The point of that story was that my mom can’t help herself. Her emotions, all of them, but especially fear and concern and worry and anger, are written all over her face. It doesn’t matter where she is or what she’s doing, if she’s upset you’ll know it.
The weird thing is that I never saw any of those emotions on her face the entire time she dealt with cancer. I did see peace, though. And faith. And, well, Jesus.
I think, in the same way that the NPR lady saw how little her cancer was and focused on that, my mom saw how big her God was and focused on Him.
I will never say that there was something about my mom’s faith that “saved” her from cancer. The power in her story is not in how it ended (though I am thankful every single day that she is here and will hold my breath every time she has a scan). The power in her testimony, for me, is that she walked out into a storm and kept her eyes on Him.