Another day, another chance to surrender. Another anxiety-producing event, another opportunity to choose joy.
This morning was my annual mammogram – the one day a year I allow myself to worry about a recurrence of breast cancer. When I finished treatment for breast cancer nine years ago, I determined that I was not going to live the rest of my life looking over my shoulder to see if cancer was coming after me. I had done everything the doctors recommended – surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and five years of an estrogen-blocking drug – there was nothing else medically I could do. Now it was completely up to God.
I’ve always been prone to hypochondria (embarrassing but true), and if I followed my natural bent towards anxiety and fear, I saw a long future ahead of me filled with sleepless nights, constant checking of any tiny abnormality in my body, and a complete and utter lack of joy as I anticipated cancer’s possible return. I gave myself a good talking to – and decided that while I cannot ultimately control the length of my life, I can certainly control the depth of my life; not the quantity of days on earth, but the quality of those days. Did I want fear and anxiety and worry to be my legacy? Or did I want to live passionately, freely, fully embracing every day as a gift from God to be used for His glory? I chose joy!
And that’s how it has been. Except on the day I get a mammogram. And on those days once a year, I remember not to use deodorant or lotion or perfume before the test. I remember to wear pants rather than a skirt or a dress because the ridiculous little cape they make me wear at the Breast Center only comes to my waist. Cape, I said. Which means it flops open at the slightest movement – and if it isn’t bad enough to be going for a mammogram (it hurts!!), feeling anxious and nervous, you have to be concerned about exposing yourself to every other woman in the place as this flimsy, treacherous piece of fabric draped around your neck refuses to stay closed. (Side note: is there any reason they couldn’t put more than one snap at the neck??) The test is over in minutes. Most women get dressed and leave without knowing the results, but because I’ve had cancer before, my doctor graciously prescribes a diagnostic mammogram, which means I sit in the waiting room – holding a magazine and mindlessly turning the pages – until the radiologist reads my films.
And on THIS particular mammogram day – June 27, 2013, my mind rushes unbidden to how I will respond if cancer is found. Please, God – no cancer. My family has already faced the worst day of our lives three months ago when our beloved Matthew took his life and we’re still reeling from that blow. How could we possibly navigate through another round of breast cancer? Please don’t let Rick become a widower... please don’t let my children lose their mother AND their brother... please don’t let my grandchildren suffer the loss of another family member they love... please don’t let my 89-year old mother experience losing her only daughter. Please.
At the same time, ALL that I know and believe and teach and write about and speak about and profess to hold dear and true also floods my thoughts. God, you are sovereign – which means my life does not belong to me. I am yours, and yours alone. Like Mary, I am your handmaiden; do with me as you please. If it pleases you to allow cancer to come back – and even end my life – so be it. Heaven is not the consolation prize given to those who “lose” on earth; Heaven is the grand prize, awarded to all who call on the name of Jesus. If Heaven is to be mine now, then I say yes. I surrender to you, my loving Father and Savior. If my family must go through yet another “valley of the shadow of death,” then you will be their shepherd, providing peace in the pain, meaning in the suffering, joy through the tears. Praise you… praise you… praise you.
And if there is no cancer this time, praise you... praise you... praise you. Another day, another moment of surrender. Another day, another opportunity to choose joy. Another day to live seriously disturbed, dangerously surrendered, and gloriously ruined for your Kingdom. I am yours.
After 25 LONG minutes, the technician walks in, asks me to follow her into the corner of the room. All is well, she says. The tears begin to fall as I grab her and give her a giant bear hug – surprised, she hugs me back. I stumble into the dressing room, rip off that stupid cape, collapse onto the chair, and sob for a few minutes. It pleases Him to give me life here for a yet-unknown period of time. Thank you. I am yours, in death and in life.