24 May May: My Greatest Fear
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7
My Greatest Fear
My greatest fear as a mother was dying of cancer and not being there for my children.
For years on long road trips I would be consumed by this thought. I would think of how my kids would be looked after, how I could provide for them, how I could develop their resilience, when would I tell them my life stories and my heartfelt hopes for their lives. I would pray a lot for them and myself as I drove, through tears often when they were asleep as I had this very strong dread that one day this fear would come true.
This fear started when my eldest child was a baby and I was a young single mother. It would go on for twenty years, as I married and had more children. Early last year I was driving back from New Plymouth and the dread became overwhelming. I was facing what I thought was a recurrence of an old health issue but I could not figure out why it was causing these feelings to become so intense.
Two weeks later I found myself on an ultrasound bed watching in disbelief as the radiologist discovered a large mass in my abdomen. A week later it was three masses and I know before the words are spoken out loud. It’s cancer.
My greatest fear was here, was very serious and appears as incurable. Now a year after the initial chemotherapy treatment I can look back with some perspective; and this is some of what I learnt.
The first 6 months are filled with the predictable. Loss of my job, battles with government bureaucracy, financial and emotional stress, chemotherapy and its many side effects. The emotional stress of telling a few people that eventually became many, the mental load of being a single parent coping with all of the research and decisions alone, directing those who can help to the exact thing you need from that person at that particular time. The exhausting reality that normal life is still happening, washing, cleaning, cooking, organising and nagging your children. The wonderful gorgeous children that you are terrified that you will lose. The children who created “Hugtime” to show me that they loved me.
But the last twelve months has also been filled with many silver linings that not only moderated my fears, but gave me a reason get out of bed every day and know that this journey was required for my life story, it was not my purpose to be fearful anymore but to be thankful.
My life became filled with the power of prayer and tears, at church, at home, during my many tests and treatments, at school as I dropped my children off each day, many times in the middle of the night as I woke again and again, during emotional and heartfelt visits with friends and family. Some of the most special and powerful visits were with those that were themselves immersed in their own battle with cancer, health or life injustice and yet they came to offer me some time. Through the power of prayer with friends and strangers I was never overwhelmed with too much to bear.
The silver linings came as reminders from those who listened to me talk or write, from myself as I practiced my gratitude and thankfulness, from God as he showed me he never left me and from many situations that once again taught me that important life lesson, from adversity comes strength.
I found a desperate need to search for human connections. Partially from the depths of depression and anxiety that you naturally fight or succumb to at these times during life battles. But more for the blessing that came from letting people see me and journey with me as I, a previously strong person was at my most vulnerable.
At the beginning of this journey I reached out to God, not blaming him for the unfairness, but reaching for strength. Before appointments, in the middle of treatments and the many, many needles, in the darkness of the night and in the loving arms of friends as they prayed for me. I became the master of praying in the waiting room, the toilet, the line at the supermarket and the lights at the intersection. And the tears were there often, but also there was the light, the warmth and the peace that showed me I was being heard.
Now I am in remission while doing private treatments for another year, I’ve started a new job, I’m active and I’m getting healthier every day. My kids have their mum and their normal life back. It’s challenging to go back to that dark place and remember how much that fearful thought consumed me for 20 years.
As part of my research and reading I came across a technique for dealing with depression. “my BUT”. I have my own “BUT” now, my way of looking at life through clear lenses. My “BUT” is the reason I will not succumb again to that fear, nor the cancer cells that I will live with for the rest of my life.
It works like this; I have cancer “BUT” my faith and relationship with God is enhanced and embedded in every part of my life.
I have cancer “BUT” I believe in the power of prayer to heal me and my circumstances.
I have cancer “BUT” God gave me the gift of each of my children’s lives. They inspire me to be a better person, healthier, more fun and more purposeful.
And finally I have cancer “BUT” I am thankful for the blessings in my life, the silver linings, the many small ones and the odd big one.
“You will not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day … Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91: 5-16