Epilogue

“God, use me in a purposeful manner in a purposeful place at a purposeful time”  2/25/10

I am nearing the five year cancer free mark.  This is a surreal milestone.

I remain cancer free but more than that, my oncologist, Dr. Glenn, believes I am cured.  I saw her in March just to check in and become a member of her “five year cancer free club”.  After examining me, she stated in her opinion my cancer is in complete remission forever!  It was hard to fully wrap my brain around such a declaration.  To read more about my appointment with Dr. Glenn, click  here for the article.

Four years ago, I thought I’d never live the day without thinking about cancer every hour.  Four years ago, I never thought I could live normally again; the threat of my cancer returning haunted me every waking hour.  Today I am free from such consuming thoughts.  The only reason I think about cancer is in a general sense as I advocate to others in how to cope with, adjust to and accept their battle with the disease.

I believe with all my heart that my cancer wasn’t a happenstance; there is a purpose for my experience that God will use to assure and comfort and bring hope to others.  I also believe that my experience with PTSD is for you, dear Christian.  I do not understand the depth of my depression and suffering other than my experience is for your validation in your suffering.  If you or someone you know is in a “funk” or seemingly “dark” post-treatment, please know, I went before you and I understand and empathize with you.

You are not crazy.  You are not nuts.  You are not a failure as a Christian.

I support you and encourage you.  I also assure you that God sees you and knows your despair.  He is not being cruel or mean but desires your dependency on Him during this temporary season.  If you ask, He will direct and guide you to the tools to help you through this time.  Maybe I am one of the tools, maybe the resources in the following chapter are your tools.

When I ended my treatment February 2009 and my medical and support team faded into the background, I felt like I had been left off at the train station with only a dime.  I was dazed and alone on that dark and foggy platform; no one was there to greet me and help guide me in my complete recovery – complete psychological recovery.  Even looking on the internet for anything to help me know what I was experiencing was “normal”, was very hard to find.

Fortunately, the medical world is realizing that there is a need to inform new survivors about the post-treatment experience.  More and more information is available at the treating hospitals and on line.  And what I am finding, most hospitals now provide a social worker for the patients and their families.  Where I was quite lost in looking for validation concerning my emotional and mental state, today patients and survivors can easily find the tools they need in coping with, adjusting to and accepting their cancer.

What is still lacking is support from the Christian community.  On Sunday mornings as I stood for worship in our church, no one knew my anxiety and desperation; I felt alone.  I knew there were other cancer survivors in the congregation but they seemed quite normal.  I questioned why I was so different in my adjustments post-cancer.  I knew God loved me, I knew Christ forgave me but why couldn’t I make my Christianity enough in my complete emotional and mental recovery?  I felt guilty and ashamed that I was not like the other survivors at church.  So I had to find outside help.

I met Wendy, my cancer mentor, and then found Sally and Don Piper’s book, Heaven is Real. I also have a dear friend whom I met through our cancer support group.  Sandy and I had different cancers but shared two similarities, we were both diagnosed in 2008 and were survivors.  Sandy simply listened to me; I talked and talked and she didn’t try to dissuade me into “thinking positive” and be grateful for my survivorship and cancer free state.  She was non-judgmental and unconditional in her friendship with me, I could trust her – and I still do.

Unfortunately, too many people have had experience with cancer whether a patient,  a caregiver, a relative or friend.  Many of these people are in our churches.  I believe there is a need to address the spiritual side to cancer.  We have one more facet to deal with and that is our spirituality and faith.

We are ever grateful for the prayer support and service from our church family – many of us think we couldn’t have gone through and done what we did without our church family’s support!  But there is an emotional spiritual level that needs to be ministered to and not everyone understands that.  I don’t blame them, I didn’t understand that either before cancer.  After cancer, I get it because I lived it.

There are enough survivors in our churches to minister to one another.  This ministry needs to be addressed and supported by the leadership and introduced to the congregation.  I know there are other Christian survivors like myself who have a passion for such a ministry.  If you are one might you consider facilitating a Christian cancer support group?   There may be just one cancer survivor in your congregation who is suffering silently and wondering why they struggle so and other survivors are seemingly not.

What comes next for me?  I don’t know.  My statement, “God, use me in a purposeful manner in a purposeful place at a purposeful time” stands.  I want God to use my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder story to help others.  It might happen moment by moment, it might happen through writing or it might happen through facilitating a support group.  I just want to be used . . .

use me!

use me!

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