One of Tyler’s nurses, Maria, has whispered to us a couple of times during chemo, “You know, this will really be a gift to you.” It may sound like something cruel or offensive to say to a cancer patient, but as an oncology nurse, she sees cancer from the inside out.
(I don’t recommend that just anyone tell a cancer patient that their experience is a gift – this is a delicate subject and could actually be offensive in the wrong context. For more on what not to say to a cancer patient, read this: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2012/06/what-not-to-say)
For us, it was a blessing hearing it from Maria because we shared the same feeling. This whole cancer thing has, in fact, been a gift.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
The biggest gift is knowing that God truly can carry us through anything. To build our marriage on this foundation is the best wedding present we could ever receive. Looking forward into our life together, we know we will face many more trials. It IS joy, such precious joy, to have this experience to look back on and say “Yes, God is faithful. We can get through this with Him because look how He carried us through that experience. He will provide us with everything we need.”
A second gift is having a better understanding of what it is that “we need.” Status and wealth do not shield us from tragedy. Sure, you might be more comfortable and you might have access to better resources but to deal with fear, desperation, anxiety, anger, sadness – the true symptoms of tragedy – status and wealth offer no solutions.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus offers to take our burdens from us. We just have to go to Him. This is so real for me. One night early in Tyler’s diagnosis, I was feeling really anxious and fearful. I couldn’t fall asleep or get my mind to stop. I said a prayer and in my head started singing “Jesus loves me.” Juvenile? Perhaps. But it worked. My mind relaxed, my heart became calm and I slept through the night. I can’t think of any possession (even the fanciest of fancy sleep machines!) that could do that for me.
There are many other little silver linings to this whole cancer thing. Thanks to the wonderful support of my employer, I have been able to take time off to be with Tyler for every day of chemo. This means we have had over three weeks worth of days together that we normally would have been apart. Sure, the infusion center at Newton Wellesley Hospital is not the most romantic place, but we feel blessed to have shared those hours together.
We have a greater appreciation for the good times in life, there is no question about that. Going out to dinner has become a wonderful treat. In fact, food in general has become a little gift to Tyler who has to follow a very restricted diet during chemo. (Just now he said to me “Next time we are in Maine, we need to get an Amato’s sandwich :))
I don’t know what our life would have been like without cancer, but I strongly believe that we have been blessed with a gift that has changed us for good.