I am a cancer survivor. We hear that statement a lot these days. It’s a war cry associated with various colored ribbons that immediately identifies a person as someone who overcame something difficult. Someone who survived a dreaded disease. Someone who deserves a pat on the back and recognition. If you’ve ever had a bout with cancer, you know exactly what it means to be a cancer survivor.
I could call my self a “cancer survivor”.
But I don’t.
And here’s why.
When I first received the diagnosis “laryngeal cancer” and “chondro sarcoma of the larynx” I was immediately labeled as a “cancer patient” by the medical community. I became known as someone who had cancer in their body. I become someone to be pitied. Someone to talk softly around. Someone to act emphatically around.
In the months following the doctor’s initial report, I would spend time with the Lord in our quiet place. It was there that the Lord was very clear to me about one thing. He didn’t want me labeling myself as someone with cancer. I wasn’t to tell anyone “I have cancer.” I was simply to say I had a tumor trying to take over a very dangerous place of my body and we needed to pray.
The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:17). Anyone who has dealt with cancer knows, all it does is propitiate fear. Since the Lord has not given me a spirit of fear, I was not to have an atmosphere of fear surrounding me. I was supposed to choose faith. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21). The Lord was very clear that He wanted me speaking life and not death. By identifying myself as someone with laryngeal cancer, I was speaking death. I would have been agreeing with something that I didn’t want. In obedience, my husband and I told very few people the seriousness of our situation. By faith, we took almost 2 years to wait and see what the Lord was going to do.
I wish I could say my story of faith ended with this glorious and miraculous touch from God. It didn’t. I ended up having the same surgery the doctor suggested even after 2 years of pressing in and seeking healing. A total laryngectomy. My airway was relocated to my neck. My esophagus rebuilt. My vocal cords removed with the larynx.
Recently, I was chatting with a couple sweet ladies at a new church my husband and I were visiting. They had seen the larytube around my neck, heard me using my electric larynx and were curious. I stood in the kitchen of the home church and shared a very abbreviated version of my story with them. I took a few minutes to explain exactly what they doctors did to separate my two tubes, create a new nose for me in my neck and surgically rebuilt my esophagus.
They marveled at it all. Then one of them very emphatically asked me, “Was that hard for you?”
I laughed. All I could do was laugh. Was it hard for me?
Even now as I type this, I chuckle. I can’t help it. YES! It was hard. So so so so hard. Most days it still is very very hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I looked at the woman and with compassion that can only come from the Holy Spirit I said, “Yes. It was hard. But one thing I’ve learned is that we all have our stuff.”
See, tragedy is not a respecter of persons. Tragedies can not be compared, measured or thought of as worse or better than other tragedies. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have troubles (John 16:33).” Tragedy and hardships are inevitable. If you get to live long enough, you are going to experience them. Everyone has something that was, is or will be considered “hard”. And I’m not going to compare mine with someone else’s. Nor am I going to cower down and say, “Oh it’s so hard!” becoming a victim to my circumstances.
I think the Apostle Paul understood tragedy more than anyone else ever has. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he boasts about his sufferings to the Corinthian church. Shipwreck. Flogging. Beatings. Jail time. Stranded at sea. Exposed to death over and over. Constant danger from bandits, his fellow Jews and the Gentiles. Hungry. Thirsty. Cold and sleep deprived.
Yet in Romans 8:31-19, despite everything he had experienced, he very clearly says that we are more than conquerors. (Note: Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians was written around 2 years after Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. This tells us the frame of mind Paul had. Despite all the hardship he endured, he carried a victorious attitude in life. He never allowed himself to be “under his circumstances.”
I’m sure in those many moments of hardship, Paul didn’t “feel” like a conqueror. In fact, I’m sure he felt quite conquered while laying in chains awaiting his next beating. Yet he writes to encourage the Roman church that we are not merely survivors. We are not merely conquerors. We are, in fact, MORE than conquerors.
There is something glorious about stepping into hardship with this attitude. Lord, I don’t feel it. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. But I know that I know that I know that I know… that I am in Christ. My spiritual reality far supersedes my physical reality and because of that, I know that I AM MORE than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.
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