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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Treatment 2/18 today and no problems. Same staff, minimal delay, fish more relaxed.

Retail therapy on the way home.

I could get used to this. I could congratulate myself on coping well with the outer journey. And you might look on and say “Isn’t she strong!”

Well of course I am . . . until I am not.

Now that the physical suffering of chemotherapy is fading, the inner journey takes my attention. And the main driver is fear.

Who would’nt be fearful when you are told you have cancer?

C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 119 when King David pleaded with God for deliverance from his troubles, wrote:

He who has been with God in the closet will find God with him in the furnace

If we expect to recognise God’s presence with us when we are in trouble, we need to have spent time getting to know him when things are going well. In fact, we need to set aside time to make sure we know HIM and not some teddy-bear God we construct to suit our needs.

I am learning a lot about anxiety and fear – what they mean to me and how to manage them.

My radiotherapy treatment is all about adding years to my life. With this in mind, what Jesus says about worry hits home

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life . . .  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?

Clearly worry is not a constructive part of my treatment plan.

Jeremiah spoke of God’s compassion and faithfulness, in the midst of his severe suffering. He had a very mature knowledge and experience of God. I can learn a lot from him.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Both passages refer to God’s love and provision being given one day at a time, fresh for the day’s needs and not to be stored in advance.

Now we do need to plan ahead for business, for agriculture, for education etc.

This challenge is about the stuff we construct and then worry about – the what if’ scenarios. You can reflect on your own what if’ scenarios, or you can imagine what mine might be in relation to cancer.

We want tomorrow’s blessings today. We want to store up certainty today so that we do not need to worry tomorrow. And yet chances are we will worry again tomorrow about the next day.

God says trust me for today’s resources today and tomorrow’s resources tomorrow.

Maybe your worry is not about the length of your life – but there is a principle here that covers worry in general.

I can see the benefit of going to bed ’empty’ and yet free from worry, knowing that in the morning God will fill me up again. To do this I need to spend time in the closet getting to know the God that Jesus shows me and learning to trust him.

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This is a tough one.

Trustworthy in what . . ?

I can easily sit in comfort and theorise about an all-powerful, all-knowing, good, loving God when I am warm, safe and have food in my cupboard. But what about when my health or safety are under threat? And worse than that, how much can I rely on God for the health or safety of those I love?

Trust is earned, not given. And so to experience God as trustworthy I need some experience of having to trust him. And if I am to trust him I need to be absolutely sure that I have understood his nature and what sort of relationship with him is possible.

Now that takes some learning.

When James Bryan Smith‘s baby daughter died people asked him how he could still trust God after all he had been through. To explain he described the healing power of the prayer that their pastor read out as Madeline was dying.

The prayer took our story, our own personal narratives (a mother, a father and a sick child), and put it in the context of a larger story, a meta-narrative, which is the story that God is writing. It gave words to our anguish as well as our hopes. The prayer is honest; we cannot see God’s “divine hand”, and we want to see that there is purpose to it all. It is only when our suffering seems meaningless that our spirits are finally broken. But the prayer goes on. It placed our suffering in the proper setting: God’s “own saving plan, established before the creation of the world”.

When we join our story to God’s . . . then everything begins to make sense. The pain is still real, but it becomes bearable . . we can begin to see beyond the suffering and look towards the widespread mercy that surrounds us.

I often feel waves of fear and anguish wash over me as I travel through this breast cancer journey. They challenge the narratives I hold about life, death and my relationship with God. And they push me to explore the bigger picture, the meta-narrative.

In the final chapter of Knowing God, J.I. Packer speaks at length about the Adequacy of God. He quotes Paul’s challenge in Romans 8  to think of what you know of God through the gospel and apply it. Think against your feelings; argue yourself out of the gloom they have spread; unmask the unbelief they have nourished; take yourself in hand, talk to yourself, make yourself look up from your problems to the God of the gospel; let evangelical thinking replace emotional thinking (p295) . . .

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The big lesson in this is that trusting is not a passive state. It takes a lot of strong self talk and self management.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure

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GOOD NEWS – my blood test was above borderline and I had my chemo.  The first dose of round two – a different and stronger drug this time.

Last night I was exhausted. This treatment schedule is like a prolonged game of snakes and ladders. The joy of reaching some sense of normality is soon dampened by the prospect of another snake-slide to side effects and infection risk.

Today was stressful and tearful for me again. I had read all about this new drug, or so I thought.  I came resigned to cope with the side effects and prepared with ice packs to protect my finger and toe nails from damage – vanity first.  What I had not spotted was the small risk of an immediate anaphylactic reaction to this new drug. And of course when it was spelled out to me I knew exactly what it meant.  I recognised the cautious looks from the staff as they ran the first lot of treatment in slowly.  Their questions about how I was feeling came often and were purposeful – I knew why. My husband knew what was going on and lifted my hand and kissed it. We were both journeying into the unknown again. Tears welled up.

I closed my eyes and prayed the Jesus Prayer, matching my breathing to the rhythm of the words.  I knew I was going to be fine.

And so with my head encased in a cold cap, my fingers and toes under ice packs, I wrapped myself in my blue mohair blanket, a gift from my mother many years ago, and snuggled up to pass the next 2 hours. And I was fine – able to move between my own world of prayer and the lives of those around me.

The chemo suite is a very busy place. The patients are going through an extremely traumatic experience, all putting on a brave face and thankful for the camaraderie and shared ‘normality’.  I am amazed at the courage they demonstrate. As my friend in the next couch gathered her bag to leave she reached out to me to grasp my hand. Her touch spoke love and comfort. She understood. Tears welled again.

And the staff, working under constant pressure, manage to tread that fine line between business and humanity.

We came home at 3.00 pm, tired and relieved and very aware of the love and prayers surrounding us.

And the painted nails – apparently there is some evidence that painting your nails prevents them from becoming damaged by the drug. I had noticed women with stunning dark red nails and thought it incongruous.

I have not yet found the evidence – but maybe even I can paint my nails bright red!

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