Recently one of Bernie’s (favorite) patients was diagnosed with recurrent, metastatic breast cancer. He’s been at this job for nearly a decade but this news is always a punch in the stomach. And now, we can’t possibly distance ourselves with a we’ll-keep-her-in-our-prayers-and-now-there’s-laundry-to-fold way. Nancy described it like this:
“It must be surreal for the two of you to be pressed so close to the glass between what man can do and God’s plan.”
I keep returning to Hester Hill Schnipper’s* mantra for those diagnosed with disseminated Cancer: “it’s not curable, but it’s treatable.” While I focus on the hope of that statement—that medicines (poisons) can keep this vibrant, beautiful mom around for a long, long time—Bernie reviews the entire case for reassurances that The Team didn’t fail her. Did the surgeons, oncologists, and radiologists have the best plan? Is her cancer unusual, receptor negative, aggressive, (or in all ways unlike mine)? But the real nagging question is, “Why didn’t anyone cc God on the plan? Why isn’t God on the damn Team?” Zealot Sister may have answers for this… but I don’t.
I met her in Costco. Only days after the pathology report sentenced me to months of surgeries and baldness, Bernie and I took our prepare-for-the-Armageddon shopping list to the superstore. Bulk buying has never failed to improve the mood of my husband, and grocery preparedness seemed like a better plan for the day than putting on the brave face for the kids. As our carts met mid-aisle at the canned corn, Bernie’s former patient recognized her doctor, and after introductions I was given the usual spiel of Bernie-gratitude that I never tire of hearing. But she could sense something was wrong. So right there, under the eyes of a hundred Jolly Green Giants, I told this complete (to me) stranger, that I was about to be a patient in the same office that treated her. More hugs, tears, and assurances that life would eventually return to normal. She had long, gorgeous hair. She pointed to her over-sized cart that was brimming with all of the provisions for a teenage sleepover at her house. She was Survival in Skinny Jeans, proof of a fun-filled life down the road. And now for this lively, pretty lady who was so quick to share this-is-scary tears with me at Costco… all of that surgery and chemo didn’t keep her Cancer away.
I think all of us here in Pink Ribbonville try (and often fail) to keep tears at bay when someone new is diagnosed. It’s part of our Welcome Wagon package. The news dredges up all of the terror, pain, cold, and loss I don’t want anyone else to experience. Now as a new Cancer Veteran, I occasionally entertain the notion that a cosmic card has already been punched. At the very least I have a two-year Jury Duty served kind of exclusion? But the real possibility of recurrence, or (in Hester’s case) a second primary tumor, or the death sentence of metastatic disease looms for all of us. Recently, as this crappy news cast a large shadow over Bernie and me, and Maria, and the rest of the Team of Doctors who are caring for this lovely lady, I need to believe that God is on the Team. Of course he’s in on the plan: He scripts The Plan. And maybe Zealot Sister has answers for the then why? Why? WHY?… but I don’t.
I would never presume to know anything about God’s plan for anyone other than myself; and I only ever get very brief glances of His plan for me.
I believe our all-loving and all-knowing God allows us to enter into suffering 1) to make us stronger and to prepare us for something yet to come in His plan, 2) to get our attention and help get us back on track when we have strayed far from the path for which He created us or 3) to benefit someone else. God may allow us to enter into suffering for one or all of these reasons.
Belief in Him, obedience to Him and contemplative prayer are our tools for discerning His will for us. Like any parent, He always gives us what we need, which may not always align with our wants and desires.
God is on the team. He is always there – inside the heart of every doctor, nurse, hospital administrator, social worker, medical student. It is up to us to call on Him and to Him.
I love you.
– Zealot Sister
OK, I promise I will not comment on every single piece of Christian ideology posted in this blog. But I must ask….
If Maria dies from this Cancer at a far too young age:
#1 – How has God made her stronger? Is there going to be some kind of battle or war in heaven? Why would all of the pain and misery for everyone involved be needed in preparation for something you dont know? Isn’t it ALL in the bible? Do I need to re-read the book of revelations? The last time I did I think I remember mass extinction from colored horses, locusts with human faces, and stars falling from the sky. Im not sure anything prepares one for all that. Cancer is certainly nothing compared the seas turning to blood and killing everything within. This is especially troubling knowing that in 1000 year God recreates heaven and earth without evil or suffering. Why cant we just get to the point now. Is God really so vain that he requires to be glorified for a while first?
#2 – It seems a little late to kill someone with Cancer in an effort to get them back on track.
#3 – OK now I see the out. Yes there are plenty who benefit, and even prey on, the misfortune of others. Maybe God just really wants to benefit oncologists, pharmaceutical companies, lawyers etc…. I hardly think this is God’s plan though. From God’s point of view, who is really benefiting in a sad, painful death of a non-deserving person.
You know what though? I will give you an even better out. One that I am surprised intellectual Christians dont argue for. God is not omni-anything.
What is the point of this whole world and the people in it? By creating the world is he just saying “We’ll see who really believes in me. Then I will destroy everything and kill everyone. Then I will recreate it perfectly.” To what end? For what reason? The bible states he created people for the expressed purpose of glorifying him. Fault #1… God is not perfect.
All knowing? Fine, you can have that one. But kiss goodbye your free will. Kirkegaard for all! Bummer.
All loving? I think we covered that above. Also, does an all loving God create hell then banish one of his uppity angels there.
Why does he need to be omni-everything? Was this just some way to help a future St. Anselm codify his necessary existence?
If Christianity came out with something like this i would be on board:
“God is not perfect and f’s things up from time to time. He created us and the world because he needs souls for an eternal war with hell. The world is just a huge recruitment office. He doesn’t know everything but is still smarter than all of us put together and still has much to learn. Just like the people he created in his likeness.”
Sorry for the rant. It is all just too confusing and contradictory. And the old fallback of, “you cant know God’s design” is just a cop out.
Reblogged this on Blooms and Bubbles and commented:
Submitted a snippet of this for the Sully Award Competition over at:
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Britt, so lovable, You. xoxoxo