Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Survivor Phase

A friend of mine posted the following comment on my blog recently. She's an oncology nurse and experienced in all things cancer. I love getting her perspective.

"Stephanie, your journey with cancer is never over. You are just entering a different phase of it called Survivor-ship. Some say this is actually the hardest part of cancer, the watching and waiting. Not having the pronounced end goal of finishing treatment in sight, not having your weeks filled with tests and treatments and doctors. You have to learn to live with a different normal. The best part of this leg of the journey- you are a Survivor!"

I can't get her post out of my mind. My first thought was, "Wow! She really understands!" She articulated well the battle that all cancer survivors face. She understands those moments of fear, wondering if the latest symptom is a sign the cancer has returned. She understands the dread of potentially more horrible treatments. This is a battle that I face constantly. I will be honest in confessing that there are moments when I get tired of the battle and think, "I just don't want to deal with this!" and I wish the cancer had taken me to my home in Heaven. The possibility of recurrence hangs over my head always. It feels like the week before finals and the stress of the semester is hanging over me. But in this case, finals never come, and the weight remains, with no end in sight.

So, is it true that my journey with cancer is never over?
Is this my new life?
Dread? Fear? Watching? Waiting?
Carrying a never-ending burden that feels too heavy to bear?
With all my resolve, I muster up my war-cry: "Absolutely not!"
I will not let these moments of fear steal from me! It is my choice. I will not give in! Today, my battle with cancer is over. Today, I choose not to live in fear. What do I have to fear? Death? Certainly not! My home is in Heaven, and my faith is in a God who is in complete control. My days are in His hands. My children are in His hands. Today I don't have cancer, and today I will live as if I don't have cancer. I refuse to worry about tomorrow.

My parents were divorced when I was young. In a misguided attempt at protecting me, they innocently tried to prepare me for the possibility of divorce in my own life. Finally one day I rebelled. I said, "No! I will not plan my marriage with the expectation of divorce!" Call it naive. Call it whatever you like. But I feel the same way about cancer. I will not live my life with cancer in mind. I will not live in fear of something that is only a possibility.
So I ignore that soft whisper in my ear, telling me to fear, telling me the cancer has come back. And on the days where it changes from a soft whisper to a loud cry, I find refuge in the arms of my Savior. I seek comfort from the God of peace. I allow Him to lift my burden and give me a reprieve.

"You will keep in perfect peace 
   those whose minds are steadfast, 
   because they trust in you. 
Trust in the LORD forever, 
   for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal." 
 ~Isaiah 26:3-4

My battle is not against cancer. My battle is the same one it's always been: Where will I fix my eyes?
On cancer? On my circumstances? On possibilities?
Those things lead only to fear.
I fix my eyes on the eternal. I fix my eyes on Jesus. And all else fades away...

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. 
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  
~2 Corinthians 4:18

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."  
~Hebrews 12:2


  1. Beautifully said Steph. Thank you for sharing!! You are a gift.

  2. I love love love your perspective Steph, you are absolutely right. Your faith is amazing and will carry you through your journey of LIFE no matter the speed bumps that are put in your path. You have taken the challenge of making this part your "new normal" and have said no thank you, and stayed with the normal of placing your faith in Jesus. I only wish that everyone who has had the speed bump called cancer in their lives have the same faith. Keep it close, you will be a Survivor in everything you do.