I shifted uncomfortably in my chair and dropped my gaze. My oncologist waited patiently. I played with my fingers for a moment and then sighed. I looked up. He still didn't say a word. He just watched me carefully. I had a feeling he knew exactly what I was about to say but he was waiting for me to say it.
I stared back down at my hands again and shifted my weight a bit. I looked up again. "I, well, most of the time I do pretty good but..." Shame-faced I dropped my eyes again and stopped. I twisted my fingers together and looked up again.
My oncologist looked at me for another moment before speaking. "You know, it will get better with time but ..." I finished the sentence for him. "It will never completely go away."
"That's the problem," I said. "I know this is probably nothing but I, uh, I felt something and I'm...I'm scared. Most of the time I'm okay but sometimes I'm afraid."
"Of course you're afraid. It will get better with time but..."
"It will never go away?"
"No, it will never completely go away. I want you to understand you can call me whenever you need to, even if you think it's trivial. That's what I'm here for. If I'm not here, talk to Lori (his nurse). Lori can help you determine if you need to come in for an exam or just some reassurance. You see, we understand those little things you used to take for granted will now make you wonder if cancer has recurred. I know that sometimes you're going to be afraid even if there is no need to be. Would you like me to take a look at it?"
During the exam, he carefully explained to me exactly what I was feeling. During my surgery, blood vessels which which were severed were tied down and this formed a ridge not far from my tumor site. I had not previously felt this because the area had been filled with fluid and was slow to heal completely during chemo. Radiation caused some additional swelling and also created some scar tissue. As I moved further out from radiation, the swelling has been gradually diminishing and I am now able to feel the scarred area along with the ridge for the first time.
As I drove home, I thought about how quickly my fears had been alleviated when I was examined and reassured by the expert . So often, fear and uncertainty tries to invade our lives. We have a tendency to try to hide it. We almost act as if God will be displeased and angry with us if we admit we are afraid. I don't think anything is further from the truth. While God is not pleased when we hang onto our fears and allow them to paralyze us, God understands that sometimes we feel afraid. He knows that sometimes we desperately need to be held in his arms because we're afraid. As long as we live in this world, we are going to face fear at one time or another.
It's okay to be afraid and it is important to tell God when you are afraid. Wait a minute! God already knows you're afraid. Why should we have to tell him about it? We need to tell him about it because it is important for us to acknowledge our fear. When we acknowledge it, we are admitting to God that we cannot do this on our own. We need the Expert to come in, examine us, reassure us and fix things if necessary.
God understands all of our fears and we can confidently lay them down at his feet!
I have been inspired by a couple of cancer survivors God placed around me in my adult years -- and you are one of them -- and one thing I do understand as much as anyone could without having lived it, how true it is that every bump, lump, oddity, sneeze and cough can make you wonder if it's back.
I praise God that you are okay and that you have a compassionate oncologist who understands what you need.
Mostly, I praise God because He is the One, the expert! Who can calm our fears. You've been an inspiration because you have faithfully leaned on God publicly during this entire trial.
Great analogy, as always. God is our fear expert.
Thank you for this blog. We all have fears that sometimes seem too big for even God, or at least I do. Praise God for the reality that he is bigger than any of our fears!