The Colors of Cancer

The midwest in October is a colorful display of oranges, yellow/golds and deep reds best offset by a brilliant blue sky.  In recent years an incongruously spring-like color has been introduced into our earthy fall palette: the pink of breast cancer awareness.

As if we are not aware of cancer.

As a breast cancer survivor myself, I am acutely mindful of those who are facing cancer of any sort.  It is my hope that these reflections on the colors of cancer will encourage and strengthen cancer fighters and those who love and support them.

A cancer diagnosis is a bold red sign screaming DANGER AHEAD!  It’s like a punch in the gut; disorienting, frightening and surreal.

My first reaction, after seeing red, was to search for information. I learned that every cancer scenario is unique, somewhat unpredictable, and that success and survival rates are given in aggregate percentages.  The big red question was, of course, in which statistical group would I land and just how dangerous would it be?

Psalm 91:7 was a comfort to me at that time.

“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”  In other words, even if the odds are stacked against you, God is in control.  Numbers and statistics and percentages are not determinative.  God is.

A white-out of uncertainty followed the red days of adjusting to danger.  I wanted to know exactly what we were dealing with, but first there were pathology reports and MRIs and doctors’ recommendations to be evaluated.

On the way to our first consultation with my surgeon, my husband and I drove through an intense snow squall.  It was sudden, furious, and blinding, and it forced us to travel very slowly. Oddly, the snow stopped by the time we reached the hospital.  It was a metaphor for my cancer experience: sudden, intense, limiting visibility, and yet strangely beautiful.

I could only…

“Be still and know that I am God…”  Psalm 46:10

After several weeks of tests and consultations, it was time to face the dreaded cancer treatment: surgery, radiation and – horror of horrors – chemotherapy.  I had it all in the space of four months.

The metallic gray of  unyielding steel is an appropriate color for cancer treatment.  My inner resolve to bravely endure the war against cancer cells about to take place in my body matched the cold steel of the hospital tables and machinery with which the battle was fought.  I faced it with a grim determination to simply gut it out.

But I did not face it alone.

On the contrary, the outpouring of love, support, prayer and kindness from family, friends and acquaintances felt like a comfy pink blanket.  Healthcare professionals were unfailingly kind, caring and respectful.  The indignity that I dreaded most, inevitable baldness, was softened by a thoughtful hair stylist who helped me choose an attractive wig and by family and friends who said I was beautiful when I felt anything but.

Memories of encouraging words, cards, prayers, meals, and gifts move me to tears even as I write this years later.  I cannot fully express my gratitude to all who supported me, nor can I adequately describe how profoundly you blessed me.  Thank you.

It is a great gift to experience such love. 

God also gave me the treasure of a personal promise to get me through the experience.  I hung on to it, very literally, during those steel-gray days.

Right before my surgery, while we were still in the white-out of the unknown, two different people read from Isaiah 43:1-3 as they prayed with my husband and me.  It was a promise that God would walk me through all the danger and difficulties ahead.  I knew, with the certainty that only God can give, that I would get through it.  Later, during my radiation treatments, I trusted that I would “not be burned.”   As I watched toxic chemicals drip into my veins, I knew they “would not sweep over me.” 

The Lord was perfectly faithful to his promise, and I am forever grateful.

It was a unique blessing to experience the mighty presence of the Lord as he walked with me through all the colors of cancer.

“For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Is. 43:3

P.S. There are a few more shades of cancer that frankly surprised me.  However, this post is already too long, so they will have to wait until next week.  Thanks for reading.

16 thoughts on “The Colors of Cancer

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  1. Oh Judy –
    I physically had that strange metallic taste in my mouth as I read about your gray days of cancer. My Grandma had undetected breast cancer that spread into her lymph system. She died when I was one. My only cousin (same side of the family) is a 3 year breast cancer survivor. Neither of them knew God loved them in the midst of all the pain and fear.
    Your story is a sweet testimony to your courage and His grace. My heart rejoices with you in your hope and healing! Thank you for sharing what so many, including me, need to hear.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement Debbie. I feel kind of a sad admiration for those who bravely endure cancer without God or a supportive community in their lives. It doesn’t have to be so lonely. Funny, I had forgotten about that nasty metallic taste. I remember the God moments and the love of friends and family most vividly, while I seem to have repressed some of the “heavy metal” moments:) Bless you, Debbie.

  2. I can barely see to type, Judy–such a moving post, full of courage and conviction. You’re a great example for/of us, God’s team of overcomers (though it might not be cancer for all of us). God bless you–love, sis Caddo

  3. “And they overcame him [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:11)

    Your testimony empowers others to keep fighting against cancer and sickness. Great article.

  4. This is such an encouragement as I am walking beside a dear sister and friend. Her battle has been long and laborious, yet her metallic resolve has been upheld in His hands. Blessings to you, and thank you for sharing your story! ❤ Shannon

    1. You are no doubt a great blessing to her, Shannon. I pray for strength and healing for your friend and for the Lord to give you all you need in your support of her. Blessings back to you, Shannon!

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