I was roused from a sweet and pleasant sleep, minutes before the alarm clock sounded, by the appearance of the title of this blogpost as a thought written across my mind’s eye. I’ve had ideas brewing for days and unsure about how to tie them all together in a coherent text, I had abandoned them as scribbled notes strewn across various notes on my tablet.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8.
I haven’t been asking God to help me write a better blog post (now that would be senseless) but I was reminded of this very simple method of supplicating to God, while reading this week and I felt compelled to write it down.
So what have I been asking for?
To be an instrument of His peace; to allow myself to do as He wills with me; to relax more in His presence, worship Him and trust in Him more.
A response so far has been a thought to dedicate less time to senseless scrolling on gadgets; I have recognized it is a source of unhappiness, discontentment with what I’ve got myself and envy of others. A renewed reminder not to take my tiredness out on those close to me now, my children, husband and mother. I struggle with this and need lots of support, lots of reminders.
And what about that title? Well, having lived through the “ocean of pink experience” on the 19th of this month (breast cancer awareness day) and attending a talk on the medical future for breast cancer survivors, I refuse to accept breast cancer as a modern inconvenience, which is sometimes how I perceive it seems to be portrayed.
The fact of the matter is, if I had been born less than two hundred years ago, and coming from Ireland, if I’d survived childhood, (and there was a fifty-fifty chance that an infectious disease would have caught me before the widespread availability of penicillin), and if a lack of food (due to The Great Irish Famine or just poverty) wasn’t weakening my bodily frame to death, I’d naturally, at age forty, be reaching my expiry date.
If all these screening and diagnostic tests weren’t available to me, (as they are not so freely available to a very large portion of women around the world), I wouldn’t even know I was walking around with breast cancer. And if the extensive variety of medication, the fan of which is widening at a YEARLY rate, didn’t exist, the number of my days would be easier to count.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12)
And the fact of the matter is, that the medication available to me now and in the future is not there for every woman around the globe. I am one of the PRIVILEGED ones.
Instead, those women less fortunate than me, are finding out too late that they have breast cancer or indeed, will never find out because they didn’t make it past childhood or girlhood due to excessive hunger or lack of antibiotics or simple saline solution. Or perhaps, lucky enough to survive past school-going age (but not necessarily school-educated, like me) a girl has been sold in to marital or sexual slavery, or raped by attacking soldiers, or mutilated by gun people for trying to protect her children or an endless list of unthinkable attrocities. Breast cancer will probably never register on these women’s radar of fear.
I live a comfortable life, with a nice, soft bed on which to rest my chemical-wearied body and cancer is foremost on my radar of fear and pain. This is my walk. And it is as valid and important as the walk of any other woman around the world, even if I have to suffer less or more.
Modern medicine will prolong my life so I’m getting a second chance. I am SO grateful for that because I don’t want my children to be motherless or my husband to be alone any time soon.
A second chance at what though? To reconstruct my breast and cover up what was? To return to the mad rush of living like a head-less chicken? No. That would render this disease simply “a modern inconvenience”, an interruption to my life. But it has to be, in order to make sense of my journey, more, much more than that. This medical interruption of my life has to be a stoppage, a spiritual introspection and redirection.
I finally realise where I’m going, heaven. And at last I know what I’m supposed to be doing, preparing my soul for that place, and blazing my trail along the way for others to follow.
At this stage, I’m content with my children following me. They’re the closest to my realm of influence. I’ll continue to teach them to pray and to follow their heart in everything, because, as long as they are aware of and allow His presence there, it is the place, where God resides and directs our lives.
And so I “knock on the door” and “seek” the roadmap. In my illness I “find” the answers, “the door is being opened”. So I’ve had to “suffer” to get here, I’ll do it again if I need more reminding. Jesus suffered, we all suffer in some way. God made no easy promises about this world.
“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” (Philippians 1:29).
But I find with this roadmap, the journey becomes easier and more restful. And that provides the spiritual meaning to my illness, one that far outweighs the importance of the modern inconvenience that is this disease in itself.
(I think it’s worth having a look at this website, which helped me put life, evolution and health inequity in to perspective: https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy/).