Don’t waste your cancer.

Don’t waste your cancer. John Piper wrote this on the eve of his cancer surgery to help people coping with cancer whether they are the patients themselves or friends and families of the patient. He believes that cancer is an opportunity for Christians to glorify God.

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I believe it too…. so is every trial and suffering in our lives. Each problem I experience, each grief I bear, every frustration and disappointment in my life is an opportunity for me to experience God. In sorrow, He gives comfort. In despair, He gives hope. With unlovable people, He enables me to love. For each dilemma, He gives wisdom. In trouble, He gives peace.

When God’s children face difficulties, God is glorified not because the problem goes away but because His children overcome by God’s amazing grace. They are joyful in spite of the circumstances. They give thanks in everything. It is easy to be happy when life is rosy. It is not difficult to be grateful when things are going well. But when there is financial trouble, when relationships are broken, when sickness comes knocking, God’s children shine amidst the darkness. They stand firm, they stand strong, they hang on in faith, hope and love.

You might say it is easier said than done. I tell you it is not only difficult, it is impossible without God beside me. I had cancer when I was 47. It was during this stage of my life that I experienced the most God’s loving embrace around me. When i first discovered that I had cancer, my prayer was Lord, if you think that my life on earth has served its purpose, then I am at peace with it. But if there is something I need to do, then show me the way.

From the shy child that I was, I found courage to pray with a stranger at the cancer centre. The young lady had a big tumour on her forehead. I cannot remember what prayer I uttered but I know God’s purpose for my cancer was so I can help other people with the help that I receive from Him. It was during this period that I discover that life goes on inside in the cancer centre. People sat in their chairs, read the magazines, talk on the phone, watch the TV. They wait for their turn to be treated. They wait for treatment to start and finish. They leave and go home. Life goes on outside the cancer centre as well.

Today, my father undergoes dialysis twice a week. Each time I pass through the corridor of the kidney institute, I am reminded that life goes on in the hallway leading to the dialysis centre. Sick people, poor or well-off, sat on the bench, sitting or sleeping in their wheelchairs. Perhaps they were there very early in the morning? It is already noon. I wonder what they are waiting for? Is it for chance to be dialysed – for others to cancel their slot, because the poor cannot have a fixed schedule because they were not sure if they would have the resources to be treated? I am reminded of life’s insecurities. I am made aware of blessings which i should not take for granted.

How do I feel when I see my father weak and frail body, hooked up to the machine, blood being sucked out of him, and pumped back into his body for the next 4 to 5 hours? it is a comfort to see him sleeping soundly. It is not easy to be sick myself. It is also hard to see a loved one go through sickness. For the past 4 months since my mother passed away, each time I go to visit my father, it was a test of courage and perseverance. It is painful to love. To bear the pain because of love takes courage. Everyday I go visit with a heavy heart. To hear him answer Amen at the end of prayer comforts me. What about the times when papa did not respond? I find it hard to pray: Lord, thank you that you have taken mama to be in heaven – where there is no pain, no night and no more tear. Will this prayer comfort papa? I do not feel comforted when I open my eyes and I see tears in his eyes.

Why am I writing all these? It is not a masochist act to be narrating sad and ‘morbid’ stories of cancer, dialysis.. of pain and tears. I write about it because I do not want to waste my cancer. I remember and tell so I do not waste God’s trials and lessons for me. I share so people will know who my God is. In the end, they will praise God.

We all have our ‘cancer’ in life. In today’s Pinoy culture, we term it something ‘toxic’. What are the toxic moments of your life? Turn the malignant into something benign or even good. Do not waste your cancer.

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