My husband and I were on a walk the other afternoon. Out of nowhere I saw tears form in his eyes. I didn’t have to ask what he was thinking about. I could tell by his vacant stare that it was you. You changed his life the fall of 2004. His brother introduced the two of you. He was only 19 years old. Do you remember Tyler? He was handsome, athletic, and popular. He always knew just what to say, and had this uncanny ability to make everyone around him feel like they were the most important person in the room. We have our own kids now, and since meeting motherhood personally, it has changed the way I look at Seth’s mom. She is so strong for having battled you. Still, you snuffed a light out of my husband and his family the day that you took Tyler. You didn’t just take him you know, you took them too.
For years now I have been studying my husband. I think it may be kind of like a person who suffers a traumatic accident and loses a limb. People keep telling you that you are lucky to be alive, but of all the words in the dictionary, he’d be hard-pressed to find an adjective less fitting than ‘lucky’. They told him that time heals all wounds, and this is the lie that has made him feel like a freak for over 10 years. Surely something must be wrong with him. Why can’t he just get over it? Because unless you are the one that dies you don’t get over death; you live with it.
I think what happens is, the more time that goes by, the more people stop asking how you are doing. And let’s face it; no one wants to hear the real answer anyway. No one wants to hear that sometimes while you sleep you awake by the sounds of your own screams. No one really wants to know that the degree of separation between a decade and right now is seconds. He doesn’t live life by hours or days, he lives life by seconds. By sounds, by pictures, by a familiar face in the distance that never materializes. But they told him he’d get over it. I’m not convinced that time heals much of anything. I think people just stop asking. Either that or he stopped being honest.
My grandmother met you one February. You are such a cruel antagonist to pick on such a sweet old lady. My grandfather introduced you. He is gone now but she’s not, and yet in many ways she is. You took away the man she laid beside for 60 years. For 60 years she made eggs sunny side up because that was how he liked them. Now those cracked eggs have been her only sunny days.
“How are you?” I ask her.
“Lonely.” She responds.
My uncle, my mother, her grandchildren all love her, and call her, and visit her, and yet she can’t help but feel lonely. In a room of family she is still lonely. In her eyes I see yours. Dear Cancer; she hates you.
I think you should know that my grandpa was special. A month before he died I gave him a copy of one of my books. I had dedicated it to him. I loved him intensely, and I wanted him to know it. He took that book and placed it in the belt-line of his pants. For weeks every gas station attendant, sales clerk, or waiter was forced to feel the binding of that book press into their hands.
“My granddaughter wrote this,” he’d say. “She’s a writer.” They’d smile out of compliance but he wasn’t finished.
“Read the dedication,” he’d urge them sternly and as the world hustled around them, his froze one more time. They’d read the words I penned and when they finished he was satisfied. They’d push the book back to him, and he’d place it into his pants again. I can still feel the warmth of my smile watching him approach strangers over and over while wrestling that book into their hands. If I’d of known that you were laying silently inside of him like a robber in a bush, I’d of written him a thousand more dedications. That book sits on his nightstand now. No one has touched it. Not even me. My grandma would, but I am pretty sure she worries that if she felt it, instead of the smooth cover, all her fingers would grab is lonely.
I have friends that have met you too. Introduced to you by their fathers, mothers, sisters, and friends. My Co-blogger met you when you picked a fight with her husband. He crushed you. You slither in and out of homes leaving a trail of muddy footprints.
You’re like a stain on our once bright white shirts. We can try all the different methods to scrub you out of our lives but it is no use. We can scrape at you till our knuckles bleed. But if I am being honest, on certain days, in certain light, I can still see people wearing you. Do you know what it feels like to every day lace yourself with memories you hate?
A friend of mine has freshly put you on, and no matter how many layers you smother her with all she ever feels is cold. She misses her daddy. Her world was filled with color and you have turned it grey. No one is stronger than our daddies, and yet you try and take them on. Dear cancer; there are some lights that even death can’t put out.
There was a fifteen year old girl in a town nearby who was fighting you. My friend called and asked me to pray for a girl that I didn’t know. When she said that it was you who had showed up again unwanted and unannounced I prayed immediately. I prayed that she’d beat you. I’d love to see you get the snot kicked out of you by a fifteen year old girl. I hope everyone who reads this prays that in the midst of these struggles will rise victors. They’ll place their heel in the heart of your chest and join the survivors who echo, ‘Dear Cancer; you lose!’
And then in ignorance or stupidity someone has the audacity to tell them that, “this was God’s plan.” The advice of fools shouldn’t smell so strong. You were never a part of Gods plan. Disease, sickness, death, abandonment, pain, and despair were not stains that He fashioned. How dare they insinuate that HE made YOU!? Don’t pass that buck to God. The weight is so heavy He could snap beneath them. But we need someone to blame, and so in vain, He wears them.
He hates you just as much as we do. Through compassion He holds us together while we recite over and over again, for anyone who will listen, about the day that you stole our ignorance.
On a cross Christ beat you. And yet people attach your name to His. Somewhere Satan is laughing.
Dear Cancer, you should know, there is one thought that relieves me. You’re dying.
It is with this intent that I have sat down to pen you this letter. As I thought of all the lives that you’ve destroyed, I thought it was imperative to remind you, and everyone else, that your days are numbered. Christ is coming back. While many of us have been so wrecked by you that we cannot see through darkness, I hope this may shed the smallest light. Like a hero slays a dragon, or a legend tames a giant, my God has beheaded you and on a platter will raise you for all to see. Yes Cancer, you are dying.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 “We shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
You cancer, you are dying, but we will be made new. The heavens will rumble, voices that you silenced will cry out in victory, and children that you tortured will burst from their graves. People won’t even know the meaning of the word ‘lonely.’ Lives that you claimed will be reclaimed by Jesus and on that day cancer, while we will never have felt so alive, you, you will die. And that is why Paul writes in verse 54, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
The faces of those whom we love will shine brighter than the morning, and just as darkness runs at the sight of light, so shall you scramble in the face of Jesus. We will live again, but cancer, you will die forever. You will die alone, you will die cold, and no one will be at your funeral. Cancer, you will be the one who finds out the meaning of the word lonely.
Dear Cancer, Jesus has slain you. You are dying.
Heather Thompson Day is a Lecturer, and author of 5 Christian books including Life After Eden, available now.
You can follow Heather on IG at HeatherThompsonDay
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