Last night I dreamt I was diagnosed with lung cancer, and today I learned November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Trusting God during a lung cancer diagnosis isn’t easy – not to mention the physical and emotional pain of undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
I woke up from my dream feeling like I had to write about cancer, faith, and the Lord. So, I offer to you several tips for trusting God when you’re diagnosed with lung cancer.
I’m not speaking from experience, and I realize you may have much more experience with this than I could ever imagine. I welcome your thoughts at the end of this article.
I’ll kick off with a story about dealing with lung cancer from an ex-professional football player, Chris Draft. Then, I’ll offer a few thoughts on trusting God during a lung cancer diagnosis, based on my dream and my friends’ experience with cancer and chemotherapy treatments.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month
“Almost nobody knows that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month,” said Chris Draft in Draft’s Defensive Team: Lung Cancer Awareness by Marie Loiseau. “It’s not just a smoker’s disease. Anyone can get lung cancer.” Draft is a former linebacker for the Washington Redskins. His wife, Keasha, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in December 2010. She lost her life to lung cancer at age 38, one year later.
Lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma cancers combined. The stigma that it is “a smoker’s disease” has negatively impacted the amount of personal and financial support dedicated to lung cancer research. Breast cancer is widely and proudly supported, but lung cancer isn’t high on the list of deadly diseases to fight.
Trusting God When You’re Diagnosed With Lung Cancer
Surrender to the stages of grieving. Shock, anger, fear, disbelief, hopelessness, bargaining – if you’re dealing with a lung cancer diagnosis, you’ll feel many emotions. Sometimes your emotions will be conflicting (eg, relief that you finally know the cause of your symptoms, and fear that you have lung cancer). Sometimes, people ignore or suppress their feelings so they can continue to be strong for their family. Don’t fall into the trap of having to be “the strong one.” Instead, let the waves of grief wash over you. Process your feelings through writing, weeping, wailing. Cry out to God in your anger and pain.
Remember that Jesus wept. Pastor Timothy Keller reminds us of the Lazarus passage in the Bible, when Jesus wept. Jesus wept even though he knew why Lazarus died, and he wept even though he knew Lazarus would be brought to life in a few minutes. Jesus wept because crying when you are hurt is a healthy way to process your grief and express your emotions. When you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, trust God enough to weep, rage, rail, and wail.
Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions is Timothy Keller’s most recent book. He’s the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, and his sermons are both spiritual and practical.
Call someone to walk alongside you. In my dream, I called my close friend Gayle. She was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, and underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I said, “I had no idea how devastating, confusing, and shocking it is to face a lung cancer diagnosis, until I was told I have cancer.” In my dream, we started with a phone conversation and suddenly Gayle was walking alongside me on a busy Vancouver street. I called her to help me deal with a lung cancer diagnosis, and she was there.
Balance taking action with trusting God when you’re diagnosed with lung cancer. At my home group last night (a Bible Study through my church), we talked about balancing the need to take action with the need to pray and surrender to God. We need to work as if everything depends on us, and pray as if everything depends on God. Trusting God with your lung cancer diagnosis may mean getting chemotherapy treatments AND surrendering your body and future to God. Trusting God may mean getting a second opinion about the treatments for lung cancer AND constantly inviting the Holy Spirit into your body, mind, and soul. Trusting God during a lung cancer diagnosis means you need to take both practical and spiritual steps forward.
Ask for help with the practical matters. So many women I know are dealing with different types of cancer, and they all say the same thing: they don’t like to ask for help. They’re used to being the nurturers, the carers, the nurses. They can’t ask for help dealing with their cancer diagnosis. What about you – are you reluctant to ask for help? Know that people love you and want to help you – but you have to let them in. That’s part of trusting God when you’re diagnosed with lung cancer: leaning on the people He has put in your life.
Join a lung cancer support group. In 5 Tips for Starting a Breast Cancer Support Group, I describe the importance of support groups for cancer survivors. People who haven’t been diagnosed with lung cancer don’t know what it’s like, no matter how much they love and care for you! I encourage you to find and attend a support group – even if you feel like you don’t have the energy or time.
Trust God during your lung cancer diagnosis by giving thanks and being grateful for the blessings in your life. Gratitude changes your perspective and makes you physically, emotionally, and spiritually stronger.
Here is a list of reasons it can be helpful to give thanks during your lung cancer diagnosis and treatment:
- Keeps you aware that God is close by
- Motivates you to look for His purpose in your lung cancer diagnosis
- Helps bring your will into submission to God
- Reminds you how dependent you are on God
- Strengthens your witness to unbelievers
- Focuses your attention on Him, not yourself or your lung cancer diagnosis
- Gives you an eternal perspective
- Energizes you
- Transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding
If you have a smartphone, download the InTouch Ministries app. It’s free, and offers daily devotionals to help keep you focused on trusting God no matter what you’re facing.
If someone you love has been diagnosed with lung cancer, read Gifts for People With Cancer – Beyond “Get Well Soon”.
What do you think about trusting God when you’re diagnosed with lung cancer? I welcome your comments below.