A quarter of a century has passed since my reprieve. I was lying on my back under a searingly bright light, alone. I had been dreaming of freedom and fervently hoping that I would outwit my enemy and come through unscathed. Doubt suddenly dispelled and I knew in that moment that my foe was dead.
That’s what radiation does to cancer cells – it kills them. It can also damage healthy cells, but I was unaware of that at the time, and have had to live ever since with the side-effects. But I have lived! Three months before this moment of revelation, I had been told I had the dreaded big C, and needed a major operation without delay, where various internal organs had been cut out, and this was followed swiftly afterwards by a course of daily radiotherapy and further treatment.
The physical assault on my body was nothing compared to the mental anguish. My moods swung between despair and hope, between anger and acceptance, but predominant was anxiety about how my husband would cope if I did not make it, and grief that I might not see my two children grow up; they were then aged 6 and 4. I loved them all so much and dearly wanted to live.
When I finally managed to get my galloping fears under control, I decided to find out as much as possible as I could about my situation. I learned that I had a 50% chance of surviving for 5 years. I am an optimist and promptly decided I would be in the better half of this statistic. I also resolved to hit the enemy hard with all the ammunition I had and resort to every defensive tactic. In addition to conventional treatment – surgery etc – I deployed all the alternative medical options: meditation, visualization, exercise, high doses of vitamin C, homeopathy, and a diet designed to boost my immune system, which had taken a hammering.
And I came through, and with every passing year and all the subsequent check-ups, I became more confident and more thankful. I have now survived not just 5 years but 5 times this. I’m still alive and well (often managing to ignore the peripheral neuropathy – pins and needles – in my feet 24/7, a legacy of having my sciatic nerve irradiated). Twenty-five years on, my children have grown up and I have two small grandchildren. At the onset I thought motherhood might be cut short and I never expected to be a grandmother – and what a blessing it is!
All those years ago, when confronted with my own mortality at a comparatively young age, I didn’t know God. But He knew me and saved me. Fourteen years later I encountered Him, and repentance with faith has changed my life. Now I know that life is a temporary assignment and our home is in heaven. Now I journey with the Lord at my side and the fear of dying is gone. I am so thankful for the extra time granted to me – the ‘borrowed’ years have been sweet. Though we all know that human life is finite, the young feel they’ll live forever. Then as age creeps insidiously up on us, we stop deluding ourselves. Some people worry about their end, but not believers. I have recently witnessed the early death from lung cancer of a dear Christian friend, and she was completely at peace about it. No one need die alone – Our Lord is always with us and He is the way, the truth and the life. Dispel the doubts and grab hold of hope. With Him and in His love, we can look forward to eternity with confidence and joy.