The whole world crumbled beneath me when my husband uttered: “I have a tumor in my chest”. It is shocking to learn you have cancer and a relief to be healing. However, how do you deal with the next phase of cancer MONITORING? How to deal with the anxiety throughout the cancer monitoring phase of life?
How to deal with anxiety throughout cancer monitoring?
Cancer comes with a multitude of appointments, tasks, treatments, and decisions. For survivors, the routine scan for cancer monitoring can be one of the most taxing and anxiety-ridden.
Throughout our process, there has been a lot of waiting. Waiting on tests to be approved. Tests to be completed. Surgeries to be approved. Results from biopsies. A further detailed diagnosis. Treatment to be chosen. Treatment started. Treatment to end. Scans to reveal progress. And more scans and more scans.
So much waiting. Waiting breeds anxiety, worry, depression, and fear or it can be an opportunity to have peace.
1. What is anxiety?
According to a quick internet definition, it is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease.
It is a feeling. A desire to do something or have something accomplished. Stress ridden desires can start to ruminate which means we allow the potential negative outcomes to replay over and over in our minds. We repetitively go back to the situation that is causing us distress which feeds into more suffering. A broken record of negativity that cycles on the parts that are out of our control due to a waiting process.
What if this treatment doesn’t work?
What about the side effects?
Will we ever have more kids?
I don’t know if I am strong enough to handle this.
What if it comes back?
What will the doctor decide for our next phase of treatment?
How do we do this again with our kids? Can they handle it all over again?
What if he loses his job this time?
Will our insurance continue to cover this?
For me personally, the feeling of unease is more of a physical symptom that manifests in stomach pain and a heavy chest sensation as though I can never fully breathe. I am figuratively and literally gasping for air. What happens when you become short of breath? You become dizzy and faint. When this overwhelming weight in my heart overcomes me I give in to it and fall to my knees in desperation for God’s Holy Word.
2. How does cancer cause fear and steal our joy?
- Things are out of our control = STRESS
- The future is uncertain = STRESS
- The pain and/or side effects = STRESS
- The fear of losing someone = STRESS
- The fear of dying = STRESS
Fear of losing a loved one
Personally, we struggled with this one. Our life example was accepting the fact that my husband and father of four young children had cancer then embracing the SMALL CHANCE that it could end with cancer taking him away. I could have become frozen with this debilitating fear [which it most certainly was for the brief moment I allowed it to enter my head space]. The idea of him dying would try to sneak into my heart even in the most mundane tasks like washing dishes, taking the kids to school, and especially at night.
The other fear was something unexpected due to the distance between us throughout treatment.
Fear of being apart during hardship.
My husband was facing the biggest battle of his life and every ounce of my being wanted to serve him THERE. EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE.
Yet, I had to swallow my selfish desires and worry by putting on my big girl pants. As a wife and mother, my duties were diverse with taking care of the home, children, myself, and my husband. It was not time to get caught up in “I want to do this…” or “We should do this…” or “I NEED…” The battles during cancer can devour us or bring us through the fire stronger. Let’s discuss how.
3. What does the Bible say about fear and worry?
According to a Huffington Post article written in 2014, What Philippians 4:6-7 Bible Passage Can Teach Us About Managing Anxiety Today the most highlighted Kindle ebook passage was Phil 4:6, a verse about conquering anxiety and discovering trust in God.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Scholars strongly agree that Paul was writing this letter to the Philippians while in prison for preaching the gospel of Christ and apprehensive that he would reach the people, therefore, he was compelled to continue his work while also embracing the likelihood of imminent execution for the sake of Jesus which he deemed a worthy cause.
The context of scripture illustrates the dire circumstances that the author is facing and better aids us in understanding the weight it carries vs just reading a command out of context.
For example, when facing an illness, car accident, death, or lifelong suffering, you may tend to listen to the wisdom of one who has weathered through a similar storm vs one who has not though their intentions are sincere.
According to this scripture, which can be broken into multiple parts, we are given explicit instructions on how to deal with anxiety and what we will receive in exchange.
It says that we should:
1. “Not be anxious about anything”
A. Do not be anxious about a few things? Just finances? Death? Relationships?
B. NO! It says to NOT be worried about ANYTHING!
C. No matter what you are facing – give it to God.
2. “But in every situation”
A. Repetition is a teaching technique to drive home the point that this detail should not be forgotten.
B. Once again, Paul reiterates, that in EVERY situation do NOT be anxious.
C. We are not to be anxious in our hearts, minds, or physical situations.
3. “With prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,”
A. Prayer – go to God directly with your heart and worry. Lay it down at His feet
B. We are to ask and beg at times, with an earnest or humble heart with our plea.
C. BUT do it all with an attitude of gratitude
4. “Present your requests to God”
A. Does is command you to go to the phone and share your fear with a close friend? Blast it on social media? Have a coffee date? No. (There is a time and place for community and how you should handle going to friends for comfort but it is not addressed in this scripture.)
B. Presenting your fears and solutions to God means we are to pray.
C. Prayer is communication with your heavenly Father. An open and raw conversation with the only one who has the power to change it. To change you. To bring healing. To bring peace.
4. What does the Bible say about giving our fear and worry to God?
The second verse of this scripture brings us to the reward of handing over our fear.
(7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Hallelujah! When you place all the fear down you are replaced with amazing PEACE!
The peace that comes from God! Paul understood that this peace could not be understood but he was experiencing it in the depths of a prison cell. He had it as faced down persecution after persecution. As did multiple other disciples as they endured torment and pain for the sake of the gospel.
“Transcends all understanding”
As a mother of four young children and wife of nine years, how could I share our story with such peace? How am I still able to share it without getting a lump in my throat from the paralyzing fear of what-ifs? Because HE is guarding my heart and mind.
I ran to Him and placed it at His feet. At the cross. And I have a peace that stands firm in my heart even during these waiting periods.
So what, who cares?
I share this so that if someone else is also staring down the hall of an anxiety-ridden waiting process that seems overwhelming they too can find the peace of God just like us. We are to be good stewards of our bodies and things in our control but ultimately it is in His hands. Do not live a life with your hands gripped tightly around things that could be given to Him. Do not rob yourself of the peace of God. Here are a few more scriptures to help you through a difficult time.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.”
2 Samuel 22:31