What's Faith Got to Do with It?
When I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, the only question I had for my oncologist was, "Can I keep playing agility with my dogs?" He was dumbfounded. He had just delivered the news that I had late-stage cancer and was expected to die within four months, even with treatment.
I guess I didn't want to know about dying. I wanted to know about living.
But, the flip side is that my faith tells me that when I die, I land in the arms of Jesus. Heaven is not a place I dread going, to say the least. In fact, I look forward to the day when I take my last breath here and my next breath at the Pearly Gates.
So, I can't lose. I love living this life, but I look forward to the next. See what I mean? Win-win.
Faith in God's plan
I'm not much of a church-goer. I really wish I was. People who suffer an illness or deep grief often find great comfort among their fellow worshippers. But, finding a church where I fit in has been more work than I've been willing to put forth. However, my lack of church attendance hasn't dimmed my faith at all. And, my faith gives me perfect peace to accept my situation.
Call me silly, if you wish, but I believe God has a plan for me. I might not understand the plan, but I believe He is all-knowing and that He doesn't make mistakes. I don't ask "why" I have cancer because I don't care why. I'm not saying that I think God gave me cancer, but I am saying that I believe He will walk with me every step of this journey. That fills me with a peace that can't be described.
Strength rooted in my faith
Cure Magazine recently published an article, "Keeping the Faith." It highlights a 2015 meta-analysis study of more than 32,000 adults with cancer. Researchers wanted to know how believing in a higher power affects cancer patients.
It doesn't surprise me to learn that people with some kind of faith in a higher authority reported that they have a "stronger ability to cope with a cancer diagnosis and whatever follows."1 Since the study was based on self-reported feelings, data are not available to show whether those with religious beliefs actually live longer or not. But, I will go out on a limb and say that the days they do live are happier and less stress-filled than those of many of their counterparts who do not believe in a higher power.
I make this claim based on my own observations from participating in multiple online forums and from visiting with my personal friends and acquaintances. Those who self-report no faith in any higher being are more likely to have a negative attitude about the fact that they have cancer and report far greater concerns about dying. Many of these individuals tend to be angry, bitter and very scared. I can understand that. If I didn't believe I was going to end up in Heaven when my life ends, I too would be terrified.
Fully living each day
My faith has grown stronger since I was diagnosed six years ago. It has seen me through many ups and downs through this cancer and life journey. Is my faith keeping me alive? Perhaps it hasn't extended the number of days I will live, but it has definitely allowed me to fully live the days I have.
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