Later, as an adult, I faced not just the possibility of death, but ran the whole gamut of 'what-ifs,' 'whys' and 'why me-s' when a routine mammogram revealed a suspicious shadow that turned out to be cancer. That was 14 years ago. I'm grateful that I had the presence of mind to journal my experience. That, and hindsight, have helped me to sort things out a bit.
I never really questioned why I should be the one to get sick. Rain falls on the just and the unjust and I'm nobody special. My 'why me' concern was more of a 'why me now.' My kids were in elementary school. It was rotten timing. But that fact in itself was incentive to stay positive and keep things as normal as possible at home while facing treatment.
It's interesting that when people find out you've been diagnosed, they feel compelled to share all the negative things they know about cancer. I don't know why. Everyone knows somebody whose experience was off the charts. It can be pretty disheartening. But the Lord spoke to me through my sister-in-law, who called me out of the blue and said, "Don't take everyone's horror stories as your own. Your experience can be very different." Her husband's story was different. As it turned out, mine was, too.
On the positive side, the experience resulted in my first by-line. Because of that nugget of wisdom she shared with me, and of what I learned about God's great love, I was able to write an upbeat personal experience article for Coping With Cancer magazine and saw my name in print for the first time. Later, I was able to share about my experience with women who were facing challenges in their lives, and not necessarily cancer.
So I'm finally getting to the point of this post. In my journal during that time, there is a raw observation of how I felt when the realization finally hit me that my future was uncertain. I wrote that I felt like I was standing in a long hallway and all the doors were shut to me. I was completely alone with no way out. I knew that my family could support and encourage me, but they could not experience my illness for me. (This is the morbid part, but stay with me) At that point, I fully realized that we come into the world alone and when we go out, we stand alone before God.
We don't like to think about that. At least, I don't. I think most of us largely define ourselves by the relationships we have with others. I'm Don's wife and the mother of Zephr and Galadriel (fake names so I won't hear about it later). I could tell you about my 90-year-old mother and my sisters and on and on, and the people I work and worship with. We find comfort in associations, safety in numbers and all that. When we're faced with the realization that we alone will answer for our actions and inactions, it can scare the heck out of us or light a fire under us. Maybe both.
I'm not suggesting that we get to heaven by what we do or don't do. The Bible is clear that Jesus paid the price for my sin and I am grateful. But I sure don't want to embarrass myself or let Him down, or shuffle my feet and stare at the ground when He asks what I've done with my talents.
So, whatever we feel God has given us to do, are we doing it? As writers, if we feel called to write and have received confirmation that we're on the right track, are we seriously applying ourselves? Some say they have a passion to write, but passion burns out. What then? We each must clearly define our motivation in order to stick with it through the dry spells and the occasional disappointing review and the poor sales figure, and it doesn't take a near-death experience. If it's clearly a calling, it can't be treated as a hobby. I need to be reminded of my motivation from time to time in order to stay on track. What is your motivation for writing, or for whatever God has called you to do? We'd love to hear.
P.S. This is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Go get a mammogram ;-)