I am in the hills of southern Indiana today, completing a two-day annual retreat for pastors and program staff of my church. I offered my car for others to ride, and one who rode with me was a woman on our pastoral staff.
This morning she joined me on the dock of the lake, telling me she was expecting a call from her doctor. She said yesterday she'd had a biopsy on a lump in her breast and was awaiting the results. Moments after she sat down near me on the dock, her phone rang.
"It's my doctor. This is it," she said quietly, picking up the phone. "Hello."
She nodded, saying "uh huh" several times. Then her mouth tightened and the tears began to flow. She acknowledged what the doctor was saying, although if her experience is anything like my own, she probably has no recollection of what was said after the diagnosis. She eventually hung up after taking a few notes. The pad read "Invasive Ductal Carcinoma."
She looked up at me. "Fuck."
I grabbed her in a hug as she let the tears and sobs finally free. "I've had that same phone call," I whispered.
If she follows my own pattern, the next ten days or so will be filled with making plans and forgetting all of it unless it's in writing. The moments alone will be spent grappling with "why me" and "what if."
The "why me" part isn't about victimhood so much as it is about purpose. What should I do about this, now that it's here? What in my life is incomplete? What can I let go? This becomes a time of allowing grace into one's life, allowing others to help in whatever way they can.
Being in a position to help is a great privilege. If you're used to being the one helping, then you know. But to suddenly become the one who needs help is jarring, and our first impulse is to keep everyone at arm's length. Having been on both ends of giving and receiving help, I can tell you how humbling it is to be in need. But grace is not on a balancing scale; it is not a matter of keeping score; it simply is. It is a gift to allow others to show their love in whatever way they can.
If you are someone who believes in the power of prayer, please lift up my friend and colleague in prayer as she deals with this illness and stress. Her own mother has recently completed treatment for lung cancer, and that prognosis is good. There is always hope.