– Joe Fornear
My response to Pauline F.’s question was a no-brainer. During the 12 years since my cancer battle, and seven years with Stronghold Ministry helping people fight cancer, it’s the question I’m asked most frequently. I too had the question during my Stage IV melanoma battle. So with Pauline’s encouragement and permission, I share her recent message and my thoughts.
I find that my emotions are up and down. I know that God is in this journey which He has me on, and I’m not alone. I know I’m in His will but I feel unprepared for this cancer journey. I just feel like I’m struggling, is this normal?
Yes, yes, to struggle is so very normal! Frankly, I think the mystique of the courageous, valiant cancer warrior does more harm than good. So I want to pull back the curtain on normalcy and describe what I’ve seen. Because if we don’t assess the hurdles correctly, we’re more likely to trip over them!
Here are five signs that your cancer struggles are normal:
1) It’s normal to be shaken and fearful when you have a life-threatening disease.
When you’re fighting cancer you hear it a lot – “Don’t worry, you’re going to beat this.” But I used to think, “I can’t even beat a common cold, so how am I going to beat cancer?” During my years as a carpenter, I fancied myself so brave and fearless, walking the tops of wobbly 3 ½” walls. So during the initial stages of my battle, I wasn’t too worried about cancer. Yet as the cancer spread and an oncologist slapped a one week expiration sticker on me, my self-confidence evaporated quickly. It’s really hard to know how you’ll respond until you’re totally out of control. Getting a death sentence is scary.
2) It’s normal to be angry when treatments aren’t working and human errors set you back.
I have no study to back this up, but I’ll bet the normal person gets angry at some business’ customer service at least once per week! The medical treatment business is no different as it’s run by humans like every other business. When you’re spending thousands on highly recommended but unsuccessful treatments; sitting for hours in doctor’s waiting rooms; or getting stuck ten times because a nurse can’t find a good vein – be assured, anger is a normal reaction.
3) It’s normal to be depressed that you’re losing such large chunks of your life to fighting cancer.
Fighting cancer can take over your life in a hurry and there’s often little you can do about it. You miss out on fun life events we often take for granted, like weddings, cookouts, graduation parties, school events and hobbies. In their place is pain, harsh side effects, and prolonged recovery times from surgeries. So for most, it’s no surprise that depression grows along with the list of difficulties. It’s normal to be screaming inside, “I want my life back!”
Joe Fornear’s book on his cancer battle, My Stronghold, is in our gift basket which is free to cancer patients – click here on the picture above to request one.
4) It’s normal to be disappointed in yourself when you’re not coping very well.
This may have been my greatest struggle. Deep down, I felt I should have been above normal. After all, I was not only a tough guy from Pittsburgh, but one who had been a crisis counselor for years as a pastor and Bible teacher. I think most people are like that – for one reason or another we believe we should be above normal, or at least not abnormal.
5) It’s normal to wonder why you have to go through all of the pain and hardship.
On occasion I hear, “So-and-so never questioned why they were going through this battle.” That’s not normal. Even if a person never voices the question, it doesn’t mean they’re not internally questioning. Whenever someone tells me, “I never ask – why me,” I’m thinking why bring it up if you’re not wondering about it? Fact is, they probably have wondered about the question, it’s just that they’ve arrived at a peaceful resolution. So it’s quite normal to wonder why – even Jesus did.
Awareness that our struggles are normal does truly help. Still, fighting cancer is far beyond our strength to bear. Thankfully, the Lord makes struggles more bearable by granting us superhuman abilities and coping mechanisms. So let’s keep seeking Him for these gifts which He gives so generously. He helps a great deal, normally!