The cover of the Home News Tribune (a local NJ paper) on Saturday 3/23/13 featured my story of surviving pancreatic cancer. (I don’t know how long this link will work but here it is – (http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20130322/NJCARING/303220031/The-Pancreatic-Cancer-Action-Network-aims-beat-odds)
During the interview, before and since, the suggestion that I am some sort of inspiration (or worse yet, hero) came up. The idea is that because I am a survivor of this dreadful disease, that I provide some hope to others. I understand that perspective and very reluctantly accept that role. It makes me uncomfortable because I didn’t do anything. I am merely the conduit of God’s grace and the beneficiary of some amazing medical work. In that sense, I don’t deserve any credit for this glorious outcome, for having been spared. Still, I am glad to be an instrument of hope. (Obviously, I need to better understand and embrace my role.)
In the same way that cancer “shouldn’t happen” to people (like my Papa), anyone with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis “shouldn’t” (statistically) be alive 5 years later. Cancer is the coin – tragedy and opportunity are its’ two sides.
Then, this past week, there was Easter – the celebration of Jesus’ bodily resurrection after death. Among, many things, it represents the potential to which we can rise – the new best selves that God calls us to become. The creator God fills each of us with hope and potential.
Too often we choose to squander it – frittering it away and then justifying why that is okay. Instead of the Icarus that flies to close to the sun, we are sometimes the ones that fly too low and crash that way.
Over and over again throughout the Bible and throughout Jesus’ life and teachings, we are called to live into our truest selves, the image of God into which we were created.
Those two ideas – survivorship as inspiration and hope in the resurrection - connect in a very real way post-diagnosis for me. Both revolve around opportunity and potential.
I am re-born, resurrected as it were. I have defeated death for the time being, thankfully. I am starting over. I am being allowed to live up to my fullest potential.
All of it is now up to me.
Both events are a gift from God; a reprise growing out of God’s grace. In being “new” myself and in Jesus’ rising again, the most beautiful outcome imaginable is unrecognizable from what came before.
Every breath takes on a new, fresh urgency.
Our whole lives stretch out before us every morning.