Saturday, October 9, 2010

Nancy and the Big C

     So what do you do when you learn your best friend has breast cancer?  After the gasping breath, the panic, the anger and the crying, the numbness and the shock---what do you do? It is more than ironic that her diagnosis came during the first week of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the entire world is bathed in pink.  It is devastating that her diagnosis came so soon after her brother was tragically killed in a wreck while driving to meet their dad for a hunting trip. It makes you wonder about life, about God's plan for His children, about His compassion for us.  It leaves you angry, anxious, and agitated.  I don't doubt God, but I have to cry out to Him in pain and confusion, "I don't understand! Help me with this! I am too simple to understand."  I read again the story of Job and find comfort, but my limited human brain is still left wondering, perplexed, uncalmed.
     Nancy is the better half of the "Fun Girls From Mount Pleasant,"  and we have been connected at the heart since our college days.  She is the stable one, the rational one, the understanding one, the forgiving one.  She loves me when I am unlovable, she forgives me  when I am unforgivable, she understands me when I am unintelligible, and she steadies me when I am unsteady.   She has been my "sister by choice," as I have been to her, and she has loved me in spite of myself.  We enjoyed each other in college, grew to love each other as roommates in Charleston, bonded as sisters over the years, stood by each other in marriage, matured together as young wives, wept over the death of one child and the birth of others, vacationed as families, held hands through every crises, rejoiced in every success,  survived the developing years of our children, passed milestones and accomplishments and disappointments together, and lived and loved as only a family can.   I can't imagine life without her there to guide me and ground me and keep me sane.
    So what do I do when my best friend needs me? I stutter and stumble and say stupid things.  I panic over my own fear, which seems to supercede hers.  I hate myself for the shallowness of my own reaction, but I am afraid for me, for the possibility of my life without Nancy--  the strong one, the stable one, the one I depend on. I realize how much I have expected Nancy to carry all the emotional baggage of our relationship, and suddenly, I am eager to do the same for her, to be for Nancy the anchor she has always been for me.
     So what do you do when you learn your best friend has cancer? You get in your car and you go to her. You hold her hand, you hug, you cry, you pray.
      And you do what only best friends can do.  You pour a couple of glasses of wine, curl up on the couch, and  pour over a three inch stack of material on breast cancer.  You look at her biopsy incision. You feel her lump. You laugh as you cry.  You discuss what kind of wonderful new breasts she'll get and how fabulous it will be to to have the cleavage of an eighteen year old at the age of 50.
    And then, as we laugh and grieve and plan for the weeks and months ahead, I see the hand of God at work. Nancy's unwavering faith and her conviction of God's plan for her life --these are the mighty weapons she is using to wage war against cancer. She is determined and brave and knows she will not be walking this path alone, and through her, I see God and feel His compassion.
     So  anxiety is replaced with prayer, and the journey begins.
    "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

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