The Shock of Diagnosis
No matter what comes next, life will never be the same.
BY: Karen Leigh Stroup
I have always been the responsible type, with a superego big enough to make any psychoanalyst salivate. I like to believe I am in charge of my life. I like to believe I get out of life what I put into it. If I eat well--say no more than 25 grams of fat a day--I assume I will stay well and will never have cancer. If I exercise right--say minimally 20 minutes 3 times a week--I assume I will not get sick, and certainly will never have cancer.
But there is a flaw in that line of thought. What does it have to say about the 24-year-old aerobics instructor in my support group who has breast cancer? How about my brother-in-law, the health nut? He has, since his youth, eaten only the best foods and exercised like a madman. And yet he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He is well now, thank God, but he wears a T-shirt that says, "Eat right. Exercise. Die anyway."
Death is perhaps the ultimate evidence that I am not in control of my own life. Given reasonable mental and physical health and freedom from pain, I do not know anyone who would want to die. And yet it happens to each of us.
|What kind of God allows women to get breast cancer? What kind of God creates a world in which every living thing eventually dies?|
I do not believe, as some of my friends do, that God caused my cancer. I do not believe that God works like the Gary Larsen "Far Side" cartoon that shows God punching the "Smite" key at a computer, while the monitor shows an unsuspecting man about to meet his death by a falling piano.
On the other hand, if I believe in a God who is all-good and all-powerful (and I do), I must also believe that if God did not cause my cancer, she certainly permitted it. This is where things get scary. I would rather blame myself for my cancer than face these questions about God. What kind of God allows women to get breast cancer? What kind of God creates a world in which every living thing eventually dies?
It is hard for me not to picture God as a huge, all-powerful Karen, stripped of sin and psychopathology. It is tempting for me to say, "If I were God, I would never let women get breast cancer. I would never let anyone die." I cannot imagine how it can be that I am more compassionate than God.