Fear has been my life-long arch nemesis. I fight it daily. It's my kryptonite. Something the enemy tries to use to get me down and hold power over me. Something I have tried to fight with bravery and courage. Yet, recently it's become clear to me that bravery and courage will not overcome fear. Courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens one or strength in the face of pain or grief. Bravery is defined as courageous behavior or character. Courage and bravery rely on our own strength to do something or go through something we fear or is painful. It does not rid me of my fear. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love. The only perfect love there is, is the love we receive from God. Love we don't deserve. Love we cannot buy or earn. A love that is freely given to us. A love we have the choice to receive. It is only that love that can completely cast out fear.
One of my biggest causes of fear began about 20 years ago today. Do you know what you ate for supper 20 years ago today? February 12, 1998? I do. I was a third year university student, 1 1/2 years away from graduating with my Bachelor of Education. I was at my apartment eating supper. I had treated myself with a box of Kraft Dinner for supper and was eating it out of a margarine or yogurt container (why? I don't know, but it's a vivid memory). Only one of my roomates and I were home when the phone rang. It was the doctor who I had finally found after 1 1/2 years, who was willing to do a simple biopsy on a strange lump I had had for at least 18 months. I had begged my family doctor for at least a year, to have it checked out, but she continually refused, until she finally gave in to my demands and referred me to the local surgeon in my home town. He had performed the biopsy at the end of January and I had recently gone in to receive the results that revealed that the tumor was benign, so when the phone rang and it was this doctor, I was concerned. For good reason. For whatever reason, my biopsy results had been mixed up with someone else's and my biopsy did in fact come back as cancerous!
With those words, fear took a grip of me.
I was 21 years old. Cancer? People died of cancer.
I was never going to get married.
I'd never have kids.
What was it like to die? Was I going to die?
What was this Dermatofibrosarcoma anyhow?
Can I trust doctors who don't listen to me and make mistakes?
I don't remember very much about the next few days. In fact, I don't have many memories of that whole next year. Shock? Trauma? All of the above? Probably. The vignettes I do have are crystal clear. I remember getting off the phone, calling my parents to come and pick me up because I needed to be home. I remember being desperate to know what Dermatofibrosarcoma was. Remember, this is 1998, when the internet world was just beginning. Dial up internet was rare and high speed and wifi weren't a thing. Information on the internet was also limited, so asking Dr. Google, wasn't an option. Monique, one of my dear roommates, happened to be home and she was a nursing student, so we scoured her nursing text books to see what this cancer was. What was the prognosis? What was the treatment? All questions I didn't think to ask the doctor on the phone. I'd have to wait until my upcoming appointment with him.
A big part of the next year was a wait and see scenario. The type of cancer I had was extremely rare and didn't respond to chemo or radiation. Surgery was my only option. Insert more fear. What if the surgery wasn't enough and it metastasized? All of these unknowns grew a huge sense of fear in me, that I struggled with for several years. I looked at everything through cynical eyes and the enemy was having a heyday with me.
Yet, God loved me. He put people in my life who spoke words of love and healing. People who wouldn't put up with my excuses of I'm just having a cancer day. (Remember those, Sunny? Bahh!!) I wallowed in cancer days. Pitty parties. God took people out of my life who weighed me down and put people in my life who expected better of me. People who spoke His promises over me and expected me to battle. I am ever so grateful.
20 years ago today I was diagnosed with cancer. I do not wish cancer on anyone. It is a hard journey. I do know, that I am grateful for all that has happened through that journey. I would not be who I am, or have overcome the inner battles I was fighting, had I not received that phone call 20 years ago today.
Yes, I still battle fear in some areas of my life. I work on those daily. I do not battle fear in the area of my health though. I don't battle fear of dying. I don't battle cancer days. I don't battle a fear of the future. It was a journey to get to this point--perfect love casts out fear.