Fighting the Fear of Cancer
How I found hope, strength and peace amidst fighting the fear of cancer.
by Chris Lawrence
I never thought that I would become so experienced with fighting the fear of cancer.
My life was headed on a seemingly predictable trajectory—until I got that unexpected phone call from my doctor. I thought he was going to tell me that the MRI revealed a disc injury in my back, which might help explain my mysterious sports injury. Instead, he told me I had cancer.
Crushing fear gripped me almost immediately and would become my constant companion in the coming weeks and months. It followed me like a shadowy figure, an ever-present threat. It kept me up at night (my wife, too) and spoiled days that should have been much more enjoyable.
It also has caused me to fear circumstances more acutely than I have in the past. For example, the recent threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been especially concerning because I am one of those people with an “underlying health condition.”
Getting to know fear
Indeed, facing cancer, I have become more acquainted with fear than I ever would have liked—not just acquainted with, but at times beat up by, tortured, or even owned by, like an evil task master.
And what is fear? Simply put, fear is the negative emotion and anticipation we experience in the face of danger and threats. And cancer qualifies as a significant threat.
Yet, through my journey of fighting the fear of cancer, I have found an inexhaustible source of hope, strength and peace. I discovered this through my relationship with God.
For me, this relationship has proven to be the most effective way of fighting the fear of cancer. In fact, I would say it has been absolutely critical.
Fear at different stages of my cancer journey
When I first found out I had cancer, I was a husband and new father. The news of my diagnosis was devastating, to say the least. My first fear was, what will my family do if I’m not around to take care of them?
That was—and probably still is—my greatest fear in facing cancer. It’s amazing how this disease can reveal your greatest priorities in a moment.
Besides my initial diagnosis—which I think was perhaps the hardest part of the journey—I’ve also faced fear during my treatment and post treatment.
During treatment, I wondered, will the treatment work? Will my body be able to handle it? And after I’ve been through it, will there be anything left?
After treatment, I encountered a new fear: recurrence. Would my cancer come back? And if so, when?
I remember, vividly, at several points having some mysterious aches and pains…once in my left shoulder, another time in my leg—the kind of pain that could just be every day stuff or maybe not? Both times I was nearly certain my cancer had returned, and I started living as though it was true. I considered cancelling trips, inquiring about my life insurance. But both times my scans were clear and in time it became evident nothing had returned.
As my experience reveals, fear has an amazing ability to force us into worst case scenario, even if we aren’t actually living there!
How I found help for fighting the fear of cancer
As I’ve walked this journey, several things have helped me face fear, such as medical knowledge or voicing my fears to people I trust. All of these have been very helpful. But my relationship with God has helped much more.
I know that medicine is not perfect, and doctors can’t always predict every outcome. Even if the statistics line up in my favor, what if I am an outlier or I fall into the negative category? Unfortunately for me, the statistics have never been in my favor. My diagnosis was incurable stage IV.
And while voicing my fears to some people I trust has been helpful, at other times it has only seemed to increase my fear. There has to be a better solution to fighting the fear of cancer.
Finding a deep sense of peace
At the end of the day, I believe we all need a peace that medicine and other people can’t give us. I found this peace through my relationship with God.
Check out these words from God, as quoted in the book of Isaiah:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”1
Here are four hopeful things I saw in these words:
1. God tells me not to be afraid.
2. God says he knows me.
3. God says I am his.
4. God says that he will be with me.
All of these have meant a great deal to me. Especially because he tells me not to be afraid. Why? Because he knows me, and he cares about me. If someone very capable says they care about you, don’t you find that encouraging? Even more so if they are the creator of the universe.
How I found a constant companion
One of a person’s greatest fears is to be alone. And cancer, like a lot of suffering, can be a very lonely journey. God promises he would be with me, and he can be with you too. What an advantage to have a faithful friend through all of the twists and turns.
What’s more, I believe God is ultimately in control, no matter what difficulty I face. Check out these words of Jesus:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father (God). And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”2
These words reveal that God is in control of all things—that not even a bird falls to the ground without his say so. He has literally numbered the hairs on our head!
This gives me great comfort, especially with fighting the fear of cancer.
Cancer is not an unstoppable force
Often people portray cancer as an unstoppable force, which only increases fear. Yet I believe that God is in control of every aspect of my life, that he has power over every molecule in my body, that he literally “holds all things together.”3
Cancer is not bigger than God.
I can have great confidence—that even if the worst does happen, that it’s not just happening to me—that somehow it is part of a plan for my life. That if this is what God has for me, then he will give me the strength to endure it—whether I live or die. I can have peace about the future, even if it is not a future I want.
The strongest ally
My relationship with God has helped me greatly with my fear, yet I cannot say it has completely taken it away. Maybe this example will explain more what I mean:
Imagine you are being bullied at school by a very large and imposing classmate, who is twice your size. Every day, he steals your lunch money and shoves you to the ground. You can imagine how terrible your average school day would become.
Then one day, you make friends with a much larger and stronger classmate than your bully—in fact he the strongest who has ever existed. You are taken under his protection and he is now always with you. Your bully still exists, but now at any point your new friend could squash him. Imagine the confidence this would give you! You might still be afraid of your bully, but the experience would drastically change for the better! Even more so, just being around your friend would eliminate much of the fear you previously had.
For me, it’s been like that with my relationship with God. His power has helped alleviate a lot of my fear, as well as face what fear I still have left.
Even if one day my journey takes a turn for the worse, I don’t have to let fear overwhelm me because of my relationship with God—that he cares for me and walks with me through whatever circumstance. This makes all the difference with fighting the fear of cancer, as it does with any type of fear.
How you can find help with your fear
Not just for me, but God wants to help you, to lessen the fear and anxiety that cancer brings.
If you would like to learn more about how God can help you, check out God’s Help in Cancer.
Or, here is how you can begin a relationship with God right now: Knowing God Personally.
Note: We are not doctors and we cannot answer your medical questions. However, we welcome your questions about finding hope and knowing God.