God You are Making a Big Mistake
How facing cancer more than 30 years ago altered the course of Lynn Eib’s life and career.
“God, you are making a really big mistake here,” I fumed. “There’s absolutely nothing You can ever do to make up for this because it is too awful.”
I prayed this as I sat in the hospital bed shortly after a surgery revealed I had colon cancer.
A few weeks prior
At the time, I was only thirty-six years old and the picture of perfect health. I didn’t smoke or drink. I exercised faithfully for several years, and I ate like a health nut. I had attributed occasional blood in my stool to an old pregnancy hemorrhoid and the occasional bowel irregularity to something I had eaten.
Yet here I was, diagnosed with stage 3b colon cancer and facing a 40 percent chance of survival.
The year was 1990, before the Internet and many of the advances of today’s colon cancer treatment.
A nightmare revisited
I can still see my husband’s ashen face after getting the news from the doctor. This was his worst nightmare revisited.
Some twenty years earlier, when Ralph was only a newlywed, a doctor had diagnosed his first wife with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which is incurable.
“No!” I yelled over and over, as somehow the force of my words could make this nightmare not true. I sobbed and sobbed, eventually hyperventilating and the doctor gave me sedatives.
A realistic optimist
I’m an optimistic person, but I’m also a realist.
I knew that just because a lot of people were praying for me didn’t mean that I was going to live. Many people prayed for my husband’s first wife and she still died from ALS.
People kept telling me, “Be positive, you can beat this. Take these vitamins, drink this, eat this, don’t do that.”
And it really didn’t make me feel better.
Because I kept thinking, Oh great, so if I don’t beat it, then it was my fault because you said I could do it.
How I found hope, strength and peace
I found Jesus in college at Ohio State University. I had grown up going to church my whole life, but beginning a relationship with God dramatically changed my life and gave me hope.
Yet going through cancer in my mid 30s challenged my beliefs. One day, as I wrestled with my diagnosis, God spoke to my heart. Whether you live or die is up to me. How you live is up to you.
That was such a relief to know that I was in his hands and that I was safe there. It brought me such peace.
I already had the hope of heaven since college, but that assurance that he was in control of my cancer journey brought me hope that it wasn’t all on me.
It also gave me strength to keep going.
Walking through the pit
Besides surgery, I also faced several months of chemotherapy.
I endured terrible side effects, like mouth sores, fatigue, lack of taste and losing twenty pounds. The palms of my hands and the soles of my feet turned flame red and felt like they were on fire.
On top of all that, I was allergic to the main drug. My nose ran constantly and my eyes watered profusely (the chemo scarred my tear ducts so severely that my right eye continues to water to this day despite two surgeries to correct the problem).
My symptoms became so bad, my doctor opted to stop treatment at six months. This proved a mercy, because today the standard treatment for my type of colon cancer is now that duration.
The distasteful request
When I said, “God, you are making a big mistake here,” I wrestled with more than just cancer.
I felt like God was asking me to help others facing cancer, too, which terrified me.
“Don’t think you are going to pull me through this somehow and I’m going to go and minister to cancer patients, because I won’t do it!”
When I returned for my first check up in May, I was the only person in the chemo room who wasn’t there for treatment that day. I knew I should feel happy, but as I looked around the room of people in recliners hooked up to poles with saline solution bags, I was overcome with sadness.
I wanted to take away their pain, but I couldn’t. I wanted to give them peace, but I couldn’t.
But I knew God could, and I wanted to tell them about him.
A new calling
That started me on a trajectory of more than 30 years of helping people facing cancer find hope.
God’s seeming big mistake led to a calling.
I soon started a support group with other people facing cancer.
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel worse after hearing everyone’s stories and struggles, I felt better. It was hard, but I felt so much joy from helping others.
A few years later I was hired to be a patient advocate, working for the same oncologist who treated me. Over the next 20 years, I met with hundreds of patients, one on one. I would often have the opportunity to ask, “Do you have any spiritual beliefs that are helping you through this?”
I later wrote a book called, “When God and Cancer Meet: True Stories of Hope and Healing,” which has now sold more than 100,000 copies, along with three other books to help people facing the journey.
A few years ago, I retired from being a patient advocate, but today I still encourage people through my books, public speaking and blog.
Advice for others
I would encourage people to not face cancer alone.
Find some people to walk with you on your journey who you can be honest with, to pour out your joys and your sorrows.
We need each other.
I see cancer, or any illness or trial, as a very deep pit, but I believe that the love of God is deeper still.
It seemed like God made a mistake when I got cancer, but it has actually brought blessing.
God will bring blessing through your trial because you matter greatly to him and he longs to show you that.
He may bless you with physical healing, or he may bless you by healing you emotionally of some deep-seated hurts. He may bless you with the joy of knowing him in a way you never have before.
Or he may bless others through you in unimaginable ways. Like he did for me.
For more about how to begin a relationship with God see Knowing God Personally.
To unlock the power of prayer see Asking God for Help.
Is cancer a punishment from God? Discover the encouraging answer in this article.