photos and writing by June Friesen
The theme for World Cancer Day 2022 tomorrow is “I Am and I Will.” A direct challenge to negative misconceptions about cancer, organizers hope that “I Am and I Will” will serve as a message of hope not just for people living with cancer, but their families, friends, and loved ones too. This theme is the beginning of ‘Close the Care Gap’, a three-year mission to help deal with and attempt to irradicate the disparity worldwide when it comes to availability and opportunity for all people to get proper and effective care as they face this disease.
Cancer is a word that brings fear, resistance, denial, anxiety, depression, and a host of other feelings, thoughts, and attitudes. The word cancer often, if not always, gives rise to feelings of fear, abandonment, anger, hurt, anxiety, hopelessness etc. Negative energy runs high when we hear this diagnosis ourselves or if it is a diagnosis of a close friend, family member, and/or relative. It is a disease that is not a respecter of persons. It matters not whether you are young, old, or anywhere in between. It matters not whether you are rich, poor, or somewhere in between. It matters not what country you live in, whether you live in a rural community or a huge urban environment. It matters not what color your skin, what religion you profess, your gender, or your nationality. No, it is a dreaded disease that can cause so much pain and discomfort in the afflicted as well as those who have afflicted loved ones, family, and/or friends.
The World Cancer organization would like to see us ‘close the care gap’ over the next three years. More people than most of us realize are not able to access medical care that is close by and/or is affordable. There are some countries where there is universal health care coverage, but in many there is not. The cost for the diagnosis as well as treatment of cancer is also very prohibitive in many countries. While some of us do not have to worry about this as much, we still have these problems as there is always those whose income will not stretch far enough to pay the insurance premiums or the visits as well as the treatment that is needed whether medicine, radiation and/or chemotherapy. And sadly, sometimes it is in the more developed and richest countries where the disparity is the greatest. The bondage is real my friends, very real. Even though some families are never touched there are others where several family members are afflicted. A number of years ago I was at a museum and saw the first symbol as well as the one below. I could not help but think of them as I was thinking about the effects of cancer for all of us – we may easily find ourselves in one and/or both of these places – naked and vulnerable or bound and unable to see what it is ahead. So, is there any hope?
While I have not experienced cancer personally, I have many family members and friends who have. Each one of us has been touched by this disease in some way or another. Sometimes as one looks back there are possible reasons that have may predispose us or someone we know to this disease. There are many times that I have been reading in the Scriptures, especially in Jesus’ ministry, about His great healings and restorations.
Matthew 15:29-31(The Message)
After Jesus returned, he walked along Lake Galilee and then climbed a mountain and took his place, ready to receive visitors. They came, tons of them, bringing along the paraplegic, the blind, the maimed, the mute—all sorts of people in need—and more or less threw them down at Jesus’ feet to see what he would do with them. He healed them. When the people saw the mutes speaking, the maimed healthy, the paraplegics walking around, the blind looking around, they were astonished and let everyone know that God was blazingly alive among them.
Luke 7:20-23 (The Message)
20 The men showed up before Jesus and said, “John the Baptizer sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?’” 21-23 In the next two or three hours, Jesus healed many from diseases, distress, and evil spirits. To many of the blind he gave the gift of sight. Then he gave his answer: “Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard:
The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them. “Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves fortunate!”
In biblical times health care was not something that was available as it is to us today. When someone would contract a disease, it would usually run its course and the person would die. So for the people in that day, when Jesus started doing physical as well as mental and spiritual healing there was a great stir. The New Testament especially has many accounts of healings. There are also occasional healings in the Old Testament. So, if Jesus did these healings and some of the apostles continued to do some healings (recorded in the book of Acts) then why do we struggle so today? Why are we not able to do and/or see more healings today in and through the church/Christians?
I admit that there have been times in my life that I have struggled with the why, the what, the how of cancer – I also have to ponder and embrace the great strides the medical world has accomplished in the healing of cancer in so many different ways as well as helping people, in many situations, still live a fairly full life after the cancer they have faced personally.
As one ponders the disease of cancer in our bodies it can also be likened to the ‘disease of sin’. One may wonder why I would call sin a disease and yet it is like a ‘cancer in one’s spirit’ and it eats away at one’s spirit attempting to destroy that which is good within us. As we read the Scriptures, as well as the history of the world, as well as face daily life in today’s world, we can see the evidence of this disease in how it destroys the wholesome living that God had created in the Garden of Eden. Yes, one mistake led to the unleashing of something that from then on has afflicted all of humanity. Yet in it all God set in motion a plan to deal with this disease that afflicted the spirit/soul of humanity – the plan to send the Messiah, His Son, to give opportunity for the disease of sin to be conquered which happened through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
God has also set in motion people who have been able to discern great information about the disease of cancer. He has given them the knowledge to learn various treatments for the various cancers which may involve one or more of the following: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or radioactive implants, as well as a combination of treatments. The struggle in our world today is that many if not all of these treatments are costly, they require trained staff, technical and specialized equipment, special medications and more. Sadly, due to all of this there are still many people who have to make choices as to whether they can get any treatment, or the choice may be what treatment can I afford. This is something that the community to fight cancer recognizes and is wanting to make more of us aware of as well as give us some things to think about and act upon over the next three years to close these gaps and make it equally available to all no matter where one lives, who one is, rich or poor, gender or color of skin.
So back to the theme of today – “I am and I will” – what is my response? What is your response? Am I willing to make myself more aware of where and how I can help in my community? Am I willing then to try to find out how to help begin to make a difference, even if it seems like a small difference to me? Are you? In my life I have learned that to make a small difference, no matter how small, is better than not even attempting to make a difference because we feel we are insignificant.
A flower begins with a seed, a bulb, or a root that appears rather dead – however when one pays anywhere from 15 seconds a day to a minute caring for it soon one will be rewarded with a beautiful plant and blossom. Maybe beginning a new plant, placing it somewhere in your home or yard, nurturing it and watching it change, grow and bloom will help us remember that the little changes we can facilitate, when we do, will help others to also be able to grow and bloom once again.
Whatever season your garden is in – winter, summer, spring, or fall – there is something to enjoy and tasks to accomplish. And there is spirituality to put into practice! Find God and community through the richness of soil and the shared values of growth. We have many resources available to help – click here to explore!