Cancer, Fear and Faith – Sarah’s Story
I will never forget that morning in November. The previous night after working night & day for weeks, I had finally finished my last essay to complete my Masters. I was exhausted & relieved. While my husband was on a client call in our office at home, I was having a cup of tea when my phone rang. It was my specialist doctor who I had seen on an unrelated issue weeks ago. I picked up the call to hear that the test results I had on a biopsy, had come back ‘suspicious’ & he was clearing his schedule for me to come in immediately. Dazed & confused, I felt like it must be serious because this doctor originally took 8 weeks to book an appointment & now he’s clearing his schedule. I don’t understand though, what does ‘suspicious’ even mean?
And then I heard the word cancer.
It’s a heavy word cancer. It has the power to create fear in the heart of everyone who hears it. It created fear in my heart. Thus began an 18-month journey of treatment for thyroid cancer. I had an aggressive form of the cancer that was already showing signs of spreading through my lymph nodes. I had two separate surgeries to completely remove my thyroid and was then put on replacement medication for the rest of my life. Shortly after the surgery I was given multiple doses of radioactive iodine.
Fear is inextricably linked to a cancer diagnosis and the biggest internal battle for those who become diagnosed.
Will my life end?
Will the treatment weaken me & change the quality of my life?
Will I lose my hair?
Will I emotionally cope through this process?
Will this change who I am?
What if the cancer comes back?
What if I have it elsewhere in my body & I don’t even know?
Will my life be forever defined by a cancer diagnosis?
One particular moment that was a personal turning point in my battle with fear, happened when I was awaiting the final test results from my first surgery.
The original biopsy was unclear as to whether it was definitely cancer so I initially had only half of my thyroid removed and then waited for the results. They took two weeks to come through… two long weeks!
Two weeks of waiting, of imagining every possible scenario, good and bad, in my head. Two weeks of reminding myself, ‘you can do this,’ but desperately hoping I wouldn’t have to.
Then one afternoon, after going crazy in my head, I went out for a walk & prayed about the whole situation. I immediately felt a deep sense of peace but also a deep knowing that this was going to be a cancer diagnosis, but that everything was going to be all right.
I felt God speak this verse into my heart,
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.”
That same afternoon, the surgery called through with the results – it was cancer. But I was no longer scared. I had already won the biggest fight of all, the battle of fear.
I had to endure a journey that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. It was physically and emotionally depleting & required a deep sense of faith to approach every day with hope again. Being so emotionally depleted, I became acutely aware of the energy that people brought with them. I realised that fear & faith are so tangible. Some days when I was too tired to even think properly, the faith & kindness of some, or the fear and negativity of others, became the loudest thing I could hear.
Regardless of our belief in God, we all still carry a responsibility to keep making sure the spirit of our life is full of faith and hope. I think we all have enough real life challenges in our world to validly become negative, cynical and scared, but that spirit doesn’t build or expand your life towards God’s purposes.
My cancer diagnosis was a gift to my life, because it completely changed my life.
I had dreams about the business that I’m now running. I had ‘future’ plans about helping people with positive psychology, neuroscience & faith, but I always put them off because I was way too scared about everyone else’s opinions.
Cancer became a catalyst to make deep changes in my life that I desperately needed to make. I learned that no matter what you are handed in life, it can truly be a blessing if you continue to walk in faith with it.
One of the biggest compliments I now regularly receive when people find out about my story is, “I would never have guessed you had cancer, you don’t wear it on your face at all”.
This to me is a continual reminder that God had kept his promise to me that I would come through this journey without any remaining marks.
Sarah Boyd is a speaker and an expert on resilience, women in leadership & the intersection between leadership, psychology and neuroscience. www.sarahboyd.com.au