Gray Matters: World Cancer Day

Today is World Cancer Day.

img_1180I didn’t acknowledge this day last year. I’ll admit it: I probably didn’t even know about this day. Cancer wasn’t something I knew much about. It didn’t affect my life or anyone in my immediate family. When I thought about cancer, I thought about pink ribbons, Race for the Cure, and other fundraisers for cures.

This year is different.

On December 26, 2015, Stephen and I were headed to East Tennessee for a belated Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. On the way there, my mom called to tell me that Papaw (her dad) was on his way to the emergency room—they suspected a stroke or even a brain bleed. Stephen and I drove on to my parents’ house to sit and wait for the news.

The hours dragged on. I paced the floor of my childhood bedroom, waiting for the news. Finally, that evening, the doctors told my family the news: They had found a malignant tumor. Brain surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

Everything changed in that moment. Cancer was no longer this foreign subject. Cancer was now the evil disease attacking my family.


This year, I’m looking at World Cancer Day with new eyes. I now know that approximately 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. Globally, nearly 14 million people learn they have cancer every year. Like Papaw, millions of people wake up every morning knowing they are fighting the hardest battle of their lives.

My papaw has the best attitude—one that inspires me to keep trusting God. When the doctors gave him his diagnosis, he responded in faith: “Whatever happens, I win either way.” Today, he is on day four of chemotherapy and radiation. He’s determined to fight. He’s determined to win.

I now understand that cancer doesn’t just affect the person with the disease, but it also affects the lives of family, friends and loved ones. Chances are, someone you know is watching a loved one fight. And they’re fighting, too: They’re praying, pleading, crying, hoping, caring, loving.  I didn’t fully grasp that a year ago.

The twelve of us gathered in Papaw's hospital room to have a belated Christmas.
The twelve of us gathered in Papaw’s hospital room to have a belated Christmas.

Today, I am praying for every person fighting cancer. More specifically, I’m praying for my Papaw—for his health, his strength, his spirit and his faith. I’m praying for those people who are watching a loved one fight—I’m asking God to give His supernatural peace, His comfort, His strength. I’m praising God for giving doctors, surgeons, nurses and other medical professionals a passion for caring and healing. I’m thanking Him for the researchers and scientists who have devoted their lives to finding a cure for cancer. I’m asking God to give them wisdom and understanding as they test out new treatments and clinical trials.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18

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