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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Faith and Cancer

Those of you who are not spiritual might find all this uncomfortable and think I’m crazy. Those of you who are some version of fundamentalist or orthodox might find it offensive. But here goes...

I had a kind of premonition early this year that I would have breast cancer.

If I’d been right on schedule, I’d have gone for a mammogram in February. But I chose not to do that because I had airplane tickets and plans for a great vacation in Europe. Something inside me felt that if I got that mammogram, EuroTrip 14 would be cancelled because I would get bad news.

I prayed a lot before getting the mammogram, asking for normal results. But that’s not how it went. In the first week after my cancer diagnosis, I had a very hard time praying. I wasn’t sure what to pray for, given that I had obviously been ignored. I told my priest, Rev. Susan, that I figured God had felt more in the mood to hit the “Smite” button than answer my prayer. I told my mother that perhaps I'd been a Nazi in my last life or something. I said a lot of things.

I was very angry. I was terrified. I was walking a path I’d never wanted to walk.

Some people told me that God never gives you more than you can handle, but I reject that outright. Despite what I said to my priest about the “Smite” button, I do not believe that God dispenses misery to humankind for kicks or as punishment. God did not give me breast cancer as a trial or test or to pay me back for years of using profanity. I take the story of poor Job as a parable about faith, about how bad times get better. The idea of God making bets with arch-enemy Satan while allowing innocent men and women to be killed and a good man to be tortured to within a breath of his endurance is deeply offensive to me.

That kind of God is not a God of love.

Also, I do believe lots of people endure situations that are, in fact, more than they can handle. Ask the soldier whose PTSD drives him to suicide. Or the incest victim who dies of anorexia. Or the alcoholic meth user whose abusive childhood deprives him of the very strength he needs to rise above addiction.

Saying that we are never given anything more than we can handle is a subtle way of blaming those who cannot rise above their tragedy and anguish. It’s also a way for well-intentioned, caring people to comfort themselves.

I had no real risk factors for breast cancer. There are no obvious reasons why I have it. But God is not the cause of it. And yet God didn’t intervene and prevent this from happening either.

What does that mean? I have no idea.

There are times I’ve been able to see God in my life. Was this the absence of God in my life?

I guess that’s the question I was dealing with in the midst of this terror.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. But I do know God is. How do I know? Ask a Catholic what being “slain in the spirit” means or a Protestant what it means to have a “conversion experience,” because that’s what happened to me one afternoon. It was like thunder inside my heart and mind, and it blew me away. My spiritual life since then has been a clumsy struggle to respond to that one event.

So God Is. And I am because God Is. That’s what I kept repeating in my mind these past couple of weeks when my heart was slamming so hard that I could hear it and my stomach was churning and full of butterflies and I could think or pray nothing else.

With the initial shock behind me and a treatment plan slowly taking shape, I’ve been able to reach out again for God’s loving kindness. And here are my random thoughts, which are, of course, subject to change at any time.

This life is a gift. Life doesn’t belong to me. I have a very short amount of time to walk this earth in this body, and I can control so little of what occurs around me. I can’t even control what happens inside my own body. I hardly have control of my thoughts and certainly not my emotions.

Many things happen in life that are unjust and unfair. They are not God’s doing. But when people rise above those things and treat each other and themselves with compassion, that is the spirit of Love inside them. And God is love.

I’m not saying that God takes them over and makes them behave a certain way like spiritual zombies. I’m saying that they choose to be their God-given higher self. They choose to serve the Spirit. They choose to be the higher human being they were created to be.

That doesn’t mean they’re not afraid. Even Jesus was afraid. As the story goes, he asked his apostles to stay awake with him in Garden of Gethsemane, and they failed him. He even felt despair at the end.

For any woman to be afraid when diagnosed with a terrible disease is to be expected. I am trying to be strong, but I am also going to let myself be human. I have moments where I feel fine, and then I have moments of raw panic, where I can do little more than curl up in bed and cry. But then I get back up again.

What I’m trying to do, what I’m hoping to do, is to lay my fear aside and trust that, even if this doesn’t go the way I want it to go, I will still be okay. This is God’s world, not mine. I didn’t bring myself into it, and I don’t get to decide how I leave it. But I can trust that there are still things for me to do here, still ways my life can count, no matter how things go for me.

And I can trust that God is.

I’ve been sharing my daily experience with this devastating diagnosis on Facebook, hoping to urge women to get mammograms and hoping to demystify breast cancer a bit. In turn, the support from my friends and readers helps me keep going — and I truly have no choice but to keep going.

I’ve had a lot of pretty rotten things happen in my life, and I’ve used them in my writing. I’m sure it will be the same with breast cancer. I’ve always known I came into this world to be a voice for women. And now I will include this experience in that voice.

My surgeon and oncologist assure me that missing that February mammogram has not made my situation worse. I have a slow-growing tumor, and there’s no obvious sign of any spread. And I’m so grateful I have those two months of travel to hold in my heart while I go through this. Those memories will sustain me — as will prayer, God’s love, and the love and support of my family and friends.


leesa said...

What a wise post. Pamela, you are a smart, strong woman. I admire you so much. Keep moving forward. You can and will get through this.

Pat F said...

What an amazing post. You brought so much love to Isla and our family, I can only return the favor. Please know we love you support you all the way.

Very inspiring and wise, but nothing less than I have come to expect from you in the last year or so since joining you "family" as a reader. I have always been inspired by anything that you write, and I share every belief you just posted. Amazing, that none of us REALIZE that we do NOT control anything about our lives until we have a life altering situation...mine occured 18 yrs ago after a nervous breakdown from a bad marriage. Up until that moment, I had the false assumption that I WAS IN TOTAL CONTROL OF MY LIFE, lol. Nothing is farther from the truth, and I see proof of that every single day of my life, now. You will naturally be changed by that insightful situation, and you will make changes in your life...but know that those changes will strengthen and enrich you in your future. I wish you all the very best with every situation in your life now, with every situation in your future and with every situation spiritually. Thank you for sharing your very sensitive words....God Is, and you are proving it. ((((Hugs)))

Amanda said...

Pamela, thank you for sharing your insight and faith. Your an inspiration to many and bring such joy to us through your writing talent. You will remain in my prayers.

Beautifully spoken...and like you, I do not believe God "smites" us to prove a point. But God does walk beside us through the fear...

Jackie said...

Love this. Looooooooooove this. Oh, I think the Lord must just beam with pride at you, his heart overflowing with love. You are a shining example of how to handle adversity, and while I am so, so, so, so sorry you are going through this, I thank him every day for how you're choosing to deal with it - for your sake, and for the sakes of the many, many, many women who will also benefit. You are a treasure to us and to him. xxoo

Amazing words. From an amazing woman.

Jules said...

*"C"* Cancer strikes more fear into a person's heart than just about any other word in the modern world.
It is a fear perpetuated by Western Medicine.
There is no human body on this planet that does not experience some state of cancerous group; it's natural!
And it is not wise or necessary to attack the body during this time. In fact, it is the bombardment of multiple, continuous "attacks" that allow the cancerous mutations to overcome the body's natural defenses (and our reactions to stress). And Western Medicine wants to attack the body some more, weaken it more!
Fortunately, you have a choice. I will not judge your choice, as I hope you will not judge mine. I merely want to share that there are choices, which Western Medicine would have you believe do not exist or are hoaxes.
I am a cancer survivor. And I did not undergo one single treatment by Western Medicine. And I did not spend thousands of dollars. I went on to have a child who is now nearly grown. And if my body gets out of balance again, I am not afraid.
I would be most happy to share any & every resource I have have only to ask. And I will not judge whether you use them or not. I simply want to illuminate the possibilities & the successes that there are numerous examples of.
With love in my heart; blessings!
God helps them who help themselves.
PS, I adore your writing & look forward to new stories, if that fits into your life/future!
ecopositive hotmail account

CherylW said...

I am so sorry to hear this Pamela. The important thing is that you have caught it very early and it has not spread. Do not beat yourself up for having that wonderful trip to France and that is confirmed by your doctor. My aunt had breast cancer in the early 1960's when treatments were not so advanced
as they are now. After a mastectomy of that breast she had a reoccurance in the other breast leading to a second mastectomy. At the time she was in her late 30's and she lived to be 81 years old. She had a positive attutide and did not allow the cancer to bring her down. She also had a heart condition and was never expected to live a long life yet she did because she had a positive, joyous attitude.

You have brought me so much enjoyment though your wonderful stories especially MacKinnons Rangers. And I know you have brought the same to so many others, too Keep it in your heart that you are here to bring others joy and happiness through your written words.

You will beat this!

Mona Gray said...

A former coworker of mine was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in the last year and decided to keep a blog about her experiences. Her posts are humorous and honest and she often talks of her faith and its impact on her journey. She recently finished chemotherapy and all of her blood work/scans have indicated she is in remission. is her blog and I hope anyone receiving a cancer diagnosis will find some inspiration there. Here is to hoping you kick cancer's butt as well.


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