His lips quivered, and his eyes filled with mist that threatened to overflow like Niagra Falls. His young man body pulled into himself and suddenly looked like the little boy he really was…meek, timid, and afraid; my youngest son reaching toward adulthood yet part of him clinging onto childhood, either way too young for the imaginations now running through his mind.
Next to him sat my older son, trying hard to maintain eye contact, but afraid to sustain it for fear that if he did, the tears would come and then his younger brother would be assured there was reason for his fears to be actualized. His voice but a whisper as he acknowledged our words. Shifting mechanically, almost robotically, unable to get comfortable, almost out of reverence for the gravity of what he had just been told, he held himself up on the bed on one stiff arm.
Never imagining having to tell my children such difficult words, prickly tears flowed down by cheeks past my chin and down my knotted throat. Unable to offer any promises or certainty, no cotton candy or pony rides, no sunshine or rainbows, all I could give was warm hugs. Yet all the while my mind raced with strategic plans faster than pentagon sessions: alerting family and friends, planning freezer meals, realigning my office schedule so I could be at doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy sessions, canceling conferences and travel, in short, making my husband and family the only priority after God.
Friends and family were stunned. Words were either in short supply or stumbled and tripped over. Sometimes Bible verses were thrown at length hoping they would, I guess, somehow make things seem better or at least soothe the conscience of the deliverer. It’s always awkward when we hear a loved one is hurting or ill, or worse, has cancer. I’ve been on that end too; what can I say that would make any difference or bring any comfort?
Cancer doesn’t just affect the diagnosed…it effects everyone in the family, and it often extends to friends and loved ones outside the immediate family. Or as my husband once said after he received his third cancer diagnosis, “it’s not my cancer, it’s our family’s cancer.”
Being an author, a speaker, and many people’s doctor as their neuropsychologist, I’m often looked to for answers. What to do when life gets hard. Answers for how to handle the difficult situations: Like having a prodigal child; like having a parent or spouse with dementia; like having a diagnosis or a family member with a diagnosis of cancer. Even now, in our current situation, people watch. How will I, and my family, handle this gut-wrenching ordeal that we are facing? No different than any other situation we’ve ever endured: on our knees in prayer, and with great vulnerability and transparency.
We don’t understand why this is happening, but we’re really not concerned with answering the question “Why?” I’ve come to realize that I don’t get to determine either the trials we walk through or the way that God will provide for us through them. But I do get to decide whether or not I will place my trust in Him, and thank Him throughout that He never leaves us to go through the trials alone, because I truly do not know how people make it through the difficult times in life without the hope that a personal relationship with God provides! I’ve also come to realize that a more important question is, “God, what do you want me to learn through this?”
Because people are watching me and my family as we walk through a painful, life and death ordeal, it gives us an opportunity to openly share with them lessons that we have learned. It affords us the chance to share the basis of the hope that we rest in. Just as our experience with cancer doesn’t just affect our own family, neither does our faith just impact ourselves. People watch how we behave, and listen to what we say. Our faith, or lack thereof as the case may be, for some, impacts others as well. A person’s experience with cancer, or with faith, does not exist in isolation, but has the potential to positively or negatively influence others. How will you use your influence?
“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
In both cancer, and faith, because of Him, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.
What you’re saying here is so very true. I had no idea the people that were watching our journey and changing their own view of faith because of it. It’s humbling, scary and a huge blessing all at once.
Stopping by from Inspire Me Monday
True, true, true….. cancer affects the whole family, not just the person with the diagnosis. Through my breast cancer in 2005, my family and I have been able to help others going through their cancer journey. Continuing to pray for you all.
Beautiful, honest post. I’m a therapist as well and I’ve found that those around us are often watching how we handle things. I find comfort knowing that it is those dark moments that offer us the best opportunities to be transparent and model our faith!
I’m excited that I found your blog!
i came to understand something about that C word a few years ago when my husband had his cancer diagnosis. even tho’ it was found early and the prognosis was very good, i found that it had an emotional effect on me after awhile. i always expect to respond logically to things. i try really hard. but that C word carries so much more emotion that I didn’t expect when it hit our family.
Blessings as you face this challenge…again! you have our prayers.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom,and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed: her husband also, and he praises her.”
You bless me, my beautiful friend! As women we are created to have a positive and profound impact on everyone around us, whether it be our husband’s, children, parents, friends, clients, customers, or society in general. Being a woman is a blessing, and being a wise, strong and dignified woman blesses others in ways that can’t be calculated. You and your family are always in my prayers! ❤
Michele, you and your family are a rare treasure. Thanking the Lord that ever spotlight on you, including through cancer, is filtered through the light of Christ. Praying His grace, comfort, and sustaining strength for you all!
I don’t have cancer. BUT I have dementia, brain and body issues, and walking issues [have 2 canes when out of the house] and not allowed for almost a year that I can’t drive, b/c of my dementia. Anyhow, I’ve driven all around our nation … especially to the NW where I have sisters and lots of friends … and worshiping many places. NOW, I worship and pray and glorify in the house and if I’m walking and if and when someone drives me around. Focusing on the Lord is all that I can do. It’s a miracle that several times even when I was a kid the Lord protected me. He also strongly healed my heart when I was 28, 39, and 42. SO, since I’m 71 and have been used as a missionary in about 5 places, now I worship and pray and worship and pray and glorify to the Lord and look forward to being in Heaven. Thank you for sharing. I can’t read very well, so I hope I didn’t upset you. Bless you…
I have a friend who was just diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. We can all feel it already as we prepare to walk her through a long process that’s ahead of her. and yes, faith. faith is what will get believers through these trials… knowing that whatever comes, God will give us His sustaining presence. thanks for sharing your story.
“I’ve come to realize that I don’t get to determine either the trials we walk through or the way that God will provide for us through them. But I do get to decide whether or not I will place my trust in Him, and thank Him throughout” Loved this. 🙂
Thanks for linking up at Literacy Musing Mondays!
Not just yours, but the entire family and friends share in the progress of treatment and the battle ahead. There are no pat answers just comfort that God is there regardless of what we go through. If we could wave a magic want and proclaim health, we would do that. God is still in the healing business, and if at this time he choses NOT, we must still trust him. If it were me, I would find time to attend some of the healing schools in various parts of the country. Rhema Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma has healing services daily through the week. Bethel church, Redding, CA has a healing room every Saturday from 9:00am to noon. Many testimonies of miracles have been reported. I am sure there are other places that pray for all kinds of illness – I just know of these two. Thank you so very much for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story. Your post will generate prayers headed your way.
You are such a beacon of hope to us. Your book was packed full of hope and now to read about your experience with cancer.
I truly believe God is using you to show us His love through difficult times. I’m so glad He has brought you through what He has so you can minister to us and leave us with resources when we go through our own journey with it!
Thanks Michelle. don’t know how you keep this direct of a focus. More prayer bricks sailin’ your way. Keep it up in the name of Jesus.
Only by the grace of God Terry. I find I’m more at a loss for words now than ever.
When my parents considered moving to Mississippi, it was with the thought of taking care of their own parents as they grew older. We had no idea that our lives would be interrupted with my mother getting sick and she would need our tender, loving care. She had several headaches along with sickness in her stomach for several months, before finally going to a doctor. We found out she had a brain tumor, so she went in the hospital to have surgery. She came home and was progressing well.
Later, she began to have the same kind of problems over again. The doctor told her she would have to have another surgery for another tumor. She really dread going through the second surgery. She was told both tumors were benign.
As she stayed in the hospital recovering, her hip began to give her problems and the doctors did a biopsy, which showed she had bone cancer. So, this lead to a year or more of treatments, going in and out of the hospital and taking care of my mother. I cannot tell you how the mental, physical and emotional toll affected all of us while going through this period of our lives. It sometimes seems so unreal. Through the process you learn, you pray and you hope. The hardest time for me was to know she hurt and I could not take the pain away. I saw my dad take good care of my mother and how he loved her; it touched my heart. There were times we gathered around her bed just to pray for her. We had times we laughed together and times we cried together. She lived for over a year then in July of 1977, she passed away. Our lives were changed, but our faith had not.
While my mother was in the hospital…my dad had a car wreck and I had followed behind him in my own car that night. A group of teen-agers ran a stop sign and dragged his car across the road. For some reason I slammed on breaks or I would have hit them, but I ran screaming for my dad and yelling, “God, my daddy!” But, he was alright.
I share this story with you…because I know…it hurts even today sometimes. It is not always easy to watch the one you love hurting and you want so much to take away the pain. You want to just hold on to them and let them know how much you truly love them. And all the while…God in the process is watching, He is there through the heartache, He is there to comfort us and our loved one belong to Him….there are times, all we can do is pray.
That sounds like a very painful experience that impacted you in big ways Joyce. I pray that you will feel the Father’s comforting, tender arms around you.
MIchelle, you’ve written a vulnerable but mighty article. I pray (and will continue to do so) that this disease will be obliterated from your body, whether by miracle or by treatment. That the Lord will be your strength and your song. That He will walk you through these difficult times and that you will come out the other side of it with a testimony, and with great joy. The Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, and give you His peace!
Thank you Robin. This new diagnosis has certainly taken me by surprise, but it hasn’t taken God by surprise. We’re trusting Him through this. Thank you for your support.