In sports, you may hear a coach say, “Time to get our game face on!” I’ve had to do that. I even have a slogan I use to encourage myself. It’s not “Fake it till you make it” but “Faith it till you make it!”
Pressing into a realm of faith is not only about spiritual warfare. Our spirit and our emotions are tightly wound together. God created us in His image. We are made up of spirit; soul, which is our mind; will and emotion; and our body. I made it my goal to get all three of these components together before every chemo infusion.
Putting Your Game Face On
Before we left the house, I would dress in a cute, comfortable outfit; running shoes; and cheery inspirational butterfly jewelry. I’d draw on eyebrows (since mine fell out) and eyeliner (since my eyelashes fell out too) and put on suntan-color foundation, bronzer, and blush to brighten up my pale facial skin. Then I’d apply under-eye concealer to cover the dark, heavy circles under my eyes. A bright lipstick color helped my smile, but I didn’t have any hair to style, so I’d cover my bald head with a sassy ball cap and pack up my supplies—my Bible and headphones. Last, I’d put on my big faith smile. Now I could look in the mirror and see my familiar, healthy self! We’d meet in the kitchen and take smiling victory pictures.
We’d have our prayer of faith together. Larry would cover me in God’s promises of divine health and protection. Then he’d give me a big hug and kiss and walk Katie and me to the car. I’d tell him, “Bye-bye! We are off to another day at the spa!” Why did I go to all this trouble just to get a chemo infusion? My daughters, Katie and Anna, separately or together, took me to all my infusion appointments, stayed with me, and drove me home afterward. All the way there, we’d play our favorite worship songs, sing along, and declare God’s promises.
I did everything I could to not see myself as a victim of cancer. The face I saw first thing each morning was not a pretty sight. If I looked exhausted and sick, it made me feel worse. It picks up my spirit and brings out the best in me when I fix myself up. That reminds me of Proverbs 23:7, “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.” It is critical to do all we can to envision ourselves whole and healed as an act of faith. I didn’t allow myself to get stuck in the muck. I chose to rejoice. I was not trying to convince anyone but myself that I was not going to become a victim of cancer or anything else.
Guard Your Heart
I once read a quote that said, “All the water in the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside.” In human terms, all the oceans of trauma cannot sink your ship unless they get inside you. Don’t let yourself go there. Stay on the sunny side of life. Do not Google every new treatment someone tells you about. Let God lead your research. Pay attention to what voices you allow to speak into your life.
Saturate your soul with what God says about you and your circumstances, not what the world predicts. When going through a serious trial, you must be careful what you hear and who you have around you. Even well-meaning and caring people can sometimes express their compassion in a way that leaves a person feeling down. Of course, we don’t want to be rude or insensitive, but it’s important to be firm in creating emotional boundaries and shielding ourselves from negativity. Boundaries are necessary. To some, it might seem extreme but it was a matter of life and death.
Avoid Negative Talk and Conversations
Give yourself permission to be selective in your social life. Give yourself permission to take care of and focus on yourself for some time. When people hear about your struggle, they all want to tell you their stories and experiences. Sorry, but we can only afford to hear the victories, miracles, and success stories. There is power in the words you allow into your conversation and thought life. Put your guard up!
It may seem impossible to stay positive when you are dealing with a health issue that must be monitored each month. Blood work, tumor markers, physical progress, emotional stability, and worsening symptoms all were assessed regularly. But there are ways to deal with life’s genuine realities without diving into negativity. Keep faith-filled attitudes and declare God’s promises.
Faith and common sense do not cancel each other out. In fact, they can and should work together to bring great success and breakthroughs. As our family processed and walked through the reports, stats, and treatments, we assessed it all, chose options, and then covered everything in prayer and wrapped it in God’s promises. Again, let me emphasize that we were not denying the reality of our pain or negative circumstances, but we were denying their right to rule and reign in our future!
Don’t Run From the Tears
It’s OK to allow yourself to have a good cry. At times I would let it all out and then rein in that sad feeling and rise up, knowing that one day I would reap in joy, as the Scriptures say.
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. (Psalm 126:5)
Your number my wanderings; put my tears into your bottle; are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8)
Remember, the same hands that hold the universe in place, hold our lives in place too. Joy will come in the morning. Those few days before infusion day, my emotions would try to go to the dark side and into the deep waters. I had to stay afloat. I had to be strong for my family and our congregation, and they had to be strong for me. No sad songs, no sad movies, no sad stories, no sad memories, no sad conversations. We put ourselves on a strict diet of positive, happy, victorious, faith-infused influences.
That being said, there is also something amazingly powerful and healing about crying. Many medical studies have concluded that emotional tears (as opposed to tears from cutting onions, allergies, or the wind) contain feel-good chemicals such as oxytocin and endogenous opioids (endorphins) that help relieve both physical and emotional pain. Emotional tears also flush out stress hormones and other toxins that accumulate in our bodies.
I once read a quote attributed to Karl Menninger that said, “Weeping is perhaps the most human and universal of all relief measures.” It amazes me that God Himself created this incredible function in our human bodies. Weeping is much more than a random reaction to emotional and physical pain. It is part of God’s way of bringing relief and healing to our heart, soul, and body. My motto and advice is this: Have a good old cry and let it all out—either alone with God or on someone’s shoulder. Then dry your tears and get on with life!