Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
Don’t Tell Me It’s Not Cancer
While our family waits for a diagnosis, a few friends have tried to convince me that our 20-year-old daughter does not have thyroid cancer. I don’t understand that kind of thinking. Until her July 12 surgery and subsequent biopsy provide a definitive answer, we are prepared for anything. Everyone processes hard news differently but there’s no point in predicting a future that we cannot control.
The prayers for her are a true gift. Stories shared about the positive outcomes of others are also appreciated. It’s the aggressive insistence of a few that I should believe that it’s not cancer that I don’t like. It is well intentioned, I know. There are better ways to reduce worry, however, rather than trying to convince myself of the desired outcome.
New Age Thinking
Such thinking—only imagining the positive outcome—is actually a New Age technique. There is a belief that positive attitudes determine outcomes even in areas seemingly beyond a person’s control. New Agers have taught for years that we can control our own reality through visualization such as good health and success. This is positive thinking gone awry and does nothing to prepare for possible negatives. It also attributes personal control over areas of life that belong to God. Positive thinking can give us confidence to do well and help us to interpret events. It does not control life.
A Catholic version of this is where people feel that preparing for the negative would lessen the faith behind their petition, thinking it might disqualify them from a miracle. I’ve seen this played out where an entire family said they knew there would be a miracle because God is a God of miracles. No one was prepared when the miracle never came.
God is not going to cross us off the miracle list if we brace ourselves for the possibility of not getting one. We ask because we believe God can do anything, but in the end, it’s Thy will, not my will.
The Power of Suffering
As exiles of the Garden of Eden, carrying our cross is not optional. I pray for suffering to be lifted and if it’s not, then for the grace to embrace it. I am often reminded of an interview I did years ago with Al Kresta, president and CEO of Ave Maria Radio and host of “Kresta in the Afternoon. He provided an example of accepting whatever God has planned for us—even the suffering.
Four years into the operation of Ave Maria Radio in Ann Arbor, Mich., the station was prospering. Kresta had just reported to his friend Tom Monaghan on their extraordinary pledge drive with over 1,200 donors. The atmosphere at the station was euphoric. Monaghan warned Kresta: “Well, if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, the devil won’t take it lying down. You’d better be ready for spiritual combat.”
In February of 2003, Kresta blamed being overworked for getting run down. A few days later, he was rushed to St. Joseph Mercy hospital and unable to walk. A flesh-eating bacterium was attacking Kresta’s leg. Antibiotics were unable to stop it. The only hope was emergency surgery.
Fr. John Riccardo visited Kresta on the day of his surgery. “He asked me to offer up my sufferings for the sake of the Church and the openness of all men and women to hear the Gospel.” Coming out of a 5-day induced coma to aid in his recovery, his 12-year old son James and 21-year-old daughter Alexis were at his bedside.
“Did they save my leg?” Kresta asked his son.
“Well, what did the doctor say to you before surgery?”
“He said I could lose my life or I could lose my leg.”
“Dad, they took your leg.”
Kresta said he did not feel sad. “At that moment, I did not grieve for my lost leg because in comparison to my life, it was not so important.” He determined that he would use his time of suffering. “I did not want to forget why I was there. I wanted my personal life in order, to become more like Christ and receive sanctity, and in that way the work, and the ministry, would flow from that.”
Hoping for Good News
My admiration for those who embrace suffering does not mean I am seeking it.
I’m hoping for good news regarding our daughter. I’ve asked for it. But my wait includes asking for the grace to accept whatever God’s will is. In the meantime, I have been given the grace not to waste my time worrying.
I appreciate the outpouring of love and concern and even appreciate the spirit in which some have insisted that it’s not going to be cancer. I hope they are right. I think it’s better, however, to prepare mentally for what is possible. Whatever the outcome, God will be with us.