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Faraway Friends, Faith, Prayer and Star Wars

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This is a blog about coping. How do I cope with this crazy, rare and hard-to-pronounce disease that I never even knew existed?

The first thing I did,  before I knew what this was and when I had good reason to be afraid I had breast cancer, was reach out to a few faraway friends who wouldn’t be weirded out be a prayer request. I like to think of them as friends in faith. I do not share their religious beliefs 100%, but I share their experience of the power of prayer and faith. Secular humanists with spiritual inclinations call prayer ‘sending positive energy’ and refer to faith as ‘positive thinking’. Rationalist scientists may refer to the placebo effect. I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all just different languages for the same basic concepts, and I am comfortable communicating in whatever language I have to use. All religions can be distilled to their core essences, kind of like simplifying algebraic equations.

I come from a Christian cultural background, and my friends in faith are practicing Christians of various denominations or non-denominations. I have faith in prayer, positive thinking, creative visualization, or whatever you want to call it. My faith is not rooted in any religion, as I am not a religious person. I have great respect for my religious friends and family members, but I simply cannot commit to any one faith, especially when part of the faith includes certain tenets of intolerance. I am a rationalist, a secular humanist with spiritual inclinations. I am fascinated by the mystical, and I spent a few years of my university career studying religion and philosophy. My creed was “I want to believe.” (Anyone remember X-Files?)

I distilled all my learning and came to the conclusion that what matters is love, forgiveness, open-mindedness and the ability to let go. I cannot be bothered with micro-managerial codes of conduct, and I am a big fan of not judging. Live and let live. Love and let love. Do no harm. Help when you can. Holy books and prophets harbor useful insights, but must be regarded critically. At the end of the day, Star Wars is the closest I can get to describe my beliefs. I believe in The Force, another way of describing God. Dress it anyway you want. I use the Christian language I grew up with toned by the Buddhist, Hindu and pagan accents I acquired in my soul-seeking journeys.

I believe in prayer. I asked my friends in faith to pray for me. Here are some snippets from what I wrote to them before my biopsy:

“I am praying for it to be benign. If it is not benign, I pray that whatever it is gets caught and treated early enough so that I will live a long, normal healthy life. I don’t care if I lose my breast(s). Lastly, if it is advanced, I still pray for healing and strength.”

“Just knowing I have your prayers lifts me up and gives me courage and optimism. It’s easier to remember to have faith when I know I have support and prayer. Isn’t it funny? I can’t help but giggle when I read “lift me up” and “support.” It just sounds so “breasty.” That’s it! I’m going to buy myself a fancy-schmancy bra that will lift me up and support me to celebrate when all this is over. I may even go all out and spring for matching panties!”

“Having friends in my corner and people praying for me makes a huge difference. Finally, I’ve decided to just surrender to faith and keep a positive attitude.”

“I expect to write you next Friday feeling silly for having freaked out over a cancer scare and relieved that it is some totally weird and harmless condition I’ve never heard of! I’ll probably also swear not to ever freak out or worry about something unless I have concrete evidence that warrants it. (Like John does. He is so calm, strong and collected. So rational and practical. He’s my polar opposite, thank goodness!)”

“Hi. Great news! It’s not cancer! Yay! Thank God, and thanks for your prayers. Disconcerting news: the doctors have no idea what it is, so I must have more tests done in the internal medicine department until someone figures out what it is. Whatever it is, it can’t be as bad as cancer. I can deal with having a weird and painful lump when I know it’s benign. No more worrying. Thanks for all your support and prayers. I really was terrified. Lesson learned: Just have faith, trust God, and remember prayer is powerful. Love you!”

“My rational mind tells me that I have done everything right, I am young, and most lumps and bumps are nothing. My emotional mommy mind panics. What if my kids lose their mother? My soul alternates between whispering and shouting for prayer and faith. I feel that if there is even a small chance of malignancy, prayer will nip it in the bud or will give me the strength to overcome it.”

I sit here, two months later, and I wonder if their prayer did indeed have a transformative effect on my disease. What if I really did have inflammatory breast cancer, and prayer somehow turned it into idiopathic granulomatous mastitis? What if prayer made the difference between a deadly diagnosis and a benign yet painful illness? I can’t help having these thoughts, no matter how much my rational mind tries to dismiss them. I am grateful to my friends in faith and to everyone else who has prayed for me, sent me positive energy, healing thoughts, light and love. I may not be able to quantify it, measure it or prove it, but I know that all your good vibes strengthen my soul. I feel the Force within me. May the Force be with you too.

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About A.K.

I am: dreamer, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, writer, reader, musician, artist, teacher, translator. I am a citizen of the world. These nations are my home: Denmark, Ecuador, USA, Canada, France and Germany. I believe the purpose of life is to love, laugh and learn. I am over being upset for getting this very rare disease: Idiopathic Granulomatous Mastitis. Forgetting all the pain and havoc is tempting, but I will honor the lessons it brought and release my resentment. This blog is my way of coping and reaching out to others who may be going through similarly unfair and bewildering experiences.

4 responses »

  1. Joanne Givens

    very inspiring AK..hang in there- you will be OK. 🙂

    Reply
    • I ❤ ❤ ❤ your definitions of prayer and this is exactly how I feel too about prayer, religion, spirituality etc. It is refreshing to hear this! ❤ ❤ I will be praying for you also. ❤ ❤

      Reply
  2. Trenton Smith

    AK,

    I think you’re right. I think the prayers made a huge difference. Hard to say exactly what it was, but it’s interesting, given the prayers, that your condition is idiopathic. Aren’t miracles, in scientific terms, idiopathic?

    I also find it interesting that so many “scientific” and “logical” minds so easily dismiss some of what they don’t understand. How many of history’s most renowned scientists were deemed illogical, even crazy, by the scientific community of their time? Aren’t science and reason the exercise of our minds to explore that which we don’t understand, that which we can’t fully explain?

    I believe that science and faith are, in fact, complements—not opposites. Answers to prayers, miracles, are simply evidence that humans have a finite comprehension of infinite things. It seems to me that you could even look at this rather like an experiment: faith is the power that facilitates miracles. Prayer is a means to exercise faith. The prayers of many amplify the amount of faith exerted, augmenting its power, producing a greater miracle. A cause and effect relationship.

    The peace prayer and faith bring are a miracle in an off themselves: “peace” is not logical to feel in times of crisis, but through faith we can feel it and the feeling is real.

    There’s a scripture that sums it up for me. “I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” For what it’s worth, I think this experience is a “trial of your faith” and the miracles you are seeing along the way are the “witness” that you and the many, many people that love you have not let the trial shake their faith, but rather have shown their faith is up to the task.

    Trenton

    Reply
    • Trenton,

      I love what you write! I agree with you completely. Science and faith do complement each other. Science depends on questioning dogma and being open to the unknown. I cannot dismiss what I don’t understand. I can only seek to understand. Having a “logical,” “scientific,” and “rational” mind does not overrule the faith and wonder within my soul. Do I believe in miracles? Absolutely. Yet, I still seek an explanation, a way to understand the process behind the miracle. What if I cannot find the explanation or cannot understand it? That does not make it any less valid. It only speaks of the limitations of my perception. The scripture you quote is exactly what I needed to read. I value ministry and prayer. Thank you.

      Reply

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