Brave Women and Healing Stories

On October 18, 2015, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Brave Women and Healing Stories Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Oct 18th, 2015 I have a friend who recently had a cancer scare. During a routine exam, her physician found a lump. It was caught early and while radiation therapy was uncomfortable, it was also effective. She is now cancer-free. Her healing story is a story […]

Brave Women and Healing Stories
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Oct 18th, 2015

I have a friend who recently had a cancer scare. During a routine exam, her physician found a lump. It was caught early and while radiation therapy was uncomfortable, it was also effective. She is now cancer-free. Her healing story is a story of remission.

When she asked me for prayer, I was impressed with how courageous and at peace she seemed to be. She was grateful to have found it in time and she was confident that treatment would yield positive results. She even had a sense of humor about it all. She faced the challenge directly and even laughed at it. While humor lifted her spirits, she was serious about doing all she could to regain her health. Today, she shares her story with others to encourage them to be intentional about breast health.

I have another friend who I just met 10 months ago. She and her husband were on a Caribbean cruise. Robert and I sat with them at dinner. The connection was instant and deep. They were both so lovely and warm.

The cruise was only a week long, but we really bonded with this couple. We’d sit together and chat in bars, lounges, dining rooms…our conversation was usually jovial and light-hearted. But one day, they mentioned almost casually that their cruise was sort of a “bucket-list” item.

Our new friends received some troubling news a few years ago. She was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and medically the best hope she was given is that it be “contained.” With the support of her husband, she was determined to live well and happily, hoping for the best but living as if tomorrow was not promised. Her attitude reminds me of the advice the Roman philosopher Seneca gave: “If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it; but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows.”

Last week, we learned that our friend’s cancer had spread. She had the new tumor removed and is switching to a new therapy. Her husband is concerned, but they remain as positive and joyous as when we met them. Her healing story is a story of happiness and courage that circumstances cannot take away.

I had a seminary professor whose life was saved by a radical mastectomy. She is a beautiful and brilliant woman. Her healing story is the story of life beyond body altering surgery.

One of my early mentors in MCC also had a radical mastectomy. Her follow up treatment and recovery were long and difficult, but she survived. She had been very busty; post-surgery she “bragged” that she could now wear vests! She was a model of courage and grace. Her healing story is one of finding a gift in every situation, an opportunity in every challenge.

In a previous church I served, there was a woman who had a radical mastectomy as a preventive measure, as tests revealed she might develop cancer at some point. She was very strong and very brave. Her healing story is about facing her fears and overcoming them.

There are many women in my life who have had inconclusive test results that required follow up tests. Even though the secondary tests most often offered good news, the waiting period was always stressful for them (and those who love them). Their healing stories are the stories of resilience, of not giving up until answers can be found.

And, though they are often reluctant to speak about it, I’ve even known a couple of men who have had breast cancer scares.

When I lived in Texas, I met a woman who was introduced to her life-partner by her previous life-partner. Her life-companion was dying. It was the 80s and she had late stage breast cancer. She felt guilty about the grief her spouse would suffer after she died, and she felt badly about leaving her alone. She asked her best friend and her wife to become a couple after she died.

The three of them then lived together as a family. The woman battling cancer had double the care, and their household had 33% more love. In a time before marriage equality, they courageously did what they could to care for the dying loved one and provide for the survivors. Their healing story suggests that healing Love will find a way.

Cancer is a word that still strikes fear into those who hear it. Whether one is facing it personally, or concerned about a loved one who is facing it, it brings with it a sense of dread, even panic.
And so as loving, spiritual communities, it is right that we offer care and encouragement to those who are burdened with the fear that cancer instills.

No one should ever have to face such fear alone.
Everyone deserves to know that as a church we will we embrace them during the most challenging of times.
We will see their beauty even when they are exhausted.
We will see their dignity even when they are afraid.
We will see their innate wholeness even if their body seems frail.
We will support the fighters and cheer the survivors.
We will remember those who lost their battle.
We will offer safe space for those who grieve.
We will not be silent about our concern for the issue.
We will be vigilant in wishing and waiting and working for a cure.
We will be the collectors and the communicators of healing stories.

A word now to men. In the early days of the AIDS crisis, women were angels of mercy for men with AIDS. They became care-givers, advocates, activists, fund-raisers, and volunteers. Women can get HIV and men can breast cancer, but gay men were hit harder than most communities by HIV in the early days, and women are more likely to have to deal with breast cancer.
Women stood by men who had AIDS in those scary, uncertain times, and men need to care about breast cancer.

Make a contribution for research, pray daily for someone who is struggling to regain her health, send encouraging notes to someone to let them know you care. We all have women in our lives who we love…for them, let’s be healers, angels of mercy for those who need all the support they can get.

And women: early detection is vital. Please, because we love you and we need you, have regular checkups.

The readings for this Breast Cancer Awareness Sunday challenge us to think in ways that still seem new to patriarchal religion.
The prophet Hosea imagines God sharing maternal love, bending down to breastfeed Her children.
And the Song of Songs shows a lover praising the breasts of his beloved.
If scripture can see love, divine and human, in the image of women’s breasts, then we who study scripture can certainly affirm our care and concern for breast health.

The church has probably not spoken out enough about this issue; men, in particular, have probably been too silent, too often. This week, let’s make amends for that and commit to being part of the solution.

I saw this simple, some might say naïve, prayer on Facebook last week. Today, it is my prayer: “Dear God, heal those with cancer. Amen.” Until that prayer is answered, let us be the comforting love of God that people need. Let us be the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015

God of healing love…
Touch us…
Flow through us…
Fill our lives and our world with miracles.
Amen.

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