Dan and I first met one another in a Sunday school class eight years ago. We had both been through painful divorces, so starting over might have been a bit scary. Thankfully, we were both confident that our marriage would be blessed. It felt like a whirlwind romance!
The bus company that Dan worked for offered health insurance to its employees, but the policy was too expensive for any of them to afford. Like Dan, his friend and co-worker, Rick, didn’t have health insurance. Rick friend began to have a headache that wouldn’t go away and developed a strange lump on his sternum. Finally, when he qualified for a government health insurance policy, he went to the doctor. By then, it was too late. He had stage IV melanoma. He died just three months later.
As Dan and I were planning our wedding, I was overwhelmed by the fear that Dan would one day get cancer, and I would lose him; I couldn’t handle the thought of it. I had never in my life experienced a love like ours. What if it was too good to be true, and he died? I chalked it up to seeing what Rick had gone through. Nonetheless, one day as I was vacuuming my living room floor and thinking about our future together, I began to have a panic attack.
Christians aren’t supposed to panic. Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety. Christians aren’t even supposed to fear. After all, it says, “Do not fear,” over and over again in the Bible. In fact, it’s said that it appears 365 times- one for every day of the year.
But, I was afraid. I did have anxiety. I was panicking.
Thankfully, I’d fallen in love with an amazing man. When I called him at work, he stopped everything and prayed for me. He prayed that God would calm my nerves and soothe my heart and give me peace where there had been panic. This was a man worth marrying.
We became husband and wife that fall in our church.
Each of us brought three children to the family. Dan’s children were grown and living on their own, and mine were still very young. My daughters quickly thought of Dan as their Dad and he ultimately adopted them after we had been married for two years.
Our daughter Samantha was so small when we married. She was immediately attached to Dan, thanking God every night for giving her such a wonderful daddy. Her only question was why God had taken so long to bring him to us. She was also very scared that she would lose him. She had lost her biological father when he walked out on us. She didn’t understand how that could happen, but she had thought that if it happened once, it could happen again. She would frequently quiz us about what would happen if we ever had a fight. We assured her that in a good marriage, even if you disagree, you don’t fight. As time went on, she found out that this was true, and she became more assured in the steadfast love of her dad. She knew that she would always have him.
Then after three years of marriage, Dan was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Lung cancer? How could he have lung cancer? He was healthy. He’d never smoked. I had no idea that 15% of people who get lung cancer have never smoked, and there are many more people who haven’t smoked in years –even decades. Still, it didn’t make sense.
Then I thought back to the fears I had when we’d first started talking about marriage.
Did I somehow, because of my fear, bring this upon my husband and our family? I have been in plenty of Bible studies where someone would say something that was less than positive, only to be reprimanded. “Don’t say that you’re bringing a curse upon yourself.” These memories played through my mind like a movie.
While I didn’t really ascribe to that particular theology, I had heard it enough times to feel guilty. I’d been so afraid of the very thing that was now happening. I lived with that guilt for quite some time during my husband’s diagnosis process.
In my next post, I’ll share how I came to terms with this. Facing Cancer as a Christian has some unique aspects. This is one of them.
About Heather Erickson
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com