As I lay on the table, my trousers yanked unceremoniously around my knees, an IV pumping dye into my arm like an addict shooting up her next fix, and the revolving doughnut scanner waiting to suck me in and spit me out, I felt the panic and anxiety overtake me.
Until that moment I’d managed to stuff it down and shut it up.
Then the “what ifs” started to shout in my ears.
“It’s only been 18 months since the end of chemo. Most re-occurrences rear their ugly heads within that first two years. What if this is it? What if it’s spread?”
“What if it’s in my lungs like mum and Jo before me?”
“What if those headaches I’ve been having are a brain tumor … that’s the obvious explanation for my sieve-brain. The cancer is eating away at my already limited pre-frontal cortex.”
“If I die like my mum and sister before me, will Al leave a respectable length of time before he marries a leggy blond that the kids adore and is a far superior mother?”
I joke, but the anxiety and fear that gripped me was no laughing matter. It spread. It wove its poisonous tendrils through my conscious thoughts, having already beaten my subconscious into submission. I was totally at its mercy.
In the remnant of my brain that was still functioning I remembered Paul’s words to the Philippians “ Do not be anxious about anything”.
I wanted to believe that was possible. To believe that I could somehow not worry about anything. But in that moment, in the mouth of the scanner, that didn’t just seem impossible, it seemed like a ridiculously unhelpful thing to say to someone who’s anxious. You can’t just turn anxiety off with a TV remote! I really wanted to just scream at the absurdity of it, throw something fragile and expensive, and even cause some bodily harm to someone near by (preferably Paul himself).
How could he say such a ludicrous thing?
He obviously didn’t understand what real anxiety is like. He didn’t have cancer, let alone rectal cancer, and definitely had absolutely no idea what it was like to wait for a spotty radiologist to unemotionally examine your innards for the slightest shadow of misplaced metabolic activity that could signal the return of malignant activity in your rear end.
He had it easy.
Well kind of …
He was only whipped 39 times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked on three separate occasions and spent a night floating in open water. OK, so maybe he didn’t have it that easy! Maybe he understood anxiety a bit.
So how could he say “don’t be anxious about anything”? Surely he knew that was impossible?
But Paul knew something that I so often forget when the anxiety swamps me. He believed those four little words that he penned just before he tells us not to be anxious. Four little words that blow my mind in their honesty, simplicity and power.
“The Lord is near.”
The Lord is near. And when He is near so is His peace and we don’t need to worry. Sc-anxiety, job loss, money issues, teenage drama, relationships. He is near.
The Lord is near, there’s nothing to fear! (Ha – I’m a poet and didn’t know it!)
He knows we are everyday people with everyday lives, with everyday worries. Some big. Some small. He is near to us everyday, in our everyday lives and in our everyday worries. Whatever their size. Whatever the outcome of the scan, He was going to be near. He would sustain me. We would cope. We would be OK with Him.
My first scan in 2012 was not clear and He was near to me.
This scan was clear and He is still near to me.
Now that I’m not anxious about the scan and the “what ifs”, my challenge is to stop worrying about the million other things that I have immediately allowed to take it’s place. Can I rest in the fact that “The Lord is near.”? Wont you join me in remembering that the Lord is near and that we need not be anxious about anything? Worrying wont change the outcome, but remembering that the Lord is near will change our outlook and our anxiety levels.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:4-7