Does It Count?
By Elisa Morgan
She approached me with great hesitance and then, once she opened her mouth, her question tortoise-crawled from her lips. "So ... if you're diagnosed with cancer one month, undergo treatment the next and are pronounced cured the following month - does it count?"
I squinted my eyes with concern, trying my best to interpret her question and the meaning beneath it. Cancer? Treatment? Cure? I'd just spoken to this ministry gathering on a completely different topic and I was a bit blurry about her need.
Seeing my confusion, she continued, "I mean, I have friends and family who are far worse off from me. I'm not complaining. But I'm struggling - does a Stage One diagnosis that's so quickly cured really count as having cancer at all? I'm not sure how to view this whole thing. Do I call myself a cancer survivor?"
A few moments passed as I dug about in my being for a response. Finally, I took her hand in mine and offered, "Maybe cancer is cancer? Not the degree. Not the treatment. Not the cure - or lack of. Maybe what makes it count is the reality that the word 'cancer' has been added to your being?"
Afterward I mused on her heart's dilemma in her question, "Does it count?" How much suffering makes suffering suffering? How much pain morphs pain into pain? How much grief topples grief into grief?
I remember my friend, Philip Yancey, once advising, "All pain is pain. You can't measure it, or compare it. For the one suffering, it's overwhelming."
Her child was hit by a car and now lives her life as a quadriplegic. His child dropped dead from an unknown heart issue at a high school basketball game. Their child never learned to walk due to a rare genetic disorder. Which parent has the greatest ache, the most sorrowful suffering?
Their home burned to the ground. Another's was foreclosed on. Still another lives with relatives and friends on a month-to-month basis. Who has it worse?
The child predeceasing the parent or the demented parent dependent upon the child? The loss of limb or the cessation of sight? The battle with addiction or the fight for disease's cure?
In so many scenarios what makes trials "count" as trials is that they are happening to us. To ours. To me and mine. The wounding around the corner doesn't count if it doesn't touch us or those we love. The raw injustice three states over is less intense in our hearts if we don't know anyone who lives there.
Does it count? I think yes. It all counts. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. Grief is grief. Hurt is hurt. And cancer is cancer. When it happens to you and I never know about it, it counts - because it happens to you and you will be forever changed by it. When it happens to me, however it happens and for however long with whatever result, it counts - because it happens to me and I, too, will be forever altered.
So let us go gently both into our own suffering and into the suffering of others, whether we know them or not. Whether our suffering is Stage One or Four, treated or untreatable, cured or uncured. Let's reach out and acknowledge the pain expressed in life. All pain and any pain. In so doing, we validate pain.
When we validate pain, we can also validate the healing and hope the Healer came to give in pain. Any pain and all pain.
Elisa Morgan is an author and speaker and the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her latest book, The Prayer Coin, was recently released. Her other books include The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.