Cancer, You Dropped A Bomb On Me (Us)

Three critical ways to help boost your marriage when facing cancer or other longterm illnesses.

There’s a song called “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” that was released in the early 80’s. While we don’t want to make light of cancer, we felt like this song title best epitomizes how we felt in September 2018 when my wife received a diagnosis of Stage 4 Cancer.

It left me (John) speechless. I didn’t know whether to run and hide or stand and fight. If I run and hide, where do I go and if I stand and fight who do I fight? I felt alone and helpless.

How long does she have left to live? I pleaded with God to help, but I did not know what kind of help I needed. I knew God was the answer but didn’t have a clue as to what that answer looked like. Thankfully, God knew all the answers, to all my questions, and the ones I didn’t even know to ask.

A little help from my friends

Certain people came to my mind that I wanted to call (close friends from the military and family). None of them were available.

God sent those who should have been the first I should have called. He sent my small group from our church who I spent time with each week. They showed up in full force and were more family than blood because we have grown so close.

The things I could not think of that needed to be done they thought of and acted on those needs for us. They planned dinners, cleaned our house, and escorted my wife to doctor appointments and treatments.

They listened to me rant when I needed to vent and hugged me when I needed a hug. They allowed me to cry when I needed that as well. The relationships we had with them were built on godly love.

Three Marriage Helps

In light of our experience, we want to share three marriage helps, or lessons, that God showed us to counteract the bomb that had been dropped into our lives. Not just lessons, but a path of hope for us, and for other couples to follow (before, during or after cancer). Here are our three helps:

  1. Rely on community to help give you strength to be there for your spouse.

    God showed us how to depend and rely on our fellowship with the body of Christ. By fellowship, I mean the friends we have made through our church. We had built these relationships over weeks, months and years of marriage and family studies while pursuing sincere fellowship with one another.

We got to know one another’s children, brothers and sisters, in-laws, problems, solutions and blessings over the years. We supported each other’s families during sickness, and good times. We frequented our kid’s events together. We attended church together and worked various ministries with our church. We did so much together. These should have been the first people I thought to call, but God knew. He sent his faithful servants to the rescue. They were there to help in our worst times and rejoice in our good times.

The time as a caregiver for my wife was difficult and confusing. Without the support and help of my brothers and sisters in our small group, it would have been unbearable. God knew exactly who and what I needed. I prayed for truth and He sent brothers to talk me through and remind me of what was true.

I prayed for support and He sent sisters to take a burden by cleaning and cooking meals. I asked for rest and these people prayed around the clock for us to have rest. God was faithful and the relationships and fellowship built in our church wrapped around us in our time of need and loved us through it.

This support helped me (John) be there for my wife, Summer. Our community gave me an increased capacity to love and serve her during an otherwise daunting and draining season.

Questions: Who can you rely on in times of trouble? If you are unsure, what are some ways you can build friendships at church, work or other places? How can you be a friend to other couples who might need your help even if you are not currently struggling?

  1. Invest in your marriage, no matter what season you are in.

    Our second lesson in surviving the bomb was investment. According to an online insurance company, an investment is an asset acquired or invested in to build wealth and save money from the hard-earned income or appreciation.

Investment in your marriage is a necessity for those who find their marriages stricken by deadly illnesses.

For the vast majority of those in battles with cancer, we have no idea when that battle will ensue. We wake up one day and a bomb has gone off in our lives and we are left with the rubble and chaos. But what we most want to share with you, is that if there has been a prior investment in the stability of your marriage, you will have something to pull from for these most imminent repair needs.

For five years prior to the deadly cancer diagnosis, we were steeped in investment. We learned from marriage mentors, marriage classes and marriage conferences that it’s always important to invest in your marriage, so we did.

This inspired us to mentor other couples by facilitating marriage classes ourselves to help others invest in their marriages. We were trained by some of who we consider great pillars in godly Christian marriage. Our lives were filled with investments, often and consistently during these five years.

What we didn’t know is that a time was coming when we would need to pull a large deposit from our investment. Yes, cancer strained and pulled at the very fiber of our marriage just as it is prone to do, but we had investment tools that we could utilize to repair those fibers as each step of cancer tugged away at it.

So, we encourage all couples, invest in your marriage. Be prepared because life is full of bombs and booby traps of all shapes and sizes. Here’s a few ways you can invest right now:

  • Make time to fellowship with those who are walking out a rich godly marriage or who are great pillars.
  • Join a church small group that focuses on marriage. If you don’t belong to a church, find a good one, as they often offer excellent marriage resources.
  • Take a class annually that supplies your marriage with tools to use for repairs.
  • These investments will prove significant and well worth your time when a “bomb goes off” and tears at the fibers of your otherwise stable marriage. Don’t wait for the explosion, invest today.

Questions: What are some ways that you would like to invest in your marriage? Do you belong to a good church or where can you get connected with marriage resources near you?

  1. Pursue rest in your marriage.

    The last lesson that God taught us proved to be an excellent redeemer of a marriage stricken by deadly illness. It is a little thing called rest.

When I (Summer) was about halfway through my yearlong cancer treatments, a great pillar couple gifted us with an amazing marriage conference. We were so in the thick of treatments, appointments, surgeries, and infusions, that we were completely unaware of just how much we desperately needed rest.

At this marriage conference, we were strongly encouraged to stay on the property and enjoy hours of intentional time together. This kind of rest was included in two of the four days of this conference.

Do you want to know what we mostly did during that time? We laid down together on a hammock and gazed up at the sky as it peeked through the trees. Yes, that was the bulk of our alone time together. We rested our bodies, we rested our minds and we rested our souls.

We strongly suggest that at every turn, you find ways to rest and be still before God. His rest is so much more peace-filled than any other kind of rest. As Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”

He gives rest that rejuvenates and redeems down to the inner most parts of our being. Pursue “God rest” for your cancer-ravaged marriage. You will be so glad you did.

If you would like to find out more about how to begin a relationship with God, see Knowing God Personally.

Questions: What are some ways you can pursue rest in your marriage during this season? What are some ways that you have found rest outside of yourself? How would you describe your spiritual journey? Do you have a relationship with God? How has (or how could) this relationship helped you find rest in your life and marriage?

After the bomb

Though our journey and healing from the bomb is far from over, we continue to rely on community, investment and rest. God has woven miraculous redemption through our bomb-stricken home.

At the end of the most rigorous treatments, about a year from diagnosis, a full body PET scan showed that there was no more cancer anywhere in my wife’s body. From Stage 4 Cancer to no cancer!

Five years later Summer is still with us and cancer free. God blessed us with his grace, a fellowship of brothers and sisters, caring church leadership, a new testimony, and with life.

We now have a new lens that we see life through and are all the better for it. We don’t take life for granted any longer and will celebrate it every day until it is over!

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