It’s Okay To Hate Me For Having Cancer

If you hate me for having cancer, I get it.  Just promise me one thing: don’t hate yourself for hating someone for having cancer, okay?  You’re going through enough and the last thing you need is the space around you to be sucked dry of compassion.  I know.  I remember.  I remember the time I hated someone who had cancer.  Their newsfeed was blossoming with love and encouragement.  Their mailbox was filled with support and money, and to top it all off: everyone was feeding them and giving them free stuff.  I witnessed it all and ached thoroughly.  I fantasized about doing something drastic to bring my emotional pain and trauma to the physical surface -a car wreck *just* bad enough to break a bone or five.  And as I watched The Cancer Patient’s house being cleaned, I actually found myself longing for cancer.  I felt crazy, but I wasn’t.

That was seven years ago, and I’ve had seven years to drive this car forward and see from a distance what I couldn’t see up close: I was in a hell of a lot of pain.  So so much pain.  But it was The Unseen Pain -the kind where you still end up having to grocery shop and show up to birthday parties because no one can see the pain, and when I say “no one” I mean NO ONE.  I mean even I was unaware of how deep and raw and cutting The Unseen Pain was.  I was aware it was there, yeah.  But it’s taken seven years and a cancer diagnosis for The Unseen Pain to finally reveal itself.

Cancer, as we know, is A Seen Pain.  We talk about it, we make movies about it.  I can’t even talk about the amount of support involved because there is so much that my system can’t process it all.  I’m filling a large 3-ring binder with notes and cards, my eyes flooding over as I read and re-read the words contained in them.  Everywhere I turn, there’s help.  I have more than one team of doctors, and I have several insurance advocates.  Does that mean I’m doing well?  Oh, I’m sick as a dog.  I walked for 10 minutes today and almost had a good solid cry simply from exhaustion -not frustration, just EXHAUSTION.  Three months ago, I could have sprinted that same distance in half the time even with the thirty “extra” pounds on me.  Today, my 11-year old offered me her hand for my own support and complimented me on the hat she’d picked out to cover my bald head.  So much has changed.  So fast.  I’m experiencing waves of grief and acceptance, laughter and tears, and I honor it ALL.  I let it all be and out.  Did I break down in tears in a shoe department?  Yes, I did.  Were arms quickly wrapped around me?  Yes, they were.  No matter the emotion that bubbles up and out, it’s allowed.   It’s okay.  It’s okay by me.  It’s okay by my family.  It’s okay by my doctors.  Seven years ago, I didn’t have that self-compassion.  Incidentally, My Unseen Pain marked the path for me to begin cultivating that self-compassion.

Is your Unseen Pain okay?  Do you have compassion for it?  That’s what I’m here to talk about today: Your Unseen Pain.  The one that makes you hate me for having cancer.  Today as I was doing some reading, I learned about a practice called Tonglen -it’s a Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  It focuses on our breathing and goes against the grain of breathing in healing and light and breathing out negativity and darkness.  Tonglen asks us instead to breathe in the suffering of others and breathe out all the healing and support and love we have to offer.  It seems backward, but is it?  Is it, really?  Because as I rolled the idea of Tonglen around in my head, you came to mind and in that moment all I really wanted to do was inhale Your Unseen Pain and breathe out every ounce of love and peace and self-acceptance and self-compassion RIGHT AT YOU.


I know you’re out there, and I know you’re hurting.  So please forgive me for what I’m about to say because it is going to feel really cliché.

The Unseen Pain is not unseen by God.

Don’t stop reading.

From the beginning of my diagnosis, I reached for God and He reached back loudly -but briefly.  He gave me some clear directions and then vanished.

THIS.  THIS IS MY DARKEST HOUR.  This is my Gethsemane.  This is my convergence of “Why hast THOU forsake me?” and “Nevertheless…”  I’ve maintained my spiritual practices and rituals, and I feel like I’m sort of kicking an old tin can around the dirt floor of an abandoned church on the outskirts of my soul.  No use dusting… My faith has dwindled to the thickness of sewing thread as I sit in hospitals getting more bad news with no God by my side.

Don’t worry about telling me He was there -I have no use for that kind of thing right now.  The point is, I’ve had a really cruddy three months and the warm comfort normally offered to me during Really Cruddy Times has instead been replaced by some sort of black soul hole that’s sort of bleeding internally as it gnaws through my beliefs about God.  I’ve been in more physical pain these last three months than I realized was humanly possible to endure.  I’ve heard words I never dreamed I’d hear.  I’ve sat in front of scans that I can’t erase from my brain.  And God?  He was silent.  And I? I got mad about that.

I’ve had some trusted spiritual leaders make promises in God’s name that aren’t manifesting, and God gives me no explanation -save one.  In my religion, I get what we call Priesthood Blessings -they’re available to everyone in and out of my religion, but the sake of simplicity, I’m only going to refer to my own experience.  Someone who has been given the proper authority lays their hands on my head and becomes a living mouthpiece for God.  In the past three months, I’ve had a multitude of these sorts of blessings given to me by leaders, my father, and my husband.  In one stand-out blessing from my husband, he uttered these words, “God has left you for a season, but you are not alone.”  True words that pierced my soul.  God is not by my side, but I am FAR from being left alone.  So far.


God can’t fully leave me, I know.  I know.  Because I have God and divinity inside me and that means I believe in God and divinity inside of everyone, and my mortal support team has been powerful enough to carefully wind up the unraveling ends of my Faith Thread and hold it taut:  The friend who seemed to know just when to text, my sister who felt inspired at 4 am, the couple who filled my freezer with easy meals so I can throw fish sticks in the oven and still have the satisfaction of handing food to the three most hungry children on the planet.  God sent them.  They come in His name.  God always sends fish, that’s how I know. (Picture below of my cousins showing their support -can you guess which one is also fighting his own battle against cancer -and winning?  We love you, Jordan!  And Alec and Samantha too!)


(Picture below of us celebrating my last radiation treatment.  The whole office cheered.  I gave them doughnuts and lifesavers and they gave me a houseplant I’m terrified to kill for obvious reasons.  Celebrating is something we do with Seen Pain.  Unseen Pain?  The celebrations are a little more quiet… and usually involve ice cream on the couch with a good movie.  And -for me -went a little something like, “Hey, you just finally folded the laundry on the couch! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING NOW!”) 42900

But tonight as I think of you and your tears… and as I want to reach out and tell you it’s okay to hate me… I wondered if maybe God left me for you?  This thought brings me enormous amounts of relief.  YES, I need God but I have Seen Pain and Good Neighbors with God in their hearts.  My suffering is well tended by courses of angels.  Tears flood my eyes as I think of each knock on the door, each serving hand, each outpouring!  It is more than one heart can contain and as my cancer shrinks (which it BETTER BE DOING), my heart grows and grows to hold more and more!  I surmise my tear ducts are expanding as well. (Pictures below of the men in my ward wearing either pink ties or a pink ribbon pinned to their shirt/jacket.  I can’t even talk about this without -without!  Well, you know…  It makes me cry just like the picture of my granny and aunts in pink wigs at the benefit my community hosted for me.  I can’t even talk about it without -without!  Well, you know…)

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You. You have Unseen Pain, and you aren’t crazy and you aren’t alone and God sees you.  God is with you.  Even if you can’t feel Him personally, maybe you can feel Him through me as I breathe in your Unseen Pain and breathe out the love that is flowing so freely through my house and home this very night.  Indeed my cancer has become a conduit for service, and I am learning to receive.

Won’t you receive my empathy?  The Unseen Pain is real.  It is hard.  Let me hold it for a breath while you steal a little of my compassion.

In the midst of My Unseen Pain, I found out in a very powerful way that My Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ were the only two personages who SAW what no one else could.  They wrapped their arms and angels around me in those days, and my pain became consecrated and sacred.  I talked openly with them -and began a relationship with my Heavenly Mother -that was unfiltered, raw, and honest.  I learned to forget almost everything I’d been taught about God and began to find out for myself who He is in my life.  That’s what’s making this present separation so hard.  I know His arms, and they have gone from me.  But in his present quiet state, He whispered to me about you which means: He is with you.  He is aware of you.  He knows your pain and is ministering as only a Heavenly Father can.  Christ is with you.  He knows your pain and is intimately acquainted with every aspect of it -He has consecrated it with his blood, sweat, and tears.  He is ministering to you as only one can who has pure and perfect empathy and compassion.  As loving and uplifting words flood my newsfeed and you’re struggling to get out of bed, God knows.  As help and love come rushing through my doors at chariot speed and you witness while willing a few of your own bones to break, God knows.

He’s with YOU right now, seeing The Unseen with absolute and perfect clarity.  He is sending angels to both of us.  Mine wear Sketchers -yours wear glory.  I’m so sorry your pain is so cutting, deep and raw.  I’ll hold it a bit today, and I hope you’ll feel that moment of rest.

And now that I’ve poured out the words God quietly whispered, perhaps I’ll rest a bit as well.