Wow. Well the title is self-explanatory, and honestly, the picture will surprise exactly no one who even remotely knows me. Still, I have Thoughts. So here goes:
10 years of remission is a BIG deal. Sorry to those who hear me talk about remission and cancer or read my writing here on the subject. But also I’m not that sorry because it’s a BIG freaking deal.
I have lots of conversations in my head, mostly due to the fact that I’m highly indecisive and have the curse of seeing things from many perspectives and sides–though I’m starting to see that as a gift at times. Still, the inner critic or naysayer in me thinks, “Come on, Hannah; people don’t want to hear you banging the drum of cancer over and over again.” Or, the naysayer within argues that I shouldn’t celebrate so many dates or year after year, asking, “But Hannah, don’t you think you’re kind of milking this whole ‘cancerversary’ thing??”
Okay, first of all, naysayer within: CANCER. The Big C. The C Word. Maybe I’m holding on to the cancer card still, but I had cancer, and now I don’t. That’s a big freaking deal. And because of that, I feel like I’m allowed to celebrate multiple dates throughout the year and also year after year due to that simple reality.
But secondly (and more meaningfully): altars. All throughout scripture, God instructs His people to build altars as a way of commemorating the great things He has done. I think the concept of “altars” is important both individually and corporately.
I’ve had Psalm 145:4 framed on my wall across 3 states and at least 5 apartments with the phrase, “My Mission” written below it. It says, “One generation will commend Your works to the next; they will tell of Your mighty acts.” Corporately, I believe that our ministry on earth is to commend God’s works to the next generation–to “go and tell” what God has done to those around us and those who follow us. We may be in the 100th retelling of our stories, of what God has done and is doing in our lives, but for many listeners, it will be the first time they’re hearing those stories.
Individually, the idea of building an altar is a practice critical to my survival, a lifeline of sorts. If remembering these dates–my diagnosis date, my remission date, and my freedom from chemo date–and celebrating them is, at its most basic level, a way for me to remind myself of God’s goodness in my own life, then sign me up for that. Who doesn’t need those reminders?!?
I have many melancholic, pity-party days, days where I start to doubt and think, “When’s it my turn, Lord?!?” when I lose sight of all the amazing things He’s already done and focus instead on what I lack. So I will take any and all of the sobering moments of reflecting on God’s pure goodness and faithfulness via concrete examples in my own life that I can get. I need those reminders to get me through the valleys, the moments between revelation and hope, those “dark night of the soul” moments.
Scripture is also full of people who’ve forgotten God’s amazing work in their own lives–cue Israel in the 40 years of desert wandering or the cycle of sin-judgement-repentance in the era of judges or countless other examples. I forget, too, and I hate that I do; I so don’t want to be Israel, moving from mountaintop experience to grumbling all in a snap, so it’s important to remember.
I love everything about Lauren Daigle’s “Look Up Child” album, and the song “Remember” touches on this idea of altars and remembrance so poignantly. She sings:
“In the darkest hour, when I cannot breathe / Fear is on my chest, the weight of the world on me. / Everything is crashing down, everything I had known / When I wonder if I’m all alone /
I remember, I remember / You have always been faithful to me. / I remember, I remember / Even when my own eyes could not see. / You were there, always there /
I will lift my eyes even in the pain / Above all the lies, I know You can make a way. / I have seen giants fall, I have seen mountains move. / I have seen waters part because of You.”
The chorus repeats, as does the line, “I can’t stop thinking about Your goodness,” which crescendos into a strong and powerful anthem.
Those lyrics, along with so many Psalms, capture what 10 years of remission and “cancerversaries” mean to me: moments to remember that God has always been faithful to me–pre-cancer, during cancer, and post-cancer–and that He is good.
I have seen proverbial mountains move and waters part, and therefore, I will tell of His wonders and continue to celebrate the heck out of the good things He’s done–for the sake of the next generation and especially as a reminder to myself in the fearful, lonely, and doubting days. I choose to remember that He has always been good to me, and so today, I celebrate–once again–the gift of life and of the past decade plus the hope for tomorrow in Him.