Considering our outrage at cancer

What using bad words about cancer gets right

Considering our outrage at cancer


It’s a word you never want to hear. But most of us have been affected by it in some way.

A few weeks ago, a well-respected comic book writer/artist and animator, Darwyn Cooke, died shortly after revealing he had cancer. Around the same time, Canadian music fans learned Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, had terminal brain cancer. About two years ago, I learned a family member I dearly loved had cancer. He fought hard, but died in 2015.

Almost all of us know some one who has lost the fight. And we’ve all probably seen at least one status update or tweet hashtagged with the f-word. When I see that word come out… Yeah, I know—many of us don’t like to use this kind of language.[1. I try to avoid it, but it occasionally happens.] However, there is a sense in which it seems to be the only thing that captures the outrage we feel about cancer.

And I think that’s right—at least to some degree.

What’s right about our outrage?

I have yet to see someone approach cancer with a blasé reaction. It inspires outrage. The disease itself is cruel. It is unrelenting. It is merciless and no respecter of persons. It confronts us with our own mortality in a way few other things do.

And I think that’s the biggest issue: when cancer strikes, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all going to die. And deep down, every one of us knows death is unnatural. Death is an interloper. It doesn’t belong in this world. Yet it is here. And we can’t eliminate it, try as we might.

This is what we’re reminded of every single time news of this illness comes. And that’s why it’s write (at least in one sense) to feel outraged over it. But, even so, there is not only bad news. There is something good—something we need to remember: death doesn’t get the last word.

Jesus stole that right away from death when he defeated it. When Jesus left his grave clothes behind, he sent a message: the death of death has begun. And there is a day coming when death will finally have no place, and where diseases like cancer will be no more. A day when everything that grieves us will be gone. When illness will never again afflict us. When our cells will never again turn against us. When there will be no need for chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or experimental surgeries. When the last hospice will close because no one needs it anymore.

This is the day when Jesus returns; the day he fulfills his promise to make all things new.

Looking forward to the death of death

And that’s what prevents me not just from using hashtags with curse words when I hear about cancer, but from feeling despair, even as I grieve. Cancer is cruel and merciless. It is a powerful tool of death. It is a blight. I want it to be gone.

And the good news is, I know it will. I know the death of death is coming.

Friends, do not lose hope. Grieve, yes. Hate death, yes. Weep and mourn with those who mourn, yes. But do not lose hope: Jesus is coming. He is making all things new. And someday, cancer will be no more.

Photo via Visual hunt

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