“How are you doing?”
Dr. Curiel asked me this when I got to Hope4Cancer Hospital in Tijuana at the beginning of this spring. (He is a counselor there with a medical degree).
I couldn’t answer. My mind wanted to say the usual, “Fine.” But I knew that wasn’t why I was on a small sofa in his office across from him. He was there to help me explore things that I may or may not want to explore. My logical brain wrestled with how to answer this question correctly. There were so many thoughts flying around and then emotions got involved.
I wanted to shout at him:
“What do you mean, How am I doing??? I’m at a cancer clinic in Tijuana!!!!” But didn’t.
My emotions welled up. Almost in tears, the thing that came out of me that hour with him was this: I had shame.
I felt ashamed to let my body get this cancer. It was my fault! It felt shameful that people had to donate money to take care of this problem: ME! I was the problem!
Could this not have been prevented? With all my prayers, my self-help psychology readings, my searching for answers over the years, and still this catastrophe happened in my life. I felt so bad having dragged my husband and children down this deep hole with me! I was a disgrace to them in my mind. And now I was
completely undone and humiliated for causing all this commotion.
Normally, I was happy staying in the background and working quietly. Now being the center of attention was more than awkward, and for something I was not proud of! I felt small yet there was a spotlight on me. And I didn’t like it at all.
I was not aware all of this was going on inside of me. Being so focused on trying to get through each day; dealing with pain and bleeding had my full attention. My emotions had tunneled down deep into my soul. I was in survival mode. Figuring out this process didn’t come until later on when I had time to think about it all. That is what this blog post series is about. The exposing of the vulnerability and finding out where shame came in.
Crawling on my belly to squeeze through parts of the caverns of shame and other emotions, I had to examine which things were true, or not true. I had to admit I was in a pickle. Embracing my situation was the best thing to do. I had to work toward understanding the emotions that emerged and then slowly wade through the muck at the bottom of the cave and find out all the truth I could about it.
Webster's 1828 Dictionary says Shame is “a painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by the exposure of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal. Shame is particularly excited by the disclosure of actions that in the view of men, are mean and degrading. Hence it is often or always manifested by a downcast look or by blushes, called confusion of face.”
Shame causes us to withdraw from our loved ones, and society. The word CANCER makes people run. No one knows what to do or say to someone diagnosed with cancer. It has a death sentence in most people's minds that stops their tongue. It's awkward for most to talk about things that really matter. So small-talkers are confused and afraid of conversations with someone who has this disease.
Psalm 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
I was downcast both inside and out. This certainly was painful to go through and it was necessary. Examining my thoughts, my words, and where I was currently, I could see there were several things in the muck that was true. I could clearly see the things that weren’t true about me, about my situation. And shining the light on the help, love, and support I was receiving was so encouraging. There were so many of my family and friends believed in me.
What does David do with shame in this Psalm? He turns to the Lord instead of looking at himself.
The opposite of shame is dignity. I didn’t feel this dignity. Yet being treated with dignity by all those that were in the clinic helped me. My husband was so tenderhearted to me during this time. He was in tune with me. Our Family and friends were extremely kind and supportive. My kids were incredible throughout the whole thing!
I could see they were treating me with dignity; even though I wasn’t being that kind to myself. What did they know that I didn’t?
Wikipedia says dignity is “the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake and to be treated ethically.”
Everyone at Hope4Cancer, my family, friends, and acquaintances were considering me to be worthy of value and respect. But as you will see in the next blog post, I wasn’t as kind to myself.
Psalm 34:5 They looked unto Him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
I am a new creature: 2 Corinthians 5:17
I am part of a chosen generation, part of a royal priesthood, a holy nation; a peculiar people; I was called out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 1:9
I am adopted as a His child. Ephesians 1:5
I have been redeemed by His blood; my sins are forgiven. Ephesians 1:7
I am a daughter and an heir to the King of Kings. Galatians 4:7
There are so many more things that I am in Christ. These are but a few of them.
Reminding myself of these truths helped relieve the pressure and pain of the shame that had taken hold of me. At Hope4Cancer and beyond that, I have shared this with the people that have cancer. Many said they could relate to this shame. There have been some other discoveries about facing my own feelings and fears about having a disease that required my life. I knew heading into Hope4Cancer Hospital, that I would have to be willing to explore the depths of my soul. I had to be open with the doctors whose job it is to help me overcome; by spelunking into caverns that I didn’t know were there. No one was welcome to venture into these caves until now. The result of doing this hard work was facing many fears and finding out they didn't belong to me.
There is more that came up as I wriggled through the crevasses of my whole being. The mind, soul, spirit, and body are inextricably fused. If there are fears, or lies-believed that live in one place (i.e. the mind, the soul, the spirit), the body is very good about warning us that something is amiss. Cancer is one of those warnings. So are many, but not all, diseases. Knowing that Hope4Cancer wanted to take me into those places, to help make me whole again, I knew I had to embrace this task. I prayed a lot. There were times, I had to rely on the prayers of so many saints that were lifting me up. It was tough while I was in it; not able to see any light at the end of the tunnel. The caves were dark scary places. I kept reminding myself I was not alone. How could I be? when others had promised to pray for me for 40 days? And when my cancer treatments were extended from the initial three weeks to nine weeks (which included 35 radiation visits), I heard from so many friends and even strangers who promised to pray for me.
I realized the shame was a lie from the enemy to keep me down in the depths of darkness. Learning this helped me want to be healed and fight for my life. I had to keep my focus on the hope of what lay ahead. Truly, they assisted me to keep going and have hope for my future. I only had three visits with Dr. Curiel. But I was so encouraged by the direction he took me, that I kept asking God for more answers.
My purpose in being vulnerable with you is this, there is a strong possibility when others are confronted with a diagnosis, a disease, or other life-altering challenges, have similar thoughts as they have to fight through it. The process doesn’t happen when you are daily dealing with the challenge nor does it happen overnight. Some people don’t want to deal with it at all. Unfortunately, this last one can hinder proper healing. Being willing, and open to go into scary places takes greater courage than facing a physical battle that everyone can see happening. Facing an inner giant, or precipice, or what-have-you, will bring greater reward in the long run. Most importantly, it is a grand testimony to all who witness the changes it does bring.
I am writing this for those in the throes of challenges. And for those that are the caregivers, family, and friends of those going through these life-altering changes. It is written here to help give understanding. Most, not all, go through deep feelings that they find hard to express. It almost always has to do with shame; if shame has a foothold in the person. Helping with these emotions will help with the healing of the person.
Proverbs 23:7 As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
How important is it to you to make sure what is in your heart, is the truth?
by Monica DuBois