By Patti Cappa
Executive Director – Marble Retreat Founder
God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song. – Isaiah 12:2
I’ve often thought about the relationship between fear and faith. What is a healthy balance? It is healthy to have a good dose of fear, because that can keep us from doing some pretty dangerous things. However, if we allow our lives to be ruled by fear, we can be disabled. Fear can push faith right out of one’s life. I was determined to live with both, and a crisis defined this for me.
In mid April 2007 as I was trying to fall asleep, I had the weird thought that there was something abnormal inside my abdomen on the right side; something didn’t feel quite right. A wave of anxiety and fear come over me, and I prayed, Oh God, I’d better go to the doctor.
I told my husband, Steve, the next morning that I would make an appointment on my next day off for a routine check-up. It would be good to have some lab work done anyway.
I continued to do normal things, including running three miles several times that week, working, sleeping, well and eating. Everything seemed to be okay.
Though I felt well, I kept my doctor’s appointment. And, I’m so glad I did. A series of tests revealed a grapefruit-sized cancerous tumor in and around my kidney called a renal cell carcinoma. The month of May was devoted to surgery and recovery. I was grateful that the cancer was contained in the kidney and my prognosis was good. No further treatment was required, although as a cancer survivor I’ll have regular check-ups and evaluations to assure that my body remains cancer-free.
When the doctor told I had a tumor my reaction was quite casual: “Yeah, I figured that’s what it was.” Poor Steve was in shock. A few scriptures that have sustained me for several years came to mind often during the week before surgery. I kept thinking and telling Steve, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Miraculously, I was not afraid. Honestly, I’ve been more afraid of public speaking than I was as I was rolled into that operating room!
I am still amazed and blessed by this sense of peace and contentment I experienced. In pre-op I said, Wow, Lord, I have been afraid of some pretty stupid stuff in my life and I am not scared now when I should be. I can only say that even though I’ve faced the very real possibility of my own death-renal cell carcinoma is very lethal if metastasized-I am less afraid of death than I was before my experience. I believe there will be a great big welcome for me in heaven, and that gives me comfort.
Another interesting thing happened to me during this time. Many people around the world were praying for me. I felt as if I was going into surgery flanked on all sides by prayer warriors. I didn’t ask God for much that week except comfort my family. I recited the truths of the scripture I had in my heart, and I knew people were praying for me even when I was unable to pray for myself. It was a very humbling experience. I didn’t ask God to keep the cancer contained in my kidney, though I listened to others pray that on my behalf. I simply believed that’s what the surgeon would find. My job was to be as rested, calm and well-nourished I could be in preparation for my operation.
One of the best things we can do with fear is let it inform us, ask why we have it, and decide if it’s real or imagined and behave accordingly. I used to think my fears were pretty useless and to be honest, most of them were.
Along the way, faith took over for me when I needed it most. The multitude of prayers on my behalf humbled me, carrying me from fear to faith.