Friday, September 3, 2010

Making Peace With Cancer and Myself

Today's post is from Maura Bivens

After the shock of receiving the diagnosis of stage 4 cancer simmered down, I think I did what most people would do; I examined my life. I was told that, based on statistics, I had anywhere from 12 to 18 months to live, depending on how well I responded to chemo.

I concentrated on my “love walk”, starting with the obvious. Who did I need to treat more lovingly and with more respect? I gained a nice professional relationship with a former employer, and learned that although I will never get along with one of my sisters, I can definitely treat her with more respect.

Next was my family. I always longed for my house to be more peaceful. My kids are now ages 11, 7, and 4 and it is still very much an ongoing challenge. Although I still lose my patience on a regular basis, now we enjoy so many moments that might have gotten lost. Whether I am jumping off the diving board at the public pool with the kids, or just coloring at the table, we are making extraordinary memories out of the ordinary.

Was there any other area that kept me from peace and from God? Was there any more resentment? Yes, there was one: the cancer itself. Cancer is not a parasite, or a virus that invaded my body. Cancer is a mutation of cells- my own cells!

It took a long time for me to stop feeling betrayed by my own body. How could my own breasts try to kill me? I resented the cancer for making it so hard for me to make decisions for my children’s school or sports teams, not knowing when I would be in or out of treatment from one week to the next. I resented the cancer for making me dependant on other people for so much. I love serving, not being served! Stupid cancer. I hate it.

One of the reasons I help with confirmation class and lead the middle school youth group with my husband is the awkwardness of that age group. It is so important to get them to realize who they are in Christ, so they can learn who they are. I would never allow any self-loathing. I would say to them, “God doesn’t make junk.” “God has a plan for you- not to harm you but to make you prosper.” “You are a child of God.” Right back at you, Mrs. Bivens! I needed to accept the part of my body that is the cancer.

I started to panic when well meaning people would try to encourage me with metaphors of war. “Keep fighting!” “Don’t give up!” “You can beat this!” I don’t want to fight anymore. I am tired of fighting, but I don’t feel like I am giving up. As excited as I am to be with Jesus and have no more suffering, I don’t feel like God is done with me yet! I feel like I still have so much of God’s work to do here on earth!

So what is the opposite of fighting? Is it giving up? No, it’s peace. I want to have peace with my body, not war. My doctor had explained that this is not a sprint to “cure” - it is terminal. This is a marathon to keep the disease at bay while trying to maintain the quality of life that is so important to me.

I did respond to chemo, and had a new radiation procedure that allows me to be back to the life I was used to. For now. I signed up for another year of helping with confirmation and youth group without knowing how long I can do it. That’s ok; it’s all God’s timing. I can serve Him while I’m sick, or I can serve Him while I am well. I would love nothing more than to see those kids make their confirmation this spring!

I made peace with the part of my body that is the cancer. I am no longer “battling cancer.” And as for me and my cancer, we will serve the Lord! I hope my cancer and I live together for a very long time.

Maura is no relation to Maura Sullivan in the book. That is coincidental. Maura Bivens, like many Mauras, is originally from Boston, MA, and now lives in Las Vegas, NV. She has been married for 16 years and has three kids. Formally a stand up and improvisational comic, Maura now works with the youth. Her journey with cancer can be followed at

Photo credits - all photos are
from the personal collection of Maura Bivens

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  1. Maura- thank you for sharing! You have an amazing spirit about you. It sounds as though you truly are "making peace not war" with your cancer.

    Thanks for the encouragement... I can serve Him while I’m sick, or I can serve Him while I am well. And those teens that you are working with will be blessed to see you on this journey and how Christ is glorified through it.

  2. Thank you for sharing this amazing story about how God takes every situation that we face and uses it for His glory.I am always amazed at how God gives us amazing grace to get through whatever situation we face.

  3. Thank you Maura for this excellent post! You are such an inspiration. My husband has cancer also. It was so helpful to hear this. I have a better understanding of what he's been trying to explain. He's tired of fighting and doesn't want any more radiation treatments, yet he isn't giving up. I have been having great difficulty with this. Thank you so much for articulating it so well!

    I love that you were able to take the roller coaster trip of cancer and view it through a positive lens. What a witness you are for God! To be going through so much, yet daily striving to serve Him.

  4. "Sparkle Pony" I can only say, that being your friend you have given us so much to be thankful for. Your spirit is like the energizer bunny we love you

  5. Maura, thanks for sharing such a powerful testimony. You've ministered to me today and I appreciate your perspective and faith. I'll be praying for you and your family, as well as for those who've shared in the previous comments about how cancer is affecting their families.