Cancer is talked about constantly. In the world of science, it is the thing to research. In the news, it is the thing to talk about. But the real reason it’s talked about so often is because every single one of us is affected by it. All of us know someone who has had it. Many of us know someone who has died from it. Unfortunately, many of us know more than one person who has died from it.
This terrible disease affects us all in a dreadful way. It kills way too many people, and it is going to continue doing so because honestly we know very little about it. As I said, it’s been a heavily researched topic for decades. Billions of dollars have been funneled into attempts to cure cancer. Many methods have been found that can slow or minimize its effects. Few treatments have been found that aren’t just cutting it out of the body. And those few treatments often involve serious damage to the rest of the healthy body.
This is awful. It truly is. The main reason we can’t find a cure is because we don’t yet understand the beast. We know a few things, but this monster is complex. No two cancers are exactly alike. So even when we learn something about one cancer, it does not always translate to helping with others.
So what DO we know about ALL cancers? The one big thing that we’ve known for years is that normal healthy cells have a kill switch built into their DNA. They are able to die once they have completed their job in the body. Cancerous cells have disabled this kill switch. These cancer cells just reproduce with reckless abandon, well past the healthy point. This mutation is why you have large tumorous masses. This abundance of cells will not die for the good of the body.
Even though we don’t know much about cancer, I think it’s interesting that this is the one big thing that we do know. I think that we should each take some time to think on this one point.
We often hear cancer used as a metaphor. “…That terrible thing is a cancer upon our society,” etc. So we have already done the work of relating this cancer to our human actions, but I don’t think we’ve really let it sink in.
Cancer is a perfect metaphor for most of the atrocities that are ruining our society today.
We as humans have a set human nature that is inside of all of us. The same is true about the healthy cells in our body; they have a set of rules that they live by. A healthy cell is made for a single purpose. That purpose helps the body as a whole to function. But the cell is also programmed to die through apoptosis. If it doesn’t, it will hurt the body as a whole.
The cancerous cells skip that last part. They don’t want to die. They want to keep going and don’t care if they are killing the body. (Yes I know cells don’t have emotions, it’s a metaphor, keep going)
Over and over again in the Bible we are told to die to ourselves. It is only through this we shall fully realize our calling. In the gospels Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” We are called to be like the healthy cells. In order to truly benefit the body and to serve our complete purpose on this earth, dying is part of it. We must die to our own longings and wants and needs and lay them down for the good of the whole.
When we are selfish we are like the cancer cells. When we start to believe that our needs are greater than the whole’s, we make the choice not to die to ourselves. We choose our comfort over the comfort and happiness of others. Just like what happens in the human body, when we refuse to die to ourselves we are hurting the body. We are hurting other people with our own pride and selfishness. Oftentimes we don’t see that hurt. We can lie to ourselves and say that this sin doesn’t hurt anyone, but we are wrong. Every sin hurts God, yourself, and others. We are a body of Christ and we are all connected.
So we hate literal cancer. We hate that it rampages out of control. We hate that the human body is not working like it is supposed to. We hate the pain that it causes so many. So why do we ignore or brush off our own selfish actions? Why don’t we have the same hatred for how our prideful actions hurt the body of Christ like we do the cancer that hurts our physical bodies?
The pain of this life is temporary. That can mean the pain of cancer or the pain it takes to be humble and think of others because sometimes that can be painful too. But the pain of hell is forever. So too is the joy of heaven forever. I do not understand why we constantly are choosing our selfish wants of this life over the joy that we will receive in heaven. I don’t understand it, but it’s something I too struggle with. It is when I forget the pain I cause that I fall into sin. If we can keep this pain of the human race in the front of our minds, maybe we will act more kindly. Maybe we will choose to help our neighbors. Maybe.