Holding Fast to Christ Through Sickness
20 Feb 2020
A year ago, June Wong a member of CERC, received the news which confirmed her suspicion of the lump she felt on her neck — she was diagnosed with cancer. “The doctors told me that it was Stage 3 throat cancer and that I had to start radiotherapy and chemotherapy as soon as possible.”
After 7 weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, June has been declared by her oncologist cancer-free. Over dinner, looking tired but nonetheless cheerful, June or more fondly known as Aunty June among the CERC family, shares how understanding the gospel shaped the way she battled with cancer.
How are you feeling these days, Aunty June?
I’m feeling okay but I do get tired very quickly these days. I still can’t taste much of my food and I’m constantly parched because my saliva glands have temporarily stopped functioning as a result of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Also, I sleep sitting up these days because lying down makes my nose congested.
Parched throat and sleeping sitting up are small inconveniences, really. If you ask me, I have little to complain about because when I compare what I had to go through to what Jesus went through on the cross, it is really small in comparison.
We’re really glad that you are taking this with such maturity in the gospel. I’d like to dial back to when you first received the cancer diagnosis. What were your first thoughts when the doctor showed you your scans?
Well, it really just confirmed my suspicion. It happened at a time when my son was nearing the end of his cancer treatment. Yes, we were both diagnosed with the same kind of cancer. I felt a lump and knew I must have it checked out because of what my son went through.
I think because I saw what my son went through, I kind of knew what to expect while undergoing treatment. So, I just did what I had to.
Did you at any point felt resentful towards God, given what has happened?
No, I didn’t feel that way. I mean, I’m in my 60s now and have lived my life. But more than that, my assurance came from the fact knowing that if I die, I’ll be going home to my Father in heaven. That was the biggest assurance for me.
Amen to that. Many of us in CERC were very encouraged to see that you kept coming for Sunday gatherings throughout the treatment. Frankly, most of us would have expected you to rest at home…
For this, I really thank God for being merciful to me. I didn’t suffer much from the effects of chemotherapy. For the most part, I felt like my normal self. I could do gardening, I went to work on most days and just continued doing what I did every day.
It was only mid-way through the treatment that I started to feel the pain in my throat and on my neck – where it was “burnt” by the treatment. I didn’t have the side effects of vomiting, which is something common among chemotherapy patients.
God has been very gracious to me.
Did you feel discouraged or upset with what was happening to you at any point throughout this difficult period?
I would say that I have been quite calm throughout the process. Perhaps, I can attribute it to what I remember from our CERC Camp last year where Reverend Phillip Jensen mentioned that it is normal for us to be sick because of the Fall. What would be abnormal is that if we don’t fall sick.
I really took this to heart and I had to remind myself several times that this is what it is like living in a fallen world. In Romans, it says that we are all under sin and we fall short of God’s glory.
However, it would be untruthful for me to say that I wasn’t upset even the slightest bit by this. My extremely painful throat which started at the end of the treatment has been most upsetting for me, especially during the nights when I’m unable to sleep because of it.
But, if you’re asking me if I feel like I’m forsaken by God? No, I don’t feel that way because I understand sickness is part of this fallen world and I truly trust in the Lord as my strength and my shepherd.
I’m sure many people have called or visited you to provide support and encouragement. What do you say to them?
Well, a lot of people will say that I look quite “okay” for a person that has undergone chemotherapy. Usually, I will tell them that I have to thank God for this because He has sustained me throughout this whole process.
Friends and family will try to encourage me, saying things like “You will be okay as long as you stay positive about this.” But I always try to remind them that it is so much more than just being positive about the situation. I tell them that the reason I can bear all of this is not from my own positivity or my own strength but because of God’s grace and mercy towards me.
It is really so much more than just a positive attitude towards sickness; it’s about the confidence in God’s grace and mercy that I have.
You know what? Even if this cancer relapses in the next 10 years or 15 years, etc. to me, these extra years are already considered a bonus. I’ll be 73 years old in 10 years’ time anyway. I have no regrets at all, especially since I know where I’m going after I die.
As Christians, this life is a long race. We can start well but we must also make sure we end it well. I am always encouraged by Hebrews 12 which calls us Christians to hold fast to Christ, not grow weary and grab on firmly to Him till the end.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2
Hebrews 12: 1-2