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A bout with cancer reminded me not to worry

Dave Dugdale CC

Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR - published on 03/06/17

People get so anxious worrying about yesterday or tomorrow that they miss out on today.

Let me tell you when it is not good to be positive.

In early 2009, I got a call from my doctor informing me that my recent biopsy results came back and that they were positive. This was not what he or I had hoped for.

It is a frightful moment in one’s life to test positive for cancer. You’re overcome with floods of fears, and questions like, “Am I going to die?” Life stands still.

My doctor discussed with me the possible treatment options and other practicalities. I’m not sure I really heard much of what he said after, “We have to wait until we determine the type and stage of the cancer.” Cancer is a terrible “C” word, especially when it is used to label you.

It was a challenging time – appointments with more doctors, more tests and scans, an eight-week regimen of 40 radiation sessions and ultimately surgery. Finally, after seven years I am deemed cancer-free. Thanks be to God and the Teramanna Cancer Center at Trinity Hospital, Steubenville, OH.

We’ve just heard at Mass the exhortation from St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry…Why are you anxious about…Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Mt 6:25, 28, 34).

It is significant that the English word “worry” is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word, worien, that means “to strangle” or “to choke.” Needless to say, worrying about things, especially those over which we have no control, chokes us. People get so anxious worrying about yesterday or tomorrow that they miss out on today.

What did I learn during those very worrisome and anxious months? Simply, know what you know; and what you don’t know, you do not know – PERIOD. Stick to the facts. Don’t catastrophize, creating your own dragons of unknown fears. And remember to BREATHE!

Too quickly, we jump into the dark lair of catastrophe and fear-dragons, presumptions and assumptions; we choke on our worries and anxieties.

In my book of 120 Inspiring Stories for Preaching, Teaching and Public Speaking, I share a little fable that illustrates the point.

One day, Mr. Facts, Mr. Faith and Mr. Feelings were walking along on the top of a wall. Suddenly, Mr. Feelings, not noted for his good balance, stumbled and started to fall from the wall. He reached out and grabbed Mr. Faith pulling him down. Fortunately, Mr. Facts had a good grasp of the situation; he was not moved easily.

Mr. Facts was able to help Mr. Faith get back up, and between Facts and Faith, they were able to help Mr. Feelings get back up on the wall. The three continued their journey along the wall, though Mr. Feelings was quite shaky the whole time.

So, again, know what you know; and what you don’t know, you do not know – PERIOD. Stick to the facts.

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