lucky — adjective \ˈlə-kē\
: having good luck
: producing a good result by chance : resulting from good luck
I shouldn’t read about cancer online. I know from personal experience that doing Google searches of symptoms and prognoses and treatment options isn’t empowering like I wish it would be. Instead, one link leads to the next, and within minutes, I’m reduced to tears. Especially when researching my particular brand of cancer. The statistics are grim, and I am weak.
I know that about myself.
But sometimes, when I see a headline about new research or scientific breakthroughs, I can’t help myself. Last week, I found myself slumping when I read about new research suggesting that “two-thirds of cancers may simply be due to bad luck rather than to hereditary and environmental factors, which have dominated cancer research and hopes for prevention.”
Bad luck? I didn’t need millions of dollars of research to tell me that cancer is bad luck. Because the truth is, even if I fall into a high risk category, not everyone with the same genes or the same habits gets cancer. Only some people. Only the ones with bad luck, apparently. The ones like me.
What’s needed then, commentators suggested, is earlier and better detection and more effective treatments. As someone who has endured the physical and emotional rigors of effective treatment and routinely experiences the stress and frustration of detection regimens every three months, this does not feel very hopeful. Especially if bad luck is still lurking around the corner.
Then today, I read this: “By the middle of the century, [cancer] could be more or less eliminated for most age groups, new research says.”
I feel tears form in my eyes, because the year 2050 could be in my lifetime. My heart stirs because I imagine if I live to be 80—the age I have often used as an expression of successfully beating cancer—then I will, in fact, have successfully beaten cancer. And from where I sit, cancer-free for almost two years, that suddenly seems like a possibility.
But it takes only a minute or two for me to realize that many friends and family members were this close to reaching that mid-century goal and missed it. I think about diseases in the past that were cured or eradicated and how many people died just before the cure. I also remember other diseases that were “eliminated” but then seem to show up again later as the population grows and changes, like tuberculosis.
I also wonder how the results of both sets of research could be true at once: cancer is just the result of bad luck, but it will soon be gone. Is humanity suddenly about to get lucky?
In my Christian vernacular, words like “lucky” fall empty, because truthfully, I believe luck has nothing to do with the events of my life or the acquisition of disease or the course of world history. We can cross our fingers and knock on wood and throw salt over our shoulders all we want; in my mind, luck’s got nothing to do with it.
Sometimes, Christians swap “blessed” for “luck,” as in “Be Blessed” instead of “Goodluck.” I suppose that works on some level, though really “blessed” is more about being happy than resting in the hope of favorable odds. If in pronouncing the well-wishes, we mean, “Be happy no matter the outcome,” then maybe we’re using the word well.
The bottom line is this: I believe God is more powerful than I can imagine over cancer and all sorts of difficulties that happen. I believe He’s more loving than I—or you or you or you—deserve, and He has a plan that turns bad things on their head for good if we will love him back. I also believe the world, though still amazing and beautiful in many ways, has been corrupted by sin all the way down to our DNA, and God restrains himself in fixing it for purposes I can’t fully understand. It’s not bad luck that cause cancerous mutations of cells. It’s DNA that doesn’t work the way it was designed. Not now, anyway. But I also believe that one day, we will be restored back to the way we were created—people, animals, plants, culture—all of it. Because it’s not the elimination of cancer that brings hope to humanity—or me. It’s Jesus—his daily presence with us and his future presence promised to us.
Truth is, I’ll probably keep reading about cancer online, at least occasionally. Because in this life, it matters what my cells do and whether or not the place I live or the food I eat or the activities I engage in harm me or do me good. But I’ll also keep hoping in Jesus, because only in him will all things, all the way down to our DNA, finally be made right again.
And though I may not be lucky, that news makes me as happy as can be.
WORD COUNT: 791
What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.