My Trauma with Cancer and Death
I had my first counseling session recently. We talked over several things, I felt like I was speeding them through my life to get them caught up, but the one thing that stuck out that still rings was the answer they gave to a question I had.
“Did I experience trauma?” I asked.
“Yes, Samuel, you went through trauma,” they answered.
I spoke that maybe once before in my life that I had trauma but that was the first moment in my life I accepted the fact. My mom’s cancer and death were a traumatic event for me.
Now, I want to share it here. I do not know if this will be helpful to anyone, but I know it will be helpful for me.
I was around the age of thirteen or fourteen when my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was having minor health problems, so my dad took her to the hospital. He spent Thanksgiving Day eating in a hospital cafeteria. He had cold turkey and soggy mashed potatoes by himself. Being homeschooled, my three siblings and I decided to make some home video skits as a gift for them when they came home.
I will be honest; my memory is fuzzy here. I do not know why but I do not remember the conversation we had as a family about the results of the tests. I just remember the skits we made for them to give them a smile. Soon after my older sister went off to college out of state and being the second oldest, responsibilities fell on me that is hard for anyone to take on.
Death of a Childhood
The first time I got a driving permit I used it to drive my mom to the hospital forty-five minutes away for her chemo treatment every Wednesday. I would grab lunch across the street at Panara Bread for us and read a fiction book about knights. I never finished that book. Once she was done, which took about two to three hours, I would drive her back home. I would try to drive a little slower to keep her from getting carsick. Most days when we got home, she would throw up, take more medicine, and go to bed for a nap. I remember vividly standing in the living room hearing my mom crying in her bedroom after throwing up. I am glad I was able to be home and do what I could to help. However, it did not fix it and that is okay.
It is not your fault, it is not my fault, when we help the people, we love in pain but are not able to fix them. Your help is not a waste.
After that, I would have an hour or two before I would leave for church that night. A great church in a town that revolved around high school football. Being one of the few people, if not the only person, that did not go to that high school, it made one feel on the outside. Not just the football but more of the whiplash of taking care of my mother one hour to then being around teens talking about school drama, teacher’s assignments, and inside jokes. It can weigh on the soul, even if you don’t know it does.
I still have best friends from that time that I am still in touch with and love those brothers deeply. Men who saw a brother hurting on several dark days and did their best to help, even if they did not know how to carry that baggage. All the while, I secretly sought control, comfort, and an escape of any kind, even in sin.
Effects of Porn
I have been clean of porn for about the past ten months. Before that, I had been a secret porn addict for more than fifteen years. Like most young men, and a growing number of women, I was exposed around thirteen if not earlier. I had sought it out on my own accord through the internet. Looking back now with a sober head and heart I see how I used it to try and escape from the pains of the reality I was in. To have some control as I felt like everything around me was out of my hand. As if everything I tried to do was not enough to save my mom. However, Satan has a dangerous way of not being satisfied with us just us sinning, he wants more.
Porn would send me into a sinking spell of shame, believing that I could not go to Christ immediately after I sinned, that I had to spend time with my own self-loathing before God will grant me into his presences.
Before I continue, I must speak truth to that lie.
The thought that you cannot go to God immediately after you sin is a lie from the pit of Hell. No matter your state or what sin you committed, God will accept you like the Father to the Prodigal Son. The Father did not wait for his Son to walk the road alone with his head down in shame but the Father met the Son where he was. (Luke 15:11-32)
God will always meet you where you are, even if it is a millisecond after your sin. He will always have open arms running toward you. Always.
Another way Satan used porn was by numbing me to the pain and trauma I was in due to my mom’s cancer and death. Several people told me after my mom passed that that I grieved well. I did not believe them as I was looking at porn almost nightly for a season.
Porn is a deadly thing. Beyond fueling the sex trade and devaluing the participants and users, it can still find other ways to destroy. I am starting to learn that it may have stunted my grieving process and with pride’s help pushed a mask up of “I’m fine because I’m that guy who grieves well.” A process now that has resumed with its own pains but with even better healing.
Before moving on, I know some will ask how I overcame porn as many godly men and women are trapped by this secret beast. The only answer I can give is to give up. I took some measures for three months to cut out any outlets that lead to it and to pray. However, I did not pray for strength but told God that I could not do it anymore. That He needed to work a miracle and He did. What I thought would be a thorn in my side for the rest of my days, He removed and even took the desire of it away. I did not stop praying for protection, but I thank him more for the miracle that He did.
My Mother’s Passing
My mother had victories and setbacks as the years moved on. It began to turn for the worst in 2011. Talks of admitting her to hospice came up after I graduated and started looking at college. The cancer that started in her colon moved to her lung and then to the base of her skull. She had so much chemo and radiation that there was nothing more they could do. I moved myself into my dorm room with the help of some new friends from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, some I am still best of friends with.
I remember vividly walking up the stairs to my room with my sister and her husband on a weekday afternoon. My older sister introduced the idea into my mind that mom may not make it. The number of times that I prayed for her to get better came to me and it was not a lot. Guilt and shame seeped in that I did not pray enough for my own dying mother.
A month later, on October 20th, 2011, I was getting ready for my first day at my first job when my dad called. He said that it was time. I drove home cursing God at the top of my lungs and listening to Heron Blue by Sun Kil Moon. Getting there I became quiet as my father was at my mother’s bedside reading Isaiah to her. He is a continual pillar of faith and strength.
My grandfather was picking up my younger siblings from their activities while my older sister was driving over with her husband from Oklahoma. Both my grandmothers were there along with hospice. The funeral people were on their way. I have to this day never seen my ninety-eight-year-old grandmother in so much sorrow then that day. She did not utter a word as she entered the room to watch her daughter die. Her eyes spoke the grieving of her soul. Hospice explained to us what was happening to my mom’s physical body as it began to give way. The right side of her face that had been drooping from the pressure of the cancer. It began to droop even more where she could not see out of her right eye. She told my father how to take care of my younger brother, but there were no final words to me. I do not remember if I said anything to her at all when I entered, not even a goodbye.
She then passed away.
My father wept on my shoulder saying he was not ready for any of this, and neither was I. The cancer, the porn, the loneliness, the responsibilities, the death. I wasn’t ready for any of it. All because of the fall of man, of the sin through Adam and Eve. No matter if you have been through trauma or not, we all have felt the pains of their actions from the beginning of time. Even when we did not ask for it or have any hand in bringing it upon ourselves.
For many years I knew the truth that I did not do anything wrong to cause my mom to get cancer and die. However, the feeling that I did was there, and I let it grow. I let it sit for years that my secret sin with porn was the cause of my mom’s death. Though my mind knew that karma is a lie, I felt like it was real. This placed me in an unhealthy spot blaming myself for something that was not my fault. I blamed myself that I did not pray enough for my mom. That if I could have prayed more, done more, read the Bible more, my mom would still be here.
However, that is not true. God was not punishing me for secret sin, and He did answer my prayers, even when I did not pray. The Spirit prayed on my behalf. My mom is saved and is healed in heaven. I did what I could do and that was enough. I did enough.
This may all sound like the ramblings of a man who should just say this to their counselor, which I am. However, I am learning there is power in speaking out the thoughts, the feelings, you are scared to say. Even if it just between you and Christ.
Once there was a Son who had an awful day at school. He blamed his Father for sending him to that school. He chose to never speak to his Father about it. Bitterness grew in the Son’s heart and he let it grow even when he left for college. The Son never returned or spoke to his Father again.
Another Son was sent to the same school and had the same awful day as the first Son. He came home and blamed his Father for it but told him everything on his mind and heart. The Son told his Father all he thought and felt even if it was untrue and insulting to the Father. The Father listened to it all. Once the Son was done, the Father picked him up and gave him a hug. The Son never found out why it was an awful day or why his Father sent him to that school but he did feel his Father’s love that day. He would continue to talk to his Father for the rest of his days.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
4/19/2022 05:49:54 am
I’m very grateful for your God given courage. I know your mother is proud of you and I know God is glorified! Yes dear Samuel, you have written well and I pray you have healing through and through! Most people turn away from the suffering on this earth. Yet our Lord suffered, and I won’t turn away because I don’t want to miss any lessons God has for us. Darling Agnes, and I love her with all my heart, kept me informed of all things Donna when she was in her battle. She spoke of Ruby’s broken heart and I prayed for your whole family at that time. Agnes is someone I will never forget and I truly know becoming friends with her, is a gift from our kind Father.
4/19/2022 10:16:48 am
Samuel, this is an amazing reflection of the journey and trauma you have experienced. I so appreciate you sharing this intimate part of your life and I do believe it will help others. Your mom was so important to my life as well and she would be so very very proud of you!!!
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