Cancer of the soul
The big “C-word” is a terrifying thing to have a physician tell us. It may be a death threat that will kill us sooner or later, or it may be a cancer that will be treatable with surgery and chemotherapy, but in curing us of this cancer, or putting it into “remission” we must endure painful therapy. Most of us are quite willing to undergo these painful surgeries and therapies in order to rid our bodies of this invader that would kill our bodies.
In addition to cancer of the bodies, we can also be afflicted with what I call “cancer of the soul” or something in our lives that is slowly killing us, causing us pain, making our lives miserable with grief and anxiety. What is this “cancer of the soul” as I call it?
In the body cancer is caused by some cells becoming “toxic.” It doesn’t matter if these cells are liver, skin, colon, bowel, lung or anything else, cancer cells have this in common no matter where they are located, they disrupt the functioning of the body so that the normal natural healthy body cannot produce the proteins or hormones or function normally in order to keep this complex chemical machine we call our “bodies” functioning. Cancer cells take up more space and resources than normal cells, and they keep on growing and multiplying so that they overwhelm the normal cells in the body. They cause pain when they push up against nerves, they starve the rest of the body by taking up nutrients that would feed the healthy cells, in short they are like a tape worm, they are parasites sucking the life out of the body.
“Cancer of the soul” is the same way, it is something in our lives that is toxic, uses up more of our resources than we can spare and stay healthy, and causes pain, sucking the very life out of our souls, minds and hearts. Even though generally this “cancer of the soul” doesn’t kill us outright, but it may make our lives a living misery. There are cases now being discovered where this “cancer of the soul’ actually does cause disease and even death by keeping our minds in a continual state of stress.
Stress hormones which are called cortisol or adrenaline are released by the body in times of danger, grief, or anything that threatens our survival. If you came upon a lion or tiger you would get a sudden burst of the hormone adrenaline and this would make you more able to “fight or flee” and at the same time adrenaline numbs your body to pain, so that in a fight, you might be gravely injured but you would not feel the injury until later. This would allow you to be stronger, faster, and more able to defend yourself, or to run like the wind to get away. On a short term basis these hormones are very beneficial, but on a long term basis, these hormones become toxic to the body’s normal healthy functioning. So living in a constant state of stress and fear damages both our body and our minds, our intellect and our judgment, and also can eventually lead to physical death from continual stress.
A pair of researchers did some research on the effects of stressful life events, and it is called “the Holmes and Rahe stress scale.
You can rate yourself on this scale, but you can also add “numbers” for anything else in your life that is causing stress, so that you don’t just have to use the “stress scale” exactly like Holmes and Rahe wrote it for research purposes, and it will give you a general idea of just how much stress you are enduring in your life, and see how this can have a very negative effect on your life.
One of the things that is probably in my opinion the worst stress in the world is when someone we love is an offender, abuser, user, or a “toxic” person, continually bringing problems into our lives.
This causes stress because we love this person, and yet they do things that hurt us or hurt themselves or both. When my son Patrick about age 15 morphed from the most wonderful child in the world to a “teenager from hell” breaking rules, committing criminal acts, and put himself on a road to prison, I was under tremendous stress trying to figure out a way to get him to see reason! I was under “mega stress,” and pain and grief. In short, I had “cancer of the soul and heart.”
I started to try to find “treatments” for my son and for myself. The pain was debilitating and kept me from functioning at my job as well as I normally could have, it kept my home life in a turmoil and when he finally as an adult committed a felony aggravated robbery and went to “big boy’s prison” I was devastated. My soul and heart were crushed that my beloved son would do such a thing. Yet, like many medical cancer patients, I was willing to try to find treatments of any kind. I tried to be supportive of him and let him know I loved him anyway. During the two years he served in prison on a five year sentence, I wrote him daily, sent commissary money, drove hundreds of miles to visit him, and even arranged for him to move back to Arkansas from Texas when he got out on parole.
Unfortunately, Patrick did not take advantage of this “support” and elected to move into the home of my husband’s niece in Texas…and I later learned he did not “go straight” for a single day and had no intention of doing so. Within five months after his release he murdered a 17 year old girl, Jessica Witt, http://familyarrested.com/jessica-witt/ because she turned him in to the police for using her grandfather’s credit card to run up $8,000 worth of purchases.
The day that the detective trying to find Jessica’s body called me to tell me that Patrick had killed this girl, I went into a tailspin of grief worse than I had ever experienced in my life. Pain in my heart and soul like death itself. And still I refused to accept that I had “cancer of the soul” and that that “cancer” was my beloved son. That only surgery to remove this “cancer” from my life would “cure” it. As long as I let that cancer remain, I would have continual pain that would cause me stress and distress. It would take drastic action to “cure” this problem.
Unfortunately, there generally is NO CURE for people who become “cancers” in our lives, who use and abuse others, rob, steal, attack and otherwise defy the laws of God and Mankind. Yet, many, like me, try continually to find some “cure” for these people who infest our souls, hearts, and families with grief, stress, illness and frustration except to remove them from our lives, just as you would have your doctor surgically remove a cancer from your body no matter how much that surgery would hurt if you knew it would cure you of this dread disorder. It is the same with “cancers of the soul” the only cure for us is to cut this “cancer” out of our lives. It hurts to cut out the son or daughter we bore and loved, or the man or woman we vowed to love forever, but only if these toxic people are removed from our lives can we recover.
It hurts to give up hope that someone we love is beyond redemption because they do not love us back, don’t love us enough to stop their bad behavior. Love is an action verb, not a “squishy feeling” in our hearts. We love our kids and we take care of them, try to guide them, provide for them, don’t abuse them, but nurture them, and that is LOVE.
Many times the toxic person in our lives may also be addicted to substances and we say “If he would just quit drinking/drugging everything would be okay” so we keep hoping that they will do what they say they will do and quit drinking/drugging and/or stealing to support this habit, and yet over and over they show that their behavior isn’t going to permanently change. We know that some people actually do quit drinking/drugging, so we keep up hope that our loved one will be one of the rare exceptions that does quit. I have a beloved grandson who had problems with substance abuse when he was in high school, but he is now 25 and substance free for years now. He still goes to AA meetings to help him remain substance free and I am so proud of him I could bust. Unfortunately, the percentage of substance abusers do not remain substance free and I know that it is a struggle for him, but the woman he loved would not put up with that and he knew that in order to keep her he had to be free of drug abuse. He put her first and changed his behavior because he loved her and he showed her that he loved her by changing his behavior. I was pleased to be at their wedding this past weekend. I have every confidence that he will remain drug and alcohol free because he has truly changed his behavior and shown his new wife over a period of years that he intends to do whatever it takes to make her happy.
There was a time though, when his parents set strict limits about his behavior. I have no doubt that the ones who love him would expect him to continue his changed behavior if he is to remain in their lives. That is as it should be. We cannot allow someone, no matter how much we love them, to remain in our lives if they are bringing pain and grief to us as a steady diet of pain.
I eventually saw that my son Patrick was not even sorry for his crimes, but actually proud of them. It broke my heart to look at the man my child had become and realize that the man was a cancer on my soul, and the boy I loved was gone. I cut Patrick out of my life. Unfortunately, he still bears me a grudge and would harm me if he ever got out of prison, so I must work to keep him where he is.
The grief I experienced when I finally underwent the “radical surgery” to cut Patrick out of my life was difficult, just as it is difficult and painful to recover from a surgery to remove cancer. It is also painful to have to continue “therapy” so the cancer won’t reoccur, when I have to periodically fight his parole, but I must do what I need to do no matter how painful it is, just as my friend who has a cancer must continue her therapy to keep that cancer at bay.
My sincere prayers are to every family who has a “cancer of the soul” within their family of loved ones is that they will see that there is a problem with this person who has chosen to do abusive, illegal, or immoral things and cut that cancer out of their family circle so that the family and the individuals in it can heal from the stress and trauma. It doesn’t matter if the “cancer” is inside or outside prison walls, but if it is inside our family we must remove it for our own protection and healthy recover. God Bless.
Joyce Alexander, RNP