I’m Cancer Lady. What’s Your Current Identity?
Cheater. Brainiac. Quitter. Rich. Poor. Fitness Queen. Fatty. Cancer Lady. Lottery Winner. Janitor. Airline Pilot. Identity labels.
Those are all words to describe someone for a thing they’ve done, the way they look, a choice they’ve made or something that’s happened to them. It isn’t WHO they are, yet often it may be how they’re known by people around them. “You know, Lazy Joe” or “Fat Linda, who always eats two pieces of cake.”
Most of my life people described me as the tall blond with long hair. I’ve had other AKAs like Jeff’s mom, Kimberly’s mom, Brad’s wife, Noah’s grandma, the neighbor with the roses. No one has ever called me the woman with the beautiful singing voice or the girl who can really do magic with crafts. #Truth
I’m finding myself with a new and clearly unwelcome identity: Cancer Lady. Diagnosed with breast cancer in August, bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction in September and the beginning of a year of chemo in October qualified me for this new title. I don’t like it. At all. I want to just be Brad’s wife or the tall blond again. But it’s not my choice. For now at least, Cancer Lady is a big part of the way people see me. If I lose my hair, this title will be a truly visible one. I keep wondering, Will I be bald for Christmas?
I can’t pretend it’s not valid. Even with hair, there’s no hiding the fact that I’m too exhausted to help others much, work or even go to social events sometimes. But even if I could do a cover-up, I actually need people to know; I need the constant flow of support that washes through my life to sustain me. People who love me want to help and if I hid my new identity from them they’d keep on with their busy lives and never know how much they could have blessed me.
Think of the paralyzed guy in John 5 who waited about 38 years for someone to help him into the healing water at the pool of Bethesda. Surely people knew him as “Paralyzed Guy” or “Dude Who Can’t Walk.” He must’ve hated being well-known for this. He was surrounded by other people with identities that revolved around their bad health. Maybe Eczema Eddie, Heart Attack Hannah and Wheezy Louise were his friends, also waiting desperately to be the first in the pool to get healed. None of them helped him because they had their own issues to deal with.
Then Jesus came along and took care of it- He was the friend that guy needed. Jesus didn’t see him as Paralyzed Guy. He just knew the man needed a bit of help and stepped in to fill the need.
Have you accomplished something fantastic, made a critical mistake, gotten seriously injured or even opted for a tragic choice in haircuts and now people crown you with that new title? It can be fun for a minute or it can scar you for a lifetime.
Two Things to Consider about Identity
- Be intentional and thoughtful in the way you identify others…even in your mind. Try to avoid associating circumstances, accomplishments and appearances to define people. Change it up and look deeper. Let their characters define them. Instead of “Skinny Sue” think of her as “Selfless Sue.”
- Realize that it’s human nature to put monikers on people and it’s not the True You. Forgive people for giving you a name you don’t like and confess you’ve probably done the same to other folks. (Even if it’s only in your mind. Come on…own it.) Don’t let a temporary title rob you for even a minute of who you really are. Remember God calls you Son or Daughter…My Favorite. Brilliant. Beautiful. Generous. Kind. Faithful.
I’ve accepted my temporary title of Cancer Lady. I have peace and contentment. For now. In a year or so I’ll be back to Lady with the Roses. I’m ridiculously blessed by all the people who’ve helped me into the healing waters with their generous support and encouragement. Mostly they see me as Diane, a Friend they care about who needs them.
For those who follow Christ, our identity is in Him. We need to remember to see others and ourselves the way He does.
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. A man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
*If you’d like to know more about my journey with cancer, please let me know and I’ll share with you. It remains to be determined whether I’ll be bald for Christmas. 🙂
**For a wonderful book to encourage cancer survivors, check out Under a Desert Sky.