Hope transformed

Spirituality was the topic of one of the presentations at the recent cancer caregivers workshop I attended. About two-thirds of the way through her talk, the speaker told the story of a family member who had been in treatment for cancer. When the doctor told them there were no more treatment options, the presenter said, “We gave up hope.”

Gave up hope? How could they give up hope? Without hope, we despair.hope-cancer-GodHer words were so jarring to me that I had difficulty listening to the rest of her talk. I wanted to stand up and shout, “Go back to that part about giving up hope.” But I didn’t.

Instead, after the talk, I composed my thoughts and shared with her how upsetting her words had been to me.

I suggested that hope is not restricted to life versus death, that it is not a one and done kind of thing. Hope can be transformed; it is malleable, adaptable.

I told her that when my friend Jim was diagnosed with a very aggressive, non-curable brain cancer, I had no hope he would survive it and accepted that he was going to die. His neurosurgeon was quite clear and definitive—short of a miracle, there was no way that Jim would survive Glioblastoma.

Some people grabbed onto that hope of a miracle and were convinced Jim would be miraculously cured.

I chose to accept the neurosurgeon’s prognosis; I am actually better when I accept the reality of a situation. Ambiguity and abstraction can make me anxious; facts steady me.

If a miracle had happened, I would have been absolutely ok with that; but, in the face of scientific fact, my hope went in a different direction.

I hoped Jim would survive surgery and live long enough to understand what was happening to him. I hoped he would have the strength and grace to accept his condition and to make peace with himself and God. I hoped he would be able to look back on his life with gratitude. I hoped that he would die peacefully.

I also hoped that I would be able to step up to the challenge of caring for him and helping him to live out the rest of his life as fully as possible. I hoped I would see God’s invitation to me and be able to respond.

I believe that in the cancer journey, hope must be transformed—again and again—to meet the challenges of the roller coaster ride of cancer. Giving up hope means giving in to despair.

Correlating hope with cure can put so much focus on the future that the present is overlooked. All of the goodness and blessings that are happening right now can go unnoticed.

For me, accepting the reality of Jim’s situation helped me to focus on the present and live in the moment. I knew every day might have been his last, and so I tried to make every day our best.

Death is inevitable; hope brings life.hope-cancer-God




10 thoughts on “Hope transformed

  1. annemarielom

    How very necessary to separate “hope” from “cure” or “recovery”. This was a great piece, Madeline!

  2. JJC

    We have a tortured relationship with what we call “life.” What we understand to be our true identity or essence profoundly affects how we approach our moments in ‘time’ — and of whether physical endings frighten or elate us. Do we cease to “be” or simply shift our awareness of Spirit eternal, of Love ever expressing?

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      I agree that our understanding and outlook on life, death and our spiritual nature all affect how we will experience death. As Jim neared death, he would say he was just waiting to “pass over,” and I believe his physical life ended but his spirit lives on. He was not afraid to die; I hope I will have that much trust and courage when my time comes. Until then, I try to live each day as fully as possible. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. dslyon

    Oh Madeline, I SOOO get what you’re saying! I, too, tend to “deal” better with facts. But God has taught me that “facts” are often cold/hard. So I tend to live daily with the knowledge (ie fact) that I can’t be in control but I know the One who is. And the Holy Spirit revealed Himself to me personally on the day of my baptism. I love you…Happy Mother’s Day from one like you … “mother/sister/caretaker/friend” to many.

  4. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    Thank you Debbie Sue. Knowing that God is in control is so reassuring. I think that knowledge allows me to face difficult realities. I tell myself, “God holds all the cards. If I breathe, it is because God wills it. When God wills me to stop breathing, I will stop breathing.” So consoling to know I am known and loved deeply. Re Mother’s Day, I always say, “There are many ways to give birth and many ways to mother.” Happy Mother’s Day, my sister.

  5. georgettedg

    I love this piece. Thank you. How did the presenter respond when you spoke to her?

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks, Georgette. Her response was, “I wish you had said that at the mic.” At the end of each session, we were invited to ask questions/comment at the mic, but I am not comfortable doing that. It was an interesting response, and I have been pondering it ever since.


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