Thankful That Cancer Gave Me the Gift of Knowing Human Frailty

Photo by Kim Harms

I was 40 and already had a head of prematurely gray hair (I hide it well) when Dr. Testroet called with the crummy cancer news, but the following words from Jen Wilkin’s 27-year-old experience ring true inside of me.

Once you hear a cancer diagnosis, you can’t unhear it. Even with successful treatment, it changes the way you number your days. I had been given an opportunity not many 27-year-olds could claim: the opportunity to count each of my days as precious. Any illusions I might have had that this life would last forever were effectively removed. I learned a perspective that many don’t grasp until the aging process begins its faithful instruction in universal human frailty. I didn’t have to wait for crow’s feet or hip replacement. My eternal Father taught me young to pursue the sacred calling to “live this day well.” Jen Wilkin, None Like Him

Nobody wants cancer.

I know cancer survivors who have made it through treatment and are really not even interested in talking about it again. Ever. It’s a piece of their lives they’d rather forget. Or at least think about only when absolutely necessary.

Sometimes I want to do that. I think to myself, “Kim, what the heck are you doing? Why do you continue to invite the heartache in?” My own personal heartache ebbs and flows (mostly it ebbs these days) but I allow myself to enter into the heartache of others and it weighs on my soul like a heavy blanket on a hot summer day.

But that weight. It has purpose.

The heavy

keeps me

dependent on Christ.

The heavy

keeps me from

Living a passive life.

The life I live is filled with life.

I see things with different eyes than I did a few years ago. Those eyes of pre-40 Kim weren’t bad. I could’ve lived another half century with them and gotten along just fine.

But these new eyes? These eyes that are fueled by the weight of truly knowing human frailty? I am in love with these eyes.

Through them I see things I never used to see. I feel things I never used to feel. I love things I never used to even pay attention to.

Photo by Kim Harms

Each time that I sit in my backyard, I do so with a sense of amazement. The trees. The birds. The cutest little cabin ever. Sometimes I wonder if it’s going to wear off. But I don’t think my new eyes will allow it.

When my family grabs tennis racquets and heads to the old beat up courts with giant tar-filled cracks at Centennial Park, I am in heaven. I am simply hitting a little yellow ball over a net (very poorly I might add) and I am in heaven.

When Lewis sings his sweet self to sleep at night it feels almost like a holy experience (Can a Greatest Showman medley be holy?)

When a bunch of teen boys fill my house with laughter and eat my food (and move an extremely heavy old couch through our “forest” to the road for disposal pick up) my heart is full.

When Corey and I watch an episode of the Parks and Rec for the 5th time, I am entirely contented.

These things may have all happened if I had not gotten breast cancer. And I likely would have enjoyed each one very much. But they would have been different. I don’t think I could have taught myself to look at life this way.

So because of these new eyes, I’m thankful for the cancer. I’m thankful for the weight. I’m thankful that God in his infinite wisdom keeps giving me opportunities to enter into the heartache of others. (Some of those others I can physically reach out and hug, and some I will never meet outside the confines of my Surface Pro.)

The more raw and deep the heartache, the more heavy and cumbersome the weight, the more beautiful the mundane becomes. The more awe-inspiring the every day.

All the ordinary and inconsequential things of life become infinitely more valuable through the eyes of a soul that is heavy with the knowledge of human frailty.CLICK TO TWEET

I choose to be grateful and to forever praise the One who knew the only way to give me new eyes was through the weight of a broken heart.

Kim Harms

Kim Harms is a writer and speaker who is represented by Literary Agent Karen Neumair of Credo Communications. She is under contract with Familius Publishing for her first book, tentatively titled Life Reconstructed. Harms has a degree in English: Literary Studies from Iowa State University and was a regular contributor at the former Today's Christian Woman. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries in 2016 after being diagnosed with breast cancer and writes about her Life Reconstructed at Central Iowa is home, and she lives there with her husband Corey and their 3 ever-growing man-children.

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  1. Through my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2005, I learned how to lean on God more and to try to do everything myself. My husband and I also started a cancer support group at church, a Relay for Life team and have been able to be a listening ear and open heart with others who are diagnosed. We are blessed while blessing others. Amen. I am choosing to be grateful, too. Thank you for sharing with us.

    1. Thanks for sharing Melissa. Its so wonderful when God let’s us use our hard experiences to help others. I give away free mastectomy pillows through a form on website. If you ever come across someone who could use them feel free to let them know. I’d love to send them some pillows.

    2. Melissa,
      I attempted to respond to this earlier, but realized today that it didn’t post. Thanks so much for sharing about the things you are doing post-breast cancer. Having a listening ear for those in need is a big deal. If any of the women you meet through your ministry are in need of mastectomy pillows, please send them over to my website (in my bio). I have a form women can fill out to receive free pillows.

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