S(k)in Cancer

Mar 29, 2021 | Blog, Essays

I started the new year with a melanoma diagnosis.  It was a very small tumor that had not spread.  The treatment was to just cut out all the skin around it to make sure there was no remaining melanoma and then spend the rest of my life being vigilant for any signs of a new melanoma popping up.

Since all this came about during Lent, I ended up contemplating the spiritual aspects of this ordeal quite a bit.

One of the more unsettling things about the diagnosis was that I felt fine.  I felt perfectly healthy.  In fact, I felt better than I have in years in that I had started running, lifting and eating clean again.  I was on the elliptical when I got the call about the diagnosis!

Yet, despite my perception of being in good health, I had a deadly cancer growing on me that had to be cut out immediately by a skilled physician in order to stop its growth and to save my life.  The treatment was painful and, if I had gone by my flawed perception, unnecessary.  However, I chose to listen to the experts and endured the excising of the cancer because I knew that just because I couldn’t see or feel the cancer, it didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

This led to me thinking about sin.  How it gets into our souls like a cancer.  How it starts out very small and our fallen nature blinds us to it.

The divine physician told us it was there.  He told us we must act quickly and cut it out before it has a chance to spread.  The treatment is simple: We must realign our will with God’s will for us which we find in Church teaching.  For many of us, that’s a very painful treatment.

It’s unsettling because we have within us something that could kill our soul and yet while it’s small, we can’t see it or feel it.  We feel perfectly healthy, we feel like good people.  It’s not until it’s grown unchecked that we start to feel the ill effects of sin.  The shame, the self-revulsion, the enslavement to our vices, the realization that we’re not so good people.

We must trust the divine physician.  He loves us and wants to stop the growth of this soul cancer in order to save our lives.  The life that matters.  The eternal one.  We must endure it when he excises the cancer of sin from us.  He is the expert and though we cannot see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Our fallen perception is skewed.  We must trust Him.  

And when He has cut out that soul cancer and sewn us up to let us heal, we must remember to spend our lives being vigilant for any signs of it popping up again.

As I gaze at the scar on my arm and feel gratitude that the cancer is gone, I think of the many more scars on my heart and feel gratitude for such a patient divine physician who has had to operate on me again and again.

Hopefully, melanoma is less persistent than sin.

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1 Comment

  1. John Bernard Handrahan

    A great analysis and comparison indeed! Thankfully, the Devine Physician is merciful and keeps Grace available as an antidote! May God peace always be with you!

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