World Cancer Day is observed on the 4th of February every year to raise awareness about cancer. The theme for the World Cancer Day 2021 is ‘I am and I will’. It is a multi year campaign that began in 2019 and this year will mark its last year. The campaign invites individuals and collectives across the world to identify who they are and what they will do to contribute to the cause of cancer awareness and mitigation.
Cancer poignantly reminds humans of how powerless they are in this dance of genetics. To give you a picture of the imperceptibility of this error in the DNA, let me draw you a mental picture. A nanometer (nm) is 1/1000000000 of a meter. A DNA molecule is 2.2 – 2.6 nm wide, and the site of mutation is a nucleotide which is 0.33 nm long. Due to some erroneous signaling in a cell’s headquarters (the nucleus), the regular mechanisms of proofreading and repair do not work. Unfortunately, the cell becomes handicapped and begets the eerie potential to bloom into cancer.
Isn’t it shockingly hard to digest that something as infinitesimal as this can decimate lives?
When the trauma of cancer grips a person, a longing for mercy becomes stronger than the voice of reason; out of the door go the iron-clad laws of karma and in comes the hope and love of an omnipotent creator. Oncology wards churn believers out of atheists, or sometimes the other way round.
In the face of something as tragic as cancer, it is natural to ask, “What sort of God allows such undeserved and pointless suffering?” or when we see this scourge becoming so common in our world, to ask tough questions like, “What sort of God allows a newborn child to have leukemia?” We may not have all the answers to such questions within our limited understanding but isn’t it a comfort to know that there is a God whom we can reasonably expect to be just and to whom we can ask such brutally honest questions. The bleak alternative to such a just and loving God is the randomness of a meaningless world, where nothing happens for a purpose, and where we cannot even talk about justice in an objective sense.
There is a man called Job mentioned in the Bible, who asked similar questions when he encountered extreme suffering, which seemed completely meaningless to him. God does not respond by simply shutting down his questions or punishing him for his impoliteness. God patiently hears Job through, and finally sweeps in and shows him a glimpse of His glory. In that moment of sheer intimacy, Job simply sits back in awe and forgets all his questions. Maybe what we need ultimately is not all the answers, but just a moment of intimacy with the Creator who is not only all-knowing, but infinitely good in his intentions toward us, even though it may seem otherwise in brief moments of life.
The specks of black on a portrait may look unpresentable at first, but only until we see the larger picture and realize that they perfectly fit into the overall purpose of the painter, as they bring up the other vibrant hues in contrast. Cancer is truly devastating, especially when it happens to us or a dear one. While it is perfectly understandable to feel forsaken by God or even angry with Him in such times, let me assure you that in the big picture of things, we matter. The hope and love of God aren’t lost over us; not now, not ever