It is the word that no one ever wants to hear. Cancer has become the secret terror of our society. Openly hated, it seems, every month as a different form of cancer is rallied against. This month Breast Cancer, next month Prostate, and don't forget Colon cancer! Yet there is one that people don't talk about nearly as much. One form of cancer that is so secret, so skillfully hidden that most people will never see it until it has reached peak destruction; Trauma.

You may be scratching your head right now (or some of you may be mad that I would make such a comparison because it is like shouting "fire" in a crowded room) but to those concerns I say this; trauma is the cancer that no one talks about, that no one rallies to fight, that everyone just expect to be "dealt with" and left unchecked, will destroy more lives than any other form of cancer.

What is cancer? Some sort of illness that affect the body in a serious way because of a mutation of what is typical within the body. Some cluster of cells no longer behaving the way they are supposed to and now there is a lump. "Typical" cancer is a physical illness that affects the whole body. Trauma is a cancer that starts in the psychological and spread to the rest of the body. The trick with this form of cancer is that by the time the physical symptoms are present, you are already in the last stages of this cancer. Sure it may not have the same death rate as other cancers. Or, as Kate Bowler would say (I have an intellectual crush on her for the deep ways she explores the disconnect between faith and practice in American Christianity), "it is not a sexy cancer". Yet is is a cancer none the less.

Trauma starts in the mental capacity of our minds but will soon spread to the emotional. It begins by twisting the perception of reality. Like a critical editor, it strikes out the sections it does not like and demands a rewriting of chunks of our lives. People who were once safe become toxic just to see. Actions, once typical, now become like a marathon to complete. Trauma strips the emotional section of our person of anything good while turning every painful emotion up to 11. Yet it is done in such a secret, such a covert way that it feels natural. In fact, it can feel deserved, as if you had done something to merit such feelings. Since trauma first corrupts our mental capacities, our minds are incapable of sorting out the truth from the lies. So the emotional aspects of our lives are easily twisted to the will of this cancerous beast.

Our physical bodies act like a thermometer to our emotional selves. When things are well, our bodies act and behave well. When our emotional state is compromised, our bodies will eventually warn us by slowly throwing out warning signals. Exhaustion, depression, sleeplessness, lack of appetite, headaches, fogginess of thought, weight gain/loss, soreness; these are all possible physical signs of trauma. If left unchecked, our bodies will go further to get our attention. Shortness of breath, sudden racing heart rate, pain in the chest, inability to move limbs, or (at least in my case) an uncontrollable urge to scratch your arms off. By the time you have reached this stage of trauma cancer, it has wrapped its ugly tentacles into every part of your life.

Is there hope? Yes. We humans have an amazing capacity for hope. Consider it a God given talent. Yet this hope is tricky because for many who have reached the later stages of this form of cancer, the damage to relationships have already been done. Unless, by some miracle, you have an extremely compassionate partner or friend (Amy, you are a saint), relationships will have fallen apart from all the pain that seeps from this cancer. There is therapy. I am told it can help. Yet because of the cruelness of our medical field, it is extremely difficult to find a therapist qualified to treat this issue. Worse yet, those therapists that are qualified are in high demand and have little availability. The hurdles to get over just continue to pile up and that is all assuming that insurance does not create it's own issues. This is the real tragedy of this kind of cancer. We have the treatment, it has even been proven to help, but it is stuck behind so much red tape, so illusive, that for most people, it might as well be on the same level of Big Foot. Strike that, Big Foot has enough people with blurry pictures that I could actually begin to believe he exists. I have yet to meet someone in real life that has been able to get this supposed cure.

I have cancer. Trauma has racked my body until it has been drained of most of it's life. Each day I must fight to simply exist. I pass by this house and my blood pressure spikes, I see that person and my chest tightens, I have a simple thought and my body crumples. Does this mean that I have given up? No! I am a prisoner of hope. Yet that does not mean I have to believe everything happens for a reason. My Lord holds me but that does not mean I won't continue to suffer. God says that I am loved but that does not mean everything has to be okay. There may be a day where this cancer is kept at bay but it will always be present within my body. There will always be the fear that it will return (if I am ever able to rid myself of it). Just like someone that must get yearly scans, I will always have to do checks within my physical, emotional, and mental self to see if this cancer has returned. Maybe if we started talking about trauma in such serious terms, more will be done to combat it. Maybe the treatment would be made more accessible.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.