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May 16 2012

Because I am an atheist: ZB

Today’s contribution was submitted via e-mail by ZB:

Because I am an atheist…

I was better able to deal with having cancer.

In May 2010, I was diagnosed with a form of cancer called follicular lymphoma.  It was in stage 3, and it only goes to stage 4.  I learned from my oncologist that the form of cancer I have is not curable, but it responds well to treatment.

From the first mention of lymphoma to knowing exactly what I had and what my treatment options were and the likely outcome was about two months.  During that time, many questions crossed my mind.  But I realized that being an atheist for more than two decades gave me a big advantage mentally and emotionally.  I never asked “Why me?” or wondered how this fit into God’s plan.  I spent that time looking into the details of my medical coverage, making plans for various  possible outcomes, etc.  But I didn’t waste one nano-second praying.

When I knew the full details of the diagnosis and the planned course of treatment, I told my family and friends.  Everyone told me they were sorry to hear about the cancer.  But I noticed an interesting difference in the response of atheists and christians.  The atheists offered real help.  I received offers to help with yard work, house work, pool cleaning, transportation to treatments, etc.  From the christians, with few exceptions, all that was offered was prayers.  One christian, who knows I am an atheist, told me he was going to pray for me whether I wanted him to or not.  I responded that it would not hurt me, and if it made him feel better to go ahead and pray.

I have been in remission since November 2010, thanks to my oncologist and his caring staff, as well as all of those scientists and doctors doing research on cancer over the decades.

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P.S. I want to extend my personal thanks to all those who have responded with their deeply personal stories. I am humbled and grateful to see such an outpouring of raw honesty and personal disclosure. If you’ve been enjoying this series so far, please consider submitting something yourself, either by e-mail or as a comment.

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