Cancer doesn't run in my family. And I've always obeyed the rules for healthy disease prevention. So when my doctor told me I didn't need mammograms—self-examination was enough—I foolishly believed him.
One thing that does run in my family is a compulsive duty-drivenness—along with huge doses of guilt because we can never keep all the rules or do all the things we're sure God intends us to do!
So on the day when a severe pain in my right breast took me to mammography, guilt began to whisper into my spirit. After all, wasn't it true that whenever anything went wrong with my body, it was my fault? Surely I must have broken the "rules" too many times.
A week later, a kind and gentle doctor read a follow-up mammogram and gave me an ultrasound. Then she told me how sorry she was to have found three masses. Cancer had caught up with me.
Guilt took over. "If only I …"
Instantly the doctor laid a soft restraining hand on my arm. "In this place, we never look back," she said. "Just thank God for the pain that brought you here. We go forward."
In the days that followed, I asked often for God's enablement to obey the doctor's words. But one day at lunch, I looked back just long enough to say to my husband, Walt, "If only I'd …"
He interrupted me with, "I see Jean isn't dead yet!"
Jean was a woman of great influence in my teen years who taught me to feel guilty whenever anything went wrong. She seemed to take delight in assuring me that everything was my fault. I never did anything "thoroughly" or "properly."1