Pastor John E. Packo wrote Coping With Cancer and Other Chronic or Life-Threatening Diseases in 1990, nine years after his cancer diagnosis and treatment. I purchased the book while receiving treatment for breast cancer, in 2001, but never got around to reading it. As I headed back to familiar waiting rooms for additional cancer testing during last two weeks, I chose Coping With Cancer as my book-companion.
Mr. Packo described how he journaled his “heart-talk,” which he defined as that continuous internal conversation “about every daily experience of every waking moment.” He utilized a heart-shaped, graphic organizer as a guide for his emotions, mind, and will to make creative choices in coping with cancer.
Graphic organizers are great tools for solving problems, clarifying information, and communicating more effectively, and Mr. Packo’s organizer is an effective way to internalize biblical thinking. Following Mr. Packo’s example, I journaled the following:
Emotionally (I feel): I feel discouraged because cancer means suffering, and I don’t like to suffer.
Intellectualy (I think): In spite of my previous memories of suffering, I am mediatating on the Word of God that declares:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Volitionally (I choose): I do not choose cancer, but I choose to believe that my life is in the hands of a sovereign God, perfect in love and wisdom, who controls every circumstance of my life, and who rejoices to do me good (Jeremiah 32:41).
Even though I’m still dancing a jig (King David style :)) that my recent medical tests revealed no cancer, I plan to continue to use the heart picture as a way to help me speak fluent “Bible,” and not to allow emotions or experiences to control my reponses to circumstances.
The ideas presented by Mr. Placo in Coping With Cancer are equally valuable in obtaining God’s perspective concerning any of life’s challenges that threaten to turn one’s world upside down. Mr. Placo shared his pictorial “heart-talk” and journaling discipline with thousands of people until his death earlier this year, at the age of 72.