Her loved ones chuckled gently at this, after all, if one is dying what difference is made by the name of the malady? But, like many of us, the dreaded "C-word" had assumed monumental proportions in her mind, and her fear was such that to die of some other illness seemed a blessing by comparison (by the way, she recovered and lived another dozen years in relatively good health).
Fears such as Grandma's terror of cancer and my own deep fear of developing Alzheimer's disease are powerful. We research ways to avoid the thing we dread. We may enroll in exercise classes, buy brain-healthy cookbooks, and relax just a bit when we are able to follow self-imposed rules for better health. I'm reminded of my dad, who harbored a deep fear of the colon cancer that killed his own father. And so Dad underwent regular health screenings, ate a raw onion a day at the recommendation of his gastroenterologist (this is a remedy I've never heard elsewhere...) and insisted on having two salads at both the midday and evening meals: one green, and one of seasonal fruit. His efforts paid off. He did not die of colon cancer. Unbeknownst to him he had been exposed to asbestos in his youth, and he died of Mesothelioma, an asbestos-specific lung cancer.
I do not have a "what's the use" attitude toward efforts toward greater health. The Bible says that physical disciplines are good, but it also says that spiritual exercise is better (1 Timothy 4:8), and that if we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first, then other things we desire will be given us as well: given, as gifts, not as something we are able to achieve or earn on our own (Matthew 6:33).
It is so important to focus our energy on initiatives that will reap eternal rewards. The state of our physical bodies should concern us less than the state of our hearts. If we nurture spiritual health, focusing our minds upon God's truth as revealed in Scripture, the rest of the good gifts we desire for ourselves will follow according to His perfect will (Matthew 6:33). As we trust in His love, we come to peace in the understanding that it is safe to put God first. In fact, our only true safety comes through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, because of the perfect love of Father God.
The world would convince us to place our efforts behind human empowerment based on human understanding. This is backed by two, difficult-to-get-around forces: 1) Our human need to avoid suffering and death and 2) The enemy's subtle attempts to nudge us just enough off-center so that our strength is spent on goals that will not yield fruit that will last. One of the devil's favorite strategies is to lead us down a wrong path with promises of escape from some fate we fear, and then to blindside us with some awful thing we didn't know enough to avoid. Seeking God first thwarts this strategy. As Matthew Henry says, "The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest."
If we can trust God enough to put Him first in everything, we have His promise that our fears will recede and our eyes will be opened to the blessings He provides.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."