I just finished reading the book Cancer is Funny, by Jason Micheli. In it he describes feeling as if God wasn’t there with him at the darkest hours of his cancer treatments. That’s decidedly not funny, especially when it’s a pastor admitting it.

But even though I’ve described myself as a “recovering ex-Catholic”–even though just setting foot in a church is sometimes enough to make me cry–I gratefully read, and laughed, through Reverend Micheli’s very Christian book. Yes, it’s one big theology sermon, punctuated with poop jokes and embarrassment. But it’s also one of the most honest things I’ve ever read about what cancer does to your emotional health. 

He describes how he felt the absence of his faith like an emptiness in his heart and guts and bones. It took him quite a while to figure out that emptiness is part of the Christian story, too–otherwise Jesus would never have cried out about being forsaken on the cross. 

I’ve gone through considerably less hell than Jason Micheli. I’ve had two surgeries, a week of implanted radiation, and five months of (half-dose!) targeted therapy chemo (*not* cyotoxic!). That’s a party compared to his suffering. 

But even that much has made my creative output grind to a stop…and not because I’m tired from the meds or don’t have the time between all the damned appointments. My creativity simply isn’t there in the same way it was. It’s always been a burning, heavy need, ignored or stifled at peril. Now I feel its absence in my heart, my guts, my bones. I’m having trouble even blogging, where there’s usually no pressure to over perform.

And when I do have an idea, it spills out of my head in an uncontrollable rush. I very literally envisioned an entire novel while washing the dishes one morning. Creativity is very nearly useless in such a state, because it comes too fast to write down and is gone in a blink. All I’m left with is the echoes of a sound that’s stopped, like the unexpected chirp of song from a radio as I dial it and miss a station, only to not find it again.

So it’s a gift to read about a pastor finding a new angle on his same old faith. It gives me hope that the radio silence I’m hearing from my heart, guts, and bones need not be a permanent state, or a sign of worse to come. 

Yes, it’s a big fat empty, but apparently it’s to be expected–just part of the job description of writing, which is another form of tuning in to the Almighty. Some radio silence just means I’m a little too close to the signal.