Yes, it is true: I have cancer. But before you set up a GoFundMe account for me, let me explain: I just have a little bit of cancer. More specifically, it is a little bit of skin cancer. Everybody’s doing it.

I have this sore on my shoulder that just never seemed to heal. I finally went to the doctor and he said, “Looks like you’ve got a ‘Basal Cell Carcinoma‘ – let’s take a piece of it and see.” He got some tools, dug out a chunk for a biopsy, and sent it off to the lab.

A few days later, I got a phone call from the doctor’s office. A chipper little voice said, “Hi Mr. McBride. We got your lab results back – it is cancer. We want to refer you to a dermatologist to get it taken care of.” The happy tone of her voice was in direct contrast to what I heard.

Ugh. That word “cancer” is a gut punch – even if you are pretty sure that it is not a big deal. I had already researched what a BCC is, and knew that it is the most common form of skin cancer, and the most easily treated. Even so…it is still cancer, and when your dad died of Melanoma… You get the idea.

Met with the dermo. Gonna get it cut out. No big deal.

Unless… I don’t get it cut out – then it can become a bigger deal. So, I am gonna get it done, which is a pretty easy decision.

The word cancer is a powerful word. It is also a bit strange. There is not a verb form of the word cancer. However, there is a similar word that has the same origin that can be used as a verb as well: Canker.

When I was growing up, I was afflicted by canker sores in my mouth and throat. Wicked little things. As I grew I began to realize what an important metaphor cankers and cancers can be for spiritual illness and injury.  Case in point:

A few years back, a buddy of mine decided he wanted to make some money in real estate. He bought a property and then rented it out to a tenant. Being a landlord was not his cup of tea. He was very protective of his property and started to really resent his tenants for the way they treated it.

Eventually it became a fixation, and he would talk about it all of the time in the most negative way. He would get in squabbles with the tenant and the would get angry with each other. It wasn’t a good situation for either party.

One day he asked me what I thought about the situation (looking for support). I told him that he probably didn’t want my opinion. He insisted, so I said, “I feel like this whole landlord thing is cankering your soul.”

He looked shocked. “Man, that’s a little harsh, don’t you think? What do you mean?”

I said, “To me, you seem totally consumed by this. It is all you ever talk about. You seem so unhappy all the time. You look intense and angry all the time. I can’t imagine that it is worth it.”

He was quiet as he chewed on the accusation that I just leveled on him. After a minute he surprised me by saying, “Yeah. I think you are probably right.”

A definition of the verb Canker is “to corrupt; destroy slowly.” (link)

A definition of the noun Cancer is “any evil condition or thing that spreads destructively; blight.” (link)

Both are applicable to spiritual blight.

One of the great scriptural metaphors for faith is Alma’s description of the seed which, if nourished, will eventually grow into a wonderful tree, bearing wonderful fruit. (Alma 32)

What we rarely talk about is how these same principles work for bad seeds as well. If you plant a bad seed, and nourish it, it will eventually grow into a great big weed, and it won’t bring forth anything of worth.

My gardening experience has taught me that it is much easier to grow weeds than it is to grow fruit-bearing trees. Weeds also have a remarkable ability to spread and replicate themselves in a cancerous manner with very little effort on my part.

Finding something to get mad about is not too difficult in today’s world. All you need to do is look around and I guarantee there is something out there that has the potential of setting you off. I know a couple of guys who are not happy with the current political state, and make it a point to tweet the most hateful things. Every. Single. Day. It has gotten so that the vast majority of their social media activity is vitriolic, and it has begun to define who they are online. They didn’t start out that way, but contention has become their hobby,

President Russell M. Nelson addressed this in Conference all the way back in 1989 – and it has definitely gotten much worse since then. He said:

“My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention. How easy it is, yet how wrong it is, to allow habits of contention to pervade matters of spiritual significance, because contention is forbidden by divine decree:

The Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another. (2 Ne. 26:32.)”

As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit.”  (link)

There is that word again – did you catch it? Contention is a corroding canker of the spirit. (One of the great ironies is when people argue about doctrinal issues.)

There is so much contention out there. To many, it is a way of life, to others it is a hobby. I wrestle with it as well. It is so easy to get mad and – even worse-  share it. It is so easy to nourish those seeds of contention until they grow into big, ugly weeds that are hard to manage, and even harder to kill. Contention truly is an “evil condition or thing that spreads destructively”

Back to my cancer: My solution? Gonna get it cut out of my shoulder. That is the best way to prevent it from growing, spreading or doing any permanent disfiguration or lasting damage. I’m lucky that it is still small – it will be much easier to deal with, and much a much simpler (and less painful) procedure.

It is the same when contentious feelings come into our hearts and minds. If we pluck them out and get rid of them quickly, and before they have time to take root, it is a much easier procedure, and they are less likely to cause any permanent spiritual disfigurement or lasting damage.

How do we do it?

#1: Forgive. President James E. Faust said this:

“If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes “that forgiveness … is a liberating gift that people can give to themselves.” (link)

Interesting: Forgiveness heals both soul and body.

Christ taught “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14–15.)

The Lord doubled down on this idea in D&C 64:9-10, when He said, “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (I re-read this passage several times and could not find any exceptions for being angry with people with names like Trump, McCain, etc.)

#2: Own it, then get rid of it. Don’t forget what Elder Lynn G. Robbins taught about anger: “Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose!” (link)

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Ne. 11:29–30). How to get rid of it?

#3: Ask the Lord to soften our hearts and grant us charity.  Nephi found success through prayer: “I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart” (1 Nephi 2:16)

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”  (Moroni 7:45)

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren (sisters too!), pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love…” (Moroni 7:48)

#4 Check our focus. “What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say: “Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.” President Gordon B. Hinckley. (Link)

I am planning on getting my cancer removed in the next couple of weeks. Now as for the things growing in my heart that need removed, that can happen today, if I am willing to do it.

Years ago I discussed some ideas that tie in with this post. You might want to check it out if you are new to MMM. “The Tarzan Principle.