Would You Rather Have Cancer or Depression?


Young man sitting looking upset

Would You Rather Have Cancer or Depression?

A reader recently asked me this question. On the surface, it is a terrible question, but in context, it wasn’t so bad. This person struggles with depression, and knows about my battle with it in the past, and my current battle with cancer. So it was an honest question, asked in a time of personal struggle.

So what is my answer?

I have had depression, and currently have cancer.  Both have been difficult. There are so many variables to this question.  What if we asked it this way, “Would you rather have stage 4 lung cancer with 3 months to live, or a minor form of seasonal affective depression that causes you to want to watch TV and eat baking?”

I know which I would choose – the TV and baking.

What if we worded the question this way? “Would you rather have such severe depression that you have suicidal ideation, cannot hold a job, require medical intervention and frequent stays in a psychiatric hospital, or stage 1 melanoma that requires a minor day surgery and monitoring?”

This time I choose the day surgery and monitoring.

So if I had to choose from my own personal experiences? Between the depression I had, or the cancer I have, which would I choose? That is a difficult question to answer.  Being told I have cancer was the most terrifying experience I have ever had. Chemotherapy was terrible. I am still in the midst of this fight, so it is difficult to remove myself and look at it from the outside. On the other hand, being told that I had depression was kind of blase.  It was not terrifying, scary, or even concerning to me, as nothing really mattered to me at that time.  Life, however was not good. Everything felt hopeless. I had no motivation to do anything. Both my depression and cancer were/are “middle of the road” diagnoses. Serious, but also not the most serious of cases. The depression could kill me if not treated, the cancer would kill me if not treated.

The biggest difference between the two is that during my depression the Lord felt very far away, and during my cancer the Lord has felt very near…especially during my chemo treatments on the low days. If I had to choose the Lord feeling near to me or far from me…I choose his nearness.

But I won’t choose between cancer or depression.

Both depression and cancer are a result of the fall and this broken world we live in.  Neither are good; both, however, are trials which are used by the Lord for good.

At the men’s prayer group I am a part of, we have a time of sharing and we discuss how our week went. I like to go last when we discuss how our week was, because nobody wants to talk about their trials after the guy who is dealing with cancer!  The thing is, that while my trial with cancer is a difficult one and is very real to me…so is your trial with depression.

Or your marriage difficulties.

Or the neighbor who wants to feud.

Or that baby who keeps you up all night.

Or the fact that you lost your job.

Or whatever your trial is.

Our trials, no matter how trivial they may seem compared with the guy dealing with cancer and chemo, are still trials and are real to the one dealing with them. And my seemingly heavy trials are light compared to what other people must deal with.  But regardless of your trial, God is using them. God uses our trials for two main reasons, to glorify himself and for our good.  That goes for both depression  and cancer, and every trial in between.

Psalm 34:10 says, “The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” God promises that those who seek Him will lack no good thing. Which means, if something is good, God will give it to us. Isn’t healing good?  But you still have depression and I still have cancer. How is any of this good? What is this “good” that He promises us? Psalm 16 answers when it says, “I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” And Paul reiterates this in his letter to the Philippians,“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

My cancer…your depression…your personal trial, whatever it is, is all a write off compared to knowing God in Jesus Christ.

So my final answer is that I don’t choose either depression or cancer or any other trial for that matter. But in the midst of my trials, which God uses to draw us near to him…I choose Jesus.





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3 Responses

  1. Catharine says:

    Isn’t it good that we don’t have to choose! God in His infinite wisdom is sovereign..knows us as no-one else; knows what to give us to bear, to bring us closer to Him, if we but let it. Before my cancer, I prayed that God would give me something to bring mine closer to Him. He gave me cancer. Thus far, no sign of return, but should it, I know He will be with me throughout whatever ensues. Bless you!

  2. Frieda Roodzant says:

    Such a beautiful piece you have written once again to share with all.pray all is goodwith you and your family.

  3. Jack and Pauline says:

    Ryan, your writings are a blessing to us. Your insights are wonderful, true, and help us to understand someone going thru the storm. We earnestly pray that this upcoming year will be a calm and recuperative time for you. Blessings to you and Teresa and family