Name Your Tumor

Being known by name is significant and a comfort in the midst of difficulty.

Naming tumors is a real thing. And I don’t mean naming the specific type of cancer. No, these are pet names. Arnold, Terminator 1, Terminator 2, and disliked politicians are common tags assigned by cancer patients. Most people report that naming their tumor is an empowering exercise allowing them to wrestle back a little control from a bully.

Unfortunately for me, I would need a baby naming book in order to find names for all the little tumors that are floating around. Fortunately, I’m not attracted to the name-your-tumor game but I’m not judging those who are. Whatever helps cancer patients not feel so helpless is probably a good thing.

But I’m intrigued by the need to name a thing or person.  Assigning names, being referred to by names, labeling objects by names, Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgand finding meaning in names fosters connection and intimacy to each other, our environment, and, apparently, our diseases. The importance of naming is found in both Testaments. Being named, having a name carries spiritual significance. God revealed his name to Moses.  Jesus was named Immanuel, ‘God with us.”  Both Peter and Paul were renamed by Jesus.

When I was first married, I complained to my husband that I wanted to hear my name spoken by him more often. Hearing my name by my beloved made me feel special to him and more connected. It capped off the special relationship we shared. No doubt he was initially perplexed by this marital complaint but happy to accommodate.

The following verses in the gospel of John at Christ’s resurrection are exceedingly meaningful and tender to me (emphasis mine):

John 20:15-16
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means ‘Teacher’).

Imagine her relief, her love, her comfort to hear her name spoken by the Lord at such a time.  It’s an image that carries me through this harrowing medical ordeal. Imagining the Lord of the universe saying,

Dona, I’m here with you.”
Dona, I’ve got this, don’t be afraid.”
Dona, you will be with me forever.”

I don’t feel a need to name a tumor or tumors to feel more empowered or in control. He knows and calls me by my name. That is enough. That is everything.

8 thoughts on “Name Your Tumor

  1. Michele January 6, 2020 / 5:37 pm


  2. Heather Ramseth January 6, 2020 / 8:41 pm

    Thank you for your words and for sharing your comfort, Dona. You and David are in my thoughts and prayers so often…I don’t know if you remember that when you left Juneau we adopted a beautiful table from you. It is where I often sit to read or write and I always think of it as “Dona’s table.” I wish I could send a photo in these comments-I’ll try to email one.
    So much love to you both… I know our God of comfort is with you!

  3. Carol January 7, 2020 / 10:12 am

    Wow! Praying for you every day!

  4. Brynden January 7, 2020 / 2:03 pm

    Love this reminder, thank you!! I always look forward to your posts Dona and often share your insights with others. Praying for you.

  5. Polly McCauley January 8, 2020 / 4:46 am

    Dona, I love this. Your thoughts are God-given. Thank you for sharing them—I’m thinking and learning more about God, life, death, and Heaven through you.
    Love you, dear friend.

  6. Joyce Noll January 10, 2020 / 8:01 pm

    So good, Dona. Thank you so much. You always point me to Jesus. You remind me that He knows my name, and that is the important thing. It is easy for me to look to fellow Christians for comfort and encouragement. Yes, that is a good thing. But you remind me of what is truly important. If I am to have lasting joy and peace, it is the intimacy with and connectedness to Jesus which I must place as most important. He alone is my lasting source of everything that is important and everything I need. Yes, fellowship with and connectedness to my brothers and sisters in Christ is essential, but if I look to others to supply what only Jesus can, I am setting myself and them up for failure. Thank you for pointing me to Jesus in such a tender, loving and real way.

    • leighannemclean January 24, 2020 / 5:35 am

      Dona, You write so beautifully. Thank you for sharing your story. To God be the glory!

      Have you heard about the book, “Eat, Fast, Feast”? I thought of you when I heard it earlier this month. If interested, go to—it’s a very interesting podcast on Hank Hanegraaff’s radio program.

      Thinking of you and David and praying for you. Leigh Anne McLean

  7. donaeley February 3, 2020 / 7:45 am

    Leigh Anne: Sorry to be late responding. Thanks for the encouragement and your prayers. As it happens I am doing an intermittent fast (16 hours). A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine shows how science supports this ancient Christian practice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s