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, and 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):
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.