One month ago, cancer became up-close and personal. For years, I have listened to individuals tell their cancer stories. I have read volumes of information about cancer. I have prayed for those with cancer. My ministry’s mission is to offer “how-to-help” podcasts and blog posts for those who care for a loved one with cancer. But on January 17, 2023, cancer became a new reality. No longer could I hold cancer at arm’s length; for, cancer had invaded my family: my son has cancer. My son has multiple myeloma.
Cat scans, MRIs, tumor biopsy, blood & urine tests, consultations, bone marrow biopsy, and hours of internet research and conversations have dominated our minds and hearts. Jeff and his wife, Jeri, have become my teachers as they navigate the early days of tests, consultations, and confusion.
They have received dozens of caring texts, emails, and phone calls, and during dinner one evening, I asked them, “At this point, what advice can you give to all of us who want to show that we care?”
Here’s what they said:
- Keep your message short. We have so many thoughts swirling around in our brains that it is difficult to concentrate on a long message.
- Avoid giving advice. . .unless asked. We know that you want to help, but we are on information overload. So do not suggest: “You must read this book . . .drink this drink . . .do this diet . . . “
- Don’t share your cancer research. We are doing our own research. We also are leaning on the medical professionals.
- Don’t tell us your cancer stories. “When my uncle had cancer . . .’”
On the positive side: It is helpful for me to remember author and pastor Charles Swindoll’s comments about what to say:
“Be real. Admit your honest feelings to me. If the news stunned you, say so. If you don’t know what to say, say just that. If you suddenly feel tears coming, cry. If you are overwhelmed with pity and compassion, admit it. When you allow your true feelings to show, you give me permission to also ‘let go’ and express my honest feelings.”
So, as I continue to travel the cancer road with my son and as you, perhaps, walk alongside a loved one with cancer or other challenging illnesses, may we learn from the ones who suffer and each other on how to care well for them.
May God be with us all as we continue our cancer journeys.