There are few words that strike terror in the heart like the word cancer. It is such a silent, insidious disease. A survivor usually wonders when and where it will strike next. At age 53, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was afraid, anxious, and angry. Why had this happened to me?
In the midst of my fear and trembling came God’s armor-bearers. They bathed me in prayer and surrounded me with loving words through cards and phone calls.
After abdominal surgery, I returned home and was not allowed to drive for six weeks. Knowing how confining that would be fore me, my friends made sure I was “out and about” every day for six weeks.
Often when a person has a long-term illness, cards and phone calls become less frequent as time passes. However, one friend has continued to remember me with a postcard every day (322 cards so far!). The post-card has an encouraging word, a humorous saying, or words of wisdom that challenged me or give me hope. I have been deeply touched by such long-term care.
I have often asked myself where God is as we suffer through the painful, frightening times in our lives. I have come to the conclusion that for me, God has been with me in many different ways:
God has been present in the encouraging words of a minister friend who said, “I was tempted to quit my treatment, too. But I kept on, knowing that it was the best treatment we have at the moment. I’ll always know that I used the best that was available.” God has been in the words of a book, Cancer: 50 Essential Things To Do by Greg Anderson. God has been in the presence of two friends who always played golf with me before I went for chemotherapy so that I wouldn’t have to sit home and dread the treatment that was coming. God has been in the continuing presence of a friend who has been my constant companion at therapy appointments. God has been in the cards, phone calls, and voices of friends who have said, “Just remember, Pat, I’m praying for you.” God’s grace-filled presence in people and events helped me and will enable me to persevere to the end. (For the rest of Pat’s story, see pages 58-59 of The Compassionate Congregation, by Karen Mulder and Ginger Jurries.
Wisdom for the Caregiver (from Pat)
- Send cards and notes frequently. Each time that I reread them I receive energy and hope.
- Listen. It is the greatest gift we bring to someone. God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we can listen more and talk less.
- Please do not avoid or ignore the person because you do not know what to say or do. Don’t worry about saying anything. Just be with the person, give her a hug, and let her know that you care.
- Give the following cassettes to the person who has cancer: “Zinger” by Paul Azinger (Harper Collins, 1995). (This is still listed on Amazon, but only offered by alternative sources.) After wining the 1993 PGA Championship, Paul Azinger felt he had overcome an incredible obstacle; but when the doctors found cancer in his shoulder bone, his greatest fight was just beginning. “Zinger” is the inspiring portrait of a great athlete and a great human being who has learned to look at the positive side of such experiences and who wants others to know about the spiritual strength he has found. (Pat was a avid golfer; so, this series would especially appeal to other golfers.)
Additional Wisdom for the Caregiver
- Review the “caregiving basics“
- Check out “109 Ways to Say, ‘I Care” in The Compassionate Congregation, pages 251-262.
- Read poem, Please Listen Poem
- Avoid Cliches and “Quick Fixes”
- Remember, people with cancer still have the same needs and often the same capabilities as they did before. If they are physically able, they need to participate in their normal range of activities and responsibilities–right down to taking out the garbage.
- When people brought dinners to my friend. Pat (her story is above), she and Paul loved it when the providers would also join them for dinner.
- Read or listen to “Survivorship Stories (as video and text) and Survivorship Topics” at www.livestrong.org
- Or call Livestrong SurvivorCare toll free at 1-866-235-7205 and they will send you printed copies of Survivorship Stories and topics that match your concerns and interests. See a list of Survivorship Topics under “Cancer” on this website.