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For the next few Tuesday posts we're going to look at what we can do for friends or family members with cancer. This topic is particularly relevant for me at the moment, as I am currently helping to care for a close family member with terminal cancer.
When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer with glandular involvement, I found my family and friends reacted in one of several ways.
1) There were those who rose up and said, "We're here for you." This included my immediate family who lived at home, and I hate to think what my year of cancer treatment would have been like without their support. But it also included many of my friends.
The evening following my surgery, I had so many visitors it was embarrassing, so I did what all post-operative patients are allowed to do and went to sleep on them! Once I returned home however, the visitors spread out, and it soon became evident those who were going to truly support us through the time. And there were a number, for whom I praise God.
2) There were friends and also family members, who didn't cope well with my diagnosis at all. In at least one case this was because the lady had lost two family members to cancer, and couldn't handle a third. She didn't live in our town, but kept meaning to answer my email. However the days went by, and believe it or not, she forgot I had cancer! A couple of years later, during a phone call, she realised what had happened, and was mortified. How could she have forgotten me during that time? On my side, I was confused that she didn't reply to my email. She wrote to me, but it was as if she'd never heard I was ill. Only after we opened up the subject, years later, did I understand what had happened.
3) A close family member had just moved to a foreign country with her tiny children and was already stressed to her limits trying to adjust. She didn't forget—-she wrote and emailed me whenever she had the chance. But her comments showed me that although she hadn't forgotten my diagnosis and treatment, she didn't have a clear understanding of where I was at. That hurt me, and I took it to mean a lack of interest. It couldn't have been further from the truth.
Months later, a psychologist gave me this explanation: She had so much going on in her life, she couldn't also cope with someone she loved dearly who had cancer and whom she couldn't visit. Her subconscious mind created a "mental cupboard" in order to protect her emotionally, and whenever she received news from me, she skimmed through it, then stored it in the "cupboard". When she sat down to write to me, she couldn't bear to re-read my emails so answered it from her "filtered" memory. When I heard this explanation, it helped me so much and alleviated the hurt I had felt.
4) Others didn't know how to speak to me, or act around me, and so they kept away. They were dealing with their own shock, and perhaps they didn't know how we were coping. I wish they'd sat down and spoken to me. Perhaps they thought I wouldn't notice, but I did.
5) There were those who seemed to think I was contageous. They visited, but stood at the door and left in a rush with some sort of excuse, which I usually saw right through.
6) Then there were those who had me dead and about to be buried within a couple of days of surgery.For some strange reason, they usually found it necessary to tell me all about someone they knew who had died a (usually traumatic) death from breast cancer. Not at all what I wanted or needed to hear!
7) One couple were devastated by my diagnosis, and seemed to want to visit so they could cry with me. Only thing was, I didn't want to cry with them! Rob had to step in and try to prevent them from visiting, which led to more stress in our lives.
8) Others struggled with my sense of humour. They seemed to feel it was inappropriate to do battle with a life-threatening disease with a smile on my face and making flippant remarks.
9) When I was in hospital, I received a couple of visitors that puzzled me. They weren't really friends at all. I came to the conclusion that they were there to satisfy their curiosity and sure enough they never came back. There are some strange people in this world!
10) And then there were the preachers. Oh my. They brought me the Gospel. They urged me to have faith in God. They quoted all the verses they could think of to convince me that if I had faith I would be healed. I'll say more about this in another post, but sufficient to say, far from building me up, these people annoyed me and put me on the defensive. I often had to bite my tongue. "Who do you think I'm trusting in?" I wanted to snarl in my most loving Christian fashion.
If you have someone who is doing battle with cancer at the moment, perhaps read through these different reactions, and there are more of course, and see if you can identify how you are responding. If you are a 1), then praise the Lord for the way you are supporting your loved one.
If you fall into any of the other categories, pray about your reaction. Ask yourself (and the Lord) why you feel the way you do. Look at the message your reaction is giving to the patient--and ask the Lord to show you how you can best show your support.
We'll continue with this thread again next Tuesday. 'Till then, have a blessed week. And remember the "Book in a Blog" which is posted on this blog each Friday.