I hesitate to post this because I know just about everyone on the planet knows of a sure cure for cancer from eating tree bark, to drinking some kind of reconstituted seed, to visiting clinics in foreign countries. Every time I mention that someone I know is dealing with cancer I get a pile of referrals, all guaranteed to work with anecdotal evidence to back it up. Cancer patients tell me it is one of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with well-intentioned people while you’re also trying to deal with the disease and treatment. People who are desperate are sitting ducks for every expensive procedure and false hope to cure the disease. So I am going to ask that no one fill the ‘comments’ section with more of those cures, and if they do then for those who are dealing with cancer, feel free to ignore them. Please. On both counts!
But I have to share this email exchange with you. Dave Coleman, a close friend of mine who was my partner on the SO YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ANYMORE project, received a letter from a young couple who are facing a crisis. The sought out Dave for help and, as you will see, could not have approached a better person:
My wife of 23 years was diagnosed with colon cancer. She is recovering from surgery and we are waiting to start the chemo/radiation adventure (mid December). When my wife was in the hospital I had several panic attacks and became so worried about the situation that I almost ended up in the emergency room myself. It seem after years of being a Christian, I am totally unequipped to face the emotional trials and feelings that come with pain, suffering and mortality issues. I guess that I’m just afraid. Afraid for my wife, afraid for my children afraid for me. I am trying to pray and meditate on scripture and it works at times, but I do have an hunger for peace in Christ.
Here is Dave’s reply in its totality. In my estimation you will not read better counsel to deal with any devastating calamity in this age, whether it be cancer, loss of a job or something else. Dave not only acted as a hospice chaplain for over 10 years, but as you’ll see has engaged this same kind of cancer, albeit at a more advanced stage in his own life:
I don’t know if Wayne told you or not, but next month (Jan. ’08) I will officially become a Cancer Survivor. In 2003 they found a large Colorectal tumor which was advanced Stage IV. They wouldn’t even operate on me here, but fortunately there were two doctors in the country who would attempt it—one on the East Coast and one at USC. I went thru all the hoops with severe complications requiring an additional 5 surgeries, etc. Won’t bore you with the details and my only reason for mentioning it is to say that colon cancer is not the end of the world—though a battle, to be sure. I want to encourage your wife and yourself, and perhaps share a positive thought or two.
The main thing of course is prayer. Just accept the illness and offer yourself to God, for He alone is the One who does all things well. Go through all the chemo/radiation, etc. but relax with it. Get to know people, share with them. I had some great times in the chemo room, and met some fantastic folks along the way.
An illness such as this is a tremendous opportunity to grow in the Lord. Sometimes though, we panic, and believe the statistics, etc. which has a way causing a certain amount of futility. “What’s the use?” we think. In my ten years as a Hospice Chaplain, the one thing I noticed about all of the patients was that they had given up. The attitude of a cancer patient and family must simply be, “Let’s see what God has for us in all of this.” I am not talking about whistling in the dark. I am talking about spiritual reality. As Jesus said, “God knows all these things that you have need for.” He knows what is going on and He loves us so deeply. He wants us to know that and that is the key. He is not out to, get us.
Sometimes, though, we have a tendency to panic. Why? If we really understand ourselves deeply, the bottom line in all of our personalities is our deep-seated desire to be in control. This to me is the basic meaning of what the Bible calls sin. We want to have everything run smoothly in order to look good, and when it doesn’t, we feel threatened and when we are threatened we get scared (afraid) and that moves us into anger, which causes panic, anxiety and/or depression, etc. The opposite of love is control (fear). There is no fear in love, because perfect love cast out fear, writes the apostle. God is constantly at work conforming us to His image (the outward expression of an invisible reality). So that like Jesus told the disciples, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” So often rather then to accept what God is doing, we have been taught the ‘principles’ of how to get from God whatever you want. And we forget that if God is love. He doesn’t control us and we, in turn, cannot control Him. He is there to see us through, and bring us into a deeper awareness of who He really is, and not what we want Him to be, which of course is far better. Allow your wife’s illness to bring you closer together in your family and of course closer to Father. You have been and will continue to be in our prayers on your behalf. Again, there is no need for fear, for the many reasons all ready mentioned, and also because being uptight (stress) just knocks out our immune system and destroys the healing qualities of our body.
I remember about 6 days after my major surgery, the Dr. said that I was not healing as fast as he would like. Why? I asked, “Well, he said, the immune system is trying to deal with all of the pain medication that you are receiving, so that your healing is slowed down to a crawl.” Pull the needle out, I said, and in a few days, I was on my way home. Painful? You bet, but necessary for healing. There is an old Gaelic blessing that goes, “May you have the commitment to heal what has hurt you, to allow it to come close to you and in the end, to become one with you.” Don’t run away from this. It will be the biggest blessing in your lives.”
In His Peace, Dave and Donna