A friend was just given the news that her mother most likely has cancer. As a ten-year cancer survivor, I can certainly commiserate. Being the great-granddaughter, granddaughter, daughter, and mother of others with this diagnosis makes me all too aware of what lies ahead. But aside from the natural fear, a likely bout of pity, and physical/mental struggles it’s important to share the faith, hope, and love of a cancer diagnosis.
While much has been written about the experiences of the five affected generations of women in my family, my collection of posts was found lacking. It seems that only the surface has been scratched. The widespread pandering, betrayal, and exploitation of cancer victims have come across clearly. Yet, there seems to be a great need for comforting, informational words to fellow members of the Cancer Club.
Hopefully the following will help fill that gap.
Cancer Isn’t a Death Sentence
As frightening as it is to hear the words, “you have cancer”, it isn’t a death sentence. The amazing advances in the medical field have made me a ten year survivor while all those sharing the BRCA1 cancer gene before me survived no longer than 5 years.
Aside from morally bankrupt embryonic stem cell research, a vast array of ethical cancer treatments are now common. Even medications for symptoms, as well as surgical techniques have seen amazing advancement. There really is much hope for a full recovery and a long, healthy life.
Fear is a Natural Initial Reaction
Who isn’t afraid of the unknown? Only a handful can claim that type of reaction. Most of us like the security of our comfortable, familiar lives. When an element of the unknown is introduced, the natural reaction is fear. Until we inform ourselves with what’s going on, this feeling may well persist.
Fear can also be a great catalyst to action. When we fear for our physical body, we’re more likely to decidedly seek safety and good will. Use this natural inclination to your advantage by pursuing the best course of action for you.
Feeling Hopeless Can Be Normal
Fear may be followed by hopelessness or a feeling of pity. Perhaps both. When given such a stark reminder of mortality, it’s natural to go through a full range of emotions. Even our animal friends have the instinct to run from danger. As creatures of God with an immortal soul, however, we can bring ourselves back to our gift of reasoning.
A helpful response might be to count your blessings. Do you have a loving family, caring doctors, and experienced medical staff? Is your relationship with God what it should be? If you have the advantage of any or all of these blessings, be sure to bring your focus back to them. If not, pursue others who will help. Encourage friends and family in their efforts to help. Consult a priest or spiritual advisor in an effort to bring your immortal soul back to full health. Grace is a mighty, strong medicine for an ailing body and soul.
Share Your Feelings
Those who love you need to know how you feel in order to be there for you. It’s okay to reserve a bit of panic for only ourselves, but allowing others in will empower them to console you. Lay your fears on the table for yourself as well. Face them, head-on, and become familiar with the details of your fears. Can you rationalize some of the fears by identifying and then diminishing them? Give it a try. Put a name or face on what it is you’re feeling. An unidentified feeling of foreboding may be conquered by bringing your fears to the light of day.
Acknowledge the Fear Others Feel
Acknowledge that your loved ones are frightened too. A cancer diagnosis is shared with everyone with whom you have a relationship. You may be the sole physically affected person but your family and friends are afraid on your behalf – because they love you. Don’t deny them their feelings or the opportunity to offer the balm of comfort.
As you join with others in facing your diagnosis, teamwork can help alleviate some of the negative feelings you may be experiencing. Your common bond of love can make facing the next few months of treatment much more tolerable.
Fiercely Face the Reality of a Cancer Diagnosis
Don’t live in denial. While it’s advisable to refrain from doing your own research on the internet (big no-no), do ask questions from your healthcare professionals. They know your unique case and can offer information based on you as an individual. No cancer patient is the same as another. No cancer diagnosis is either. Let your specialists employ their vast education and rely on them for answers. Who knows, the cancer of diagnosis you’re imagining, might be much more formidable than the reality.
Facing your diagnosis head-on might also diminish the fear of the unknown. There will be power in knowledge, once the details, treatment, and prognosis are known. Facing a known entity removes many doubts and replaces them with firm resolution to do battle.
Settling for local, generalized care with a cancer diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. When dealing with the subtleties of various forms of cancer, relying on aspecialist, especially trained and focused, is the proactive choice. You may even share the experience of hurt feelings from local doctors who have been replaced with out-of-town specialists but remember, you are the patient and when it comes to aggressive treatment, you are in the driver’s seat. Don’t let personalities get in the way of foolish pride or fear of conflict. This is your life!
Rely on God
The most important action is reliance on God. He, Who made you, knows you and what you need. Find peace in knowing He wants what’s best for you. Put yourself at His mercy and allow Him to work through you, to find your best path. When you’re feeling the strain, go to Him for comfort. In need of answers? Petition Him to guide your way to finding them. He will never let you down, even when others (or you, yourself) are less than helpful. No one knows your heart like He does. Pray unceasingly and ask others to do the same. Know that the Communion of Saints is there, kneeling beside you, and interceding on your behalf.
Many faithful, from many corners of the world prayed for me during my cancer journey. Their prayers were felt and heard. As a ten year survivor, I owe my life to Him. The same is true for our daughter. Six years later, she is cancer free and her healthy little girl will turn 6 on Thanksgiving. The prayers of the Passionist nuns in our county even brought a miracle. We three – daughter, granddaughter, and I – are living proof that prayer is the most powerful medicine for the healing of body and mind.
3 generations of survivors at Horses and Hope
Let us pray for one another!
Are you a member of the Cancer Club? It would be great to hear from you – whether these ponderings inspired, found you nodding your head, or fell short. What was your most important survival technique? If you would like to share your experiences or to ask for prayer, please leave a comment. God bless!
* Things to Share with Members of the Cancer Club was first published at Catholic Mom