Last week I had the privilege of doing a Facebook live interview with Patricia Durgin from Marketers on a Mission. Patricia helps Christian writers and speakers succeed online with a daily Facebook live show, and last week she hosted a special breast cancer awareness week. I was thrilled to be able to share God’s story of faithfulness to me during my battle with angiosarcoma and discuss how we can support our friends with cancer. You can check out the replay from YouTube here!Share
Last Tuesday morning I opened my Facebook app and saw a post that stopped my casual stroll. It’s not the first time the cancer battle of a Facebook friend has ended in death. And sadly, it’s not even the first time I’ve learned the news by seeing a teenage daughter’s loving tribute to a mom she won’t see again this side of heaven.
I sat in stunned silence, praying for the grieving family as I absorbed the reality of their loss. Several minutes later, I saw another tribute for a young father who just passed away after a five-year cancer battle. On a morning when I planned to write a devotional on Psalm 23:4, I couldn’t avoid the reality that death is a pervasive part of life.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
This verse tells us that as we endure the pain of suffering, we have nothing to fear. Through our tears and our heartbreak, we can have confidence that Christ conquered cancer, sickness, death, and loss when He rose from the grave. We can say with the apostle Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).
The psalmist draws comfort from these four words: “You are with me.” We have peace in the midst of suffering because God is always with us and will never abandon us. There is nowhere we can flee from His presence (Ps. 139:9-10). We belong to Him, and He promises to always be with us (Isaiah 43:1-2). Just as the fourth man appeared with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace, we never suffer alone (see Dan. 3).
Because our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, walked through death for us, we will never walk through death’s shadow alone. Because our Shepherd suffered for us, we can face suffering without fear. Because our Shepherd demonstrated His love for us on the cross, we have confidence that He will always be there to comfort us and will one day wipe away all our tears.
No matter what you face this week, God is with you in your suffering.Share
In December 2010, I laid in bed while elves decorated my house for Christmas.
That might sound like a dream come true, right? We all struggle to juggle our typical busy schedules plus the demands of the holiday season.
But the year I battled cancer, spending late-night hours wrapping gifts and baking cookies wasn’t an option. I couldn’t even care for my family, so there was no way I could prepare for the holidays on my own. Thankfully, my elves—my amazing friends—knew I needed help, and they showed up to support our family.
If you have a friend fighting cancer this Christmas, you may wonder how to support her, especially in the midst of your own busy schedule. I’ve got a few suggestions that will hopefully shed light on your friend’s needs and ways you can help.
1. Help your friend with holiday tasks.
Depending on her treatment schedule and energy level, your friend might need just a little help or an entire sleigh of elves to pull her through. Try offering to help in one of these ways and see if she takes you up on it!
- Offer to decorate her house for Christmas.
Ask your friend if there are any decorations that they want to do as a family. Maybe they love to put the ornaments on the tree or hang the stockings, but you could put up everything else. Tell her you’ll be back after Christmas to put the decorations away, and then follow through when the time comes!
- Offer to help with her Christmas shopping.
Let your friend know which stores you’re hitting this week and ask if she needs anything there. Or you could pick your friend up and take her with you. She can run as many errands as she feels up to and then sit in the car while you finish. This gives you the added benefit of having time with your friend while you shop!
- Give her a hand with the gift-wrapping.
You could offer to pick up gifts to wrap at your house, or you could bring over your wrapping paper, a movie, and hot cocoa, and work together to get the job done. Either way, make sure you let her write the names on the tags. Her family will want to see her handwriting on Christmas morning, not yours.
2. Understand your friend’s mixed emotions
Having cancer during the holidays is a bummer. Your friend’s Christmas may be tainted by her treatment schedule, financial stress, difficult emotions, and the inability to travel or keep her typical family traditions.
When I had cancer, I was devastated each time my health issues kept me from being present with my family for holiday events. I was terrified that I might not have many more Christmas seasons with them and desperately wanted to make every moment special. For years after cancer, the fear of recurrence and my uncertain future complicated my emotions around the holidays. I’d pack up the Christmas decorations each January and beg God to let me be the one to open them the next year.
Depending on your friend’s situation and prognosis, she may not be dwelling on these thoughts and fears. But her emotions surrounding the holiday season might be different than they were before cancer. Here’s how you can help:
- Ask open-ended questions.
Say something like, “How does Christmas feel for you this year?” or “Is your health situation changing the way you experience the holidays?”
- Listen to her answer.
She may give you a chipper “I’m fine!” and move on, and that’s okay. Follow her lead—she may be feeling positive and enjoying the season, or you may not be the one she wants to open up to right now. But if she needs to process fear or sadness with you, listen compassionately and let her know you’re supporting her in this struggle.
3. Keep the meals coming.
If your friend is going through treatment or recovering from surgery, I hope there is a meal calendar for her family. But as people get busy and leave town for the holidays, there may be gaps in the schedule. Ask your friend what she needs during the holidays, and rally the elves to provide for them. Here are some ideas:
- Stock her freezer.
Pick one or two meals this month that you could easily double. Package the extra food to go into your friend’s freezer. Recruit a few friends to do the same, and she’ll have a fully-stocked freezer to get her through the holidays.
- Ask friends to chip in for restaurant gift cards.
This will lighten the burden on your friend during the weeks when people are traveling and unable to bring meals.
Here’s one important thing you need to know about helping your friend during the holidays:
You are absolutely not going to be able to do all these things for your friend.
I know you’re busy right now, too. You hardly know how you’re going to get food on your own table, let alone shop, wrap, decorate, and cook for others while providing meaningful emotional support.
Keep in mind that you can’t do everything, and just pick one or two ideas from this. Consider the closeness of your relationship, and pray about how you can serve her. After you’ve done your part, trust the Lord to provide for her other needs. He is always faithful to do so.
Do you have a go-to website for local information? If you live in my neck of the woods, you should know about www.nwamotherlode.com. It’s a fabulous resource for busy moms! Over the past few months, the sweet ladies at NWA Motherlode have allowed me to share articles with their readers about how to support a friend with cancer. Here are excerpts of the four posts and links to read more . . . go check them out!
Has this happened to you? Your phone buzzes, and you look down to see a call from a friend who’s expecting biopsy results.
The minute you hear her voice, you know: it’s cancer.
As you process your shock, sadness and fear, you wonder how you should walk this road with your friend. How will you support her as she endures treatment and survivorship? How will you avoid doing or saying the wrong thing? What does she need most?
I’ve gotten that phone call from a friend. I’ve also been the tearful voice on the other end of the line. In October 2010, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called angiosarcoma.
I endured several months of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, most of which took place at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. My besties kept my household running, meals showed up three times a week, and the prayers of thousands encouraged and sustained me.
I wish every cancer-fighter could feel as loved and supported as I was. But too often, friends lack confidence and hesitate to reach out with supportive words and actions. If you haven’t already had a friend face cancer, it’s likely you will.
When that phone call comes, here are three simple ways to love your friend through cancer . . . [Click here to read more]
In a previous post, we discussed three ways to support a friend with cancer. Your friend needs your constant encouragement throughout her cancer journey. She also needs your practical acts of service.
Being diagnosed with cancer is like landing an unexpected full-time job. The work seems unending, and the pay stinks! Your friend probably didn’t have much free time before her diagnosis. Now she’s going to spend half her time in doctors’ waiting rooms and the other half sleeping off the treatment she receives there.
In other words, she needs your help.
Here are some ideas to consider as you serve your friend through her cancer treatment . . .[Click here to read more]
In previous posts in this series, we’ve looked at ways to provide emotional support and practical service for a friend with cancer. Close, inner-circle friends will care for most emotional and logistical needs, but those in the outer circles also wonder how they can help.
Even if you aren’t besties with your friend who has cancer, you still have a role to play in her support network.
You have three responsibilities:
2. Communicate support.
3. Bring food.
If you’ve been an adult for awhile, you’ve probably taken a meal to a new mom. But the needs of women with cancer are different. You’re not dropping in on a smiling (but exhausted) woman cradling a newborn—in fact, you may not see your friend with cancer at all when you deliver a meal. Your friend’s family may be receiving meals for several months, not just a few weeks. She may have strict dietary restrictions or preferences that need to be considered. When you take dinner, you have an opportunity to love your friend well and show your concern.
Here are some ideas for those who want to take a meal like a rock star . . . [Click here to read more]
I’ve lived through the scene several times: I sit across from a cancer survivor who recently finished treatment. We wrap our hands around our lattes and lean in close so the guy in the next booth won’t hear our discussion of post-mastectomy life.
And then she says, “Everyone around me thinks I’m better. They’ve all moved on. But I’m not okay. I need my friends to understand I’m still struggling.”
If you’re friends with a cancer survivor, she still needs you. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you support her through her survivorship . . . [Click here to read more]Share