8 Things to Share with Members of the Cancer Club

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Photo by Bessi via Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain.

Photo by Bessi via Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain.

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.

Be Aggressive

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 a specialist, 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.

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!

Courtesy of Birgit Jones. All rights reserved.About the Author: Birgit Jones is a 50-something cradle Catholic who is passionate about the pro-life movement. She has been married to her Catholic convert husband, Rick, for 40 years. They have four children and nine living grandchildren (all age twelve and under). Their frequent visits eliminate any fear of an empty nest! Birgit can also be found on her personal blog Designs By Birgit and Facebook fan page Designs By Birgit, where she shares the pro-life memes she creates.

Copyright 2015 Birgit Jones.
Image by Bessi, via Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain.

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8 Comments

  1. I can’t believe no one has commented! With 1 out of 8 of us in this Club, where is everybody? I’m one-month-new in this elite Club and still floundering and finding my way, I don’t even know what to “comment” here but wanted you to know at least one of us is reading your post! Thank You for this post. Thank you for the wisdom and perspective from someone who’s been-there-done-that. I can hardly wait until this is all ten years behind ME!

    I had mastectomy on L side on Sept. 29 Feast of Archangels for invasive ductal cancer Stage 2 slow growing nowhere else in body. My prospects look good but I so feel for all the women who have worse prognoses than I do. How do they do it. Trying to give thanks in all things and most of the time I do have an amazing peace that surpasses all understanding, I mean ALL understanding. But the bills are starting to roll in . . . husband suspects $40,000 when all is said and done. Insurance will pay for most of it but deductible is $10,000. That’s one-fourth our income.

    Also I’m waiting on results from one more test (waiting is HARD) to decide if I will need chemotherapy after all even though I sacrificed the breast so I wouldn’t need chemo or radiation, or will I just need Tamoxifen. I’m scared to death of Tamoxifen, too.

    Maybe some day I’ll be able to help a little girl the way your witness has helped me. (Sorry, I’m 53, not really a “little” girl but that’s the dividing line between “little” and Titus 2 Woman, in my book.) God Bless you and any other women reading the post but not commenting!!!

    • Dear “Prov”, I want to thank you for your courage and your comment, but especially tell you that I’m taking you to intercessory prayer today. I’m a fellow “club member” although mine was caught very early. I did surgery, radiation but no chemo and four years of tamoxifen (which was actually the most uncomfortable part of the entire journey). Please know that you’re always welcome here and that we’ll be lifting you up along your path to wellbeing. Praying for your family too!

      • I’m just curious why Tamoxifen was the most uncomfortable part of your journey. I’m a little scared of it too, the side effects, the daily reminder that I’m taking it b/c I had cancer, I’m taking it so I don’t get cancer again. Everyone acts like it’s No Big Deal, very common. Everyone tells me I am “overthinking things.” (which I do do)

        • Prov, I was 45 when I started taking it and it threw me into near immediate menopause, hard and fast. Even though I knew it was unlikely, I’d always held out hope that I would be able to have another baby. The quick and permanent loss of my fertility came as a sad and major shock for me. I would say that the side effects physically were less challenging for me than the emotional ones… and perhaps my strong reaction to hating tamoxifen was a delayed response to my cancer treatment. In my case, my diagnosis was not life threatening in any way. I don’t share this to say “don’t take tamoxifen” – you should absolutely follow your doctor’s wisdom. I simply share to say that if you feel an emotional reaction to the medication, you are not alone. But thank goodness for research and treatments that have vastly improved the outcomes for people facing this form of cancer!

    • Prov31Wannabe, this really spoke to me since it was my attitude too. “The surgery and scar really are the least of my worries. They don’t bother me at all. It’s the mental, emotional and spiritual energy that get depleted.”

      As my husband told the surgeon, “She’s not a vain woman, she just wants to survive”. Please know that, being part of the ‘club’, you are also a part of my prayer life. We cancer victims have a very special bond and feel for each other – we rejoice with those who have victories to share and mourn with those who struggle.

      For me, knowing my prognosis and having a battle plan was key – it even brought me to the strength I needed to face death, if that was to be my outcome. What got me through, and calms an occasional qualm even now, is the prayers of others. I could literally feel them. Praying for members of the club gives me strength as well.

      God bless you on your journey and never fail to reach out. We’re here to help!

  2. Thanks for the prayers and don’t forget to pray for my medical team, too. Doc actually said he would pray for me if I would pray for him, but I said I had him beat, I started praying for the medical people the minute I got the diagnosis. The surgery and scar really are the least of my worries. They don’t bother me at all. It’s the mental, emotional and spiritual energy that get depleted.
    I read Catholic Mom all the time, I just don’t always comment.
    Did you realize prov31wannabe is in reference to the Proverbs 31 Woman, Virtuous Woman, Woman of Valor, She Smiles On the Days to Come, She is Worth More Than Rubies. I need that valor!

    • I absolutely caught the reference! And here’s to valor!

      And yes, wise and beautiful to pray for your medical team. They will feel like family to you by the end of the journey.

  3. Prov31Wannabe, this really spoke to me since it was my attitude too. “The surgery and scar really are the least of my worries. They don’t bother me at all. It’s the mental, emotional and spiritual energy that get depleted.”

    As my husband told the surgeon, “She’s not a vain woman, she just wants to survive”. Please know that, being part of the ‘club’, you are also a part of my prayer life. We cancer victims have a very special bond and feel for each other – we rejoice with those who have victories to share and mourn with those who struggle.

    For me, knowing my prognosis and having a battle plan was key – it even brought me to the strength I needed to face death, if that was to be my outcome. What got me through, and calms an occasional qualm even now, is the prayers of others. I could literally feel them. Praying for members of the club gives me strength as well.

    God bless you on your journey and never fail to reach out. We’re here to help!

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