Category Archives: Faith and Cancer


Praying for someone who has cancer

This week we got news that my husband’s recent scan was not good at all. We will eventually be going down to the Mayo clinic to see what they recommend in the way of experimental treatment. In the meantime, he is doing relatively well, despite how bad is insides look. People often ask what they can do. I say, “Just pray.” I don’t mean that to sound like it’s some last resort. It’s really truly uplifting to know that people are praying for us. If you are a Christian, praying for someone who has cancer is the best thing you can do. But how? With a problem so big, it can be hard to find the words.

Here’s a list of ways you can be praying for someone who has cancer

It isn’t long, but it is powerful. I would recommend really personalizing this in your prayer time. Think about what, specifically, your friend is facing, and pray for that. This list is more of a mind jogger.

You may want to pray for one of these areas each day, or if something, in particular, is causing the most trouble for your friend, focus on that for a few days. Our family sometimes divides these areas between us at our evening prayer time. Each of us is interceding for a different part of our friend’s life.

Use these ideas in any way that works best for you. And listen for God to respond in your heart. Often, He will call you to be the answer to the prayer you pray!

Things to keep in mind when praying for someone who has cancer:

  • Wisdom: For decisions that the patient, their family, and their caregivers, both professional (medical) and non-professional (family and friends)must make.
  • Financial Needs: For provision to meet bill payments, and the daily needs of the patient and his/her family
  • Physical Needs: Including comfort and healing. Pray specifically for any physical problems the patient is facing
  • Emotional Needs: For the peace of God to transcend the fear that cancer can cause for the patient and his/her loved ones
  • Spiritual Needs: For God’s presence to be felt, undeniably, in the midst of this difficult time. To be at peace with God
  • Practical needs: That friends and family would come alongside the patient and his/her immediate family to lift their burdens. This can be done through, meals, acts of service gifts, and encouragement. Also, pray about how God can use you to participate in this.

Facing CancerMore ways to help a friend with cancer

If you feel up to helping with some of these needs, but aren’t sure how to go about it, read Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, available on Amazon.com. It’s full of ideas to help you use your gifts and skills to help others in a way you’re comfortable.

 

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2018-07-09 07:00:49.


Fear and Guilt

Dan and I first met one another in a Sunday school class ten years ago. We had both been through painful divorces, so starting over was a bit scary. Still, it wasn’t long before we knew that we were meant to marry. It was a whirlwind romance! All too soon, we would find out that even the best of marriages can be invaded by fear and guilt, especially when you are facing cancer. This is a story I’ve shared before. It bears repeating because fear and guilt are things that most people struggle with, including those of great faith.

Our friend, Rick

Back in 2009, The bus company that Dan worked for offered health insurance to its employees, but the policy premiums were too expensive for any of them to afford. Like Dan, his friend and co-worker, Rick, didn’t have health insurance. Rick began to have headaches that wouldn’t go away, and soon developed a strange lump on his sternum. When he finally qualified for a government health insurance policy in early 2009, he went to the doctor. But by then, it was too late. He had stage IV melanoma. He died just three months later.

Dan and I were planning our wedding,

In the midst of the joyous plans, the fear that Dan would one day get cancer, overwhelmed me. What if I lost him? I couldn’t handle the thought of it. I had never in my life experienced a love like ours. What if it was too good to be true? What if he died as Rick did? After all, Dan didn’t have insurance, either. I chalked it up to having just watched what Rick went through. Still, one day as I was vacuuming my living room floor and thinking about our future together, I began to have a panic attack.

Christians aren’t supposed to panic.

Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety. Right? I had always been told that Christians aren’t even supposed to fear. After all, it says, “Do not fear,” over and over again in the Bible. In fact, it’s said that it appears 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year. Knowing this only compounded the problem. I now felt both fear and guilt.

But, I was afraid. I did have anxiety. I was panicking.

Thankfully, I’d fallen in love with an amazing man. When I called him at work, he stopped everything and prayed for me over the phone. He prayed that God would calm my nerves and soothe my heart and give me peace where there had been panic. This was a man worth marrying. so for a time, I put aside my fear and guilt.

We married that fall in our church.

Each of us brought three children to the family. Dan’s were grown and living on their own, and mine were still very young. My daughters quickly thought of Dan as their dad and after we had been married for two years he adopted them, legally.

Our daughter Samantha was so small when we married. She was immediately attached to Dan, thanking God every night for giving her such a wonderful daddy. Her only question was why God had taken so long to bring him to us. She was also very scared that she would lose him. Her biological father left. While she didn’t understand how that could happen, she knew that it was possible to lose a parent and that it could happen again.

She would frequently quiz us about what would happen if we ever had a fight. We assured her that in a good marriage, even if you disagree, you don’t fight. There is a big difference between the two. As time went on, she found out that this was true, and she became more assured in the steadfast love of her dad. She knew that she would always have him.

Three years later, doctors diagnosed Dan with lung cancer.

Lung cancer? How could he have lung cancer? He was healthy. He’d never smoked. I had no idea that 15% of people who get lung cancer have never smoked, and there are many more people who haven’t smoked in years, even decades. Still, it didn’t make sense.

I remembered how afraid I was before we got married. Did my fear, bring this upon my husband and our family? Over the years I reprimanded by people in the church. “Don’t say that you’re bringing a curse upon yourself.” These memories played through my mind like a movie. This is rooted in theology often termed “name it and claim it.” More recently, people have begun to term this, “manifesting.”

This fear and guilt formula is a Christian form of Karma

While I didn’t really ascribe to that particular theology, I had heard it enough times to feel guilty. After all, I’d been so afraid of the very thing that was now happening. Is that what brought this about? As irrational as it was, guilt plagued me for quite some time during my husband’s diagnosis process.

Does God really look at our fear and guilt like that?

Does God wait for one of His children to name their fear, just to visit it upon them? That would be like my child saying she’s afraid of snakes, only to have me put a rattlesnake in her bed. Or, me knowing she’s afraid of spiders, and putting her in a room full of Black Widows. That may sound extreme, but it’s no more so than cancer.  If God is a better parent than I am (and surely He is), then He doesn’t work that way.

fear and guilt

Saint Luke makes this same observation in his gospel.

“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13 KJV)

I think it’s true that we do need to watch the things that we say. The words we use are indicative of the condition of our heart. And, the things that we say affect those around us.

“With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)

We can do great damage without words.

When we speak to our children we can build them up or tear them down. When we speak to our spouse we can build them up here them down. This is why we speak life rather than death.

Fear and guilt are both experiences (whether rational or not). When we feel fear, we need God’s loving help, as well as understanding and support from family and friends. So, did the fear I felt, all those years ago cause my husband’s cancer? No, I was simply a woman in love. Love makes us feel vulnerable,

Parents worry about their children. That’s why we take precautions to protect them. Those worries don’t cause scraped knees and hurts that come even later in life as the children grow older and go out into this broken world. In fact, when God or His messengers said, “Do not be afraid,” in the Bible, they were assurances, not reprimands. It is time to disentangle the fear and guilt that people often associate with cancer.

Perhaps, all those years ago, God had been speaking to my heart through my fear, to let me know what I would one day deal with? Was He allowing me to prepare? Did he want to see my reaction to such a thought? Was He seeing if I could handle it?

I don’t know. But I do know that my husband’s cancer wasn’t a reaction on God’s part to my fear. My Father in Heaven is better than that.

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

Have you experienced fear and guilt associated with a cancer diagnosis? How did it affect your faith? I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSONThe Erickson Family

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker


Job's Friends

Have you ever heard the term, “Job’s comforters?” If you’ve ever experienced a tragedy, especially one with your health, you’ve likely gotten a dose of what Job’s friends dished out to him.

Job was a blameless and upright man (Job 1:1) who got caught between God and the devil. Satan thought he could get Job to turn on God, but God knew Job’s heart, as he knows all of our hearts. He trusted Job enough to allow Satan to do his worst.

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. (Job 2:7, 8)

Now that you have a picture of just a portion of the tragedy that hit Job, let’s look at how Job’s friends responded.

In the beginning, Job’s friends did all the right things.

They made an appointment to come and mourn with him. When they got there, he was so ill that they didn’t even recognize him. They sat with him for seven days nights, and no one spoke a word to him because his grief was so great. I find this to be a tender moment. They were allowing him time to grieve and have the comfort of their presence. That’s being a good friend.

Then Job spoke. “I wish I’d never been born!”

Have you ever had a friend who told you she was going through a divorce, or his kid was doing drugs, or she was diagnosed with a chronic illness, or his doctor just told him he has cancer? What do you say to that? It feels like you should say something—but what?

Eliphaz was the first of Job’s friends to give his thoughts on the matter.

“Don’t take offense at this, but I just need to say something. Yes, you’ve done a lot of good things in your time, but it seems to me that you must have done something to deserve this. I was praying for you the other night, and the Holy Spirit told me (Job 4:12) that you aren’t trusting in God, but rather earthly things. Your sin caused this.”

Really???

This is an all too real a scenario, for people facing cancer.

That’s why I wrote Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer.

In Facing Cancer as a Friend, I address what to say, what not to say, end more importantly, how to use your talents and gifts to bless the people in your life who have cancer.

Some things are more stigmatized than others.

When my husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, we were quickly immersed in the cancer blame game. “Did he smoke?” Was the immediate response 90% of the time when we told people that he had lung cancer. I soon began to add the tagline, “and, he never smoked,” whenever I told someone about his cancer.

This bothered me, though. After all, are we saying that smokers deserve to have cancer?

The smoking stigma is reflected in research spending.

In a 2012 analysis by the National Lung Cancer Partnership, it was reported that each year, nearly 157,000 Americans die of lung cancer, and 39,970 from breast cancer. Yet, far fewer research dollars are spent per lung cancer death—$1,490 versus $21,641 for breast cancer. (A Sick Stigma by Charlotte Huff, Slate.com)

Job's Friends

Other Cancers

For other cancers, behaviors such as eating habits, alcohol, and stress are often called into question. While lifestyle is definitely a major contributor to all illnesses, including cancer, it isn’t appropriate to talk about these conjectures regarding a patient, unless you are the patient or their doctor. To do so, is either gossip or just plain tacky, depending on who you are speaking with.

The reality is, people are just trying to make sense of a senseless disease.

Job’s friends aren’t the only ones to engage in the, “how did this happen,” sleuthing. To this day, we can only guess at the cause of Dan’s lung cancer.  Radon is the top guess, just because it’s statistically most likely. But when and where did he get the radon? Who knows? One in three homes in Minnesota has an unsafe level of radon.

Dan has lived a “good, clean,” life. But, what if he hadn’t? Can you imagine all of the second-guessing that a cancer patient does at that point? We sometimes joke that he got cancer from the polluted air in Egypt. Really, it’s more of the same, “How could this happen?”

A skin cancer patient will look back on that sunburn from 2 years ago and curse the fact that he didn’t use sunscreen like his wife had nagged him to.

Someone with liver cancer will wonder if it was all of the partying she did back in her college days. Or, was it the acetaminophen she takes daily for chronic headaches?

We want to know why.

Cancer is such a complicated disease. Until it touches you, directly, you don’t have a lot of reason to gain an in-depth understanding of it. Social-media “science” only adds to the confusion. It’s horrible to think that bad things could happen to good people. It causes a sense of dread in all of us. After all, that would mean we aren’t immune. So, we try to conjure up a reasonable explanation for the cause of the illness or tragedy. Otherwise, how do I know it won’t happen to me?

Unfortunately, when we do this, we are acting more like Job’s friends than supportive friends.

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSONThe Erickson Family

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-10-08 07:00:50.


The Daily Examen

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is X is for Daily Examen (I know it’s not technically an X word, but hopefully, you’ll forgive me).

As a caregiver, there are a lot of ups and downs each day. People often ask how I deal with that. One way is the Daily Examen,

The Examen is a method of prayer and meditation first practiced by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish priest, and theologian who founded the religious order of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). You don’t need to be Catholic to use this method of prayer and meditation. The Examen is a wonderful way to not only seek guidance from God but also to grow closer to Him each day. This is particularly helpful as a caregiver needing to find the light in the darkness of our, often difficult task.

There are 5 parts to the Daily Examen.

Here is my paraphrase of question I ponder as I spend time in prayer using this powerful method as a guide. I have used language that I am comfortable with. You don’t need any particular words. Instead, feel free to use your own words as you go through the steps of examining your day and your heart.

  1. Open your heart and mind to what God has to say to you about your day, your life and your relationship with Him.

“God, Be with me now as I look back on what has happened today. Help me see things through your eyes and with your Holy Spirit within me. Give me the clarity to glorify you, even when things are hard, and my feet stumble on the path as I walk toward you and beside you.”

  1. Recall to your mind, God’s blessings. What are the positive things that have happened today?

“God, when have you been there for me, today? What are some of the good things that happened? What can I glean from today? Were there people who lightened my load, or made me feel especially loved? Did I experience any moments when I was acutely aware of your presence?”

  1. Reflect on your day.

“Lord, were there times I followed where you led, today? Did show mercy when I could have been hard on someone (maybe even rightly)? Did I show charity in my dealings with others? Were there moments when I was especially aware of your presence? How did that feel? How was the care I gave my loved one, a reflection of your love?”

  1. Seek forgiveness for your shortcomings. We so often fall short. Thankfully, we have a Savior who can restore us.

“Lord, were there things today that I should have done differently. Did I speak too harshly to my child when he wasn’t behaving? Were there times that my weariness got the best of me so that I was unaware of the needs and pain around me? Was, I selfish and untrusting when I wouldn’t share with others what you have so freely given? Lord, forgive me. I am so sorrowed for the times that I ignored the promptings of your Holy Spirit.”

  1. Ask for help in the coming day, anticipating renewal and growth.

“Lord, tomorrow I have a lot on my plate. I’m thankful that you can help me in the times I feel unable to handle it all. Let me be an instrument in your hands. I pray that you will use me in the way that suits you best.”

There are many ways to pray the Examen.

Some people journal through the Examen, expressing their thoughts in prayer through the ink, onto paper. When I was a young woman, I used to journal, beginning each entry, “Dear Lord.” This began a conversation between God and me that continued long after I set down my pen.

While praying through the Examen is ideal at the end of the day, you don’t need to wait that long. You can also Examen your heart in the middle of the day, reflecting on how things have gone so far. You can use this method after a difficult (or wonderful) situation such as a family meeting. Much can be learned by looking at complex relationships interacting, through God’s eyes.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-04-27 07:00:47.

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