Above all else guard your heart for it affects everything you do.  Proverbs 4:23

One of the most valuable lessons I learned while going through cancer is how powerful words are that are spoken to you. Like golden apples in silver settings so is a word spoken at the right time. Or you could say it this way; like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances. (Proverbs 25:11) There is much to learn from what that it is not saying likewise. If you say the wrong thing to someone at the wrong time it can add much grief and harm.

When you are going through something like a diagnosis of cancer at some point your mind is just a battlefield. You usually pass through stages and you try to come to terms with that which is taking place. You are trying to tell yourself this isn’t really happening. When the doctors give you the report and it sounds so devastating when they place a stage 4, before it, or they speak of the treatments. You bounce between it’s a bad dream, to he will beat this, to what if he doesn’t make it, what will I do? You have not got your stable footing established yet. I will never forget a friend who had just heard Larry had cancer and I ran into him at a shopping center. He said Jenny I just heard about Larry having cancer. I’m so sorry. What kind of cancer does he have? I replied he has 2 types of cancer; he has Large B-cell lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s disease. I barely got it out of my mouth and he said, Ahhh man I am so sorry that lymphoma is the worst there is to beat. You know last year I had an uncle and he got sick and the doctors told him he had lymphoma and bam 2 weeks later he dropped dead. I have to ask you, now does that sound like a word spoken at the right time, or at the right circumstances? We laugh about it now and I’m sorry to say that it was only one of many stupid things that were said to me. He wasn’t mean-spirited, he was sincere but he was sincerely wrong. In that particular case, I was so angered that he would have the nerve to say that to me I did not know how to react so I gave him this free look smiley and turned around and walked off thinking, “How dare you say something like that to me when I am trying so hard to be strong.”

Another thing found to add stress to me was people coming and telling me all these other homeopathic ways they “heard” cured cancer. They would tell us about a treatment we ought to try down in Mexico people were taking, or a heat therapy in Germany that has been proven to be successful in curing cancer. Unless you have an abundance of money all of these things are going to be out of pocket and not covered by insurance. If the person with cancer does not have deep pockets don’t throw out a scenario that is unattainable to them. There is not benefit in doing so. We prayed for direction. We purposely sought out the best doctors possible with success. After we got into M D Anderson we still had people trying to get us to check out other things. We determined we trusted these doctors and we were going to let them treat Larry and owed them the respect to follow their protocol. We have since tried to say only positive things to other cancer patients and families that will help them believe in a positive outcome of the type of treatment the person has chosen to receive. Give them words of hope to build upon, or good words to play over in their minds.

Last but not least in the Christian world the beliefs go from just the basic hope and trust in God to making it a potion. While I believe in miracles, I do not believe in magic. I do not believe there is any act that is a magic potion that you do every morning or three times a day with your back to the sun and with your head tilted just right chanting certain words that will make your cancer disappear. While that example may be a bit exaggerated, in some of the cases we were told it isn’t by much. The most hindering stress that has been added to us has been by well-meaning Christians telling us a formula which they have made their doctrine; as to what will work that they have never had to prove themselves in such circumstances. We are not God. Don’t feel obligated that you have to be their spiritual backbone, and have to make it all spiritual. Instead of so much talk about some deep words obligating God to make your words powerful but sweet. Words such as we are praying and believing with you; Praying for God’s will in your life;  you are constantly in our thoughts and prayers; We can’t wait to see what God has in store for you on this journey. Little is much at a time like this. While God does not cause all things, he does work through them. Make sure your words are sweet like a medicine to the soul to whom you are speaking. The best thing you can do for a cancer patient and family is to make them forget “cancer” is in their lives if but for a moment, a minute, or a day. Make them laugh, and feel normal like before cancer came into their lives. It is not disrespectful to have a conversation with a person that is sick that is not all about the sickness. I can tell you very few people have the ability to do that and it is wonderful to be a participant when they do come along. I know 2-3 people that I can call or send an email and tell them Larry needs to be sidetracked. He is feeling down can you call him or have lunch with him? They can mentally whisk him away to a “deer stand”, or to lake fishing. That my dear is a good word spoken at the right time.

To sum up, things I learned and try to remember is:

  1.  Your diagnosis label does not define you nor your lifespan.
  2. People with good intentions will place a high demand on you giving you things to read, or listen to or quote because of the unsettledness of their hearts and it can cause anxiety to you and heaviness to your soul.
  3. Unclutter any family or friends who while well meaning will suck the life from you. Your main objective now is to protect your mind and the mind of the patient.

Come to grips with the facts that life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference. I know many reading this will well understand the points I have written. If I can help you prioritize and help you carry your load on the journey then the words have accomplished what it was supposed to.

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