May 7, 2011

Compassion for Cancer

Cancer. My husband has cancer. Out of necessity and with vulnerability, I have repeated these words many times recently. People react in a variety of ways. One non-Christian woman crossed all her fingers and said, “We’ll think good thoughts for you.” A co-worker told me that she knows a man who refused to sleep in the same room as his wife once he got the cancer diagnosis. Although these people were well intentioned, they brought no sense of comfort to me.

It is not easy to hear that someone has cancer. But even if every bone in your body screams, “I can’t do it,” you have an opportunity to offer help and comfort. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gives high importance to visiting the sick and equates it with our treatment of Him.
Here are some hints to help you in your mercy ministry to people touched by cancer.

  • Say something. To the person who is hurting because of a cancer diagnosis, silence seems like rejection. The three best words my husband heard after he announced his cancer were, “I’m so sorry.” A few words are very meaningful.
  • Don’t say too much. Cancer makes people nervous. Nervous people can talk…a lot. For instance, if someone is reeling from a bad diagnosis, he doesn’t want to hear about your own health problems or all the people you know who have suffered with this type of cancer.
  • Acknowledge that cancer is not contagious. Sick people need all the caring you can muster. Don’t be afraid to touch someone who has cancer or the wife of someone who has cancer. Don’t take one step backwards.
  • Be careful with questions. It is natural to try to figure out how you can prevent bad things in your own life. However, questioning the patient about how this cancer was contracted implies that if he ate more antioxidants like you have, for example, he could avoid the cancer altogether.
  • Offer well-defined assistance. Volunteer to help in very specific ways. The person suffering from cancer might not respond to, “What can I do?” but he may be able to give a yes or no to, “May I come over a few days after you get home to mow your lawn?” One Deacon’s help was invaluable to me. He said, “I’m your point person while your husband is recovering. Call me for whatever you need, and I will arrange it for you.” And he did.
  • Don’t stop praying. We are tempted to move on to the next prayer request once the patient enters the recovery room. Instead, I suggest that you start praying with more fervor at that point. The real emotional and spiritual battles are just beginning.
 God will bless you for ministering in such ways. And, as one who has received such care from others, I thank you, too. See More Compassion for Cancer for additional hints.


  1. I'm so sorry you and Dad are walking through this trial; thanks for helping me to understand it better.

    Also, I wonder if someone could add a comment on ministering in situations of chronic/very long-term illness?

  2. I'm sorry to hear of your husband's cancer and the pointers you gave are so good to be aware of. In fear of saying the wrong thing we many times say nothing at all. My friend, who lost her husband to suicide, recently encouarged our church in this same way. She said she lost some friends because they simply didn't know what to say and so they didn't say anything. At all. She encouraged us to not be afraid to talk to the person who just lost their loved one to suicide. And not to be afraid to talk about the person who passed away. She also talked about depression and how to make it a point to call that person who is struggling with depression. To send notes. Text scripture, etc. Practical ways to still minister to someone even though we feel akward or afraid.
    Okay, can you tell I'm liking ya'lls blog as this is my third comment in the last 30 minutes! Ha, sorry for being so chatty. My toddler is napping and I'm getting in my adult conversation. :)

  3. Yes, Melody, contacting someone who is sick or hurting is very important to help them feel that they are not alone. Calls, notes, texts, greeting cards, etc. help, especially when the person is not ready for visitors. Thanks for your comment.


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