My Friend Has Cancer, What Can I Do?
Disease can bring fear, but not just for the cancer fighter. We can all find ourselves feeling awkward and struggling for words when a dear friend gets a tough diagnosis. Fear is more lame than the disease. It creates so many false narratives in our mind. You can love your friend well...and it will change their life...and they'll never forget it!
Creating a life-changing habit...simpler than you think!
My dad used to say this to me, “They say it takes 30 days to form a habit, but if you want to change your life and the lives of others, form habits faster. Consistency, week in and week out, lead to great things that people will never forget.”
In my life, I’ve seen this lived out in a very beautiful way by a family that has taken caring for my family as if it was their mission in life! This family has been there for us since the beginning of our cancer journey. And it is the consistency of their love that has truly changed our lives for the better! In a way, they’ve made it a habit and we will never forget it.
What can I do to really support a cancer fighter and their family?
One of the most common questions we get asked at Stages is, ”What can I do to really support a cancer fighter and their family?” We actually love it when it’s asked, because so many of us drop out of people’s lives when a life threatening disease hits a family member or friend. Again, not because we’re callous or we don’t love them, but usually because of a fear that we just can’t put our finger on or describe. But we slowly pull back and soon, it has been a very long time since we’ve really been there for them in a real way.
The focus of this post will not be to identify the “why’s” because that focuses on the negative. We believe that most of us truly want to be fighters alongside our cancer-fighting loved ones, but the disease has changed things and it’s become harder, and we don’t often know why.
At Stages, we focus on stories and sharing the ways everyday heroes have overcome this. So, today I want to focus on our family’s heroes, the Hobson family. As far back in our cancer journey as I can remember, the Hobsons have loved us so well, it’s almost like God designed them for this type of loving care.
While I could not list out everything they’ve done, I will mention a few things. What is important about these will be that they are replicable by almost anyone. So, if you’re looking for the answer to the above question, you’ll want to pay attention.
We started this post by talking about creating habits fast, and that really speaks to consistency. Week in, week out, day in, day out behavior. But, before you get scared away, spoiler alert, these might have been things you were already doing to some extent prior to a disease disrupting your relationships.
Every Week Hangout
One of the first things that Melissa and Harlan made a habit of doing was: scheduling a time for us to hang out every Sunday evening when our kids attend youth group at church. You see, I told you this isn’t that hard. But, while it might not be that hard, few do it, and it makes such a huge difference in the life of a cancer fighter and their family.
Sometimes we hang at a restaurant, sometimes we hang out at their home, but consistently, we hang out every week. But, what do we talk about with a cancer fighter? Truthfully, anything you would have talked about before. We share conversations about being parents, our work, sports teams, movies or TV series we’re binging on, and more...but also, when we need to, Melissa and Harlan have made it clear that we can talk about the rough stuff.
Take it from a cancer fighter and his spouse, we cannot put to words how important this relationship is to us. Through this we’ve enjoyed hours of laughter, fun activities (like recently watching the original Top Gun movie at Red Rocks Amphitheater), great conversation...and we’ve also cried together, poured out our souls together...and all of it God has used to give us such peace and joy.
Holidays and Special Occasions
They’ve also shared holidays with us. At a time when most of us turn inward and stick with “family only” - they did a 180 and took us in like family. The first year of your diagnosis to cancer is filled with thoughts like: Is this the last Christmas we'll spend together? Is this his last Father’s Day? Those kinds of questions put a lot of pressure on family and the fighter. Being invited over to enjoy a holiday with the Hobson family, changed all of that. It helped lessen the power of the “elephant” that Shara has posted about so often.
God Creates a Bond When We Share Our Journeys
My favorite of all the many things the Hobsons have made habits of is: sharing their experience, their journey through difficulties. You see, we all have had struggles. It doesn’t have to be about cancer or disease, maybe for you it was when your son was in a bad accident and you had to care for him. Maybe it was a season where you felt alone or without support in your life. It literally could be anything. But, in sharing it, God does this beautiful thing: he creates a bond between you and those sharing.
Think about it. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are narratives, allowing you to have an “insider” look into the struggles and journey of Jesus. Acts invites you into the lives of the Apostles through story. Paul often tells of events in his life. When he returns to Jerusalem and is able to talk to the Jewish people he had done life with for so long...he told of how Jesus met him on the way to Damascus. Each of those and more are examples of sharing...and it creates a bond.
When Jesus cries, when he’s tired, when he wants “the cup” (his future crucifixion) to pass from him, when he has to sweat profusely to resist temptation, and so many more “sharings” - we bond with Him. There’s something beautiful when we share this “humanity” with our God. He knows, He understands, He relates, He cares, He hears...He loves.
When we learn of Paul praying for his “thorn in the flesh” to be taken away, and yet God saying “no” and saying, ”my grace is all you need” - we bond with him. Many of us have spent hours, days, years praying for something...and yet that thing did not get the answer we desired.
God, no doubt, designed us this way. When we learn of David’s sin with Bathsheba and eventual murder to cover it up...we don’t rejoice in his sin...but knowing that it is still said of him that “he’s a man after God’s own heart” helps us bond not only with David, but with a God who gives such wealth of undeserved grace. So, when Paul is told, “my grace is all you need” we can look at that statement through the lens of David...and realize its truth.
To sum it up, the Hobsons (their entire family, not just Melissa and Harlan) quickly formed a habit with us, and that habit has sustained us and given us more margin for fighting a crap disease and all that it brings into our lives. So, form a habit and take one or more of these ideas, put your own spin on it, and you’ll find the answer to “My friend has cancer, what can I do?”
Truth: If you create a habit with your friend, your fear, even if you can’t put words to it, will subside...and you’ll, no doubt, become as blessed as those you are blessing!