“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11)
I am not usually prone to fear but the whole experience of having cancer made me come face to face with some very real fears. Was I going to die? Would I see my sons marry? Would I live to see my grand-children? Would I end my days in a very weakened and sick state as I had seen my father do?
I didn’t lie awake thinking about these questions but they did pop up and surprise me at odd moments during the day. I was managing a whole list of appointments with consultants, GPs, bone-scanners and radiotherapists and in the midst of all this I needed to manage myself; my thoughts and emotions. I say manage because I mean just that. I could so easily have let my emotions run riot but I chose to engage my mind and to recall all that God has said in His word.
I don’t mean that there were not tearful times. At times I felt overwhelmed by everything I was dealing with and just needed to cry. I can remember opening an envelope with eight appointments in it; I felt that my life had been taken over and I was now on a conveyor belt of cancer treatment. There wasn’t room for much else. That felt quite grim.
Once I started my course of twenty-one sessions of daily radiotherapy I spent time in the waiting room everyday with people who were much more ill than I was. The effect of cancer on people’s lives was plain to see. Sickness, weakness, hair loss, frailty. At times I felt like a fraud because I felt so well (what an odd thought!).There were also moments of humour: a man at the water cooler asked a nun who was waiting for treatment if he could get her a drink, she replied “I’ll have a half of Guinness!” Moments like these reminded ourselves of a life outside of the treatment room.
I have already mentioned the gift of The Goodness Bag which helped to sustain me throughout my cancer journey
but there were other gifts. A hug from a friend who came to the door just at the moment when I was really worried about a procedure I was to undergo before my operation; he said “You will be all right”. He didn’t mean I would not have cancer, he was encouraging me that I would be able to go through with the procedure I was dreading. Another friend gave me a framed text which said “Let your faith be bigger than your fears”; I kept this on my dressing table where it reminded
me every day to draw on my faith in God rather than focus on my fears. Another friend made me a sparkly picture with the words, hope, love, faith, and grace sewn into it. This was on my bedside table, another visual reminder of God’s love for me. Another friend took my dressings off for me when I was left to do it myself and was feeling very emotional. Of course many of my friends were praying for me too.
If life is tough at the moment I would suggest that you write out some encouraging scriptures and stick them to your mirror, computer screen or wherever you will see them. They will frequently remind you of God’s love and give you hope.
If life isn’t tough at the moment don’t underestimate the small things you do for your friends when they are having a tough time. Often we can’t imagine how people cope with tough situations. Hugs and words of encouragement, gifts, notes and practical help mean so much to someone who is struggling to get through every day. It can be hard to know what to say but sometimes just doing the normal things you would do rather than concentrating on the problem will be a gift to your friend as it allows them to focus on something other than what they are facing for a little while. Pray for strength for them every day (or when you remember).
The way I coped with having cancer and being treated for it was to constantly remind myself of who God is, what He is like and what He has said. Gifts and encouragements along the way helped me to do just that.
How has someone encouraged you when life was tough?