Today, May 20th, 2016, a dear friend of mine turns 60 years young. She is on the natant side of “old.” What is remarkable about my humble com-padre is that she also was just diagnosed as being in “remission” from the dread “C” (cancer).
In the past year, she has struggled and celebrated, she has been fiercely faithful and flooded with doubt. Her introverted nature has been tested by public attention to her “condition.”
What I L-O-V-E about my dear friend is her faith. Hers is an honest faith. She questions, wonders, challenges, debates, embraces her Savior Jesus. She is honest about her flaws and particularly aware of God’s grace Her faith is real. Her faith is inspiring.
Certainly my sister has flaws. It should be shouted in the streets that she hordes ore and wheat in Settlers of Catan, she makes caramel brownies for friends who are on a diet, and her penchant to send birthday cards to people she loves all year round is just socially abnormal.
Debbie is married to a remarkable man. Dan Briones is her perfect suitor. He is patient, loyal and quite the encourager extraordinaire. I lovingly refer to her hubby as my twin because we make a nearly unbeatable team in Pegs and Jokers. This last statement is often challenged but, hey, the truth is the truth!
I asked Debbie, my sister in Jesus, for some advice for others who have been given a deadly diagnosis. The following are her words:
>Follow your doctor’s instructions.
>If you have time before you start chemotherapy, and you are physically able, start walking to build up your strength so your are better able to tolerate treatment.
>Rest as needed, but don’t become a couch potato. Push yourself to be as active as you are allowed. There will be times when you don’t want to do anything. Sometimes this is physical, but often it is emotional fatigue. Push through it.
>Tell you doctor or nurses about any concerns or changes you may have. Don’t try to be strong and just put up with it. Take medications, etc. as ordered.
>Follow the Great Physician’s instructions. 🙂
>”Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Now that I said that, it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As a matter-of-fact, it can be almost impossible at times. Fear of death, and it’s ramifications for those left behind can occupy your thoughts. Add that to the side effects from the treatment and you can find it hard to give it up to Christ and rest in Him.
>Cling to Christ, knowing that more importantly, He is always clinging to you and will not let you go.
>If you are a private person like I am, and don’t want people to know you are ill, get over it! Without my consent, a friend announced to the entire congregation that I was diagnosed with leukemia, and again when I had to start chemotherapy. She continued to request prayers for me during services throughout my treatment. She shouldn’t have done this without my consent; however, the more people bombarding the throne of God on your behalf, the better. You are allowing people to serve you, to be Jesus to you, and you are Jesus to them….”Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me.”
>Speak to you pastor……again and again. It allowed me to express my fears, doubts, anger (yes, at God…He can handle it) and allowed God to speak words of comfort and encouragement to me through him and to remind me that He loves me, is always with me, and has promised never for forsake me. Your pastor is a good sounding board for feelings with which you don’t want to burden your family over and over.
>Make it a priority to be in God’s word and go to Him in prayer. If this becomes difficult, listen to online sermons or the Bible read on your iPod, CD, etc., listen to good Christian music, etc. Ask your pastor to pray with you often. Even when you can’t seem to concentrate on praying, try to remember that the Holy Spirit and Christ himself intercede for you to your Heavenly Father, who already knows what you need.
>Dark thoughts and sadness will come. Satan loves to try to steal your comfort in Christ and lead you into despair. Only allow yourself a limited time to dwell on dark thoughts. Those thoughts are often very real concerns and fears, but dwelling on them can get you into a vicious downward spiral. Acknowledge them, and where appropriate, write down a plan of action should any of thoughts and fears come to pass. If necessary, include your loved ones in making this plan of action. This can give them some way to help and support you and some control over what affects them. If you find yourself repeating some thoughts over and over in your head, try speaking Christ’s promises or reading scripture aloud. The words go from your mouth and into your ears, reinforcing the truths you are speaking.
>Continue to come to church often, if able. Christ comes to serve us in the Word and Sacraments. Here you can find comfort. Relax and let Christ serve you what you need through your brothers and sisters in Christ.
>Your faith depends on Christ not your feelings. When you don’t “feel” Christ is near, go with what you know about Christ. You know Christ promises to be with you, to never leave you or forsake you. When you receive the bread and wine in Communion, you know you receive Him into yourself for strengthening of your faith and forgiveness of your sins. You know in your baptism Christ made you His own and nothing can snatch you from His grasp. You know “God so loved you that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”.
> Even if you cannot seem to pray for what you need, give thanks to God for all His good gifts, for His grace and mercy, especially in sending Jesus to die and rise again so that your sins are forgiven and eternal life is yours. Thank Him for giving you what you need before you even ask, and for always hearing and answering your prayers.
>Sometimes surviving cancer doesn’t mean not dying. It may mean living life to the best of your ability and clinging to Jesus until He takes you home to be with Him. (emphasis mine)
Debbie will most likely not be thrilled about this blog. Even reading it she will get red-faced and feel the discomfort that shy people know all too well. But then again, it is her fault–she picked me to be a friend!
Happy Birthday, Debbie. My life and my faith are better because of you!