I lack the words to tell you the effect this weekend has had on me. I went to visit my dear friend, Debra at the nursing home. She is fighting Stage 4 Brain Cancer. Besides the chemotherapy and some kind of radiation cap that she had to wear all the time, Debra has had two brain surgeries to try to stop the swelling and the growth of cancer. The doctors give her less than six months to live.
I entered the nursing home at the far end of the facility. It was a long walk down to Debra’s room but it gave me a chance to see the whole facility. It all looked nice. I was comforted to see that she was in a clean facility. There were seating areas everywhere and visiting rooms and dining areas. There were wonderful helpful workers all along the way. My hat is off to the nursing staff that works with these precious people suffering from such debilitating diseases. I am thankful for every one of them.
I could give you a discourse of the next two hours but for my friend’s sake, I’ll just share a few things I have found lacking as I go through this trial with my friend. I’m just a bystander in this matter. Although, being a pastor’s wife, I have gone alongside many time.
The Greatest Need is Support For the Caregivers
My husband and I found that what is really lacking is support for the caregiver. Awareness is rising of late but we really need to become more aware of people with chronic illness, cancer or not. I would like to see churches create a team of people that make sure our sick do not fall through the cracks. Sadly, the sick become “Out of Sight: Out of Mind”. I recently read this article about How Can the Church Better Serve Chronically Ill by Shona Smith. Shona had some wonderful advice for churches. Even the sick could take this information and share it with their chur leaders.
The Caregiver is Lost and Alone
We have found that outside of caring for their loved one, they are also holding down a job, trying to keep the house/family together, dealing with financial issues, and they often are completely ignoring their own health. I recently read Sarah Beckman’s new book Hope for the Hard Places (my review here) which gives excellent step by step advice for when trouble comes our way. Many of us would do ourselves a favor to read this book and prepare our own families for the inevitable Hard Place.
My friend Anita Ojeda has experienced caregiving for her husband who had cancer and survived. There are many things she learned along the way and after the fact. She is now trying to encourage caregivers to take care of themselves. You will find her website, Blessed: But Stressed, very helpful. There is also a facebook page, Self-care for Caregivers.
What is Lacking for Cancer Patients
- Core friends that stick around. We’re all guilty of this. The first month we do whatever we can for the patient and family. But somehow we tend to fall back into our routine of life and completely forget about our friends. Let’s admit it, I am guilty. You may be guilty as well. We need to be calling or dropping by frequently, doing simple household jobs, cooking a meal, etc. I have a downloadable list of ideas to get started on. The aforementioned author, Sarah Beckman has another book called, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial. I haven’t read this one yet. But possibly, we all could learn a few things from her book.
- Prayer. Real true “I see it and feel it” prayer. Facebook is a place to start where you can tell them you are thinking of them. But we need to visit them and pray over them. Call them and pray with them over the phone. I had a friend once that rose early every morning before work and walked around a friend’s home praying for them. Every day for months until her death. Now THAT is visible prayer.
- Encouragement through cards, flowers. Debra’s room was not only dim but void of cards. Again, I’m guilty as I have not sent her one card. 🙁 There was one small flower arrangement and that is it. (live flowers might not be good, as some patients cannot handle the smells.) I would like to get a card shower going and have everyone I know sent her a card. If you want to get involved send me a note through our “contact us”. I’ll send you an address.
Other Great Things Lacking
- Providing other needs. If you visit on a regular basis, take notice of needs like is she cold? Does she need a blanket? Drinks and snacks so they don’t need to buy them? Don’t go empty-handed when you visit. grab a bag or basket and place a few ready to eat items in it. Maybe a book to read or puzzle books. You can get many items like this at a dollar store. Speaking of blankets, I know of two churches that make quilts to send to cancer patients and others. I received one when I first was hit with chronic pain. Not only does it keep me warm, but it also encourages and reminds me that someone cares.
- Lastly, and importantly, an illness like cancer is terribly expensive. Even with great insurance, the bills begin to rise beyond what a person can fathom. And just when you think you have a way to figure it out, there is another surgery or issue that arises. In Debra’s case, they are still trying to get hospice care or a way for someone to sit with her and tend to her needs. This comes with a $250/day copay. Think of it, where would you be if this were you?
Here’s my challenge
I imagine we all know of someone who is struggling with a serious illness. Donate to their cause, even if it is just $10. Maybe you can add it to your monthly budget. Just 10 bucks. Give up a cappuccino. You will brighten their day and make a difference in their lives. Imagine if everyone would give just $10. The bills would be taken care of quickly. Find their GoFundMe page and donate today.
Don’t Forget The Least of TheseCancer and Chronic Illness Patients are Out of Sight Out of Mind. Don't Forget them. Click To Tweet
If you don’t know of anyone to donate to, here is the link to my dear friends, Paul and Debra’s GoFundme.