Today — Thursday, February 20, 2014 — our first CANCER with CHRIST Support Group met in my home in Costa Mesa, CA. Just over two years from my own cancer diagnosis, our faith-based, Christ-centered outreach to those suffering with cancer was officially launched! Thanks be to God!
By 8 am the house was ready, the coffee was on, and the prayers were ascending. At 9:30, I opened the front door for Gillian, a breast cancer sufferer who has been cancer free for decades and who came early to set up the goodies. At 9:45, Nancy, another cancer-free breast cancer sufferer arrived to greet folks as they came in the front door. And come they did!
Today we hosted 15 folks — both women and men — most were cancer sufferers themselves and a few were there to support their loved ones who had cancer. There was one new diagnosis, many who had been in treatment for some time, and some, like me, who have completed their treatment but live with the after-effects of cancer and the haunting possibility of recurrence. They came from my church, from referrals from Christian friends, and from my neighborhood — my CANCER with CHRIST yard signs worked! Most were in their 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s and we had cancers ranging from breast to bladder to prostate to uterine to peratoneal.
We represented a wide variety of people and backgrounds and we came together because we had just two things in common: we all suffer from cancer and we want to walk that cancer journey with Christ. As I looked around the room today and saw the faces of these dear ones who came for support in their cancer storm, I saw people I recognized — my affinity group, my people.
So what happens when people with cancer get together? Is it dull? Is it depressing? Is it weird? Is it sad? Well, let’s see if I can describe our time to you.
After some goodies and a cup of tea and with a stick-on nametag with our first name on our chest, we sat down and opened with prayer. I shared a bit of my own cancer journey and explained how God used my cancer to lead us to this very moment. Since I shared my story, I asked folks if they would be willing to share a bit about theirs. All did. That’s when the Lord came in and began to demonstrate His presence in our expression of community. We listened to each other’s stories of what it was like to first hear the words “You have cancer” or to be told you have a cancer recurrence, or to decide between traditional or naturopathic treatment, or what it’s like to carry around your chemotherapy in a body pack for days on end. And we experienced for one another the precious gift of empathy. We felt each other’s pain. The Bible calls us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and today we fulfilled that call.
And then there was the laughter. Yes, cancer sufferers laugh, maybe better than most! We laugh at things like portacaths, anti-hormone drugs, chemo side effects and the freedom to talk about the body parts with ease that non-cancer sufferers are too embarrassed to speak of in mixed company! It’s a talent and a skill that belongs to those with cancer — what can I say?!
We also shared the deep thoughts that beset every Christian cancer sufferer like the temptation to ask “Why, God?” We spoke about what you never talk about in church — like “Did God let this happen to me because I was bad … or because I did something that was bad?” These discussions are the GOLD moments in faith-based, Christ-centered cancer support groups!!! And they are discussions that can only be fully unwrapped in a group of others with cancer who have asked the same questions, had the same doubts, and want to trust in the goodness of the same God.
And so today we turned to Scripture which reinforced our belief in a God Who is ultimately good. We agreed that Cancer is not the “Big C” — Christ is! And we agreed to meet again in two weeks to partake of some goodies, wear a stick-on nametag, listen to one another’s stories, give honor to each other’s experiences, and learn more about this good God who is with us and Who loves us in the midst of our cancer storm.
Yes indeed, CANCER with CHRIST support groups are launched! It was a good day in the Kingdom and a good day in Costa Mesa, CA!
PS: If you are interested in joining our CANCER with CHRIST Support Group, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my mobile phone at 949.279.1246. If you can’t attend a morning group, we are working toward an evening group also! Let me know what works for you!
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.