The words, “You have cancer” are some of the most terrifying words you can ever hear. The reaction of fear is normal. There is nothing wrong with your friend’s faith or belief system. She is not a coward if she feels afraid.
She is normal.
What causes the fear? There are a number of different reasons for fear.
She may be afraid of:
- dying. Even Christians are afraid of dying. Even if we know where we are going when we die, the act of dying is something that causes fear to grip our hearts. We don’t want to die.
- who will take care of her family, especially if she has young children.
- the financial aspect. Everyone knows the crippling effect cancer can have on the normal budget.
- facing extreme pain, either caused by the cancer itself, or brought on by the treatment.
- being unable to keep food down and losing large amounts of weight.
- feeling ill and unable to cope with her daily routine.
- losing her hair and being an object of pity.
- keeping her job.
- how her family and close friends will cope, and even whether a special relationship will outlast the ordeal.
Many of the fears we have about cancer are based on stories, rumors, and misinformation. Some are based on old treatments or statistics that no longer apply. Most people feel better when they know what to expect.
How do you know when your friend or loved one is afraid? She may well try to hide it, especially if she’s a Christian. She feels she shouldn’t be like this. It is even possible that your friend is in denial and can’t acknowledge feeling fear.
Here are some ways to recognise she is battling with fear:
There may be some or even all of the following:
- trouble solving problems and focusing on conversations
- muscle pain from excess tension
- trembling hands, or a deep-rooted shaking that she says seems to come from within
- extreme restlessness
- a dry mouth that is not quenched by water
- angry outbursts or irritability
What can you do to help your loved one deal with these emotions?
Here are some suggestions:
- encourage your friend to talk, but don’t try to force her.
- share your own feelings and fears with people you can trust.
- listen, but don’t deny her feelings. Don’t disagree. If she’s feeling fear, she’s feeling fear.
- offer support and try to be positive, but don’t belittle seemingly negative emotions.
- understand it is normal to feel afraid of an uncertain future.
- look for a support group, or suggest help through counseling.
- pray with her, either on your own or with a small group of friends—if she’s happy about that.
- encourage her to stay away from people who tell her the cancer is her own fault. Also to avoid those who try to press some magic cure guaranteed to cure cancer. Honestly? The person with a sure fire cure for cancer would not have to try and peddle their wares!
- encourage her to practice deep breathing and relaxation exercises. Get her to take deep breaths, then focus on each part of the body and deliberately tense it, then relax it.
- suggest she practices visualization exercises, picturing herself in a pleasant place.
- remember that this sad phase is normal, and it will pass—for a period. If it doesn’t she should talk to her doctor. Unfortunately, it is likely to come back. That’s why it’s called a roller-coaster!
Fear is one of the normal downs of the Cancer Roller-coaster. It is an essential part. If we didn’t feel fear, we would stop treatment. If we didn’t feel fear, we would stop fighting the disease. It’s part of the ride, but it’s not the whole ride.
“Cancer is a word. It is not a sentence.” (John Diamond)
You should not
- bottle up your own feelings and pretend they are not there. She needs to know your are concerned for her.
- force her to talk before she is ready to talk.
- tell her to cheer up or snap out of it.
- tell her you know just how they feel. You don’t!
- blame yourself or another person for her negative feelings. They are normal.
- try to reason with her if her fears are controlling them. If necessary, talk with the doctor.
A rollercoaster goes up, then it plunges down. If she manages the fear, she will soon find herself moving back up once more. Unfortunately, it will come again in waves, but each time if she deals with it realistically, she will come through victorious. It’s all part of the cancer roller-coaster.