Friday, August 3, 2012

What IS It About "Cancer" That Makes Some People Squirm?

Especially when it's not their cancer?

So, earlier this morning, I'm riding down in the hotel elevator from my 16th floor to the lobby and I'm riding with a family of five. Two parents and three teens. I've got on my "sunburst" compression sleeve and glove and it blends in nicely with my short-sleeved rose-colored shirt.

The dad is eying my arm and says, "I thought at first that was a tattoo, now I see it's your shirt sleeve." OK, pardon me while I chuckle a little. I may be playing the role of country goes to city right now, but my shirt sleeves DO happen to match! I'm not wearing one long sleeve and one short one. Even fashion senseless me knows better than to try that!

So, I explain, "No, this isn't my shirt sleeve. It's compression. I have cancer...melanoma..." and I proceed to explain about my lymph nodes having to come out because the cancer had spread and how BC (before compression) my arm looked like a balloon waiting to pop, but this keeps my lymph fluid flowing...

And "it" happened. If you have any kind of cancer you know what "it" is.

The minute I said "cancer" his eyes averted and his feet shuffled. His wife shot him a look that said, "You are soooo dead meat." All three teens started looking at the elevator floor. And Poor Guy wanted to push through the doors and take his chances on what would, or would not, catch him should he plunge.

And, yes I did...I kept talking. Really. Sixteen floors can be a long ride down! Hallelujah Thine The Glory! I live for this kind of perfect moment. Besides, after the nightmare of finally finding the hotel last night, well, God kinda owed me a little fun! I told all listening (and they couldn't help but listen) that I also have a snake-skin pattern set and being a preacher, people who know I'm a preacher really do a double take the first time they see that one and tell me they didn't think preachers got tattoos like that! You can only imagine who got off the elevator fast and first when we got to the lobby!

Probably every family on earth either has been or is affected by cancer and that word can still make us uncomfortable. We can still not know what to say or how to act.

And pastors can be among the worst at these times. I got the most heart breaking message from a friend because her pastor totally ignores her husband with stage 4 melanoma. This pastor has a history of not knowing what to do when families are dealing with members with cancer and/or dying from it.

Clergy pals, your congregation needs you to have some skills when it comes to being with the sick and the dying. Get some Hospice training. Talk with the Chaplain of your local hospital. Throw yourself into the deep water if that's your style. Hospice has some books you can order if you want to and I advise families who are in those thin places to also read them so you'll have an idea of what to expect and an idea of the things that might occur.

Living at the End of Life: A Hospice Nurse Ad… (Paperback) by Karen Whitley Bell RN

We all need to be prepared. With the cancer statistics being what they are, every single one of us will hear those dreaded words at some point in our lives. Either we will get our own diagnosis and/or a close loved one will.

Even if your family should completely escape cancer and you never, ever know anyone with it, death isn't going anywhere.

We don't have to like cancer or death. That's just plain stupid, to put it nicely. But we do need to be able to hear those words and be around people who live in those worlds without wanting to bolt. Or worse, without showing up and being there for them. Cancer and dying are lonely worlds.

So, learn how to deal with it. How to face it. How to interact with people who have any stage cancer or other catastrophic illness. How to accept the unacceptable and cope with what must be coped with. How to be in the presence of death and be with the dying.

Especially if you are a member of the clergy. Your congregation will rise up and call you blessed and you will be


Here are links to past posts that may help: