what to say to someone who has cancer

I’ve been asked this question a number of times and thought it would be worthwhile to post something about it since it is a life-relevant topic that someone might search for on the internet or might simply be wondering just in case a situation occurs.

I want to preface this by acknowledging that everyone is different and what I think would be thoughtful and/or appropriate may not be to someone else. I also want to add that unless you’ve gone through the same exact situation (even cancer experiences differ), there really isn’t anything that would/could alleviate the matter.

  1. Try to understand the person’s personality and situation: Is he/she sensitive? emotional? reserved? Is he/she young/old, with/without children? Is he/she currently in a distraught state? acceptance state? hopeful? in denial? etc. Knowing the person’s personality and situation can help determine what to say and not say. Don’t go about saying things that you would like to hear, but put yourself in the other’s personality. For example, if you are an emotional person but the person who is diagnosed is not, it doesn’t help to try and console using emotions.
  2. Ask how they’re feeling. What’s been on their minds/hearts. But do so with discretion. Sometimes the diagnosed may not want to share, and again, knowing the person’s personality helps. Sharing may be burdensome or overwhelming. But some may appreciate being heard.
  3. (For believers) You are praying for them, and praying. This has been the most meaningful to me because people I personally never knew or met have come to me to share that they’ve been praying for me. And this has been the most uplifting because I know that God is listening, and to know that I’ve been in someone’s thoughts and prayers simply means a lot, especially because I know that everyone is going through their own troubles in life.
  4. (For unbelievers) I would share that I love him/her, that God loves him/her. And because God loves him/her, I need to share the gospel, even if it may seem unwelcome. Sharing the gospel and my testimony seems like the most loving thing a believer can do. I guess a non-believer may think, “If God loves me, why is this happening to me?” and this could be a good segue into sharing why there’s suffering in the first place–another segue into the gospel.
  5. God loves you. The reminder is heartfelt and brings me to tears almost always. To know that our almighty God loves me and knows my suffering is the most comforting. He is the only one who knows my heart, my burdens, my worries; He hears my cries, sees my tears, feels my pain, knows how much it hurts, how tiring everything can be.

It’s been 3.5 years since my diagnosis. The hardest has been my first year. It was spiritually, emotionally, and physically the most difficult; I felt the most vulnerable and distraught. Year two had its ups and downs. Year three has come with some peace, maybe because I have been stable for the most part, but I have also come to terms with death. During my first year, I felt as though I was given a death sentence and I would soon be separated from everyone I loved. Now… well, it’s still heartbreaking, but I also long for heaven where there is no more suffering. (Oh, how I long to be completely healed! Physically and from sin). A period of time would pass until Christ’s coming, a period of time which I would not be aware, and I would wake in a moment to see those I love around me (so I desperately pray for my daughter’s salvation), and it would be a time of celebration. Everything will be perfect and there will be no more pain.

To those who have been diagnosed and to those who have loved ones who are diagnosed,

God loves you and there is hope in Christ.

Spring Break: Part 3: Ojai

This is the last post related to spring break as we near summer. 

Ojai was beautiful and it was especially true staying at Ojai Valley Inn. The quaint city just above L.A. is surrounded by green valleys and blue skies. I am not a country girl and I do not particularly enjoy wilderness and its creatures, but Ojai was like a manicured country with no signs of pestilence and stress, if you know what I mean. ;) 

The resort is a vacation spot in itself because they have everything you need to relax–coffee shop, spa, juice store, pools, golf, bikes, great food options; it has everything in order for you to step away from reality and everyday obligations to enjoy some peace. The workers were kind and helpful and everyone staying there seemed happy and relaxed. 

This illustration within The Travels of Babar was exactly like the setting of Ojai and Santa Barbara.

Some highlights: swimming, dinner at The Oak (fresh and excellent dishes), s’mores at the fire-pit, biking and playing at the local park, walking around downtown, eating tacos and playing at the park some more, Bart’s books, Beacon Coffee. My favorite part of our stay was biking because the route was so pretty it felt like diving into a scene from Anne of Green Gables. Bart’s Books was also great because I love browsing through bookstores, especially ones that have labyrinths of shelves filled with old and new titles–hidden gems everywhere!

Spring has gone and now onto summer!

My tentative plans: lavender field, Palm Springs, Boston/Cambridge, NYC, cherry picking, and Universal Studios. Huzzah!

Spring Break Day 2: Santa Barbara

This post is almost two months late, but I like keeping record. With my hard drive breaking down 5 years ago, which contained almost 10 years of photos and documents, I only recently recovered them by gracious tech-savvy friends/acquaintances. Now I keep multiple accounts online to backup my photos. I pay a small fee every month for Google Drive for 100 GB storage space in which I’m more selective about what I save. I also pay an annual fee for Flickr which has unlimited storage space (but the site often freezes or takes too long when uploading large batches), and lastly I have this blog, which also collects an annual fee for limited storage. Prices to pay for memories to keep. The tech-savvy acquaintance who fixed my hard drive recommended saving files on my iCloud or some sort of online storage space because physical hard drives will eventually break down and they will most likely not last forever. Shocking! I still feel iffy about saving files online, because it too feels temporary and unreliable for the long-run.

Moving on to the main content!

Santa Barbara: We stayed at Hotel Californian and they were so thoughtful to put out milk and cookies for Elaine with a personal note to our family. Elaine LOVES hotels and she looks forward to staying at a hotel during vacation more than anything else we do. She loved Hotel Californian so much, the first thing she did was write a note about how much she loved hotels. haha. Also, the kid’s size robe and slippers! So cute. We only stayed one night, but hopefully we can visit again and stay longer to enjoy their amenities. I brought swimming suits to maybe enjoy the pool, but the weather was either too cold or rainy. That evening, we walked over to Bluewater Grill where we enjoyed tasty seafood. It was cold and we were tired from running around Solvang all day, so we went back to the hotel to relax the rest of the evening. The next morning, we walked a few blocks to Helena Avenue Bakery. They had a great pastry selection and breakfast options. I ordered a sesame bagel and coffee while Y ordered their famous green eggs and ham biscuit. We then walked along the pier and decided to stop by the aquarium. It was a bit small, but it was something to do. The rain had stopped at this point and after we checked out of the hotel, we decided to ride the surrey bike along the beach. It was pleasant but quite strenuous for just the three of us. We ended our stay in Santa Barbara with a quick treat from McConnell’s ice cream. They have a few locations around L.A. but we’ve never been and now we are fans.

Next post: Ojai

My Marathon

Some run a 100 meter dash, many others run a marathon. Maybe I was meant to run the 100 meter dash — living life fully for a short amount of time. But maybe I don’t want to run the 100 meters; I want to run the marathon with everyone else.

My 100 meters are up and I stumbled from starting too fast. My hands and knees are scraped, I twisted my ankle. I didn’t wear sunblock so my skin is burning. I didn’t eat enough so I’m already without energy. My nose is running constantly. I wasn’t in shape to run the marathon in the first place and I didn’t train for it either. But that doesn’t matter. I still want to run the marathon.

I’m running with my injuries and disabilities. Everyone is fit, or at least not injured, and running with obstacles that come with the journey: uphills and downhills, curves and uneven pavement. Of course, some trip and fall, some give up or walk, and some seem to prance along in their fancy shoes. But in the end, don’t we all struggle to catch our breath as we near the finish line?

I’m 1/3 of the way, I hope. I’m limping and bleeding, coughing and wheezing, my nose is running, my skin is burning, muscles aching; but I’m running alongside others because I want to finish the 26 miles. When those around me look to see how I’m doing, I smile reassuringly. My family has been my crutches, my daughter pushes me along, my friends have provided water, food, towels, and have cheered me on. And I am so thankful.

I wonder though. Can I make it or will I end up with the ones picked up by the truck for those who couldn’t finish or will I end up with the emergency response team?

For now, by God’s grace, I’m still running.