I was recently asked to participate in another blog book tour. I love to read and love to write, so was happy to accept the invitation. The book was “When Someone You Love Has Cancer: Comfort and Encouragement for Caregivers and Loved Ones” written by Cecil Murphey, who co-authored with Don Piper another book I’d enjoyed, “90 Minutes in Heaven”. Cecil Murphy has written over 100 books, many as a “ghost writer”. He is a former pastor and volunteer hospital chaplain. He is also the husband of a woman diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, so is very qualified to address this issue.
Before I received the book, I was worried about being able to read it in time write my review. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the book; it was only 67 pages long. What impressed me most about the book was the profound wisdom contained in those few pages. I appreciated that the book was short and an easy read, especially considering its intended audience, those traveling the cancer journey with someone they love. From my own experience, I was so overwhelmed after my own diagnosis that I had trouble concentrating for a long time. I craved simplicity. Reading hundreds of pages wasn’t something I could easily do at the time. Those close to a person with a cancer diagnosis I’m sure are in a similar frame of mind.
The book was filled with wisdom to guide those supporting someone with a cancer diagnosis. He identified his own sense of shock and helplessness when someone he loved was diagnosed. We all, patients and caregivers alike, hear nothing after the words “its cancer” at the initial doctor’s appointment. He talks about the numbness, shock and grief of having someone you love diagnosed with cancer. Caregivers share many of the same emotions those diagnosed feel.
The book brought up many good points that I appreciated. He recommends being an active listener, being available to a cancer patient even when they don’t want to speak or share, supporting in silence. He advocates acknowledging the negative thoughts and feelings, the anger expressed by cancer patients; we all experience those emotions and feel particularly alone when people are not comfortable allowing us to express them. He also wrote of the need to avoid indulging in statements such as “I know you’ll beat this”, words that often make the caregiver feel better, but that are not helpful to the patient. There is no way of knowing if we will beat our disease, we know many who don’t. We need to deal with the potential reality of a bad outcome also.
Even as a Christian and former pastor, he discourages throwing around religious slogans. A minister I know who has a great belief in heaven and whose wife was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer once tearfully said in response to congregation members who talked about his wife’s eternal destiny “Yes, I KNOW she’ll go to heaven, but I don’t WANT her to go now”. Statements such as “It’s God’s will” are not helpful. From here we can’t understand or know the reasons or God’s will, to pretend we do is not helpful.
Cecil also talks about helping someone diagnosed in a practical sense. The statement “Let me know if I can be of any help” is useless. It is better to objectively identify needs and to just fill them….as church members did for me with a check anonymously left on my windshield to help with travel expenses. I received many calling cards given to me by friends when I needed to contact medical facilities across the county attempting to arrange treatment. A cell phone was given to me by a sister who knew I’d need to communicate with my kids while I was across the country for treatment. Another sister paid our hotel bills unasked when I was 750 miles from home seeking care. My mother-in-law supported my kids emotionally and provided child care when I was across the country having surgery. That help was very much appreciated. There is a great appendix “Practical Things you Can Do to Help Those Diagnosed with Cancer” at the end of the book.
One of the things I loved most about his book was his acknowledging that even those of us who have faith in God feel God’s silence at some point in time. I know I did. For a long while I experienced a “dark night of the soul”, God seemed not to be there for me. It was a very dark and depressing time for me, but in the end it strengthened my faith. He experienced his own “dark night of the soul” for 18 months so could relate…I’ve ordered another of his books about that time in his life, “Seeking God’s Hidden Face: When God Seems Absent”. In my cancer world, that seems to be a common experience.
From his own perspective dealing with potentially losing his wife, the love of his life (who is now 10 years cancer free), Cecil shares many of the valuable things he learned on the journey. His book would be a great gift to anyone suddenly thrust into the role of supporting a loved one with cancer.
There is a Grand Prize offered to readers participating in this tour, the blog tour participant who has the most comments to their review will be able to select the grand prize winner from those who comment. The winner will receive a package of books written by Cecil Murphy with a retail value of over $300.
And to all of you who who have or are supporting someone you love diagnosed with cancer, thank you. You are our heros!