Tag Archives: cancer

An Open Letter To My Friend Who Has Cancer

An Open Letter To My Friend Who Has Cancer

This post is based on an actual conversation with one dear friend, but I know many of you can relate. I hope it encourages you to keep praying, keep calling, keep holding up their arms.

If you are a survivor or are presently in the fight, I know full well that I just visit cancer and you have lived with it. I am speaking  only as a spectator on this journey.

My dear friend,

You are so very brave. I am in awe of your strength and determination. You keep showing up. I don’t know if I could.

You were feeling good today; you and chemo are “on a break”. On this break you’ve remembered how great “good” feels and you are relishing every minute. The break has been glorious, a chance to catch your breath and regain strength.

But you are counting the days until your furlough ends. In your words, you “can’t wish chemo away” even though you would like to.

I told you I would gladly take one round on your behalf, if only that were possible.

Easy words for me to speak, knowing it won’t happen. My words were sincere, but you can’t take them to the bank. They are as counterfeit as a three-dollar bill; worthless. It’s you who has a port surgically implanted in your chest wall. And yet you are gracious because you know I “mean well’. In hindsight, I’m embarrassed that I said them.

You said the chemo is a necessary evil. I’ve watched it ravage your body, turning your cells on each other. It took your hair and turned your skin to ash and yet your smile is radiant, because you hold fast to HOPE – it is your lifeline.

You are about to return to war. We will send cards and care packages, but you are the one on the front line.

I pray, frustrated over my impotence to help and God brought an Old Testament story to mind.

Moses was leading God’s people, a grumbling band of nomads, into the promised land. It was one gripe after another with them. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. It was like a road trip with me.

The Amalekites were a nasty bunch who had a reputation for not fighting fair. About the time Moses had had it with the Israelites, they arrived in Rephidim, where the Amalekites attacked.

Moses was old and most likely tired from all of the grumbling, so he sent Joshua into battle.

He promised Joshua that he would stand on the top of the hill, with the staff of God in his hands as a show of support.

Joshua headed to battle and Moses went up the hill, accompanied by Aaron and Hur.

What happened next is the part of the story that the sweet Holy Spirit reminded me of as I prayed over you today.

Joshua fared well as long as Moses held up his hands. However, when he tired, his arms fell and the Amalekites gained.

Enter Aaron and Hur. They stood on either side of Moses, holding his arms up. They gave him a place to sit; they held his arms up until the enemy was defeated.

When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him
and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side,
one on the other–so that his hands remained steady until sunset.
So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Exodus 17:12-13 NIV

You are a fighter like Joshua; and like Moses, you know that salvation and hope are in God alone.

The visual is so big and beautiful, my friend. All of us who love you are trusting and believing God for your healing have come alongside you.

In the days to come, I pray that you will remember the multitude around you, lifting your arms and your battle to Jesus. I love you!

Because he bends down to listen I will pray as long as I have breath,


This is such a hard topic; I write with great care but I don’t know your story. Please use the comment section to share the ways that others have come alongside you in your battle, whether cancer or some other struggle. 

Heaven Wouldn’t Wait for Her

Heaven Wouldn’t Wait for Her

Every day, without fail, I talked to her. One or the other of us made the call, and never once did I consider that she might be bothered or too busy to talk to me. Our conversations were as natural as breathing. We looked forward to them.

If one of us needed to run to Wal-Mart after the kids were in bed, we called, already knowing that the other would watch for headlights and run out the side door and into the waiting car. It didn’t matter that our homes were not on the way to the ultimate destination.

Our children were best friends. Our husbands loved being together. When someone saw one of us without the other, the immediate question was “Where’s your twin?” We double-dated every Saturday night and took turns hosting Sunday night suppers after church.

I was crafty and creative; she was creative and practical. I was quick to panic and she always had a calm and confident response. I was raised by a mid-western farmer’s daughter; her parents were from the South. She taught me to cook fresh fried okra and for that alone my family is forever indebted to her. Together we learned to make something out of nothing – we could decorate the fellowship hall with a box of random scraps of fake greenery and ribbons (it was the 80’s – pre-Pinterest, okay?).

We shared our love of diet Pepsi and Almond Joy bars, Hardee’s biscuits and gravy and Chinese food. We both shopped right up until Christmas eve and wrapped gifts until just before dawn on Christmas morning.

But something happened at church. My family left and it wasn’t nice and neat; it certainly wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was the most difficult event of my life to that date. As with most fractured relationships, there was a ripple that went out from the epicenter of separation.

The fallout changed the amount of time we spent together. Too many fingers of relationships in that place couldn’t be untangled. And the thing that we had most in common – church – was no longer ours.

Our lives were more separate, but always along parallel lines. She had time to develop deeper relationships with some amazing women in her circle and I had a lot of healing to do from the brutality of the breakup with the church we had attended our entire married life.

When she told me her diagnosis I was sure it couldn’t be true. Cancer couldn’t happen to someone as pure as her. I prayed, certain that God was going to show himself mighty in her healing. I claimed a verse. I laminated it on a bookmark with a beautiful autumn leaf I found along a path on the way up to Chimney Rock and I gave it to her. It was a bold step of faith, but one I had to take for my dear friend.


And then I watched cancer and the harsh treatments ravage her body. I sat by the bed where she lay dying in her parent’s home, silently praying as Judge Judy meted out justice on the television. I prayed and asked Jesus to make this right, to mete out some justice for my dear friend.

The call came early one evening; I remember sitting in the living room of a house we were renting; being strangely surprised and not at all surprised at the same time. I was not a stranger to grief, but I was overwhelmed by it; I was glad when they said I could come see her once more.

Her face was no longer distorted by pain. She looked peaceful and serene, the Sandy that I had known and loved. I told her that I loved her. I said the things that I had been afraid to say before, afraid she would think I had given up. I knew as sure as I was standing there she was in the presence of Jesus. She was finally healed and she was walking among the truly living, in a place where there is no more dying.

It’s been sixteen years since my dear friend left her body behind and joined the saints in Glory. There are so many days that I miss her, but I’ve learned to listen for her. When I get still, when I stop overloading my senses with information and noise, I consider what she would say.

“It’s going to be okay. We don’t need stress over this; we just need to do what we can with what we have and it will be good. And we are going to have fun doing it! Now, I’m thirsty – let’s get a diet Pepsi!”

I love you, Sandy. Happy birthday! I hope that you are enjoying heavens equivalent of candy corn, Pepsi (because who diets in heaven?) and Southern cooking. One of these days, I’m coming, so watch for the headlights and meet me at the side door okay? You can show me around.


This is one of my favorites of us!


By his grace we carry on,



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Finding Ways to be With Them


If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you. ― A.A. Milne

We are weeks into a friend’s cancer diagnosis. It sucks, and what sucks more is that there are three thousand miles between us. These two have always fought hard…for their family and for their lives. In fact, they are veterans in the battle against cancer; but I want to shoulder up with them on the front lines. With every week that passes my longing increases to be there with them as they walk this path.

And I will be….in a few weeks. But in the meantime, I’ve been scouring the web, talking with survivors and gathering as much information as possible on ways to touch my friends from a distance. If you read this post a couple of weeks ago, you know that for me, love is action. Close on the heels of my longing to DO something is my fear that it will be the wrong thing or I’ll do it at the wrong time. (Case in point, mailing a candy bar in the middle of August without proper cold packs.) If I’m not careful, I will do nothing. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this quest to do the right thing.

First and always, pray. I know…it sounds so cliché. But when asked, so often that is the first answer from a cancer patient. Asphilippians1_3 a friend, you’ll often know exactly the needs and pray specifically for those. There are times that I have no words of my own but I need to speak them (they are sort of my thing), so I pray verses from Colossians 1, Philippians 1 and the Lord’s Prayer. These are the prayers of the saints!

Send a card. Don’t fret too much about the card itself, but focus on the words. When I asked a survivor friend, she said “I’m a Words girl so the personal hand written messages, even from people I didn’t know very well, carried great meaning.” And don’t be afraid to use humor. You know your friend best – if they are playful, celebrate that with fun cards and inside jokes.

If your friend and/or their caregiver likes to stop by Chick fil A or Starbucks for a treat, send a gift card to cover the cost of a visit and add a corny message like “If I could pop in with your favorite treat, I’d be there in a minute. Next one’s on me, and there’s lots of love sent with it.”  Double smiles if they enjoy your goofy humor!

Gift cards to cover convenience meals come in handy on treatment or appointment days. Check to see what is in their area, but places like Boston Market and Cracker Barrel for hearty meals or Panera for soup and lighter fare are some options.

Every visit to a doctor, hospital or treatment facility involves a copay. Those add up a quickly so another wonderful gift is a grocery store gift card. Sometimes, more than a meal, the family needs some cereal or toilet paper, or a prescription refilled. If you aren’t sure of the appropriate retailer, consider a VISA or MasterCard gift card – they can be used almost everywhere.


Small yet thoughtful items for pocket or bag

A care package is another wonderful way to bless. Consider mints or ginger drops to counter bad tastes from drugs. Include some special tea and shortbreads. A good quality lip balm and skin lotion are great options – just be mindful of any issues with scents. Note cards and postage stamps (there are so many great designs – check out this one on the USPS website – I love it!) are also great to include. The emphasis in this is quality over quantity – so thoughtfully choose a few items that will truly be used and are perfect for your friend. You know them, you love them, so handpick items that you are drawn to. Most important, add words that will encourage and bless and even entertain.

Send a super soft, comfy throw or pillow – it’s great for car trips and chemo, or just resting at home. It may well be their favorite thing. Emphasize – QUALITY – it’s a subtle way to send the message that you expect them to get well and be around to use it for a long time. Being generous, even magnanimous, gives hope to the one receiving that they have time to enjoy the gift.

Create a recovery playlist – send the playlist along with a gift card to cover the cost of the song downloads. This is especially wonderful during chemo.

Gift a subscription to a magazine related to her interests/hobbies. Fatigue may interfere with reading novels but short stories/articles are just right. A gift subscription to Netflix or HuluPlus is another wonderful idea.

If their dietary restrictions and your budget permit, send a fresh fruit arrangement. They are beautiful and a wonderful treat. I’ve had great experience locally with Edible Arrangements. A nice box of cookies or chocolates that they can offer guests is a great gift – if they are a host at heart, it’s a way for them to show hospitality to visitors.

Send lots of text messages – include a funny picture or encouraging quote – and always add “No need to respond”. Sometimes texting is exhausting, but getting messages is awesome. Funny-Text-Messages-Google-logo

Gentle readers, cancer touches each of us. The National Cancer Institute predicts in 2015 there will be 1,658,370 new diagnoses in the United States alone. It’s likely that you have either been personally touched or have a near friend or family member who is presently in the battle. I will be blessed if you leave a comment.  How have friends encouraged and blessed you and your family?


Note: The recommendations above that specify a particular brand or service are based on my personal experience alone and I was not compensated in any way.