Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 29, 2008 - Reflections of a Pancreatic Cancer Survivor

The other day I came across an article written by the Rev. Bill Forbes, a fellow Presbyterian minister. Bill’s a member of a highly exclusive club: pancreatic cancer survivors.

Bill used to be pastor of a large church in northern New Jersey. Shortly after leaving that position to become a vice-president of our denomination’s Board of Pensions, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and given just months to live. Now, more than two years later, he’s still with us. So far, he’s beating the odds.

The article Bill wrote appears in The Presbyterian Outlook – a small, independent magazine not widely known outside Presbyterian circles. His thoughts on survivorship are wise, and deserve to be more widely known.

Here are some things he says pancreatic cancer has taught him.

“Each and every day of life is a gift.”

“My effort to live a life and ministry of encouragement shapes my life today as never before.... Pancreatic cancer has assisted me, indeed it has endowed me, with a mandate to re-order my priorities. I don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’ nearly as much as I used to!”

“Prayer shapes and guides my life more than it did pre-diagnosis.”

When people learn that a friend has cancer, they often feel at a loss for words. Here’s what Bill suggests they say:

“When you know of someone who faces challenges – a serious illness, a family tragedy, a professional crisis, or a personal conundrum, don’t avoid them! Avoidance is tantamount to isolation. When someone faces the direst need, there is a tendency to feel forgotten. Questions such as ‘Why hasn’t your hair fallen out?’ or ‘What caused your situation?’ or ‘What kind of treatment will you have next?’ or ‘What is your prognosis?’ or ‘How are you handling the loss of your job, your spouse, your child, your... ?’ translates into ‘How does it feel to be without hope?’ And that’s not what those who suffer need.

Each of us has suffered or will suffer at some time in our lives. The Book of Job was a preview of what can happen to the most faithful and to the least faithful. Yet, the greatest gift we can offer to one another is encouragement – encouragement through spoken or written word, through deeds however small or gracious, through intercessory prayer and through the kindness of recognition: ‘I know this is a difficult time for you and I am holding you in daily prayer.’ God’s gift of life is truly amazing!”

Just one more example of how cancer changes a person.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

Bill Forbes looks very natty in that bow-tie! Looks like a man with a sense of humour as well. And don't sweat the small things is very true.

Life was meant to be enjoyed;however along the way smell the roses