Welcome to the Cancer Club. It is one that very few people are actually happy to join but it is a part of our human condition so some of us get initiated into the club whether we want to or not.
During my thirteen-plus years of oncology chaplain experience here at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, I have had the opportunity to meet, interact and pray with hundreds of dear people. Some are still alive while others have breathed their last and have been embraced by our gracious God whose love is trustworthy.
While these cancer patients (I prefer the term cancer co-healers) came to our hospital or out-patient clinic for surgery and/or active treatments, I had the opportunity and privilege to listen to many unique stories of what this life threatening disease has brought about for each one.
Often at the end of a conversation which may or may not have ended with prayer, I found myself thinking what a blessing it would be to gather some of the gleaned wisdom, pool it into a readable booklet and make it available for individuals who may be new to this aspect of life’s journey. Thus, the idea eventually moved into the making of this booklet.
I selected 35 men and women, sent an invitational letter with six questions, set a deadline and awaited replies. I am deeply grateful that 26 people opted to sit down to articulate their responses. You have them in your hands right now.
I invite you to read these stories slowly. It’s not a one-time, sit-through, one-after-the-other event. No, the answers these participants gave are worthy of a slow read so that the depth of their experiences, challenges and gradual transformations sink in. Hopefully reading these responses will bring about a deeper trust for you. Then you will be able to meet your reality and grow through it, if not despite it.
My sincere thanks to each person who invested time to share his/her various truths. My life has been enriched by reflectively reading these “gold nuggets” found by those who have dug deeply into the cancer mine. May your own life be enriched as you sift through each one’s heartfelt truth.
Sister Sue Tracy, OP