Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Two Types of Comforters- The Good & The Miserable-Which Are You?

                                                        Types of Comforters
I never thought that some day I'd find myself sharing the news that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In the book of Job we find two types of comforters. The good comforter and the miserable one. It's relatively easy to know which type of comfort your receiving. Here was Job's reaction to miserable comfort:
 Job 16:2-4
Miserable comforters are you all!  Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer?  I also could speak as you do, If your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you, And shake my head at you; 

Clearly Job was  frustrated as a result of receiving their comfort. In fact it is safe to say their "words of comfort" added to his pain. In contrast to miserable comfort Job describes how one receives good comfort:

Job 16:5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief. When a person receives good comfort the pain of the moment may linger, but there is feeling of relief that someone understands your pain. 

As I've shared the news I have cancer I've discovered most reactions fall within two groups:

Group#1 This group that responds to the news by sharing a personal experience:
Your initial reaction to someone offering this comfort could be frustration because it appears they are not reacting to what you said, but moved to completely different personal experience they've had with cancer. t's important to listen carefully to the story they've shared because it's through that filter of their experience they are viewing your cancer.For example one of my employees first question to me was: "How much pain are you feeling?"  I realized that her concern came from her personal experience, so I asked her the following question: "Who in your life experienced pain with their cancer diagnosis?"

Without a moments hesitation she began telling me about her mom, who died of bone cancer. I told her that I didn't have bone cancer. I also told her that prostate cancer is for the most part painless. Therefore men can have it for decades and not even know it's there. Once I helped her differentiate her experiences from mine we could talk in the present without her experiences filtering what she was hearing from me.,

Another example was this comment from a close friend.  He said: "I'm sorry to hear that. My dad died of prostate cancer." Initially that comment added to my anxiety.I  wanted to run away from him and my circumstances. Then I realized what he was really saying here was this: In my experience with prostate cancer tells me it's deadly, and I'm worried you are going to die too. At that point you can share your own fears about cancer being a death sentence if that's your worry, because this person will understand your fears. Therefore, the story they share with you gives you a window into how they are experiencing the news you just shared with them. There is an opportunity to receive comfort from this group of people.

Group#2 This group of people offer a comfort cliché. That is to say they offer a few sentences designed to keep you from sharing anything further with them. So they might say: Cheer up" or "I'll pray for you" After they say their few words they are done. It's obvious they don't want to make a deep connection or know more about your  circumstances. They are much more concerned about saying something which they believe will make feel me better, and/or make themselves better. So I'll listen to their cliché, say a perfunctory thank you and walk away. I put those folks on a list of people whom not to share anything remotely intimate. If we are friends I may share facts like I'll be going in for surgery, or I'll be home from the hospital on such in such date but I will make it a point NOT to share a single emotional, relational, spiritual, or physical struggle.

                                             Sources of Comfort Good Comfort

People further along in the journey than you are: These are men who've been diagnosed and have lived with prostate cancer for years longer than you. They may offer appropriate comfort, information and support. They are people you want on your team.

Comfort from God:
2 Cor 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I found this source of comfort to be the best. I found comfort in answered prayers, in promises in the Bible, hymns and praise songs. To face prostate cancer without this source of  comfort is a serious mistake.

Questions to consider:
1. Who in my circle of friends and family offer good comfort.
2. Who in my circle of friends and family offer miserable comfort.
3. What are  your reactions to receiving miserable comfort?
4. What are your reactions to receiving good comfort?
5. What type of comforter are you?
6. Is God a source of comfort for you? If so,  how so? If not what do you need to do in order to invite God      into your circumstances?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Power of Words in Encourage or Discourage Us

This weekend I heard from someone who read my article titled "Life Lessons on Coping with Cancer" "
Here's what he said: Inspirational and very well written. Thanks for sharing Rick!"

Then I heard this from a man who read "I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours? He said:"
I found that no detail was omitted in any of the 42 chapters of this book. It has now become my number one source of information relating to the effects and recovery from Prostate Cancer. Well done."
I'm encouraged by the words I've heard this weekend. In my life and I'm sure in yours we all experienced the power that words have to encourage or discourage us.
A Bible verse came to my mind: Prov 15:23 And a word spoken in due season, how good it is! Sadly I think I remember the discouraging more vividly than the encouraging remarks because the first quote that came to my mind was this:
I'm so sorry you have prostate cancer, that's what killed my dad.
Much much later on when my sanity returned,(there are some in my family that suggest I've never had sanity to lose) I understood why he made that remark. As a friend who loved me dearly, he heard the news and was expressing his own fear and personal experience with about prostate cancer. He was also wondering whether I like his dad would die from prostate cancer. At that time I thought I would die from prostate cancer. I'd been complaining of bone pain months before I was diagnosed. After I received the diagnosis I was convinced that cancer had spread to my bones and I'd be dead within in a year. Thankfully the CT scan showed no bone cancer. (which is when I believe my sanity returned)

When I heard his Dad died from prostate cancer my fears increased ten-fold. At the time, I didn't think that was possible! As a result, I stopped telling people I had prostate cancer for many weeks. The last thing I needed or wanted to hear was another remark that would increase my terror.
Another discouraging remark occurred when I shared how difficult it was for me to cope with losing urinary control and live with changing my diapers 15 times a day.The comment was:
That's not so bad, at least your alive.
At the time I was wishing I hadn't survived my surgery. After that remark, I gave up trying to talk about my experiences with healthy people. I'd only share with men on-line or with men who'd been through something similar.

Today I'm greatly encouraged by the words I received this weekend. I consider it to be a blessing to use my experiences to help others. Unfortunately,  though, I've something about myself that I need to change. It's much easier for me to remember the discouraging words and act upon them rather than it is for me to keep encouraging words in my heart. With encouraging words I feel good for a moment and then they disappear. Discouraging words cause me to make decisions that affect me for days, weeks or years. I need to reverse this process and rid my mind of the discouraging words, and fill my mind with encouraging words.

What about you? What words of comfort built you up and encouraged you and what words  discouraged you and affected you for days, weeks, months, or years?