About Shirley

Shirley Corder is an author who writes to inspire and encourage. She has a passion for helping other writers and cancer survivors.

How Can You Be There For Your Friend with Cancer?

This entry is part 23 of the series Friends

Friends

There are a number of ways people react when they are told their friend or loved one has cancer.

The first, and possibly most common, type of reaction comes from those who rise up and say, “We’ll be here for you.”

What exactly does that mean?

Be there for your friend or family member.  

Many cancer survivors will tell you that they learned who their real friends were during their treatment time. Some handle it well. Others can’t cope with the emotions and withdraw from the patient.

When I faced my diagnosis of breast cancer with a poor prognosis followed by a year’s aggressive treatment, I soon found out who were really there for me, and those who weren’t. If you’d asked me a week before the diagnosis, who would form my support group, there are names I would have put near the top of the list—yet when the time came, they were too busy, too threatened or too apprehensive, to spend constructive time with me. There were others whom I wouldn’t have even thought of, who became stalwarts in my war against cancer.

People with cancer do much better when they have a strong support system from their friends. Click To Tweet

Know that you can make a big difference in the life of someone with cancer.

What does it mean to “be there” for those going through treatment for cancer? It simply means giving them your support, whatever that may entail. You may need to listen to them without criticism or correction, rub their backs, fetch them iced water, cut their toenails, or allow them to cry. And sometimes, the best way you can “be there” for them, is to go home and leave them alone.

As you spend time with your friend, watch for ways you can help her*. As you notice ways that the cancer is affecting her everyday life, you can step forward and offer to help in constructive ways. One friend of mine appointed herself as my gardener. As a minister’s wife, I received a huge number of floral arrangements which my husband arranged all round the room. My friend watered them, picked off the dead leaves, combined them as the flowers died, and generally kept them looking lovely. 

Make sure you show your friend that she is still important to you, regardless of how she looks or her emotional or physical state. Even if she has a family member staying with her, or if she has a hired carer, your help is still needed. Perhaps the family member or carer needs a break. By offering to sit with the patient, they can get out of the house and do some shopping. Alternatively, you can do the shopping for them.

Pop in regularly to see how she’s doing and if there is anything she needs. If you can’t physically be there, pick up the phone and chat briefly to her or to her carer. Make sure she has your phone number handy and assure her you’re always available to take her call. (If you are. If not, tell her when she can phone you.)

Always call before you visit, and only stay a short time. Treatment is not only debilitating, it’s tiring. Your friend needs company which will help take her mind off what she’s feeling, but she also needs to be able to close her eyes and rest.

Take along something to do in case she doesn’t feel like chatting. I had a friend who came round every afternoon when I first got home from hospital. She brought her mending and would curl up in a chair at the bottom of my bed and work away quietly. I could talk if I felt like it, but I didn’t need to feel bad if I just wanted to close my eyes and dose off.  

Don’t point out past habits that may have added to her cancer diagnosis, like smoking. She is likely to feel guilty enough without you rubbing it in. The fact is, she has it. Now she needs to deal with it, and it is your responsibility to help her.

Never assume that because she is asleep, she can’t hear you. Watch what you say in front of her, or even outside the door. Say nothing negative about her condition anywhere near her, and try to encourage a positive outlook whenever possible. 

Put a notepad and pen next to her bed or favourite chair. Encourage her to jot down anything she needs you to do or to get, or even to make a note of topics she’d like to discuss. The treatment may well affect her memory. 

Be sensitive to the times when she needs space. Encourage her to tell you when she would like some time on her own, and don’t take it personally. And of course, there are also people who are best to remain in the background and not physically “be there” at all. If you are one of those, don’t despair. There are other ways to “be there” other than sitting next to a bedside. 

These are just some of the ways you can “be there” for your friend who has cancer. Can you think of more? Please add them in the comment section.

*This obviously refers to men as well. I’m using the female gender to make for easier reading.

Elizabeth Jolley Shares Her Journey with IBC

Some months ago, I posted an article written by a lady who was living with metastasized breast cancer.

In Living in Victory: When Cancer Seems Out of Control, Elizabeth Jolley offered 10 tips on how to cope with that nightmare diagnosis and treatment.

Today, I’m honoured to be able to share with you her testimony of how she discovered the cancer and what transpired. read more

How to Encourage Family Members or Friends who have Cancer

This entry is part 20 of the series Friends

(Originally published January 2016. Updated 23 January, 2018)

friendship

When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer with glandular involvement, I found my family members and friends reacted in one of several ways.

1) There were those who rose up and said, “We’re here for you.”

This included my family members who lived at home, and I hate to think what my year of cancer treatment would have been like without their support. But it also included many of my friends.

The evening following my surgery, I had so many visitors it was embarrassing, so I did what all post-operative patients are allowed to do and went to sleep on them! Once I returned home however, the visitors spread out, and it soon became evident those who were going to truly support us through the time. And there were a good number of them, for whom I praise God.

2) Others, including family members, didn’t cope well.

In at least one case this was because the lady had lost two family members to cancer, and couldn’t handle a third. She didn’t live in our town, but kept meaning to answer my email. However the days went by and, believe it or not, she forgot I had cancer! A couple of years later, during a phone call, she realized what had happened, and was mortified. How could she have forgotten me during that time?

On my side, I was confused that she didn’t reply to my email. She wrote to me, but it was as if she’d never heard I was ill. Only after we opened up the subject, years later, did I understand what had happened.

3)  A close family member had just moved to a foreign country across the globe.

She had tiny children and was already stressed to her limits trying to adjust. She didn’t forget—she wrote and emailed me whenever she had the chance. But her comments showed me that although she hadn’t forgotten my diagnosis and treatment, she didn’t have a clear understanding of where I was at. That hurt me, and I took it to mean a lack of interest. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Months later, a psychologist gave me this explanation: She had so much going on in her life, she couldn’t also cope with someone she loved dearly who had cancer and whom she couldn’t visit. Her subconscious mind created a “mental cupboard” in order to protect her emotionally, and whenever she received news from me, she skimmed through it, then stored it in the “cupboard”. When she sat down to write to me, she couldn’t bear to re-read my emails so answered it from her “filtered” memory. When I heard this explanation, it helped me so much and alleviated the hurt I had felt.

4) Others didn’t know how to speak to me or act around me, and so they kept away.

They were dealing with their own shock, and they didn’t know how we were coping. I wish they’d sat down and spoken to me. Perhaps they thought I wouldn’t notice their absence, but I did.typexnick/Flickr

5) There were those who seemed to think I was contagious. 

They visited, but stood at the door and left in a rush with some sort of excuse, which left me confused and feeling rejected.

6) Some had me dead and about to be buried.

They offered no hope. For some strange reason, they usually found it necessary to tell me all about someone they knew who had died from breast cancer. Not at all what I wanted or needed to hear.

7) One lady was devastated by my diagnosis, and seemed to want to visit so she could cry with me. 

Only thing was, I didn’t want to cry with her! She seemed to feel committed to do all she could to depress me. Eventually, my husband had to step in and try to prevent her from visiting. As soon as we saw her car draw up outside, he chased me off to bed. He could then honestly say, “I’m sorry. Shirley’s lying down.” That of course led to more stress in our lives. And the poor lady was even more worried that I seemed to spend the entire day on my bed!

8) Some struggled with my sense of humor.

They seemed to feel it was inappropriate to do battle with a life-threatening disease with a smile on my face and making jovial remarks. The trouble is, by nature I often see the funny side of not-so-funny events, and make flippant remarks to lighten the gravity of the situation. Instead of supporting me in my personal reaction, inappropriate though they might think it to be, I later learned some labelled me as being “in denial.” Nothing could have been further from the truth.

9) I received a couple of visitors that weren’t really friends at all.

This happened especially in hospital. I came to the conclusion that they were there to satisfy their own curiosity and sure enough they never came back. They probably thought I would be touched. I was just baffled! There are some strange people in this world!

10) And then there were those called to preach!

Oh my. They brought me the Gospel. They urged me to have faith in God. They quoted all the verses they could think of to convince me that if I had faith I would be healed. Far from building me up, these people annoyed me and put me on the defensive. I often had to bite my tongue. “Who do you think I’m trusting in?” I wanted to snarl in my most loving Christian fashion.

Do you have someone who is currently doing battle with cancer?

As you read through these different reactions, and there are more of course, see if you can identify where you fall in. If you are a 1), then praise the Lord for the way you are supporting your loved one. If you fall into any of the other categories, pray about your reaction. Ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Look at the message your reaction is giving to the patient, and look for another better way to show your support.  

Your family members or friends have professional medical assistance. They need friends. Real friends. Friends who will love, support, and accept them without judgement. Cancer is a beastly intruder in anyone’s life, and you never know how you will cope until it hits. So let them be themselves, and you just love and pray for empathy.

If you’ve had cancer, what did people do that encouraged you?

If you have a friend with cancer, what do you think you could do to bring encouragement?

Please leave an answer in the comment box below. Your words could go a long way to uplifting a person you may never meet.

Coping with Anger

This entry is part 19 of the series Friends

Angry_womanIn an earlier post, we looked at anger, and we saw that it is a normal part of the cancer roller coaster.

We’re now going to look at ways you can help a friend or family member that is riding that roller coaster, cope with their anger.

We saw the need to help your friend recognise the anger, and identify the fear, frustration or hurt behind that emotion.

Realise it’s not easy for them to admit to fear, or to share their deepest hurts or frustrations. So take it slowly. Once your loved one knows you understand, it will be easier to explore deeper, hidden feelings. You’re obviously not going to turn your back. That opens the door to discuss the unwelcome feeling and the reason behind it. read more

Anthologies

At time of writing, I have had one or more stories or devotional messages published in 12 anthologies. In addition, I am the author of Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, and three Kindle Books: Naomi ~ Devoted Mother-in-Law; Eve ~ Mother of All; and Miriam Part I ~ Devoted Sister

 

(page 72) tells the story of the day an angel, unseen by my son but causing great terror to three thugs on a racing train, rescued him from certain death. Available from Amazon.com

Angels on Duty (page 72) tells the story of the day an angel, unseen by my son caused great terror to three thugs on a racing train and rescued him from certain death. Available from Amazon.com

Over 50 messages included in this Daily Devotional for Men and Women in the Workplace. Published by Marion Hill Publishers, South Africa.

I have over 50 inspirational messages included in this Daily Devotional for Men and Women in the Workplace. Published by Marion Hill Publishers, South Africa.

What’s Your Poison? (page 63) tells of the night our Alsatian pup made a meal of Fly Bait, and learned a tough lesson. Available from Amazon.com

What’s Your Poison? (page 63) tells of the night our Alsatian pup made a meal of Fly Bait, and we all learned a tough lesson. Available from Amazon.com

Over 50 messages contained in Your Friendly Daily Guide to a Meaningful Life, published in English and Afrikaans, in South Africa.

Over 50 messages contained in Your Friendly Daily Guide to a Meaningful Life, published in English and Afrikaans, in South Africa.

A Little Boy’s Prayer (page 7) tells of an amazing answer to the prayer of faith uttered by a little boy of 7. Praying from the Hear, True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer, is published by Guideposts, New York.

A Little Boy’s Prayer (page 7) tells of an amazing answer to the prayer of faith uttered by a little boy of 7. Praying from the Heart, True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer, is published by Guideposts, New York  and is available on Amazon.com.

Just One More (page 34) of this From Tragedy to Triumph, True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer, tells of an amazing miracle in a desperate situation. This book was published by Guideposts, New York.

Just One More (page 34) of this From Tragedy to Triumph, True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer, tells of an amazing miracle in a desperate situation. This book was published by Guideposts, New York and is available from Amazon.com.

An Unseen Protector (page 89) tells of an angel who rescued a young student on his way to write an examination. Expecting Miracles, another of the True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer, was published by Guideposts, New York.

An Unseen Protector (page 89) tells of an angel who rescued a young student on his way to write an examination. Expecting Miracles, another of the True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer, was published by Guideposts, New York and is available from Amazon.com

Prayer Warriors (page 1) is the first story, and A Feast of Miracles (page 214) is the final story in the last book of this series, True Stories of Extraordinary Answer to Prayer, published by Guideposts, New York.

Prayer Warriors (page 1) is the first story, and A Feast of Miracles (page 214) is the final story in the last book of this series, True Stories of Extraordinary Answer to Prayer, published by Guideposts, New York and available from Amazon.com.

One of the Family tells how our cat with an attitude joined us on a 3-day road trip across South Africa. This Chicken Soup book is available on Amazon.com.

One of the Family tells how our cat with an attitude joined us on a 3-day road trip across South Africa. This Chicken Soup book is available on Amazon.com.

War in Heaven, Out of Sight, and An Unexpected Answer are three humorous true stories in this book of 365 Inspirational Meditations to Brighten Your Day. Available from Amazon.com.

War in Heaven, Out of Sight, and An Unexpected Answer are three humorous true stories in this book of 365 Inspirational Meditations to Brighten Your Day. Available from Amazon.com.

Traveling Laptop (page 189) tells how God used many prayers and three hands-on people to send this machine halfway across the world. This book of over 50 real life stories is available from Amazon.com.

Traveling Laptop (page 189) tells how God used many prayers and three hands-on people to send this machine halfway across the world. This book of over 50 real life stories is available from Amazon.com.

Light for the Writer's Soul

When God Makes the Impossible, Possible (page 202) reminds us that God is not bound by man-made limitations. From an ocean-going craft in the desert to the publication of a specific book, He will make a plan. Published by Media Associates International and available on Amazon.com.

Writing to Publication

Writing – a Hobby

Writing was a hobby until the beginning of 2001. Then the Lord spoke to me through Scripture and the words of a meditation.

“Pick up your pen and write . . . Share the wondrous things I have done.” (Habakkuk 2:2; Psalm 118:17)

It wasn’t the first time He had brought these verses to my attention.

In 1997-1998, I went through radical treatment for aggressive cancer. While lying on my bed recovering from the latest chemotherapy treatment, I read both these verses. I believed at the time that God was saying I was not to keep my cancer diagnosis and the lessons I was learning a secret. That I was to speak openly. I also thought He wanted me to journal so that I wouldn’t forget.

Then a Calling

I believe both of these were true. But there was more, and in 2001 I understood. He wanted me to write for publication and to share all He had done with any who would read.

I have had hundreds, probably thousands, of articles published online and in print. Not all of them are devotional in nature, but they all speak from experience. The more I had published, the more I felt like a writer.

Then in 2012, Revell Publishers in America brought out my book of meditations for those on the cancer journey, Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. At last I felt like an author.

Since then I have had a number of books published which you can see under the heading Published Work on the menu.

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South Africa – The Country

Africa real sizeSouth Africa is an incredibly beautiful and diverse country, twice the size of Texas or equal to France and Spain combined. And that is only South Africa, the country where I live!

The southern coast of the continent boasts the picturesque beauty of the Garden Route, and the fascination of the small Western Cape towns. The eastern subtropical coast of northern KwaZulu-Natal is like a different country. The vast Karoo semi-desert bears a vast contrasts with the lush magnificence of the Drakensberg mountains. Perhaps the biggest drawcard of all of course is the world renowned Kruger National Park. read more

Strength Renewed – the Book

Nothing can sap a person’s strength and hope quite like a cancer diagnosis – unless it is the energy-stealing radiation, chemotherapy and surgeries faced in the fight to survive. But one can find hope and strength in the pages of Scripture and in the experience of someone who has been there. read more

South Africa – About the Country

South Africa is an incredibly beautiful and diverse country, twice the size of Texas or equal to France and Spain combined.

 

The southern coast of the continent boasts the picturesque beauty of the Garden Route, and the fascination of the small Western Cape towns. The eastern subtropical coast of northern KwaZulu-Natal is like a different country. The vast Karoo semi-desert bears a vast contrasts with the lush magnificence of the Drakensberg mountains. Perhaps the biggest drawcard of all of course is the world renowned Kruger National Park.

Visitors are often surprised by South Africa’s excellent infrastructure, which draws favourable comparison with countries across the world. Yet South Africa is an enigma. Years after the birth of The New South Africa, the people of the so-called “rainbow nation” still struggle to find their identity.