Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Befriending A Child With Cancer

Cancer takes so much. Don't let it steal friendships too!

I will never forget the day when my Chris was 12 years old, and he sat at our kitchen table with tears in his eyes. You see, this was supposed to be one of his rare golden days. He felt well, and his blood counts were high enough that he could go out in public. But there had been a miscommunication. The ride to the movies with all of the neighborhood kids had left without him.

No big deal for your average 12 year old, but devastating to a child who's life is dominated by debilitating treatments and forced isolation. But it doesn't have to be that way! Here are some suggestions on maintaining a friendship with a young cancer patient.

  • Give the family your phone number and encourage them to call you to schedule a play date at their convenience. Make sure you say this in front of the kids because they'll hold the adults accountable.This will require some flexibility on your part, but the rewards are priceless. 
  • Rent a movie, do Netflix, video games, or board games with the patient at their house. Sometimes cancer patients feel well enough to socialize, but are too immunosuppressed to go out.
  • Take them to an afternoon matinee. Doctors will sometimes give this the okay, because there are fewer crowds and less risk of infection.
  • Have a quiet picnic outdoors. The patient may lack the stamina to run around, but getting out in the sunlight does wonders.
  • Educate your child. Assure them that cancer isn't contagious. Let them know that their friend's appearance may be affected by the chemotherapy, but they are still the same person inside. Answer their questions honestly.
  • Give your child opportunities to be creative.You'll be amazed at the ideas they come up with! One of Chris's friends always asked when his next hospitalization was scheduled and he made sure that he always called. Another friend emailed jokes. One family adopted Chris for Christmas.
  • Visit the patient at the hospital. Children's hospitals are loaded with toys and activities.
  • Don't become frustrated if your patient friend has to cancel at the last minute. Don't give up on the friendship.
  • If the patient isn't allowed visitors use Face Time, Skype, or social media to connect.
  • And most important of all when they are together—let them play and just be kids!

Proverbs 17:17: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity."

Making the extra effort to befriend a child with cancer not only brightens the patient's life, it teaches compassion and gratitude, and it reminds us that the best things in life come from the heart. You and your child will be blessed beyond measure!

I would love to hear your suggestions. Is there something I should add to the list? Please leave your comments.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


"Desire'" tipped back in her chair and flopped onto the floor, bawling in frustration. The five-year old's father had recently gone to prison, and her little world had been turned upside down.

"Armand", who spoke no English, skipped across the room, twirling in circles, tossing crayons into the air. 

"My pencil's gone!" shouted "Marissa", tears welling in her eyes. "Someone stole it!"

The frustrated substitute searched for some more pencils, but the previous teacher had quit unexpectedly, packed up her supplies, and had left the cabinet completely empty.

This was the scene that unfolded before me the other day as I worked in a kindergarten classroom. Perhaps the previous teacher had valid reasons for quitting. She may have realized that the job was too much for her(as it would be for most of us I suspect). But why empty the cabinet? Why not leave tools and supplies to help the next teacher cope?

This experience has given me pause to reflect upon my past failures. Did I move on with grace and dignity or did I leave the cabinet empty?

When I was young and arrogant, a real estate transaction did not go smoothly so I retaliated by setting the alarm and unscrewing all of the lightbulbs before the new owners took possession. When I left a job with an unpopular boss I departed, leaving a trail of sarcastic comments in my wake. In both situations I had done nothing to fill the tool cabinet for my predecessors.

I had told myself that it was okay to leave the way I did because the situation was unpleasant, or they were making unreasonable demandsnot unlike being thrust into a room full of needy five year-olds. 

I used to keep score. If my perception of someone else was that they had committed more wrongs than I did, then I was justified in getting even. The bible tells us otherwise.

1 Peter 3: 9: NIV "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because this to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."

When I succumbed to my addiction, and my personal tool cabinet was empty, some caring women opened their cabinet and shared with me. Their past failures became stories of hope for me. They readily admitted their mistakes, and they taught me how to forgive and move forward with my shortcomings.

They taught me how to make amends, and to make an honest effort to set things right. 

The verse above hints at eternal blessings, but I have already received earthly blessings as well. Several years ago I had a falling out with a friend. My attempts at reconciliation had been rejected. It had taken great effort on my part to smile and be polite whenever I saw her.

After several years of giving me cold stares, one day she approached me and apologized, admitting her part. How grateful I was that I had held my tongue! My tools had served me well.

Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

 When my son, Chris, was diagnosed with leukemia, I was frustrated when I couldn't find meaningful literature for young cancer patients. I wrote my children's cancer book, "The Bald-Headed Princess". I wanted to leave something in the cabinet for the next scared patient.

It is unlikely that the teacher who quit will stop by to fill the cabinet and help the new teacher transition into a challenging situation, but she reminded me that I can still do that for others.

What's in your cabinet?

Monday, November 7, 2016


A year ago my husband, Rob, and I sold our house and bought an RV. Going from a four bedroom house to such a small living space has certainly been an adjustment. It has also been a learning experience.

One of the most important tasks in RV living is dumping the waste. Beneath our unit is  a black water holding tank. Every time we flush our waste goes into that tank until we empty it each week. If we forget, well, it really stinks!

For those of us in recovery, dumping our emotional waste is vital. Many of us crammed anger, resentment, and fear into our tanks for years without flushing. Instead we just poured alcohol, drugs, food, work, or whatever our obsession was on top, hoping that our problems would just dissolve. Imagine sprinkling Pine Sol into an overflowing toilet!

In the fourth step we learn to identify our poop. We begin by listing our resentments. This is followed by a list of the causes and how we were affected. We realize that our fears and resentments have made us spiritually sick. It is like reading the monitor panel in the RV that tells us when our tank is full.

But we don’t stop there—we must look at our part! Regarding each resentment we write honestly how we have been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and fearful.

 In the fifth step we flush. We admit to ourselves, to God, and to another person the nature of our wrongs. If we don't cleanse our tank we will remain sick. Without the fifth step flush we are hanging onto all of our excuses for drinking and drugging again. The stench in our hearts often becomes too difficult to bear without numbing it with substances. Almost without exception, everyone I've known who has relapsed did so before they completed steps four and five.

I do not believe this is mere coincidence. Without this cleansing process we have no tools to cope with the difficulties of life in a fallen world. We must dump our old behaviors to make room for the new attitudes and behaviors that we will learn as we continue through the steps. Having a trusted person, such as a sponsor, carefully and prayerfully take us through this step illuminates our former wrong way of thinking. It's like the little plastic section of pipe that we have attached to our sewer hose. It allows us to see what is coming out!

1 John 1:9 ESV 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

At this point, I suppose I should apologize for discussing poop and quoting scripture in the same passage, but in Isaiah 64:6 our deeds are compared to filthy rags, so I don't think I'm too far off.

There is only on person, Jesus Christ, who can permanently dispose of our imperfect waste, but until we meet him face to face, we can help each other.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.