The Great Hope Killer
How a recent experience reminded me of the greatest challenge of facing cancer
(Founder of Hope Has Arrived)
Sitting in a room with people who had been affected by cancer in various ways, I saw a clearer picture of the overwhelming need. Yes, this disease attacks the body, but even more devastating, it attacks a person’s hope!
This realization hit me recently while I attended a cancer care training course in Georgia. For two days, I learned more about the needs of people facing cancer alongside 60 other people who had all been affected by the disease—patients, caregivers, etc.
Acquainted with cancer
As a stage IV survivor, I was already intimately acquainted with the struggle to find hope—more than I ever would want to be. But these few days expanded my view beyond just my own story, to see the greater stories of people around me—to understand more about the universal challenges of facing cancer.
And as I mentioned, probably the greatest challenge is, other than the threat to life itself, is how the disease threatens a person’s hope. I define hope as that virtue that gives you energy to face present difficulties while giving an expectation of good for the future. Hope is like oxygen—try living without it even just for a few minutes!
It’s painful, if not devastating to lose hope. And the cancer journey experience attacks, even assaults, a person’s hope. That is why I sometimes call it, The Great Hope Killer.
For me, my initial diagnosis torpedoed my hope. I didn’t even think I even had a chance to fight—that I would be dead in a few months, so what was the point? Then treatment proved an uphill grind as I clung to the hope of a good outcome, meanwhile knowing the grim statistics I faced. I share my journey in detail in my email series, The Pathway to Hope.
Losing hope, was perhaps the hardest part—maybe worse than the disease itself.
I am not alone in this.
As I listened to the stories of people who were being actively treated, supporting others or even some who had lost friends or family members, this need continually captured my attention, even shouted to me.
The challenges of facing cancer
At the training, we spoke of the challenges of facing cancer in four categories: emotional, physical, social and even spiritual. Unless you have lived it or walked with someone through it, you probably don’t truly understand the journey. Before cancer, I didn’t have a clue!
Emotionally, a person may feel abandoned, angry and overwhelmed or even helpless.
Physical challenges present more obviously: pain, loss of energy and sleep, not to mention side effects related to treatment.
As far as social, people with cancer often feel isolated from family and friends and embarrassed by physical changes, such as losing hair. They often navigate a flurry of uninformed and unsolicited advice—even if the advice is well intentioned. Indeed, the experience causes stress in almost all of a person’s relationships.
Spiritual challenges of cancer
Spiritually, people also face challenges. For many people, his or her hope is often directly linked to their spirituality.
If a person has a relationship with God, they often struggle to believe in his goodness or compassion for them when they get cancer. They may even feel punished.
For those with no spiritual belief, the journey can further isolate them from finding any hope spiritually.
Truly, a person with cancer faces a daunting, uphill battle on so many fronts.
Affirmation of the challenges
Hearing about these challenges in the training, beyond just a little PTSD, I also felt something else acutely: affirmation. While many of the points were not surprising, they helped give me some categories for what I was already thinking and feeling related to the journey. This proved comforting, as I was reminded I am not alone and that there is a certain power that comes with naming the issues.
A bit more about the training, it was hosted by Our Journey of Hope, which is sponsored by Our Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
For the past year or so, I have been searching the internet to try and find some type of resource where I could learn about to how to help people facing cancer.
There are lots of great organizations doing great things in the cancer fight. But I was particularly drawn to Our Journey of Hope. I especially liked how they emphasize the importance of spiritual hope when facing cancer.
In the end, this training deepened my understanding of the need for hope— the universal need of all people facing cancer. It also lit my fire to want to help others find it, which is why this website exists!
The purpose of Hope Has Arrived is to help people find hope, strength and peace against cancer.
May this website continue to be a place to help people find hope.
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