A Piece of Advice From a Cancer Survivor

June 25th, 2009

In my post yesterday on being late to class I mentioned I had to give a presentation for school. The topic I was assigned to discuss was children diagnosed with malignant cancer. I was supposed to address specific issues or concerns teachers might face or at least need to be aware of while instructing said students.

At the end of my presentation I asked the class if anyone was a cancer survivor. One man, Matt (not his real name) raised his hand. I asked Matt if he had any special advice for the rest of the class on how we could appropriately interact with people who had cancer. Matt then took the floor for a few minutes and held everyone spellbound. It definitely brought some life to my boring presentation and woke everyone up.

In case you’re curious, one thing Matt said we should do was to just listen and empathize instead of launching into personal stories we may know of others who had cancer. He said that hearing second hand stories of other cancer patients never helped him feel better. In fact, Matt said when people would do that it made him feel like they considered themselves a cancer expert (because of the stories they knew) when in reality he didn’t feel like they understood what he was going through at all.

Matt pointed out too that all cancer stories have one of two endings: Either the person survived or died. In his opinion neither outcome was very comforting and here’s why:

Obviously the stories where the patient died was not very comforting. But the survivor stories weren’t comforting to him either because he felt they implied the individual who survived was especially tough or somehow super human. And Matt said (I’m paraphrasing) he didn’t feel that tough or super human while going through cancer treatments. And wouldn’t that imply he might not make it?

It seems to me that a lot of being “Christ-like” is true humility, thinking about others, putting ourselves last, genuinely caring, and keeping our mouths shut. (All things I don’t do well!)

I love what C.S. Lewis had to say about humble people in his book Mere Christianity:

     "Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will
     be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be
     a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you
     that, of course, he is nobody.  Probably all you will  think 
     about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who
     took a real interest in what you said  to him. If you do dislike
     him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who 
     seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about 
     humility:  he will not be  thinking about himself at all."
Photo Credit: Advice

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