Experiencing God through caring for cancer patients

I heard a lot about how bad cancer could be but I had been living with an ill-based confidence that it would never happen to me.  That was until I experienced it, firsthand, as a recent convert, 15 years ago, when it struck home showing how devastating and fearsome cancer was! 

With gratitude to our Lord for His healing, after surgery and in less than 4 months after the ominous discovery, my cancer episode was behind me.  From then on, other than the continual yearly monitoring, I can almost keep my mind off it. However, deep inside I yearned to understand and experience the omnipresence of our loving God.  I knew my motive may not be for any higher purpose other than to be convinced that at my final physical bodily struggle my loving Lord will still be there with me. Though, admittedly I also wanted to learn to care and concern for people who are in need!

For more than 10 years I did not take any action on what I yearn for until a little over two years ago when my wife and I were so moved together to join the Herald Cancer Care Ministry as volunteers.  We did not have any agenda, not even specific goals other than the hope of experiencing His omnipresent love even in the darkest shroud of cancer.

Now, more than two years later my wife and I are delighted to report that we have been blessed to experience and learn much more than what we ever hoped for.  Furthermore, taking the approach of losing my self and just focusing on the care receiver with hope but no agenda or goals allowing God to do wonder is utmost fulfilling and also assuring!

Let me highlight what my wife and I experienced as a team in our caring for the first cancer patient and his wife.

When we were assigned our first care receiver he was already diagnosed and confirmed by second opinions as having terminal cancer with very grim prognosis and estimated to have only about 6 months to live. My wife and I knew nothing about cancer other than the little bit on what I went through many years ago; we were, and even now, not counselors and we had not been known to have the gift of prayer either.  In other words, we did not have much to offer. 

My wife and I visited together the care receivers regularly.  I focused on the husband, who was with cancer, and my wife on his wife, in separate rooms.

From our first visit to the very last one, we just prayed to our Lord that no matter how grim the situation might be, His presence be felt by the care receiver, his family and us.  We also prayed for our Lord to use us to communicate to the care receiver and his family members.  Each time without any agenda or goal but only with hope, we went for the first visit and all subsequent ones up to the one on the day that he passed away.  During these 11 months we established wonderful friendship; he reconciled with his family and with God; he accepted Christ again renewing his faith on our Lord; he recognized that God has been blessing him all of his life during his heydays when he was young and felt successful in his career as well as when he was in the darkest time of his life suffering from terminal cancer; he acquired peace towards ending his earthly sojourn and onward to his eternal life;

Though we felt very sad and our tears shed as our friend passed away, we have peace and joy knowing that our friend truly felt God has been with him and he ended his earthly sojourn well!

His wonderful transition from the state of shocked, denial, sadness, loneliness, anger, hopelessness and depression to acceptance, reconciliation and peace had been an ups-and-downs progression.  My wife and I did nothing other than just active listening, encouraging him and her to share their good as well as bad times in life and their feelings; with their permission, pray for them demonstrating how we, as Christians rely on God, and with their permission read them bible passages. God was the one who made the wonderful transition happen.

We learned that the cancer patient felt lonely and that nobody understood him in spite of his loving family. His love for the family members discouraged him from sharing his true feelings with them.  To a “stranger” who cares and concerns about him, he vented his true feelings and shed his tears without concern of any repercussion. Our approach of having no agenda and no specific goal but hope together with our active listening helped us bond with both care receivers very quickly. 

Basically, we put into practice what we were taught in the Cancer Care training.  We just focused on the care receiver, many times even to the extent that we lose our self and let the Holy Spirit worked.  We did not have to patronize; we did not have to pretend that we fully understand his or her feelings other than asking for clarification and rephrasing to validate and acknowledge.  Our whole person engaged to actively listen—our thoughts, eye contacts, verbal and body language were all synchronized and focused to listen.

The result is interestingly refreshing. The cancer patient kept telling his relatives and friends that Herald Cancer Care (later he said God) sent knowledgeable persons to support him and his wife.  He sought my opinion on many matters.  I knew that God was doing wonders on him.  I also knew that I was merely a catalyst in engaging his rational-self to sort things out.  I learned that when he asked for my opinion, I should not offer any unless it clearly deals with God’s teaching of what is right or wrong.  For that I had a few encounters where I referred to the bible letting him see what God says.  In all cases, I learned that I need to strive to help him engage his own rational-self even in understanding God’s teaching.

It is not a case like a consultant who tells you to look up the time using your watch. Rather, it is the role that a good and loving friend would sometimes have to play!

For our most recently assigned care receivers my wife and I switched roles.  She cared for the cancer patient and I care for the patient’s husband who, resigned from his job to take care of her 24 hours a day. Though again the inevitable came and we felt sad and tears shed, we experienced similar uplifting results using the same approach that we were taught.

My wife and I deeply appreciate our Lord and the Cancer Care Ministry giving us the opportunities, teaching us and supporting us to serve in complementary roles as a team in a transparent manner helping the care receivers experience God during the darkest time of their lives when they need God the most but are so confused to realize such!

May our Lord bless the Cancer Care Ministry greatly and allow many, care receivers and care givers alike, experience Him deeply!

Francis Ngai, 2012