Fortunately, most people we know are relatively healthy. Our friends, family members, neighbors, and the common man you find walking his dog. What if that changed? What if, one day, you woke up to a phone call that your best friend has been suffering from breast cancer? Or, a close family member has discovered a tumor?
Would you feel comfortable going to them with your problems? Asking for advice? Or, venting about the day's frustrations? Would you feel ungrateful? We often think how difficult our life is until we meet another who is struggling. Have you thought about how the individual with the disease feels? What goes through their mind?
For several years, I have been blessed to work as a chaplain for a hospice company. The biggest sorrow expressed by patients is the fact that their family members, friends, and strangers define them by their disease. Those who are suffering from a life-threatening illness find it difficult to try living a normal life. Why? It’s not because of their disease (although their ailment may cause certain limitations towards their health), but it’s because when others look at them, they see cancer, heart failure, liver failure, or another illness.
When you are blessed with an opportunity to meet, or know someone with a life- threatening disease, remember they are still alive — today. That is the biggest blessing they have been given.
In many cases, they were once a young man or woman; they still have hopes and dreams. Ask them about their first kiss, what they remember most about marrying their sweetheart, or anything you’ve always wanted to know about this individual. Look past the disease, and if you feel so inclined, confide in them your difficulties. They will sympathize and understand. I promise you will surprise yourself on the wisdom and knowledge you will obtain from these wonderful people.
If the person you know with a life-threatening disease is a child, ask them about their plans for the future: what do they hope to be when they grow up? What do they love to do with their family? There is no such thing as false hope. The person, whether they have seen very few summers, or have witnessed many, still have hopes and dreams beyond what their disease is dictating in their life. Yes, their life may be cut short because of this disease, but, for that brief moment, their life was full of happiness, hope, and dreams all because you took the time to look past their disease. You became their friend.