Katrina is the daughter of a brave woman who is fighting cancer. Katrina’s mum has Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) of the infraorbital nerve. Here’s her story:
Talking with Katrina:
Surgery to remove the affected nerves in the face, then radiotherapy.
When the radiation didn’t remove all the cancer, my Mum received immunotherapy.
It’s impossible to know exactly how effective the treatment has been, it seems to have stopped the cancer spread for now at least.
When I first heard about Mum’s diagnosis I was absolutely devastated! I was very quick to start grieving and mourning the loss of my mum even before we knew all the details.
I knew people got cancer, mum’s got cancer, but I had never expected that this would happen to me or to my family.
There were lots of tears and lots of prayers.
I’m very grateful for how my family responded. A few of us (me included) ‘puddled’ as my sister likes to call it, and started going through grief and tears very quickly.
But there were others in my family who were able to remain calm and logical (my mum was part of that group).
There are unique strengths and weaknesses to each way of responding to the difficult news of a cancer diagnosis in the family. I’m very grateful that we were able to help each other!
I think it’s been about 4 years. We don’t know if/when it will come back. As Mum says ‘We take each day at a time, just like everyone else.”
Sometimes just saying “You must be finding this so hard” and giving someone a hug is enough.
It’s ok to grieve and to struggle to come to terms with your new reality.
And it’s ok to ask for help when it becomes too hard for you.
God used this time of grief and uncertainty to show me what it was like to really and truly trust him.
I thought I knew what it meant to have faith and trust in God, and I’m sure I did know to a certain point, but it’s only when you’re under pressure, and all your own resources are completely spent that you realise you can only trust in someone outside of yourself, someone who loves you, someone more powerful than yourself.
In the pain and helplessness I felt I could only trust God.
I also can see that I’m more willing to ask for and receive help from others. We were a very independent family before this happened. We’ve had a new appreciation for our own weaknesses and for how wonderful it is to be loved and helped by others.
There is a line in a song that goes “Each strand of sorrow has a place, within his tapestry of grace, so through the trials I choose to say, your perfect will in your perfect way.”
And another with a line that says “He sends the waves that bring us nigh, unto the shore, the rock of Christ.”
Words like these have come alive to me. Even as I struggle, I can choose to say “Your will be done God” and even when I grieve the losses I can thank God for the good things, even if the only good thing is that I must rely on Christ more!”
It’s hard to answer this question because everyone’s situation is so different.
Be normal and talk about it (or talk about other things)
I personally appreciated when people who I knew well, and knew cared for us, would talk to me about what was happening to Mum and ask how we were doing.
Not every day though, sometimes it was nice to talk about other ‘normal’ things.
When in doubt you can ask questions like “Do you mind talking about it? or would you prefer to talk about something else today?”
Recognise the pain the family are going through
A very lovely friend sent me flowers especially (Mum was often receiving flowers at that time), and I was so touched that she saw how hard it was for me as I was looking after Mum, I immediately burst into tears! I was so grateful.
Offer practical support
It wasn’t really necessary for us to receive meals, (we had 3 healthy people in the house who could cook!), but that was also really appreciated, taking even a small burden like cooking dinner, especially when Mum was really ill from radiation treatment, meant we had one less thing to think about.
I found great comfort in praying to God and bringing all my troubles to him.
There were also many people, friends, family and church family, who loved and supported us during these 4+ years. They brought us meals, sent flowers, and were constantly praying for and encouraging us. I felt so much love for us as a family and for my Mum from all these dear people.
Mum has always been a big encouragement to me, and an example of strength and trust in God. You’d think she would be the one who would need the most support! But in fact, she was often busy encouraging the rest of us! All through her diagnoses and treatment, and now her permanent disabilities because of the cancer and treatment, she has only grown in her joy and trust in God.
Before her diagnosis, I would have described my Mum as prone to anxiety and worry, but cancer has put everything into perspective and clarity. She has had to trust God with the biggest things! and that has helped her trust him with everything else too.
Katrina, you are such an encouragement to others–thank you for thinking of others as more important than yourself. You take care of your mum and are a joy to your family. Your love of Christ shines through in how you love others.