The Support That Counts
“I HAD to fight the fear of death and periods of depression,” relates Virginia, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Argentina. She underwent radical mastectomy and removal of both ovaries in her fight against breast cancer.*
Indeed, the fear of death as a consequence of breast cancer is universal. This fear, along with a dread of disability and a loss intimately associated with femininity and nurturing capacity, can wreak havoc in a woman’s life emotionally. Overwhelming feelings of isolation can quickly cause her to spiral into the depths of despair. How can she be spared such emotional battering?
The Need for Support
“She needs support!” answers Joan, from the United States. Her own mother and grandmother were victims of breast cancer, and she now faces the same fight they had. This is a time when loyal family members and friends can provide comforting support and help. Joan’s husband, Terry, became for her a strong positive advocate. Terry explains: “My position, as I saw it, was to be a stabilizing influence. I needed to help Joan to make decisions regarding treatment that would give her confidence and strength to fight and not give up. Her fear of cancer surgery was something we had to come to grips with, and I tried to be sure her questions and fears were addressed in our discussions with the doctors.” Terry added: “This is something we can do for our families and for fellow Christians who do not have family support. We can be their eyes, ears, and voice with the medical personnel.”
Special attention needs to be given to those who are single or widowed. Diana, from Australia, tells us: “My husband died following a cancer operation five years ago, but my children helped to fill the void. They were kind but not emotional. That gave me strength. Everything was attended to quickly and calmly.”
Breast cancer makes an emotional impact on the entire family. So they are all in need of loving concern and support from others (particularly from their spiritual brothers and sisters, if they are Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Rebecca, from the United States, whose mother fought breast cancer, explains: “The congregation is your extended family, and their actions have a huge bearing on your emotions. Although many did not personally agree with the unorthodox treatment my mom chose, emotionally they supported us with telephone calls and visits. Some would even come and lend a hand in preparing her special diet. The elders arranged a telephone linkup so that we would never miss the meetings. The congregation even sent a card with a money gift.”
Joan admits: “To this day, when I think of the love my spiritual brothers and sisters displayed, I get goose bumps! For seven weeks, five days a week, my loving sisters would take turns driving me to and from the hospital for treatment. And that was a 92-mile [150 km] round-trip! How I thank Jehovah for the rich blessing of this Christian brotherhood!”
Another way all of us can be encouraging and supportive is by our upbuilding comments. Care needs to be exercised that we do not inadvertently cause distress by dwelling on negative things. June from South Africa explains: “One can’t expect a person who has not had cancer to say just the right thing. In my case I felt it was better for others not to mention cancer cases unless they were positive.” Noriko from Japan agrees: “If people tell me about someone who has recovered and not had a relapse, then I too have hope that maybe I will be like them.”
Keep in mind that some women would prefer not talking about their health all the time. Others though, for the sake of their own well-being, need to talk about their experience with breast cancer, especially with those close to them. How would one know what is the most helpful thing to do? Helen, from the United States, suggests: “Ask the individual if she wants to talk about it, and let her do the talking.” Yes, “be ready to listen,” says Ingelise from Denmark. “Just be there for her so that she is not left alone with her own sad thoughts.”
Working for a Positive Outlook
Breast cancer therapy can leave a patient exhausted and fatigued for weeks, months, or years. One of the greatest trials for a woman with breast cancer may be in facing the fact that she can not do as much as before. Coming to terms with her body will mean pacing herself and resting during the day.
When depression sets in, quick measures need to be taken to keep a positive attitude. Noriko relates her experience: “The results of hormone treatment left me depressed. In this condition I couldn’t do the things I wanted, and I began feeling useless to Jehovah and in the Christian congregation. As my thinking became more negative, I would call to mind the final sufferings of those in my family who had died with cancer. Fear would engulf me as I wondered, ‘Can I go through with it as they did?’”
Noriko continues: “It was at that time that I made an effort to adjust my thinking by using the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses to make myself think of how Jehovah views our existence. I learned that godly devotion is shown, not by the amount of work done, but by the motive in which it is done. As I wanted Jehovah to take pleasure in the condition of my heart and my thinking, I decided that I should serve him with joy and be whole-souled even if I could only do a little in the Christian ministry.”
The long-term uncertainty for many women fighting breast cancer can tend to erode a positive outlook. Diana explains that what has helped her the most is filling her heart and mind with all the lovely things Jehovah God has given her: “My family, friends, beautiful music, looking at the mighty sea and beautiful sunsets.” She especially encourages: “Tell others about God’s Kingdom. And cultivate a real longing for the conditions that will prevail on earth under the Kingdom, where there will be no more sickness!”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
Virginia also gains the strength to fight her depression by meditating on her purpose in life: “I really want to live because I have such a precious work to do.” As for the times when critical moments come and fear wells up, she says: “I put my full trust in Jehovah, knowing that he will never abandon me. And I think about the Bible verse at Psalm 116:9, which assures me that ‘I will walk before Jehovah in the lands of those living.’”
All these women have centered their hope upon the God of the Bible, Jehovah. The Bible book of 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, at chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, calls Jehovah “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.” Does Jehovah stretch out his hand to support those needing comfort?
Mieko from Japan answers: “I am convinced that by staying in his service, I receive Jehovah’s strong comfort and help.” Yoshiko also tells us: “Although people may not understand my suffering, Jehovah knows everything, and I am convinced that he has helped according to my needs.”
Joan says: “Prayer has the power to lift you out of despair and get you back on your feet. When I think about the grand healing Jesus accomplished when on earth and the complete healing he’ll do in the new world, how those words comfort me!”—Matthew 4:23, 24; 11:5; 15:30, 31.
Can you imagine a world without breast cancer, in fact, without any illnesses at all? This is the promise made by the God of all comfort, Jehovah. Isaiah 33:24 speaks about a time when no person on earth will ever say that he or she is sick. That hope will soon be realized when God’s Kingdom in the hands of his Son, Christ Jesus, brings its full rule to the earth, wiping away all causes for sickness, sorrow, and death! Why not read about this wonderful hope at Revelation 21:3 to 5? Take courage to face the future with the support that gives true comfort.
The ovaries are a major source of estrogen in premenopausal women.