When Cancer Patients Need Their Church

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By Karen Tripp MS LMFT   Executive Director, Cancer Companions Ministry

It’s hard to fill a need when you don’t know there is a need.  Have you noticed that many newly diagnosed cancer patients tell their church “I’m fine.”?

One reason this happens is that at diagnosis, most cancer patients have little or no symptoms, pain, or even discomfort.  They just woke up one morning feeling fine and went to a cancer screening. Or, they have a small symptom, like a persistent cough, which led to a chest X-ray. Then, when the results come back that they have cancer, they are thinking “How can I have cancer?  I feel fine.”

So, when the church reaches out to a newly diagnosed cancer patient, it makes sense that the patient says “I’m fine.” Yet, what do we know?  We know that on the day a cancer patient is diagnosed, they feel healthier than they probably will for the next 12 months – even if the cancer treatment only lasts 6 months. Why?  Because most cancer treatments make you feel worse to help you get better.

The work of the church is not to fix the problems of cancer, but to help the cancer patient and their loved ones focus on the light of Christ more and the darkness of cancer less. From the Christian cancer patients that I have worked with, it seems that though their faith in their salvation is strong, there are times when it is hard to see God in the chaos that is cancer.

Here are four concerns some cancer patients need their church to address so they will not be overwhelmed by their cancer:

Concern #1: Diagnosis

Hearing that you have cancer is a paradigm shift.  Before diagnosis, a patient sees their physical, financial, and emotional future pretty clearly. Yet, with the cancer diagnosis, their view can turn into a blur. The list of things they are uncertain about explodes, as cancer brings a whole new list of things they do not know about.  At times this limbo can bring worry, frustration, or even fear, making one wonder “What is God up to now?”

The church can help cancer patients see that uncertainty is often part of God’s path. Pillars of the faith – Noah, Abraham, Moses, David – all faced giant times of uncertainty of where their path with the Lord was leading.

As Hebrews 11:1 tells us: Faith is not faith without uncertainty.

 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

 There will be times when cancer patients need to hear that the pressure of uncertainty is not a sign that God is not with them.  In truth, the uncertainty is an invitation to focus on God’s certainty.

  • “God is certain that you are His beloved child whom He adores.”
  • “God is certain that Christ’s sacrifice conquered sin, death and even cancer.”
  • “God is certain that He is with you now and forever.”

Concern #2: Treatment Choice

As new treatment options are discovered, oncologists may ask patients “Which of these 2 or 3 treatments would you prefer?” Most of us everyday folks feel unequipped or even overwhelmed to make these complex medical decisions.

The church can help the cancer patient turn to God not just for peace in the decision but discernment to make the decision.

As James 1:5 tells us: God wants to give you wisdom, so ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

My experience with cancer patients is that there is so much more God wants to give them for their cancer journey than what they ask for. Facing a treatment choice is just one of countless times on a cancer journey that a cancer patient needs not just solid medical advice, but the discernment which comes from God.

Concern #3: Scans and Test Results

Cancer differs from many medical conditions because treatment periodically pauses to complete scans and test to see if the treatment is working.  It’s common for cancer patient to feel anxiety and get caught up in the “what if’s”: “What if the tumor has grown?” “What if the treatment is not working?”

The church can help equip the cancer patient to cope with their anxiety by turning their focus to Christ-filled things.

Philippians 4:8 tells us: You are able to lead your thoughts to better places.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

The goal is not simply to think of these things, but to actually catch yourself thinking the negative thoughts and to replace them with these positive thoughts.  This might be Christian music or books or the most powerful source of Christ-filled thoughts: scripture. Reading a favorite Bible story, flipping through a list of meaningful scripture, or reading just one verse over and over until you smile can make a world of difference.

Concern #4: Post-Cancer Treatment Depression

The cancer journey does not end on the last day of treatment. In Dr. Jean Yi’s article Anxiety and Depression in Cancer Survivors, she stated that “After cancer treatment, many survivors report feeling alone or even abandoned following the intensive support provided during their treatment.” (1)  Unfortunately, many family, friends, and bosses believe that after treatment everything should go back to pre-diagnosis “normal.”

The church can help post-treatment cancer survivors to not feel abandoned by their church.

Galatians 6:2 tells us: Being free of hardship does not mean free of burden.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Perhaps the hardest part of bearing another person’s burden is knowing the burden exists. We began this article by acknowledging that most cancer patients tell the church “I’m fine.” It’s easy to see how a church might be unaware when these 4 concerns are impacting their cancer patients. Beginning to bear another’s burden requires consistency, compassion, and trust. What cancer patients need is someone with the time and training to consistently and compassionately engage with them so they can build trust.

At Cancer Companions, we discovered a church-based volunteer program called Cancer Prayer Partners.  This program pairs a trained volunteer with a cancer patient to make weekly calls  and ask “Is there anything I can pray for you this week?”  From this simple and consistent touch, connections are made, compassion is shared, and low and behold, there is trust.

Learn more about the Cancer Prayer Partner Program and our scripture/prayer-filled materials created specifically for those struggling with cancer. Go to https://www.cancer-companions.org/faq-cancerprayerpartners/ or contact Cancer Companions at 314-814-0044.



















1.Yi, jean C., and Karen L. Syrjala. “Anxiety and Depression in Cancer.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institue of Health, Nov. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5915316/ .





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Cancer Ministry Info Packet

To download this Cancer Ministry Info Packet  CLICK HERE












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Three Stumbling Blocks to Consistent Cancer Prayers

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see- how good God is. Blessed are you who run to Him.

Psalm 34:8-14 The Message

1. You can pray sporadically, leaving less opportunity for God to consistently show you the power of your prayers.
Sometimes, as we go through struggles, it’s easy to only pray for the big things, such as healing, and forget to pray for the little things along the way. The more things you pray about, the more opportunity Jesus has to answer your prayers. Think back to past prayers you have lifted to God. Whether your answered prayers were for a child’s safety, a financial solution, or a strengthened marriage, God has shown His faithfulness in your life. Don’t wait to see God’s faithfulness. Offer prayers all along your cancer journey to give God LOTS of opportunities to prove His faithfulness.

2. You can refuse to pray and just wait for God’s blessings.
What difference does it make if you pray and are blessed by God or if you don’t pray and are blessed
by God?
Not bothering to pray for something you need and God blessing you with it anyway is a nice thing. You should rejoice. But how much better the blessing would have been if you had humbled yourself to ask for the blessing and was then able to also rejoice in the wonder of knowing God heard your prayer and answered it? Rejoicing in answered prayer draws you closer to God and gives you evidence of God’s intimate role in your life, which you can then share with others.

3. You can miss recognizing the good things in your life as being from God.
Back in Session 4 Day 4, we discussed the temptation to think of everything as “mine”. Learning to view all good things in your life as coming from God takes effort and practice. Don’t let that self-serving part that is alive in each of us, rob you of seeing all the ways the Lord loves you.

Which of the “Three Stumbling Blocks to Consistent Cancer Prayers” is the most difficult for you? Why?

excerpt from Seeing God in Your Cancer Journey

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MYTH BUSTERS! Lessons to Learn about Volunteers

To Print or download article CLICK HERE

It’s amazing how easily we can talk ourselves out of asking someone to be a volunteer. Here are some of the myths that can get in the way.

MYTH: “People don’t want to volunteer.”
FACT: Approximately 63 million Americans – 25% of the adult population – volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
TRUTH: Do you know 4 people? Odds are one of them is ready to volunteer.

MYTH: “No one responded to our request for volunteers so I guess we don’t have any.”
FACT: 42.1% of people became volunteers with their main organization after being asked to volunteer.
TRUTH: People want to be ASKED! People want to be told they can do and they will not do it alone. Make a list of potential volunteers for you to personally ask.

MYTH: “People with jobs and family don’t have time to volunteer.”
FACT: People aged 35-44 and 45-54 are most likely to volunteer (28.9% and 28% respectively).
TRUTH: Resist the temptation to disqualify potential volunteers based on your perception of their “busy life”. Volunteerism is a heart decision not a head decision.

MYTH: “Volunteers are unreliable.”
FACT: On average, people spend an average of 52 hours per year volunteering their time.
TRUTH: Learn how to fit the volunteer’s needs and expectations to the organization’s for increased productivity.

MYTH: “People in churches do not want to volunteer.”
FACT: The top four volunteer areas are for religious (34.1%), education (26%), social service (14.9%), and health (7.3%) organizations.
TRUTH: Just because many parts of church life are changing, doesn’t mean the church is not still producing more volunteers than any other area.

Volunteerism is a powerful force which can bring solutions, stability, expertise and creativity to any organization. Don’t miss your chance to tap into this talent pool for your organization.

Karen Tripp MS LMFT leads Cancer Companions – an impactful volunteer led ministry which trains, equips, and supports volunteer teams across the country. Find out more at www.cancer-companions.org/start-here

All statistics were referenced from website below.

Volunteering Statistics And Trends For Nonprofits

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Our 2021 Calendar of Events is Here!

Here is our full list of events for 2021. Mark your calendars and feel free to email us with questions or concerns regarding any of these events.

2021 Schedule:

January 2021
– January 4, 5, and 6: 30 Days of Cancer Prayers Bootcamp
Lesson #1 (Jan. 4) – Virtual Registration and Prayer Wall with Social Distancing Tools
Lesson #2 (Jan. 5) – Engage Community with Oncology Worker Prayer Week Ideas
Lesson #3 (Jan. 6) – New Monthly Virtual Prayer Meeting Keeps 30 Days Participants Connected
– January 31st: The 2021 Cancer Prayer Celebration (formerly known as our 30 Days of Cancer Prayers Kickoff)

February 2021
– February 1-28: 30 Days of Cancer Prayers continues

March 2021
– March 1: Last Day of 30 Days of Cancer Prayers and First Monthly Prayer Event
– March 10: Spring Starter Kit Sale Begins

April 2021
– April 1: Finding Hope Sale Begins
– April 5: Monthly Prayer Event
– April 13: Karen and Jamie speak at Westberg Symposium Virtual Event

May 2021
– May 1: Launch Daily Devotional Program
– May 3: Monthly Prayer Event
– May 5: Finding Hope Sale Ends
– May 6: GiveSTL
– May 10: Last Day of Starter Kit Sale

June 2021
– June 7: Monthly Prayer Event
– June 6-12: Thankful Cancer Survivor Week
– June 20: Member’s Training Sale Begins

July 2021
– July 5: Monthly Prayer Event

August 2021
– August 2: Monthly Prayer Event
– August 20: Member’s Training Sale Ends

September 2021
– September 1: Fall Starter Kit Sale Begins
– September 6: Monthly Prayer Event

October 2021
– October 4: Monthly Prayer Event
– October 7-8: New Church Bootcamp for 30 Days of Cancer Prayers

November 2021
– November 1: Monthly Prayer Event
– November 8-12: Show and Tell Fundraising Week
– November 15: Fall Starter Kit Sale Ends

December 2021
– December 2: Karen “Celebrating Christmas” Zoom Event
– December 6: Monthly Prayer Event

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2021 Cancer Prayer Celebration

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Christmas Cancer Devotional: Jesus is More Than You Expected.

Devotion #1: Jesus is More Than You Expected

from Celebrating Christmas in Your Cancer Journey by Karen Tripp

Matthew 1:23

When the doctor says “it’s cancer”, your mind does not wait for the doctor to explain what cancer is, because your mind already knows. Whether through TV, movies, news reports or
experiences with loved ones, it’s difficult to live in the world and not have our minds develop a picture of cancer.

As we start cancer treatment we discover that some of this picture may be right on target, while other aspects are a complete surprise. Maybe you expected to be tired, but not so tired that you can’t lift you head. Maybe you knew that there would be lots of waiting rooms, but not the abundance of time waiting to see if the treatment is working. Maybe you knew some people would avoid you, but not this friend or that family member.

Cancer can turn out to be more than you expected, but fortunately, so does Jesus.
To understand this, let’s begin by looking at some scripture from the Christmas story.
Looking at the scripture, answer the questions below. Continue reading

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 Devotion #1: Help! Christmas is Overwhelming!!

Excerpt from Discovering the True Spirit of Christmas

by Karen Tripp

 In November, when you get your first glimpse of the plans for this Christmas, the view seems very manageable. But as November leaves and thoughts of turkey dinners and football playoffs diminish, the list of things to do before Christmas inexplicably begins to grow. The list includes visiting others to share your love, buying gifts to make others smile, and entertaining family and friends to give them joy. You don’t remember saying yes to half the things on your list but now you are expected to get everything done by December 25th. Let’s be clear, this is not necessarily a bad thing. When we are in touch with the enormity of the gift of the Christ Child, we want to share our joy and peace with others. We want to do things to make others smile.

But just look at the size of your “to do” list! Here’s the big question: what should you do this holiday season to contribute to a Christ filled Christmas and what is frivolous activity and useless expenditures that pull you away from focusing on Christ? These are tough question.

Three Gifts: The Bible, The Messiah and The Holy Spirit

Here’s the good news. God knew that discerning between what is God focused and what is man focused would be difficult for us, His beloved children. So He gave us three gifts: the first is the gift of God’s word: the Bible. Through God’s word we are able to learn the love story between Him and His children. The Bible is the foundation of our faith given for us to lean on. Perhaps through your life, God’s word has given you guidance and understanding but as you look at the decisions facing you this Christmas, the scriptures are not giving the answers you need.

  • “Do I go to my husband’s office party to meet His boss or attend my daughter’s

Christmas production which are both on the same night?”

  • “Should I spend Christmas in Florida with my in-laws if it means missing my family


  • “Do I go to my Aunt’s for the annual Christmas Eve get together even though my uncle

drank so much last year that he embarrassed me in front of my kids?”

Let’s face it, there is no easy scripture reference to solve these problems. (“Are drunk

Christmas Eve uncles in Micah?”) Fortunately, God wasn’t done with His gift giving. On that first Christmas, 2000 years ago, God sent His perfect Son Jesus to be born of a virgin and to one day die on the cross for our sins. With His last breath Jesus breathed hope into the world. I don’t mean hope came into the world metaphorically, I mean hope came into the world literally. Life before Jesus’ death and Resurrection was filled with mankind yearning to be closer to God. But each of us know we are imperfect and therefore not clean enough to stand in the presence of God. With Jesus’ last

breath, He gave the world the path to one day stand before the Lord God Almighty, clean and perfect, singing songs of praise! (Don’t worry if you are like me and can not sing a note. Even tone death people will sing like angels in God’s throne room! Won’t that be great!)

What does Christ mean for you this Christmas? Everything! He brings a life of hope and not despair. It means the darkest trouble in your world is not hopeless because the gift of Christ does more than clean us up so we can sing in heaven. Christ came so you may live life abundantly now, today. But let’s face it, Jesus is not here, in the flesh to tell you what to do. You still have questions and confusion that the words in the Bible alone cannot answer. This leads us to an often ignored gift from God. The end of the Christmas story, after the birth of our Savior, after His death and Resurrection, God sent one more gift.

To learn more about this gift, turn to John 16:5-7.  This is Jesus talking to His disciples on the night before He died.

Now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

  • Who is Jesus going to send when He leaves?

Jesus is preparing the disciples for their life after He returns to heaven to be with His Father. The gift Jesus will send is the Counselor. Doesn’t that sound great? A counselor is there to comfort you, and guide you when life stops making sense. Let’s keep reading in John to learn more about who is the counselor.

Read John 15:26.

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Fatherthe Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

  • What is another name for the Counselor?
  • From where does it come?

YES! This is so perfect! Jesus is sending the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to earth. This my friend is the true Spirit of Christmas. Just as the Holy Spirit was at the creation of the earth (Genesis 1:1-2), It was also at the First Christmas and it is here today for this Christmas. When people say “What’s happened to the Spirit of Christmas?” the answer is nothing. The Holy Spirit, the true Spirit of Christmas is as alive today as it was 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. The Holy Spirit is completely able to fill your Christmas with the love, peace and joy which you have been yearning.

Maybe you’re shaking your head at me. “Karen you don’t know how bad a year I’ve had. The Spirit of Christmas has better things to do than drop in on me.” It’s very tempting to think that the Holy Spirit is in other people’s lives but not yours. So who will be blessed with receiving the Spirit?  To whom did Jesus send the Spirit?

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

  • Is the Holy Spirit given to some believers or all believers in Christ?

These verses are talking about you. The comfort, guidance and teachings of the Holy Spirit is not something that God has given to some other believer. This gift, just like the gift of salvation, has been given to you, His beloved child. If you believe that Jesus died for your sins then you have received the Holy Spirit whether you know it or not. These next four weeks we will be learning who is this Holy Spirit, what did He do in the lives of Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Elizabeth at that First Christmas and what is this glorious Christmas Spirit doing for you this Christmas?

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Register for a Celebrating Christmas Event

Looking to take part in one of our Celebrating Christmas in Your Cancer Journey programs? Registration is easy! Simply fill out the form below and we will be in touch with more information on which group you will be a part of.

For questions contact our Members Service Specialist, Kristen Nelson, at kristen@cancer-companions.org.

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Talk to God about Cancer?

We don’t like thinking about cancer because it can be a downer. And, do you know how  sometimes one negative thought can grow, and the next thing you know your thoughts
are spiraling down to “Negative Land”? (I just made that up- Negative Land.) Sometimes even talking to God about your cancer can seem too much.

Look at this verse:
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.   Hebrews 4:16
▶ From the verse above, how should you approach God’s throne of grace?

The word for confidence in the Greek is parrēsia, which means free and fearless
confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.

▶ From Hebrews 4:16 above, when will you find grace to help you?
a. When you pray the right way.
b. In your time of need.
c. In your time of need – unless God has
recently blessed you “really good”, or
you’re too upset, or something like that.
Then sorry, no go.

Does God expect us to be so content in our difficulties that we do not even ask for His
help? Does your confidence in God mean you do not need to present your struggles to Him?
Hebrews 4:16 certainly tells us NO. God wants us to confidently come to Him in prayer, so
we can receive grace to help us in our times of need.

Write your name on the space below:

____________________, approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need.   Hebrews 4:16

Beginning by saying your name, verse above aloud.

In Hebrews 4:16, we learned to take our needs with confidence to God. But let’s look back at the two verses before that verse to discover more:
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our
time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

▶ To answer these questions, look at the verses above of Hebrews 4:14-16:
• Who is our Great High Priest?
______________________________ (verse 14)
• Where is He?
______________________________ (verse 14)

Remember, verse 16 encourages us to “approach God in His throne room.” As obviously AWESOME as this would be, for me, it would also be completely terrifying. Why? Because God is perfect, and we are not. Everything allowed in God’s presence must be perfect. I know I’m not perfect. None of us are.
So how are we supposed to be confident when we approach God? GOOD NEWS! When Jesus came from Heaven to Earth He was perfect. Then He died on the cross so that we will be made perfect in Heaven- in the throne room before God. So we can confidently approach God because Jesus died on n the cross for us. Whew! That’s a relief!

Excerpt from Finding Hope In Your Cancer Journey

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