This article from the Atlantic Northeast District Church of the Brethren shares how Cancer Companions has personally affected both the life of Doris Abdullah and those she ministers to. Doris is a Cancer Companion from the Brooklyn Church of the Brethren.
It has been said by theologians that “the people of God do not go to church; they are the Church”
I agonized over what to say to Sister Maria upon first seeing her in hospital after her cancer surgery in November of 2013. All the way to the hospital, I went over words or prayers that I could use in speaking with her and her family members. With the Cancer Companion program my anxieties were stripped away and replaced with wonderfully new and refreshing tools to steer cancer patients, caretakers and family members towards seeing “God in the cancer journey”. And “God is bigger than—–” (fill in the blank) has become part of my vocabulary not only when encountering those with cancer, but in other seemingly overwhelming life situations. Becoming a cancer companion allows one to continue living out the service side of Brethren worship.
The scriptures used and accompanying readings are packed with new inventive present day story telling on topics such as “Barriers for Prayer, You Can’t Fix Them,” and the most often used question of “Why Am I Sick”. Scriptures, prayers, the offer of a safe environment to share and the act of listening were at the top of my tools list used in the cancer journey with Sister Maria. I was able to tell from listening what concerned her and what she needed or wanted from our visits. She had a son in prison that she had not seen since her surgery. As a Cancer Companion I did not have the day to day chores of a family members or caretaker. Thus I had time to find out how to make arrangements for her son to visit her before she lost conscious. A cancer companion can offer a communion ceremony, not just bread and cup, as a companion Deacon and I did one afternoon with Sister Maria. At the small ceremony, she was able to share her faith with others that were present. So intimacy and small settings play a large role in being a companion.
A Cancer Companions travel the journey with those suffering with cancer and their family and friends. They use the tools that I have already listed and in addition the companion is always mindful of and respect the patients privacy as they give a hug, offer of a shoulder to cry on, a cup or glass to quench thirst and a short retreat from the sterile hospital setting. Flexibility is needed in being a cancer companion, because hospital visits and other medical issue are erratic and untimely.
My favorite reading comes in the final ceremony listed in the guide titled: Victory Celebration!!! It is my favorite because it list the physical and spiritual battles already conquered by Christ in our life. Most of all it reminds me of the Apostle Paul 1 Corinthians 15 verses on the resurrection body:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory?”
Sister Maria died on December 7th, 2015 with all her children present, including the son incarcerated.