In some ways cancer patients are just people. Some are mean, some are nice. Some are caring, some are indifferent. Having said that, cancer, like most major sources of stress, tends to amplify these characteristics.
Last night I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of those people who persists in being giving, warm, and generous despite—or because of—their cancer.
This person—I will keep them anonymous—has been fighting the good fight for several years. Those years have taken their toll on the body, the life. Cancer has also taken a toll on the family’s finances. Before cancer, the family had two incomes, a mostly paid-off mortgage and the ability to take vacations.
But cancer requires co-pays, deductibles, doctor after doctor after doctor. And it often means you can’t work. First the savings went. Then the retirement account. Then another mortgage on the house. Now this brave soul is skipping doctor’s visits because the co-pay on their insurance has jumped dramatically.
Despite all of this, my friend continues to find ways to help others. A kind word here. A volunteer hour—or ten or twenty—there. Finding ways to support other patients. Calling in favors on behalf of others.
Cancer patients, of necessity, become very focused on themselves. It is often the only way to survive. Yet sometimes someone comes along who defies the convention, who seeks to give rather than receive, to serve rather than be served, to encourage rather than be encouraged.
The Bible says we should be generous to strangers because by doing so we may entertain “angels unaware,” that we might actually be doing good to a servant of good. I think I have found one of those angels.
It is humbling to be among such folk, and stiffens my resolve to be sure that we as an organization are worthy of their efforts. Certainly the friend I saw last night deserves no less.
May 5, 2011