“It’s Cancer”—Finding Help and Hope on the Road to Recovery was recently released by Straight Street Books. There’s a great need for this book because statistics state one out of every two men, and one out of every three women, will hear those two words no one wants to hear. "It's cancer."
While statistics sound cold and clinical, this book is not. Rather it is full of hope, encouragement, and helpful guidance.
I am delighted to have the author and cancer survivor, Venita McCart, as a guest on my blog this week. Venita and I became friends a few years ago and I’ve eagerly waited for her to write this book. Not only does it offer help for those diagnosed with cancer, but it is enlightening and beneficial for the rest of us to read.
In “It’s Cancer”—, Venita shares her own experiences as well as those of others. The back copy reads, “Come alongside patient survivors as they successfully overcome the obstacles of weighing treatment advice, managing caregivers, establishing attainable goals, realigning expectations, and embracing a new normal during and after cancer. Grapple with the tough questions about suffering, death, and heaven. Learn the value of being your own advocate, accepting setbacks, choosing gratitude, and developing a closer relationship with God.”
As the founder of Faith Force Cancer Support Ministry in Illinois, Venita continues to validate the realities of cancer while offering strategies for finding inner joy and peace. I’m delighted to have her share with us today.
Venita, will you share a little about when you first learned you had lung cancer?
My general practitioner, a friend of many years, after an annual physical, phoned me. She had a made a decision to do a chest x-ray, based on an intuitive feeling. Immediately before she called, I had an experience in which God had spoken to my heart that something dark was coming.
I realized the announcement of cancer was the darkness God had revealed to me just moments before. I’m sure part of it was shock, but I truly was not afraid. A few days later when I heard the official diagnosis and treatment plan from my newly acquired oncologist, I just wanted to run away for a few minutes. But then I remembered God’s presence that day immediately before the phone call, and I knew I would get through it.
Tell us about Faith Force Cancer Support Ministry. What are some of the things you do through this ministry? Is it only available in Illinois?
I started Faith Force after a few years of being contacted by cancer patients and loved ones, looking for someone to talk to who had ‘been there’. I visited them, invited them into in my home, sent cards, spoke with them on the phone-- any way I could help them. They all were looking for hope. Starting a support group to encourage them and give them hope that comes from God seemed the thing to do. We have met in a group setting since 2005.
Our group meetings offer active listening, sharing, understanding and encouragement from the perspective of faith. Those experiencing cancer firsthand, or those who are loved ones, can connect. I share a devotion in each meeting, and we have a time for sharing. We also exchange prayer requests that so frequently come our way. We occasionally participate in organized events to raise awareness.
Outside the meetings, [my husband] Gary and I make ourselves available to visit, contact and connect with cancer patients and their loved ones. As we can, when invited, we visit hospitals, infusion rooms, waiting rooms, homes—anywhere we may be of help.
Illinois is the only place we have a group, although I have been contacted and have connected with people from all over the U.S. It is my heart’s desire to see other groups begin. There is nothing more deeply needed or beneficial than cancer survivors helping other patient-survivors and families cope and hope, spiritually and emotionally.
Not only do you help people through the support ministry but also you speak to groups and organizations as well, correct?
I do some speaking to small groups, churches, at cancer event gatherings, and have spoken to groups of oncology nurses in training. Of course, I speak at our cancer support group meetings as well.
Getting back to your book, It’s Cancer—Finding Help and Hope on the Road to Recovery--what prompted you to write it?
I was always a writer. So when I began writing for my support group meetings it was nothing unusual. Writing the book is an effort to reach out to others beyond my geographical area.
Cancer and despair are often closely related. I do not want anyone dealing with cancer to go into despair.
As a Christian who has traveled this road, I want to offer God’s hope from the perspective of faith in a way that is realistic and practical.
The world has many answers. We, as Christians, have the opportunity to help cancer patients with the very best news, and greatest source of strength, courage and hope possible.
You talk in your book about cancer survivors renewing their purpose in life. After cancer has altered their lifestyles and their jobs, how do you encourage them?
Most are deeply affected by many issues during and after cancer. Some get well, some get better, some keep fighting, and some face death—no cancer patient or family is exempt. Even living in remission is an ongoing challenge. Cancer, and its after-effects, is as much psychological battles as physical ones.
We encourage group attendees to continue coming not only for themselves but to help others. We approach the emotional and spiritual challenges on a personal basis within the framework of the group. We focus on what God
teaches us about dealing with fear, trust issues, difficult times, decision- making, suffering, life, and heaven. People attend as long as they wish to take part.
I love the tone of your book. You offer hope and encouragement without a sugarcoating. You know how to do this because you’ve traveled a similar journey. For caregivers and friends, who’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, what advice would you offer to them as they try to care for someone who has cancer?
Saying, “It’s going to be okay,” “Oh, you’re fine,” or, “Just trust God!” platitudes fall flat.
Try active listening, and try not to invalidate what the patient is saying or feeling. Be real. If you don’t understand their fears or behaviors, let them know you are trying to understand.
Don’t try to force us to exercise more, eat more, be more positive, or to be the same as we once were. We may be doing everything we can just to get through the day.
Keep in mind some of us feel we have lost who we are. We may need to rebuild but aren’t sure how that works. We may muddle our way through life for a while.
Remember people dealing with cancer are often--if not always—dealing with grief. This can bring shock, anger, denial, and fear to the entire circle of loved ones in a patients’ life.
Work together to get through the healing of your grief. Don’t hesitate to get counseling if needed.
To a loved one, being there does not seem to be enough. But to a patient-survivor, sometimes it is everything.
Stay close by, help however your loved one will allow, and don’t forget how the little things make a great difference.
Be kind to yourself. Stay close to your loved one, but remember your fears, needs, and feelings of inadequacy will affect you as well. Do your best to love them and yourself.
Allow patients to make their own decisions as much as possible.
What is the one thing you want readers to take away from your book?
We will never understand cancer. No one has figured out how to bring wellness to us all. Yet there is hope. We can accept many things we do not understand, with the comfort, strength, and promises of God.
He is good. He cares for you. He is close to the broken-hearted. When we are open to Him, He brings renewal, in this life and the next. Look to Him.
Thank you for sharing with us, Venita. You are a blessing to so many people. May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry as you guide others in learning how to rebuild and “squeeze the goodness out of life.”