I could have asked

“I hate to tell you this, but you just might be setting yourself up for a big disappointment.”

“Hey! Thinking about you. How are things? You? Much love.”

“So appreciate your contact and love.
I will answer honestly because I know you ask honestly. Cancer sucks.
I’ve spent the last year being strong for treatment and reality of cancer.
Now I am feeling,after not feeling for so long and am aware of how deeply I’ve been impacted both emotionally and spiritually.
Vulnerable. Tender. Raw.
Kinda like my body felt after surgery and chemo and radiation.
My spirit has been stripped, peeled wide open.
You are a good friend for asking thank you.”

“Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. This feels like a live conversation is needed! I’d love to do tea sometime. Let me know.”
I could call back and set up a time.

“Let’s meet for tea date. After April 1?”
I could call and set up time.

“Let’s go for a walk.”
I could call and set up time.

“Come to a cancer support group.”
I went. I learned to chant.

“Call me.”
I could call and set up time.

“Let’s do something soon.”
I could call and set up time.

“You’d never know you had cancer.”
It is more than a disease.

“You taught me to just show up.”
Haven’t seen this person since diagnosis.
I could call and explain.

“Let me know what I can do.”
I could call and educate.

“You look great.”

“No one really needs to know you had cancer. Don’t talk about it.”
Gee, thanks.

Birth of baby.

A teenage daughter died in tragic accident.

Recurrence of brain tumor. Chemo, radiation, hair loss.

Kidney cancer.

Death of a mother.

Death of a mother.

Major surgery for partner.

Loss of job.

Fear of loss of job.


Starting school.


I understand, without question, life happens, illness happens, accidents happen, death happens. Beginnings and endings happen. This is the way of life.


One person has walked with me.

One heart friend sat with me in tenderness on the front porch, gently loving me as always through the years.

One person listens to me rant, then tells me to put on my big girl panties.

My sons stepped up and did the driving, the note taking, the thinking, the planning, the care-giving.

But, whoa! It is difficult to understand my felt experience and assumed sense of responsibility when few, if any people followed through with contact and care, especially when I felt awful or discouraged or angry or misunderstood and withdrawn.

People don’t know what to say or do and I believe they do their best. No one tries to be unkind or disinterested.

As a chaplain, I often tread lightly with people and am careful not to impose my beliefs and needs on others. After my experience with cancer, I realize that it is possible to not know what someone else needs, it is often difficult to ask and it is hard to put into words the internal experience of fighting for life. I don’t know what I needed. I didn’t know how to ask. I used every ounce of strength to keep my head above water and not dream endlessly about sinking.

When I had my surgery, I was never asked if I wanted a chaplain visit.
I could have asked.

A chaplain friend from 30 miles away made an unexpected pastoral visit.

Multiple visits to the hospital for MRIs and port placement and was not visited by a chaplain.
Yes, I could have asked.

Three different pastors visited me at home following surgery.
I had to ask one of them for prayer.
I haven’t had communion in over a year.
I could have asked.

I have multiple friends who are chaplains. I pains me to say that I did not experience spiritual care in the way it is often charted:

“offered spiritual care, compassionate presence, life review and prayer.”
Yes, I could have called and asked and set up a time to meet.

Honestly, I could have asked but I was just too sick, too tired, too brain fogged to know or teach someone else what I didn’t know and didn’t understand.