Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
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21-01-2013, 09:37 AM
Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
Last year I watched my church of god brother go to hell and back fighting cancer, and the whole time he kept wondering how the cancer ordeal fit into god's plan for him and what god had in mind. He doubted at times but manage to keep the religious thing going. He's in remission now and credits god, not as much the doctors and family members, and seems to think that his battle with cancer was some kind of fight with the devil and that god prevailed. Over the years he's tried to convert our mother and me, but we've told him we love him and respect his right to believe, but that we do not share those beliefs. This church is especially fun as they speak in tongues and holler a lot, so not me.

Clearly god didn't heal my brother, but since surgery, chemo, radiation and help from many people did, his prayers at some point shifted to wanting god to show him the big why he got cancer. I told him there's no reason, just biological stuff, a tumor grew and wanted to take over. There's no gene that we know of since he's the only one that had this in either family tree (get your colonoscopies folks, he needed one way before the recommended age of 50).

I sat with him after his surgery, and church members were helpful to him and his wife. I didn't try to dissuade him from his faith as that seemed cruel. He did press me on what I thought and on my beliefs, so I told him I don't believe in god but am here to hold his hand and help him get through it (this was right after horrendous surgery which followed horrendous chemo/rad, then resulted in a permanent colostomy and more clean up chemo which nearly killed him). So I told him I don't have any answers because thousands of people get cancer, even children, and most disease is generally no respecter of persons. But he was consumed with the idea that his trial meant something. I told him it's normal for people to wonder why even if there is no reason and that maybe he could start a cancer survivor group to help others through.

He is fine now, but still wonders what it all means. He is not content with the fact that it was a biological process gone awry. He mainly hopes he will be called to preach. I love him and he's my only sibling in this world.

Have y'all faced similar situations with family or friends? How did you handle it?
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21-01-2013, 09:40 AM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
People want to have answers, that's just being human. "Shit happens" just isn't good enough for many.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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21-01-2013, 11:25 AM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
(21-01-2013 09:37 AM)cjs Wrote:  Have y'all faced similar situations with family or friends? How did you handle it?

My cousin died of brain, throat, and breast cancer (!) early last year. I unfortunately never saw her in the hospital while she was awake, so my situation is not the same as yours. But I do know that some of my religious family considered her illness a test from god. They had group praying sessions with her in order to pray the sickness away. The religious stuff continued even after she lapsed into a coma. I sat there with her for six hours telling her funny stories in order to keep her brain stimulated long enough for her brother to make it back from Afghanistan. During this time, various family members or friends of the family would interrupt me long enough to pray with her or to give her religious paraphernalia. I was somewhat disgusted by this because they were doing and saying things that came off as a little crazy to me. For example, her wackjob of a mother gave her pebbles that had been “blessed” by a family friend. According to her, they were to be held in the hands during prayer. Her mother kept on putting the pebbles in my cousin’s limp hands and asking her to pray.

I cannot stand it when people give all credit to their deity instead of giving it to the medical professionals who actually did the saving. This is why so many children have died because their parents thought prayer would fix an illness.
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22-01-2013, 04:33 AM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
I never had a relative in the situation remotely similar( though I am not sure if I never will), but my mind "remembers" a situation with a cancer patient that made me revolted with religion and thus made me mostly anti-theistic. I commend you on your respectfulness and honestly, I am not even sure if I could handle it as well As you did. Anyway, there was a women in the hospital of which I was doing some minor church volunteering that was suffering from a particularly nasty bout of cancer. I came in her room to take out the garbage and she was laying there with her eyes opened.

Her frail body gave me a sick feeling, and as I remember it, she spoke to me. She asked me how my day was and then how the wheather was. I assumed she was just desperate to have a conversation and so I replied with the standard, usual replies to such questions.

Forgoing my trash duties, I sat and talked because I thought she might have needed it. Now, I am not sure, my memory escapes me, how the discussion came about to God and her disease, but I remember very clearly what she said, with a smile on her face and a confident look:

"I'm a faithful woman, this cancer is only God's test to me and it will pass."

I won't continue the story because this was the part where I got immediately silent and nearly sick. In short, I was fucking outraged. That was bullshit, and I found it fucking horrible that she could even think that. My thoughts immediately went to a thought about all of those who trusted in God more than medical science and died needlessly, and under the falsehood that he will pull them through this and reinstate them to a more preferable state of health.

To add the rotten cherry ontop of this shit Sundae, she had died, and I can't help but wonder if she was clinging, and still hoping God would save her in her last breaths.



Fucking disgusting.

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22-01-2013, 06:57 AM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
Most people cannot wrap their head around anything random.
We are made to look for patterns, it's the base of intelligence.
"Why me" is a very common outcry when shit happens.
So when something random happens to people, they try hard to fit it into a pattern, give it a reason. If it can be fit into a frame, maybe it can be beaten.
Random events cannot be controlled or fit into patterns and go against our very grain.

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22-01-2013, 08:05 PM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
@Ato: you did the kind and right thing for the dying woman and that was simply to be there and listen to her. At that late stage this was all that could be done. I appreciate your saying that I handled this compassionately, but the truth is that I simply didn't see the point in taking away what was getting him through the post surgery ordeal. Arguing with him wouldn't help anything at that point, so I just tried to look out for him and make sure he was treated well and ask questions of docs and nurses when he couldn't or wouldn't. Turns out you get better treatment if your bitch of a sister is there to get in someone's face if she felt you were not getting what you needed! When he would ask why this happened, I would tell him I don't know, which is the truth. Didn't figure he was up for philosophical discussions of a priori assumptions, Kalam argument, etc. just then.

But I do know, as Ato and Ghost said, that medicine sometimes works, at least it did in his case and for now. I know that a surgeon had great talent and training to have removed that tumor, which to me is more awesome than bible stories or prayer. I know that his wife, our mother, and I love him and were determined to get him through this, whatever the outcome. And I know sometimes all we can do is be kind and hold someone's hand or listen to them. But there lies the end of my knowledge on these things because I'm not a medical professional nor do I play one on tv.

Ok enough with the Hallmark movie stuff, not meaning to lapse into sap. Medicine is awesome, but he also went through a lot of hell and toxic levels of chemo after that nearly killed him, but that's another story. Awful though it was for over a year, he is alive and back to actually living, and for that I'm thankful. He gives god the credit when he is the strong one that endured and fought this and won. I'm thinking it would be great if he realized that, but it's not gonna happen.

I've learned that while I'm not big on illusions, some people like them and maybe need them. For me god is like Santa Claus, something you no longer need when you grow up. But life is difficult for us grownups, and some folks prefer to think that there must be more or that god has their back. And Dom and Chas are correct that it's hard for people to handle something when they don't know why and therefore aren't in control. So some people will give god the glory when it goes right and think they are being tested or whatever when it goes wrong, anything but the hard fact that it's random and doesn't mean anything in particular.

Anyhow, thanks for your thoughts on this.

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22-01-2013, 08:16 PM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
My dad claimed to be an atheist since forever and was never really religious, but after he got lung cancer and then my mom got breast cancer within 5 years, even he started saying stuff like "God is shitting on my life." I think it's just some people's way of coping with bad stuff happening. Before he died (not of cancer, but COPD complicated by having half a lung removed), I once told him it weirded me out a bit when he said that kind of thing. He then told me he just couldn't believe the bad shit in the world, and needed to blame it on somebody.

As others have said, it bugs me a lot when people credit god for their recovery and not the surgeons. At least my mom thanked her surgeons. She still get them cards and gifts and stuff and it's been 6 years. My mom is the type that doesn't even think about religion until somebody dies, then she gets religious for a few weeks, then forgets about it again. Another coping mechanism, I suppose.
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22-01-2013, 08:29 PM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
Amyb I'm sorry for the loss of your dad and your mom's ordeal. You've really been through a lot in recent years.

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22-01-2013, 10:30 PM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
Thanks.

I just realize that both my parents have flipflopped on the topic of religion, but it's only in life and death matters. Both were raised in very Catholic families.

My great aunt has alzeimer's, and her daughter is fucking nuts and mentions jesus in every sentence, and somehow she explains the alzeimer's with religion? I don't even understand her reasoning enough to explain it. This same one talks to my mom all the time, and actually will not mention me or my brother by name now that she knows we're atheists, like it's a communicable disease. It's kind of funny. I don't visit that aunt anymore. It creeps me out, and she doesn't recognize me anyway, so I figure no good would come of it anyway.

As for "needing" illusions, I dunno. I think some people are too set in their ways to change,but I think other people don't give themselves enough credit, they don't realize they probably could cope with stuff without fairy tales. I think a lot of people just prefer not to, which I think is different than really needing it.
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22-01-2013, 10:52 PM
RE: Watching a religious loved one endure cancer (or other life threatening disease)
Sorry about your great aunt. Dementia is cruel and like you, I see no religious link to it either. It's all too physical. My mother's husband died of that over 3 years ago. He went from an extremely intelligent man who read voraciously and could fix anything to, like your aunt, someone who didnt recognize loved ones. Prayer didn't help, but maybe someday medical science will figure it out.

Yeah I should have said "prefer" rather than "need" on the illusion deal.

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