Church serves members with cancer
By Simone Ramel
Four members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, including the rector, have shared the journey of cancer diagnoses and treatment with the support of their faith, each other and their church.
Members find they are “on holy ground” when they pray for and are with someone who is ill or dying, said the Rev. Nolan Redman, who has prostate cancer.
The late Lloyd Lalicker had renal cell cancer. Claudia Biggs has breast cancer. Sandy Paine has had breast, lung, liver and brain cancer.
Nolan considers he has cancer with a small ‘c’ compared with the others: “They have taught me. They have so much courage.”
When Lloyd, who died in October, learned he had another tumor, he just took a deep breath and moved forward, Nolan said, adding that Sandy, too, continues to put one foot down in front of the other. Claudia was diagnosed recently.
“St. Andrew’s has the heart of a servant,” he said. “You can’t rock this group easily. This congregation embraces life—in its inception and in its end. They understand that illness and death are a part of life.”
Nolan believes faith shines in the support of people at St. Andrew’s who have or have had cancer, are dealing with other serious illnesses and are on journeys of healing or dying.
“It’s one way the church puts faith into action at every service and beyond worship,” he said.
As part of St. Andrew’s regular Holy Communion on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, it includes the Laying on of Hands with anointing, which the church has done for years. Some of those with cancer have participated.
“Every Episcopal church prays for the sick at every service and many also have the Laying on of Hands,” said Nolan. “Anointing for healing is a sacrament Episcopal clergy do frequently, particularly when making sick calls.”
“It’s just part of our corporate life that we believe is part of our Christian ministry,” he said. “We have a profound belief and experience that prayer works.”
During worship, “Prayers of the People” in the Book of Common Prayer and announcements, members may share their health concerns and concerns for others, which is common in churches.
At each service, members of the congregation are asked to read the prayers chosen for that service. They take turns reading and follow with new names on the prayer list. An Intercessory Prayer Group prays daily for the people on the list.
“Illness is not the only focus, but just another piece in life’s puzzle,” Nolan said.
Through announcements and prayers he, Lloyd, Claudia and Sandy became aware of each other’s cancer and began forging a friendship. We were not “buddy, buddy,” said Lloyd in an early summer interview, but their diagnoses brought them closer.
“We have more respect for each other and know what the others are dealing with,” he said.
“We’re different ages and may not have become friends, but now we’re in the cancer club,” Sandy said.
“When you develop cancer, you join a club. It can be an opportunity for connection,” he said.
“We draw strength from each other. After gall bladder surgery, I was released on a Thursday and went to church that Sunday. I needed to go. My faith helped,” Lloyd had said, telling of feeling the congregation’s prayers and knowing he was not alone.
He urged people diagnosed with cancer to meet with their pastor and become more involved in their church.
“We miss Lloyd and are sad, but I have nothing but faith when people die,” said Nolan. “The life-time continuum is interconnected at death.”
Claudia goes to the early service at St. Andrew’s. Having attended the for 64 years, she finds the church a supportive community. In gratitude and in memory of her mother, she recently gave the church 10 large matted framed photographs, mostly close-ups of dahlias, her favorite flower.
They hang in a hallway, a colorful gift that shares her art and love of flowers.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in July, she is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
Sandy’s breast cancer was diagnosed in 2007 when it was Stage IV and had spread to her lungs, liver and brain. She takes a chemo pill every day.
Because her parents and grandparents died of cancer, and her younger sister is dying of cancer, she had taken measures to avoid the disease. So she struggles to understand how she went from an active life—walking every day, serving on boards, co-chairing the local League of Women Voters and visiting her sisters in Boise and Lewiston to a life filled with doctors and treatment.
Sandy shares her story to urge women to trust they know their bodies, seek second opinions and challenge insurance companies.
A 2005 mammogram and two biopsies revealed nothing. She began feeling sick, exhausting easily and having difficulty breathing. She knew something was wrong, but questioned herself when mammograms and ultrasound every six months showed nothing.
In 2007, a mammogram and ultrasound showed two tiny tumors. The chest x-ray, CAT scan and brain scan that followed showed lung, liver and brain tumors.
She began chemotherapy and scheduled gamma knife brain surgery. The day before the surgery, her insurance company denied coverage because they said she was dying. Her husband talked to his company’s CEO. In two hours the decision was reversed, and she had 14 tumors removed.
Sandy remains hopeful. She is grateful for family, friends, church, doctors and faith for helping her cope and giving her courage to stay positive, not only by praying for her but also just by taking her out for a latté or sending notes.
“It’s amazing how much it helps to pray: ‘God be with me, give me strength’, she said.”
She and the other St. Andrew’s members have found a cancer diagnosis can bring new friends and open a new outlook on life.
Nolan, too, told of the congregation encouraging him: “I could feel their prayers, like an ocean swell lifting me up. I knew they were counting on me.”
Since his diagnosis and surgery, he led the church on a six-month discernment process to a decision that their core value is: “Seeking God, serving God’s people,” a phrase now on their website and church materials.
For information, call 235-5252, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.standrewsspokane.org.
Copyright © November 2009 - The Fig Tree
Published by The Fig Tree, 1323 S. Perry St., Spokane, WA 99202