Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer Review

August 29, 2012

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Convicting and Comforting

Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer is a brief but knowledgeable, convicting, and comforting guide to dealing with a loved one’s cancer diagnosis.

This was a timely booklet for me—not because a family member has cancer, but because one of my closest friends’ best friend has just lost his wife to cancer. It’s at times like this that I become most aware that I really don’t have a grasp of many life-and-death issues, and that I don’t really know what to say that is truthful, sensitive, and comforting. I have found Deborah Howard’s booklet Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer to be comforting, convicting, and warmly clinical.

Howard’s booklet is not comprehensive. It cannot be, at only 60-odd pages, and neither was it meant to be. The Lifeline biblical counseling booklet series from Shepherd Press is designed as quick-reference guides for Christians to understand the basics of many of life's most difficult issues. In fact, Howard begins her booklet by saying as much:

This volume will not answer all your questions about cancer. It is intended to be a primer – providing the basic information you, the loved one of a newly diagnosed patient, want and need to know.

Walking the Painful Road

As a palliative care nurse employed in a hospice facility, Howard claims the privilege of walking the painful road of life with cancer (and death from cancer) with many families. But Howard’s little brother John David also died from cancer—and more importantly, lived a vibrant testimony to Christian hope as a cancer sufferer. Easy-to-understand descriptions of cancer and its stages, as well as life expectancies and treatment options, feature in this booklet. So do many verses to comfort sufferers and their families.

However, Howard does anticipate that in their hour of need, nonbelievers and nominal believers may refer to this booklet. With these type of people in mind, Howard deliberately extends the hope of the gospel multiple times in these pages.

What may be most difficult for some is Howard’s unabashed belief in God’s sovereignty. She does not restrict the reason for the existence of cancer to our living in a broken and fallen world (which we do), which is where many modern books go, and no further. Without claiming that God causes cancer, she does affirm on biblical grounds God’s settled intention to allow trials— including cancer—into the lives of those He loves to sanctify them, as well as into the lives of those who do not yet know Him so that they might come to know Him. Howard’s “prayer [is] that you will turn to him. Going through cancer is hard. Going through it without the hope that results from a relationship with Jesus Christ is horrible.”

Note: This review was originally posted at the Discerning Reader book review site. It is re- posted here with permission of Mark Tubbs and Discerning Reader. You can read the original review at Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer

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