Reviewed by: Linda Jones
Date posted: 05/12/2019
Loving Your Friend Through Cancer: Moving Beyond “I’m Sorry” to Meaningful Support, by Marissa Henley. P&R, 2018. Paperback, 264 pages, $12.00. Reviewed by OP member Linda Jones.
A quick glance at the front of this book previews the author’s style and tone for this practical guide to helping one’s friends through cancer: the cover art features warm, tastefully vibrant colors, with even the warm orange typography evoking a crackling fire in the fireplace. The reader is guided by Henley’s warmth and compassion as she walks through all the practical and emotional dimensions of a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship, and how God weaves the “threads of support,” that is, the community of friends, family, and church, “into a beautiful tapestry to provide for all our needs.”
First experiencing cancer with a close family member, and then as a patient herself, Henley shares what she has learned in first-person sketches of Christian women compassionately supporting their friends through cancer and its aftermath. There are thirteen chapters covering the full scope of cancer, from “When Cancer Strikes a Friend,” to “Your Friend as a Sick Person” and the final two chapters, the sobering “When There Is No Cure,” and “When It’s Not Really Over.” Henley is direct and sympathetic, as she gives the reader practical ideas to help the cancer patient navigate the logistics of managing her day-to-day life during treatment. She also offers recommendations on how to use words of love and hope to encourage and comfort spiritually the one who is suffering. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection and action steps to consider.
A section of articles and resources close out the book, including several worksheets for managing the logistics of helping, such as a meal delivery plan. There are also two articles in the back matter that the author references as the theological framework of the preceding chapters of the book, “A Biblical View of Suffering” and “A Biblical View of Community.” One may wish that these two articles were more deeply developed and integrated throughout the book. Marissa Henley provides concrete examples of what it looks like for Christians to love one another and their neighbor. It might not look the same for everyone, but Henley’s suggestions will spur creative thinking for helping our own friends in their various circumstances.