I have been hosting luncheons as a cancer family support in Japanese community in the South Bay since last March. Although we lost some members, three families, two volunteers and myself got together for the last luncheon this year on 12/3.
All patients have been on the treatments just like me and living with uncertainty of cancer that may grow or go away tomorrow.
However, as we get together, enjoying delicious potluck food, we share good times, appreciations, concerns, prognosis, and many kinds of information for cancer.
Each time as I receive a prayer request for a person diagnosed with cancer from the church (requests come one after another), it makes me think that the Japanese community should not be the exception from the raid of cancer if so many people have cancer. In fact, a nurse at an oncology department told me there are quite a few Japanese patients.
Walls at the oncology department are crowded with numerous cancer support organizations fliers, but it seems like there are few Japanese who respond to those fliers. I wonder why.
Language must be the big barrier. Yet it may not be the only reason.
I had tried a cancer support group once soon after my diagnosis. There were more than ten people at the meeting and all of them were battling against cancer for several years. I remember that instead of being encouraged, I went home being depressed because I expected to get better once my half-year treatment was over.
People feel close and become friends as they find something common among them, like the sense of,“Oh, You, too?”
Until then, even if that is a support group, it can be difficult to share about oneself.
If there is a depressed person, our spirits may be pulled down without knowing how to cheer him or her.
Some people are afraid of gossip or pity like “ she may not live long.”
Even though it’s a support group, participating and sharing your struggle requires courage.
In spite of all those risks, many experts point out the benefit of support groups, including church, saying that good close relationships help our immune system.
Thankfully, our luncheon group always has an up-lifting spirit: We leave with full stomachs, laughter, and encouragement.
I wish I could have a virtual circle inviting cancer patients even from Japan.
May my wish come true someday!