Prayer as the Wife of a Cancer Patient

My husband battled cancer last year. When he was diagnosed, I was told he had a week to live by the doctors. And by my church family, I was told to “have faith.” If I just had enough faith, many said, it would all be okay (no pressure!).

For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what “faith” was. Was I supposed to have faith my husband was going to live? I thought of all those loved ones who had had “faith” and still did not survive.

Was I supposed to have faith it was going to be okay? How could I ever feel like losing my husband was okay? How could I ever even utter the words “it’s okay”? My husband deserved better. He deserved a wife for whom his death was not okay.

What was “faith”?

After wrestling with the concept, I began to think maybe faith was praying. Maybe it was continuing to lean on God no matter what. But what was I supposed to pray for? Of course, I was to pray that my husband would live. But haven’t so many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of wives prayed that same prayer at their husbands’ terminal diagnoses with varied outcomes? If he didn’t live, would my prayers not bring glory to the God I loved? How could I pray while being faithful to my husband and still bringing glory to God?

What was faith? How was I supposed to pray?

I had read something a few years ago that said that we put up our best fight when we are on our knees before God. I knew prayer and faith were important. I had to seek the answers until I understood. It was the only way I knew how to fight for my husband.

So, my first prayer, of course, was that my husband would live. My second prayer was that God would show me what faith was and how to pray — after all, His Word says that He is the founder and perfecter of our faith.

And even when I didn’t know how to have faith or how to pray, God was faithful to me.

I began searching the Bible. After all, the Bible was God’s Word, the same Word that had become Flesh in His Son. If I wanted to understand my relationship with Jesus, I had to understand His Word.

I remember sitting in church that Sunday. I know there was a sermon going on but I was lost in my own world, in my own fear. Fear that I wouldn’t have enough faith and wouldn’t know how to pray to get my husband through this.

I tried to concentrate. A scripture flashed on the Power Point presentation that was prepared alongside the sermon. I picked up my Bible to follow along and it fell open in my lap. There was a note in it in my handwriting but I don’t remember ever having written it. It said, “When you can’t worship due to hopelessness or distress, when we can’t find it in ourselves to give of ourselves to God because of the same, we must engage our will. We must proclaim God’s ability to come through…We must strengthen our faith with a fellow Christian who can proclaim that He hears us and He can do it.”

I was overwhelmed — too overwhelmed to reach out right then to someone who could proclaim God’s ability with me. I picked up bits and pieces of the rest of the sermon. It was about God’s ability to even defeat death — that even when Lazarus had passed away, even when his loved ones were completely helpless, when Jesus was called, He was enough. The sermon ended and I slipped out as fast as I could. I cried all the way home.

I thought about what I had read and about the sermon. Faith was proclaiming that God is enough, I concluded. No matter what, He is enough.

So, what did that mean for me? If He is enough, then He is all I needed. I needed to proclaim that He was all I needed. That whether a doctor said yes or no, God was enough.

So, what does prayer look like here?

I went back to the hospital. The doctors were worried. They wanted me to start preparing our lives for my husband’s passing. I told them I wasn’t going to prepare for my husband’s passing. I was going to pray because God could get us through this. He was enough.

That day, I asked if I could use a wheelchair and take my husband to the hospital gift shop. I explained that we just needed some moments to ourselves to feel like we were having a normal moment. I craved normalcy!

I struggled to wheel my husband through the tightly arranged gift shop. I struggled to turn a corner around a display without knocking over the display with the wheelchair. As I was struggling, a stuffed bear caught my eye. It was one of those bears with a pre-recorded song or message that played upon squeezing its paw.

I squeezed its paw. The bear began to speak a sermon. One of the concluding sentences was “remember, prayer is a path when there is none.” I began to sob. My husband picked up the bear and held him close.

That night, I excused myself from the doctors, telling them I needed to pray. I went to the hospital chapel and I prayed. I proclaimed that God was enough. That I knew He could heal, that He could prepare a way even when there was none.

I opened my Bible and read Psalm 91. I fell in love with the passage and with the God who would prepare it for me. He would send His angels before me, it said.

I kept reading. I read about Peter and the lesson Jesus taught him. When you’re sinking, don’t look at the storm or storms around you. Just keep your eyes on Jesus.

I read of the woman who had touched Jesus’ robe and been healed. She didn’t ask for healing, she just acted, knowing that He was enough.

Faith is proclaiming, believing, and acting on the reality that God is enough. Prayer is a path when there is none. Keep your eyes on Jesus, not on the storms around you.

In the end, my husband lasted like that for five more months. He was listed for a liver transplant but wasn’t expected to live long enough to receive a liver from the long waiting list. I wanted to be his living donor but was told the chances of me being his match were very remote.

When he had been in the ICU for a month from internal bleeding, I prayed that I was his liver match and told God I knew He was enough to make the impossible possible. The next day, I found out I was his match. Via an emergency surgery, my husband received 54% of my liver and, in that moment, he was cancer-free.

I cherish that time with my Savior when He taught me to always keep my eyes on Him, no matter my storm or others’ storms, and that He is enough, even when all else tells me a path to hope is impossible.

Because God is enough, prayer had indeed been a path to hope when there was none…and it will continue to be, no matter what storm may come.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Alana Rudder

Alana Rudder — Founding Member of Experience Perspective, LLC —offers content strategy, marketing project management, and content writing services to Fortune 500 brands, including Adobe, as well as countless mid-size and startup brands. She writes about business technology, martech, marketing, leadership, organizational development, and the causes that are so dear to her: organ donation, living donation, and organizations that lend to the welfare of children in crisis around the globe. When she isn't working, she loves to spend time with her rescue pets and participating in living history events with her dear husband.

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  1. Andy Scoles says:

    Beautifully spoken, Alana! This was the topic I thought a lot about when my mom was going through her liver cancer treatments. Thank you for your insights!

    1. Alana Rudder says:

      I’m so very sorry you had to go through that, Andy! Your mom was an angel on earth. None of you deserved that!

  2. Rachel Walker says:

    Beautifully written!!! It spoke to my soul, every word. I am searching for the answer, how do I pray?, right now in life and I will use this to help guide me until I figure it out for myself. God IS enough and this was a great reminder and road map for me. Thank you so much Alana!!

    1. Alana Rudder says:

      I’m so glad it helped you, Rachel!! Please let me know if I can be of help throughout your journey!

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