She sits quietly in my office, hands folded nervously, head down and tears streaming silently down her face. Her visit to meet me, a patient advocate for cancer patients, is not one she ever expected to make.
I reviewed her paperwork while she dabs at the tears, a tad embarrassed at her emotions overflowing onto her cheeks. She is young, married, in her 30s, working in a fulfilling job with wonderful co-workers, with two small children at home. Her diagnosis of stage IV metastatic breast cancer is not one with a lengthy prognosis, but today, that’s not her primary concern.
I determine she qualifies for our financial services and review procedures for how to access the essential medications she needs to preserve the length and quality of her life as long as possible. Nodding in gratitude, she pauses and the tears start flowing freely again.
“Can you help me with my hair?”
In the past 10 years, this is a question as advocates we often are asked and the answer is always yes. Our appearance boutique is stocked with items donated by the community – hats, wigs, scarves, turbans, and accessories – all available at no charge to patients experiencing hair loss due to chemotherapy.
The treatments would soon rob her of her shiny long brown hair and frequently this is emotionally the most difficult time for someone newly diagnosed with cancer, especially a young person. I knew the question was coming but what she said next stopped me in my tracks.
“I’m not worried about what I’ll look like, but I’m worried about my little boy. I still rock him to sleep and he twirls his fingers in my hair before he falls asleep. I just don’t know how he’s going to handle the change in routine and how mommy looks.”
Her words, so beautifully spoken as a true parent, more concerned about her son’s emotional state than her own, touched me in a profound way.
While we didn’t have the perfect wig in our appearance boutique that day, our organization purchased her the perfect wig to match her flowing brown hair from funds donated through the United Way to fulfill her most critical emotional need during a fragile time.
“Your donations make a true difference.”
These were the words spoken immediately after I told this story over and over to various groups as I explained the importance of their donations to the United Way and the value provided by our local community-based non-profit cancer support organization.
Usually, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. And the room was typically filled with young and middle-aged men working in industrial settings, men not known for their emotional response including tears.
So what made the difference?
The power of the story.
Stories reach deep down into our hearts in a way that charts, graphs, and numbers just can’t. Stories help us relate to one another as humans, unpacking the truth that our hearts experience the same deep desires.
Stories help us grasp difficult concepts and connect us to the heart of the story-teller.
There’s a reason Jesus used stories to share the most important truths with his disciples. And when we consider the Bible as a whole, it’s just one long overarching story of God’s redeeming love.
As Christians, it’s so important that we embrace the power of stories – ours and others’ too.
Have you considered YOUR story?
What truth or insight do your experiences provide that you can share with others to make an impact in their lives?
Take some time to consider the power your story has to affect those around you and their spiritual journeys. Let God use you!