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ss triple helix - autumn 2006,  A Reason for Hope - Gaining strength in your fight against cancer (Book Review)

A Reason for Hope - Gaining strength in your fight against cancer (Book Review)

A Reason for Hope - Gaining strength in your fight against cancer - Michael S Barry. - Life Journey (Kingsway) - £6.81 Hb l26pp - ISBN 6 12503 8831

The author is a medical doctor and Christian pastor at an American cancer treatment centre. He is therefore familiar with people's reactions both at diagnosis and during the trials of often long drawn out therapy. For all this, his message is upbeat. God is pro-life and has designed the body for self-healing, from a cut finger through to malignant disease. It is postulated that to give way to fear and pessimism insults the immune system, predisposing to slow decline. Dr Barry cites instances of miraculous healing where the injection of hope, even at an apparently terminal stage, transformed the outlook and cured the disease.'Every form of cancer known to man has been survived' is the hope offered, backed by reliance on God's ability to heal.

'The diagnosis of cancer is not in itself a death sentence' and though acknowledging that full recovery does not always happen, Dr Barry does not dwell on this. In this, he joins company with so many other authors of books about miraculous healing. Throughout, his emphasis is on the expectation that God can heal even the worst of conditions if we rely on him.

There is no doubt about God's ability to heal, both in New Testament days and today, and we can trustfully commit all sickness to him for his will to be done. However, there is a delicate balance between this and insisting that he obeys our will. His healing is not necessarily what we would call curing, and many sufferers from advanced cancer have found that he has enabled them to live joyfully and trustfully, whether or not he chooses to remove the disease. The application of palliative care to the whole person can contribute enormously to such an outcome. That it receives little detailed attention here is a sad omission. Unfortunately, sufferers reading this book could be left with the impression that failure to recover is somehow their own fault and that there is little more to be done about it.

The last section of the book suggests ideas for self-help in arresting the disease, such as the exercise of forgiveness in overcoming disabling bitterness. Dr Barry's unswerving optimism has doubtless encouraged many of his patients to live hopefully with cancer but it is not clear that he also shares with them a lively hope beyond the grave. It is good for us to be reminded that our own prayerful reliance on the God of hope is something to be shared with our patients. They need to know that he is indeed pro-life – life everlasting.

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