Connecting through shared experience

Joyful laughter and grateful praise characterise Naomi Cheung — even when experiencing cancer herself. Inspired by her nursing background in Hong Kong and surviving breast cancer twice, Naomi leads the Chinese Association for Cancer Care (CACACA) partnered with OM.

This specialised medical ministry serves Chinese cancer patients throughout London, declaring, “Motivated by our Christian faith, we are committed to journey with cancer patients to cope with the disease and share with them God’s love, grace and peace.”

“God has equipped me in amazing ways to serve cancer patients,” enthuses Naomi. She first developed breast cancer in 2010 whilst serving Muslim communities through OM with husband, Philip. Surviving life-threatening complications following her mastectomy left Naomi with a powerful sense of God saving her for a purpose.

Having navigated NHS oncology services as a Chinese person and former nurse, Naomi helped launch CACACA in 2013 to meet the needs of ethnic Chinese cancer patients with little or no English language; barriers of language and culture exist for both new arrivals in the UK and people who’ve been here for years.

Walking every step of the ‘cancer journey’

Naomi is an independent specialist interpreter and advocate, in all its variety – interpreting someone’s diagnosis; attending chemotherapy; providing comforting homemade Chinese food; celebrating recovery — or ‘being there’ as someone dies. “Miss W from mainland China was an asylum seeker, here alone,” remembers Naomi. “But I was with her when she died. Jesus said that whatever we do for one of the least of these, we do for Him.”

Naomi helps about 25 clients at a time but never feels overloaded. “Every day I ask the Holy Spirit to remind me who to contact, so Jesus arranges my schedule for me, it’s so amazing.” Along the way, she absorbs people’s life stories and prays for them…like Mrs Y from south-east Asia who poured out the story of her broken marriage while Naomi waited with her for a procedure. “How I cried in my heart to God for that lady,” she recalls.

Culture’s strong influences

Naomi sees the impact of traditional thinking; some patients have faith in Jesus but are still influenced by previous Chinese idol worship. One woman regarded her crucifix pendant as an amulet against cancer. “I tried to explain that we put our faith in the living Jesus, not a necklace,” remembers Naomi.

Strong connections with Chinese churches strengthen Naomi’s ministry. A very highly-educated Mandarin-speaker was approaching end-of-life; she accepted Naomi’s introduction to a male pastor who was an ex-professor and fellow Mandarin-speaker.  “And she truly responded when he shared the gospel! For three years I had been sharing Jesus with her — but I was not a man, not a professor, and my Mandarin isn’t fluent, so she never really listened to me!” reflects Naomi, a Cantonese speaker.

Freedom through sharing stories

Naomi’s organises CACACA’s support groups, dotted across central London. Current and former patients encourage one another in a hope-filled atmosphere of worship and praise, reflecting their motto ‘Sunshine after Rain, Healthy Life Regained’. Relationships last down the years; through group newsletters, over 80 people have shared their cancer stories and testimonies about God’s love and help.

“Cancer is a shameful cursed thing in our traditional culture,” says Naomi. “We encourage patients to share their stories in an open and honest way, in a shame-free environment.” Naomi lives this out herself. Her first mastectomy after breast cancer had been in 2010. “When I felt my cancer experience was outdated, I got breast cancer again in 2022, so I could again count myself as a cancer patient!” she shares. When her cancer community heard about Naomi’s second mastectomy,  former patient Ms M said Naomi’s honest and hope-filled testimony was helping her finally face her own experience of double mastectomy.

“Cancer does not discriminate and I am not exempted! Thank Jesus for my two different times with breast cancer,” Naomi concludes. Heading off on another visit, she quotes another favourite Scripture, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God.”

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