Thursday, July 2, 2015

Cancer Free

     My plan is for this blog to be my last. With great respect for all the cancer survivors out there, I am not going to say I feel great. I'm not ready to celebrate my freedom from cancer by going for  hike in the nearest park. That's not real. In reality my body is more like Europe after WWII. I won the war, but there's a lot of work to be done to be as I was before. My oncologist tells me I will feel well sometime next spring. In the meantime I do see small improvements everyday. I enjoy my daily nap and I pray that I will be one of the lucky ones whose side effects completely disappear. I will be on drugs to stop the proliferation of the cells that caused the cancer for five years. This means the possibility of new side effects. That's enough of the bad news. I just wanted everyone to know that when you see a posting on Facebook of a bald person saying they are cancer free, you shouldn't assume they feel great and just need to grow some hair! Chemotherapy damages your whole body and healing is slow.

     So the good news is I am truly cancer free. What a gift to be able to say that. Modern medicine is fascinating. I have another chance to make healthy choices for my life and see if I can achieve not being in this predicament again.  My faith has seen me through, but I still don't want to do it again!

     I believe there is resurrection after death. I believe that light follows darkness. I believe that evil can be overcome by goodness. Cancer is an evil and through advancements in medical science the cancer cells were killed. That would have been enough to rejoice in, but that evil of cancer also brought forth the most unbelievable flood of love and support. I was overwhelmed by your acts of kindness. I can't imagine anyone anywhere getting better care. I have kept a box of my cards and letters. How could I throw away such generous heartfelt words of support? I have the poster my daughters made in my office. I am so loved. Did I need to get cancer to figure that out? I hope not, and yet the multitude of people reaching out really surprised me and made me overwhelmed at times. You are really great and my life is awesome. Gratitude is the only word I can use to express how I feel.

     So here is how I was when I was diagnosed:

     And here's what I look like now. My daughter, Melanie, the photographer, likes to take this three generation shot when she comes to visit. This is the first time Isa isn't the one who changed the most!

     I remember learning in nursing school that there have been cases of a person's hair turning gray or white overnight by stress. I was intrigued by this thought. Add to that fact that I also always loved very curly hair. Well, though I did have to go hairless for 4+ months, I now have very curly gray hair. It's fun! I don't feel as if I'm looking at myself when I look in a mirror, but I suppose that will come with time.

     Since I have a larger audience than I've ever had in my life, I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you the main reason for my confidence and optimism as I live out my life. When I was a teenager, I managed to break most of the Ten Commandments. I didn't have an evil bone in my body. I just wanted to please people and one thing led to's not an uncommon story. Well, interestingly, when my sin ended up affecting those closest to me, I did not feel guilt or remorse. Instead, I felt anger at how others reacted to my sin. It wasn't until Walt and I were invited to a weekend retreat for renewal at the age of 27 that I saw how my sin put others in a place where they had to respond and that was an unloving thing to do because they were not equipped. Realizing that every sin, big and little, affects the lives around me brought me to true repentance. I had a deep sorrow for what I had done. I experienced real forgiveness from Jesus who wiped my sin away. All those years I tried to justify my sin and keep myself from experiencing guilt. Then I ended up with a new life by seeing my guilt and calling it what it was. If I could do anything with the rest of my life, it would be to invite everyone to that same place of forgiveness, healing, and new life. I have beaten cancer, but I know it was way easier than if I had to do it without the knowledge that the love of Christ was at my side. If you don't know Jesus and his love for you, I encourage you to search deeper. He's alive and well.

     Some final business notes: I was unable to keep 100% accuracy on my "gift tracking". If you gave me these items, would you let me know so I can properly thank you? I love them all.

    I finished radiation one week ago and in another week I'm hoping my burns will be healed over. One more week after that Walt and I will take our first real vacation since last August. For most people that's right on time, but for us it's feels like an eternity ago. Our nephew, Scott McCarthy, is getting married on August 1st in Pennsylvania and then we're headed for Long Island. We'll be there for the week, or at least most of the week. Contact me if you're reading this and you'll be around. One of my true supporters through this ordeal has been Anthony Nunziato from high school days. He has beaten cancer twice and tells me I have to get up every day and fight to be well. Imagine the connection through the years. I probably hadn't talked to Nunz (obviously a high school nickname) in 25 years, but the bonds of youth and cancer brought us together again. Thanks, Nunz, and hope you have a free night while we're in NY so I can share my gratitude in person.

     Thus ends my first experience of blogging. It's been great. You've been great. Now let's get out there and love one another while we can!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Two Weeks Out

I'm two weeks out from telling you there's no evidence of cancer in my body!  I am tired and itchy, but oh so much better than I was in March! I don't know what the pain of cancer feels like, but I can tell you the treatment is a real killer! As it should be, I suppose. As of now, that's the only way we can cure cancer. Kill it! 

I'm done with chemo and surgery. I have 21 out of 30 radiation treatments behind me. I feel like this marathon is in it's last couple of miles and I'm ready for it to be over! Here's what I've been busy doing since April: 

April 23rd

June 12th

Now don't anyone get funny and say I've been bending my glasses!  I don't know why that's a continual problem for me. I've been growing hair! I realize this isn't something I had to keep "busy" at, but it is nice to have a new "thick as before" crop of hair growing on my head. I've been told if I went to NYC, there'd probably be lots of women with this style. Well, maybe...but, I doubt it. But it's much improved from bald, so I'm happy. 

A Helen Keller quote that I haven't verified is, "Although the world is full of suffering, it's also full of the overcoming of it." I have a hard time putting myself into a group of "sufferers."  Jesus suffered. The Christians in Rome who were eaten by lions suffered. The Lost Boys of Sudan suffered. (If you haven't seen the movie "The Good Lie", it's a fictional story of these people and I highly recommend it). Those who saw battle in any war suffered. And any mother who has watched her child die has suffered much more than I. There has been, however, a definite bump in my easy life.  Maybe scripture said it best in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I have had some trouble, and the fact that the Lord reigns in spite of that fact, is a source of great peace. 

George MacDonald, a Christian minister of the 19th Century wrote, "the Son of God suffered unto this death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like his."  This puts a different angle on whatever we want to say it is that "we suffer" from.  Jesus' suffering was done autonomously, selflessly, and completely (unto his death). That's a lot to unpack. I can't claim autonomy. I did not want cancer. But then, Jesus didn't want to have the passion either. What was the agony in the garden about except Jesus saying, "Can't you think of some other plan?" But he struggled with it and finally owned the plan. He didn't say yes and then mutter under his breath that the Father made him do it. Autonomy is something I want for all of my life. Not just my journey through cancer. Secondly, Jesus' passion was totally selfless. There is no greater selfless act known to man. He's a sinless man taking on the sins of the world as his own. I can't even think of how I can take my cancer and even try to have it shadow such a feat. When I was offered to be in a clinical trial to help NIH learn more about the standards for treatment I said yes so my experience could in some way help those coming down the road. It's a very small thing, but there is no other way I have found my present predicament to be selfless. And, lastly, Jesus' suffering was complete unto his death. I hope Reverend MacDonald meant Jesus was a model for all those who need to endure. And that's where I am now. I need the grace to endure without whining and complaining. I really am much better than I was in March. Maybe that's why I have more energy to think about complaining! Lord, let me look to you and be revived! 

C.S. Lewis may have said what I need to hear most. In his book, The Problem of Pain, he writes, "...nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all." Walt continues to shine the love of Christ on me in his faithfulness in good times and in bad. I am surrounded by my blood family who call, text, and email faithfully. I have the People of Praise who live daily with me and help with the big decisions like when to remove my hat, and those at church and elsewhere. In other words, I am flooded with the love of God and so I have all I need to endure to the end. I just need a gentle reminder here and there. 

Thanks for sharing in this journey with me. I ask for prayers for my endurance, and a complete healing for my friend Geriann whose brain tumors are growing again. (January 27th post) She'll be retested in the fall, and I'd love to be the witness of her miracle. 

Love you all! 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Spring has Sprung!

For about a month now, upon arising from a chair, I walk a few minutes like Tim Conway playing an old lady. You older ones (like me) should remember this. It's quite disconcerting to actually feel like Tim Conway. I can not stand up straight because I am unconsciously trying not to put weight on my feet. I totter, I'm not sure why, but it seems that I can't put my feet out in front of one another. Again, this is all on the unconscious level. I noticed the longer I'm mobile, the more it corrects itself. So, there was good news this week. For the first time since my diagnosis I walked to Riley Hospital (about a mile) and had lunch with the fine lady above, Robin. We used to meet for lunch every other week, then cancer stopped it abruptly. After lunch, I went with two other sisters in Christ to visit a nursing home. Again, I hadn't done it since my diagnosis. It was a day of victory. The feeling of getting my life back. My feet hurt, but who cares. I can function and I'm getting out there. I'll tell you how it happened. 

To begin with, another secret: when someone compliments me, I am very likely to think, "They are so nice. I bet they say nice things to everyone. I should be more like that." Although not a horrible thing to think, it robs the person of conveying a message to me. Maybe they were really trying to tell me what virtue I hold. Or maybe, God was trying to use them to tell me what virtue I hold. And so, on thinking about this, I saw the whole problem. If I listen to compliments, I will get, as my culture growing up would say, "full of myself". This is not my desire. But if being a Christian means to be busy about doing what our Father wants done, I had better know what my gifts (or virtues) are, right?
Anyway, being a Christian I know that any quality I possess is only because it was given to me. So, I thought some more and decided to take your comments seriously. 

Well, I can't do much more than laugh at the comments of how great I look! I'm sorry. I'm just not there yet. But I remember how when my mother-in-law was dying of Alzheimer's some of the recreation staff would say she was "gorgeous". She sure did like that and I believed it. When you work in a nursing home, you see a lot of beauty. It's often in the eyes or the face. I can't always tell where, but there is an aura of beauty. And so I'll have to go along with all of you who think I look great. The thing I had to act on, though,  was strength. Several of you say I am such a strong woman. I sure don't feel like it! But I decided to take it seriously. I'm learning the answer to my own question about what it means to fight like a girl. I've been pushing myself everyday in exercise. I don't always like it, but I want to move forward. I was feeling like I was accomplishing much. Then the radiation schedule got put back another week and I felt desolate. I cried out to the God. The Father. Then the Son. Then the Holy Spirit. Then Mary. I kid you not. I have never done this before. I said, "Enough! You've got to do something to get me out of this!" It was the next day that I walked to the hospital and went to the nursing home. I suddenly didn't care if the radiation people ever got my paperwork in order. I'm fighting a disease one day at a time and pushing myself to have as much of my old life back as I can. I am being strong. It's a purposeful decision. I had a great week. I cooked, saw 2 movies with Walt, and only had to take 2 naps. They were less than 30 minutes each. I'm back! If strong is what I am, then I'll use it. 

Speaking of strong, my daughter Katie came to visit last weekend. She is the mother of 9 children. The youngest, Mary Kate, came with her. We had a delightful weekend and even got to play a little flute together. God is good! 

Have you heard of short timers? They are people in the military who are counting their days until discharge. Mostly, they are not into their job anymore.  In high school it's called senior-itis. Every school class gets spring fever. That's how I feel. I've got this radiation thing looming in my future, but I am so done with this experience! I will just keep remembering how the same power that conquered the grave lives in me, so I will be strong and get through what I need to. I will blog if I feel like it, but I hope in 7 weeks time to just tell you all that I am cancer free. Oh what a day! Enjoy the spring everyone. It has certainly sprung! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Back In My Office

Here's me in my office. It's been a long time since I've spent a morning here. I have a story board behind me that was supposed to be my next nursing project. I don't know if that project will ever happen. It feels good to be in here, though, even if just to send emails and write my blog. I have accomplished a few victories over the last 2 weeks and getting into my office is one of them. Then there's exercise. I could not move any of my core muscles on demand a month ago. I started exercising two weeks ago and they have returned! Of course, they are mini-core muscles, but I can at least feel what it is I'm working on. I've been sleeping great and eating like it's Easter (candy). Ok, I'm not perfect and that needs to change. My stomach problems and fatigue are ancient history. I am opening my own jars again (muscle weakness is another side effect of chemo), and sound the trumpets! I have fuzzies under my turban. I should take a weekly picture. It's just wild to look at. I can't tell yet what color it will be when it gets longer.

One funny thing that happened to me this week was that my eyesight improved. This was another chemo side effect dissipating. The funny part was that I saw my eyebrows for the first time in more detail. I looked like a cancer patient! It's funny how the denial is slowly challenged. Having cancer is so surreal. By the time I finally accept it, I'll be cured. Praise God!

Another amusing thing is the change to spring. I had a regular head wardrobe figured out and it was working fine. As fun as the wig is, it's not comfortable, so I only wear it for big gatherings. I like the hats and scarves better. Well, spring has sprung and most of my regulars are now too hot to wear comfortably. I think I'll be wearing the baseball cap look for daily wear before too long. If you are one of the generous women who gave me a winter scarf and would like it back for next year, please let me know. They were all great and I loved having a scarf for each of my sweaters!

I am very grateful to God that we got to go to Easter Sunday festivities at James and Katie's house (my daughter and son-in-law). I had my mother, sister, nephew, 3 daughters and sons-in-laws, and 14 grandchildren there. My grandson, Michael, received First Communion at morning Mass. What a treasure and what a blast to be together for the day! My feet were hurting but it didn't distract me from the fun we all had! Here's my mom massaging my foot while my sister, mom, and I chat. What blessed time! Aren't moms great?

And here's Michael opening his gifts. 

As I said, I am so grateful I could be there. You just don't know how much I've been missing. So, I'm back home and ready to start radiation. I've got two weeks more to wait. I'm going to exercise and get stronger and probably grow some more hair. I'll enjoy spring. And I'll remember that the victory is already ours in Jesus Christ. It is true. He is risen. I wish all people would believe it. Last Sunday's gospel was the story of Thomas. Thomas wasn't there when the rest of the disciples saw the risen Jesus. Here's how it is written in John 20: 
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked, 
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

A week later! Can you imagine being with the disciples the first week after being with the risen Christ and not believing?  To be in a room with people giddy with excitement over the the fact that the world had just changed for all eternity and not experience the joy is a bad experience at best. And so it was with Thomas. His best friends had just come to realize Jesus was the expected savior heralded by the Jewish people. But Thomas couldn't believe. He saw the world around him. Sin and suffering was everywhere. How could Jesus be the Christ? Poor Thomas. It must have been very frustrating and intensely isolating. It's no wonder Jesus' first words to Thomas were, "Peace be with you." He certainly needed peace! But note what else Thomas needed. He didn't just want to set eyes on the risen Lord, he wanted to put his finger into the nail marks and his hand into his side that was pierced. I hear him saying, "Are you kidding me? You who carried the cross and suffered excrutiating trials- you are the same person who stands here alive as Savior?" Or, "Is there really victory over the grave?" Or, "You mean, we really have nothing to be afraid of?" Or as the psalmist said, "Oh death where is your sting?" I am sure Thomas wasn't at Jesus' first visit after the resurrection for a good reason. People like me need to hear his story again and again. When I'm in pain I doubt there's a good reason for it. Even though I am surrounded by loved ones who pray for my healing, I don't see it happening and am frustrated by the things I can't do. But then I think about Thomas and Jesus. Jesus showed Thomas that the road of suffering was real and that the victory was his. He invites us to follow him. We are free to follow him. We can choose to give him our suffering - we can even ask him to use it for the benefit of someone else who is in trouble or suffering. We can do that and know that if we are united with Jesus in suffering, we will be united with him in the victory. The resurrection is ours to enjoy. It's the end of the story for all who believe. With Jesus living in me my feet are a little less a bother. With Jesus I have no fear of radiation. With Jesus I look forward to the time when I announce I am healed. It feels like a long road right now, but Jesus is with me and in me every step of the way. 

Thanks for listening to my rambling. If you have something you want me to pray for, please let me know. I'm bringing a lot up in prayer lately. I will make you my priority. Christ is risen! Alleluia! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Easter!

Thanks to Irene for the card. I'm knocked off my feet! You are prophetic! 

Those of you who are old enough will remember Gilda Radner. She's one of my favorite comedians. Her character Roseanne Rosannadanna (or however she spelled it), has come to mind often this week. "It's always something!" Well my something at the moment is: my feet are killing me! I have gotten quite a number of well wisher notes that sound so excited for me. I'm done with chemo. I got to go on a weekend trip. It sounds like all is well. But that's not how I'm feeling it. Maybe it's just what happens after surgery. I remember week 3 after my other big operations. I wanted to be normal again. I wanted everything to work so I can live my life without thinking about my body. I am getting short tempered about my deficits. My peripheral neuropathy - a side effect of chemo - is quite painful and I just didn't want to get out of bed yesterday. And that's the way it was. I had a great weekend seeing wonderful people but I couldn't dance like I like to at weddings and on Sunday my feet were bad enough that I felt bad for Walt who had to walk next to me. It's so humbling to hobble around.

Of course, I did get up yesterday because that's just me. I forced myself out the door and what do you think happened? I saw the glory of God everywhere I went. First was the mom with two little girls. The girls were awestruck at the display of Easter lilies.  "Mom, look! They are beautiful!" This girl, undistracted by pain, was able to point out the natural beauty before me. God's creation. Thank you. Then I went to Trader Joe's where we know the manager. I received a warm greeting and how was Walt and what were we doing for the weekend. Just hearing his interest and all that we were doing for the weekend (regardless of sore feet) was enough to lift my mood. Then there was Costco. Our Costco has the friendliest staff imaginable. After that I went to the cleaners where a woman asked the cashier to have a blessed day and her smile just beamed like the sun. God in his glory had brought me from darkness to light through everyday people and experiences. Thank God I didn't stay in bed!

So I've been thinking a lot about suffering. Catholics celebrate Holy Thursday today. Jesus is celebrating the Last Supper knowing his greatest suffering was close at hand. He is thinking of his disciples and what they will go through because of their faith in him, so he washes their feet in service to them. They will soon become the servant leaders who will give their lives for others. They have plenty of suffering in their future. Listen to this news about suffering from Hebrews 4:

Although he was the son of God, Christ learnt to obey through suffering, and he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

If Christ can learn through suffering, than so will I. I don't understand it, but I know he is in me and shares his life with me, and so I believe I will grow in obedience. Obedience to the Father's will. Now that's exciting. And I will celebrate tonight regardless of pain, because Jesus did. I live my life intentionally to give praise, honor, and glory to God. If I can't find him when I have suffering, what is my faith worth? I look around me and I see lots of people suffering worse than I. Faith - not pain - makes the difference in life. I am going through a difficult time but I am not alone. My needs are always met. My God hears my prayers. He is my strength and my fortress. These are not just mere words from scripture. They are my experience.

I was thinking I have been acting like the Israelites. My surgery was like the parting of the Red Sea. I came out of captivity (almost all the cancer is gone) and into the desert (post surgery and chemo). It didn't take me long to forget how bad it was a month ago and start complaining about my neuropathy!  The Israelites said to God, "Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" I will not repeat history again. I know he has a plan and I am better off now than before. I will work on ending my complaining. May I never be found ungrateful. I've been given so much.

Then I was thinking about Easter. Easter is the biggest news ever. The death and rising of Our Lord has made a way for every person to live forever in the pain-free loving environment of heaven with him. It's the parting of the Red Sea that is for real taking us out of captivity. I don't know why the second coming is taking so long (I think it has something to do with God's love for us AND THE WORLD and our readiness), but it has created another desert like experience. We are not satisfied. We complain. We are redeemed people living in a world in desperate need of redeeming. But let's remember this Easter that the answer is already here. The love of God is alive and working in the world. He has given us his Holy Spirit to continue the work of renewal until he comes again. We don't have to give in to complaining! We have much proclaiming to do! You only have to look around you and you will find needs to be met in love!

Here is a blessing from Laura Brummer. She is a gifted artist and one of the Christians in Mission that we visited last weekend for John and Colleen Bowar's wedding. I "proclaim" these words to be true. Recognize the gift we have in an all loving God and have a Happy Easter everyone! If you aren't Christian and you are reading this, know God's love extends to all of us! He is there for us!

 We will celebrate Easter first with our campus team after Easter Vigil, then off to Michigan for family. Our grandson, Michael Fifelski, will make his First Communion Easter Sunday morning. What a rich life we have!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

For those of you waiting for an update - sorry about that. I never did ask Walt to post for me. Let me start where I left off:

From Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.

I've been getting a lot of "help" this week. In the picture is my daughter, Melanie, and my Mom. They were here the day of surgery. I am constantly blessed beyond measure. For the record, my surgeon was correct. This surgery was a piece of cake compared to my earlier ones. I have two incisions on the side - under my arm - and they are healing well. My stomach is my biggest post op problem along with my emotions. I should have a lot of joy but it eludes me as of yet. More rest will help that I'm sure.

So the reason for the joy I should have is this: I received the best case scenario possible in my predicament. I was hoping for no cancer to be found. However, if that had been the case, I would have had a more radical surgery because that is the standard treatment given by the National Cancer Institute at this point in time. Instead, I had a teeny bit of cancer found in my second lymph node. This afforded me to become part of a research project to prove the radical surgery was no longer needed. This means I didn't have all my lymph nodes removed and I won't have shoulder and arm problems the rest of my life. Thank you Lord. The radiation that is planned for me should take care of the rest of the cancer - 90% chance. So I am grateful. Very grateful. But I'm also feeling like a marathoner who is only half way done with the course and I'm tired.  I have infusions to stop cancer growth every third week through December, and I start radiation for 4-6 weeks sometime next month.  The joyful emotions will come. I'm just focusing on the wrong things. I am, however, having fun times with friends and family.

Both Melanie and my Mom cook great so healthy and tasty meals are being consumed. My sister, Laurie, made it into town for the delayed St. Patrick's Day Feast on Thursday evening. The women's household made the cookies with Trish Olson helping out. The women's household and Cathy Schwab (Indy campus graduate '14 and leading a household in Minnesota) with her household joined us. It was a delightful evening. Here's a picture.

On Friday evening, we watched - third time for me and Walt - Dean Jones in "St. John in Exile."  If you haven't had the pleasure, it is worth finding a copy. It is distributed by Bridgestone Multimedia Group.  St. John, as an old man, tells his perspective of Jesus' life and passion. It is a wonderful reflection, including the fact that John himself is still working on getting his own emotions under control at the age of eighty something. Very encouraging! Reminds me of how we can not be the focus of our life while there's work to be done for the sake of the kingdom. If God is willing and desirous of using us as we are, then I want to be reading and active in spite of my shortcomings.

I am reminded of how many people are in need of prayer in this world. New situations come to me all the time. People are hurting and nations are in need. If you think of me, pray for good digestion and healing of peripheral neuropathy (caused by chemo). Other than that, thanks for all the flowers, cards, and prayers I have already received. And to my sister-in-law Marcella - thanks for the puzzle! It is complete and beautiful. It needed to be a group project, but it was totally enjoyable.

Bless you all for lifting me up!

Monday, March 9, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Surgery

Well it's been an interesting week and a half since my chemo ended. I have about two dozen side effects caused by chemo. None of them miraculously disappeared on the eighth day as I was hoping, but I have had one significant positive turn of events. The rash that's been on my legs since December is most definitely fading and not itching so much. Alas, my hope was not in vain. Things are changing for the positive. 

I received my call from the surgery scheduler. I will have my operation on March 17th around noon. Now I should tell you I've had four surgeries: an ectopic pregnancy, a C-section, Carpal Tunnel repair, and sinus "windows". The last two were much easier than the first two. Let's face it, though, paper cuts hurt and surgery is surgery, so there is pain involved. This fact tempts me to be anxious. That and the fact that we get the big news when I wake up: Did the chemo kill the cancer as we hoped? I think there's more to this anxiety and fear thing. I'll flesh it out a bit. 

My grandmother, whom we called "Nan" shortened from "Nanny" lived between my house and my Aunt Eileen's house my whole life growing up. She never lived alone after being widowed at an early age. Until I was 8 years old, we shared a bedroom. Anyway, she had certain instructions for me. They were seeped in Irish American culture which had more than a hint of superstition. She simply said, "Don't let them put you under the knife." She also said, "Don't walk under ladders, you'll have bad luck." As much as I can intellectually reject a lot of her teachings, I still don't walk under ladders and I prefer not to go under the knife. There's an influence our elders have on us that runs pretty deep. 

Here's a second point at hand. It is an interesting thing to ponder life itself and the time in history we live in. When I was 18 years old I spun out on black ice in my parents' new and beautiful Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I totaled the car, moving the engine back a bit when a tree entered the area under the hood. The first thing I remember is a man telling a woman, "Don't come any closer. If they haven't been there, there can't be anyone alive in it." Well, I was alive, and I was also curious as ever so I tried to get up to see the excitement. My head was stuck in the Y of the padded steering wheel. I do believe that my height (relatively short) and the fact that steering wheels had started being padded saved my life that night. I got away with a concussion.  Several years later I had an emergency C-section to welcome my daughter Melanie into the world. Think about it. Modern day C-sections were first performed in the 1880's. Have you been to an old graveyard like in downtown Boston? Both Melanie and I would have been buried neatly beside each other and God knows who would have raised my other children. But it was 1978 so we both got to live. Progress. It works for the good and the bad. I'm in awe. I have been saved twice by the place in history I am part of. Now we can make that three. My oncologist told me that one of my infused drugs, Herceptin, has changed my prognosis from around 40% chance of survival to 90% chance. Just think about it. I have 2 friends that died of breast cancer 10 years ago. My knowledge was very lacking at the time, so I have no idea if they had my kind. I'm triple positive (positive being in this case what you don't want because it's more aggressive). But I could have the same kind and I may live because it's 2014 and they didn't because they were a couple of years to soon. Unbelievable, but this is the reality of time and progress. 

And so I approach my surgery with some level of temptation to be anxious. I want to believe the cancer is killed. Dead and gone. All the rest of the year's treatment is clean up and and preventive against recurrence. I want to believe the recuperation is a piece of cake as my surgeon claims even though she hasn't had surgery. I remember how Our Lord instructed against anxiety. It has never done anyone any good. That's the truth. I pray from Psalm 30, "I hope in the Lord, I trust in his word; with him there is kindness and plenteous redemption." He is my refuge and my solid rock. To strengthen me (yes, this is very self focused), I will tell you a more detailed story of why I hope in the Lord. He has been working in me all along. 

I think the year was 1982. I went on a Cursillo weekend. I listened to talks given by lay (everyday) people. When I went to bed that night, it occurred to me that there was a major difference between their faith and my faith. These people were outwardly loving God and others with their whole heart. It was palpable. You could argue their theology, but you could not deny that they loved God and his creation. It was just too real. My faith was more of an intellectual assent to the doctrines I learned as a child. I said a short prayer. Something like, "Lord, I want to have my faith be in my heart and not just in my head." There, in an upper bunk of a retreat house where I knew no one, I had the biggest faith experience in my life up to that point. It felt like the flint of a match was struck inside my brain and started to travel down to my heart. It went through my neck, across my chest, and planted itself and it's burning heat deep inside my heart. May I simply say that nothing in my life has every been the same. It was like a black and white movie changed to color. It was like the lights being turned on after struggling in a dark room. Actually, there are just no words to say about this event, other than I have loved Jesus ever since with my whole heart, mind, and strength. In that heat, there was a work of God happening. Decades later, I struggled for 9 months with a shoulder injury. I went through PT, had lots of medications, and very little improvement. One night at a prayer meeting, someone laid hands on me and prayed and I felt heat again. Just like that first night only it didn't travel. The hand was on my shoulder, the heat went into the area, and my pain was gone. I was healed. Now, I tell you this because lots of people have prayed over me in the last four months (I can't believe I've only been diagnosed for 4 months. It feels like eternity). Two of these times, when Fr. Michael, our pastor, and Walt prayed over me, and another time when David and Terri Porter and Walt prayed over me I felt heat entering my body. I wanted to get this documented before the surgery so we can rejoice if the tests all come back negative for cancer from the pathology lab. It is not crazy to have faith. God has done greater things than heal my cancer. Those without faith, I know our modern technology has a 90% chance of healing my cancer, but God can still want to make the road easier by taking it all early in the treatment. Anyway, I am turning my anxiety back to hope and spending this week trying to get stronger and visiting my daughter Mary and her family in South Bend. My life is very full. Full of wonderful people and full of joy. It's up to me to remember that!

My mom is flying from New York and Melanie is driving from Michigan to be with me post op. I look forward to their company. Bring it on! 

I'm counting on Walt giving the next update. I'll talk to you all after surgery and before radiation. Here is my gift to you. It is from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.

I want you to know how much I appreciate you all and how you have been literally "helped me up" these past 4 months.