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!