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!