Saturday, April 28, 2012

The last thing I remember my oncologist saying to me a couple of weeks ago was “The dye is cast”. Because the chemotherapy had become to toxic to me, and my body could tolerate no more, he discontinued it at 8/12 of the way through. That is two thirds, and I don’t think they believed that I would remain cancer free even if I did all twelve. What the doctor meant was, we’ve done all we can do for now, and we will just have to wait and see what happens next. To say the cancer has not been on my mind at all would be insane, but God has granted me a soothing and spiritual reprieve from the weight of being a stage 4 cancer patient. What I mean to say is, it hasn’t been too much on my mind. As of February, I was cancer free, and the only thing keeping them from telling me I was in remission is that not enough time has passed. I will go for a scan May 10th, and maybe then they will give me the good news. Or not. I suppose, it doesn’t really matter. What will be will be and I praise God so much for giving me the strength to face this with as little fear as I have had. Of course, I have had deeply fearful moments, but overall, I have been able to maintain a good quality in my outlook. And that is not from within me, but God Given and there is no doubt in my mind. Obviously, I’d like to live on and see my Grandson grow into a young man. I’d like to see my Son graduate from college and find a peaceful, soothing place in his life. While I believe that I will see these things, it is possible that I will not. And I find it all so very odd… just months ago, I believed I’d live to be 80 or more, and as long as my life had seemed so far, I still had roughly half to go. That notion was both comforting and frightening. The doctors say that I have less than a five percent chance of surviving five more years. While I don’t believe this statistic, I also much keep my mind and my heart prepared. To say that my outlook on life has changed would be like saying, a trip to the moon would be difficult to arrange. Obviously. My life has been difficult. My life has been rewarding. My life has been just like everybody else’s. Given a choice, I’d choose to live on for a good spell, but that is not up to me, and apparently the odds are against it (though I don’t believe the odds). What seems to matter the most to me now is living each day the best I can. What seems to matter the most is finding as much joy and beauty as I can – moving into the things that actually mean something…. And away from the stressful, harmful meaningless things. In so many ways, this has all been a blessing. It has clarified things for me so much, and for the first time in my life, and find myself able to slow down, stop worrying about stupid things and hang on to the joyful, beautiful moments for a little bit longer than I ever could. As insane as it sounds, I am not sure I would want to return to things the way they were before cancer. It is though these eyes, and these circumstances I’ve had my Grandson born. My Son’s few moments in lightness of being and laughter are so much more beautiful to me now. Violets that pop up in my yard, or in the woods – the ones I never hardly noticed before now magical enough to do anything. My friends… my Sisters, Father and Mother… all wonderfully diverse and dynamic – For the first time in my life, nothing but the beautiful things in nature, in my life or in the people around me really matter (dropped my coffee pot and broke it – get a new one – It matters so very little). I can’t begin to tell you or explain how blessed I feel; even if not especially when regular life issues are difficult. God is with me, and I thank Him so much. If I have to go sooner than a man my age ought to, I will have gone having lived in true joy; and this because of the thing that took me away too early.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Even after all of this time, seven months or so, I am still at times overcome with disbelief that this has happened. It is like sudden bursts of reality that wash over my conscientiousness. I usually stop and tell myself, “JT, we’ve been through this before, and you’ve accepted it already”. But that does little good – and that is okay because the bursts of shock are usually brief and while they stun me momentarily, they don’t remove all of the work I’ve done, accepting my situation.
Which isn’t to say, I move through my life these days, completely serine – stoic; like a Buddhist monk, enlightened to a sense of perfect well being. That is not me, in spite of the brevity I have been able to muster. The fact of the matter is, I want to live, and I tell my doctors, no matter what they tell me, I am not going to die. They usually smile, and carry on with their work respecting my wishes to remain totally optimistic – perhaps even foolishly. Those bursts of reality at times, bring me to my knees in prayer for God to save me; heal me and while I don’t believe God gave me this illness, I have no doubt He can take it away.
As I am sure it is with every cancer patient, my ability to conduct my daily affairs with a positive attitude and enough hope to not only put one foot in front of the other but to smile and laugh every day, is composed of two seemingly opposed fundamental ideas. FIRST and foremost, although the statistics are against me, I believe down in my bones that I could be one of the few to actually beat this illness. My prayers, Vespers, Kyrie Eleisons ( – all of my Praise and Thanksgivings include pleadings to God for me to achieve complete recovery. The belief that I have in this prayer-life is directly proportional to my sense of well being.
Secondly, if the cancer does come back, while I will have vast adjustments to make, and further acceptance to digest and nourish myself with, at this point I am living my life with the belief that the cancer will not return, or if it does, we can kill it again. So it is not so much that I am brave, but that I have hope and faith (some would say foolishly).
If my current life-plans don’t pan out, or in the case that I should need to adjust for a different possible outcome, I will do that when the time is more appropriate.
The unknown is a frightening thing to all of us – and not necessarily more so for those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. A human life is not an easy business; the fact that all of us have the knowledge of our own eventual demise seems like a cruel aspect of being human. But then it is not – for it is not that I am or that we are like ships at the mercy of stormy seas, tossed around with no power to affect our plights at all, but our sense of well being and the quality of our lives comes from our outlook of life – how we choose to perceive our predicaments. Do we live for the joyful moments, or do our attitudes succumb to the dangers inherent in every human existence? Our bodies will eventually succumb to those dangers. It is not only unnecessary for us to allow fear to rob us of the joys available to us, but if we live in constant fear of what bad things lurk around every corner then we are “dead people walking”. The day we meet God is out there somewhere for every one of us. That is one day, one moment. Meeting God will be a joyful experience beyond what I can imagine. But we also want to live. So let us remember, is not every day that we must die, yet some of us do exactly that.
Finally, it is not that I am completely without fear or doubt. I experience a little bit of both on a daily basis. But it is a process; a striving and even an average. Some days, I have to ask myself, did I spend most of my day with hope and faith or in fear and death? I have won the day if I can honestly say, even if just by a fraction, most of my time that day was spent in the positive.

The Apostle Paul said it best in one of the best passages in the Bible.

Philippians chapter 4
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.