Category Archives: Faith

the sky is empty

“I talk to God but the sky is empty.”
~ Sylvia Plath

Ge’ez, Sylvia Plath is sure a downer!

When I was little, I thought my grandparents lived in heaven, not because they were dead, but because they lived in Arizona (a stretch to see how I got here, I can imagine, but bear with me)….

I came to visit them with this kind of sky:

From this kind of sky:

So, when we went to visit (usually in early summer) our plane went up above the clouds, but never came back down through them… so, they must have lived in heaven, right? Please, also note that this was also around the time I was very saddened that Zeus and the pantheon of gods was not “real” and that my mother found me once, kneeling in the front yard praying to the moon-god. I was a wildly spiritual child.

Considering my family did not practice any real form of faith as I was growing up, they were Protestant in Roman Catholic countries after all – and any Protestants that lived where we were tended to be evangelical missionaries and not the most fun to be around – add in that we were considered to be “converted” and there were all those heathen Roman Catholics and indigenous cultures that needed to be saved. 

Many people tell you to lean in to your faith in trying times like this. It is amazing how much you seek something out, something that requires faith. But looking for something that is comfortable, that does not mean I must have a rebirth in any fashion, that means I don’t have to believe fossils were put on earth by satan to lure us to his evil ends,  something other than the spiritual connection to the cancer I got is because I have mommy issues, something other than I am not godly and got cancer because I am being punished… 

fuck – fuck – fuck – fuck

FUCK

How do you find faith in the midst of such fucking insanity.

Notice that is not a question, though it probably should be.

Anyway.

I learned that I had a sizable chunk of muscle removed with my last surgery. Granted, it was not the breast surgery removal of days of yore when women begged for a radical (nay, they wanted uber radical) mastectomy – the kind that took out muscle and bone (think ribs and clavicles). I’m missing 2 inches of chest wall muscle… and I’m still in disbelief… faith.

The way humans think is sometimes shocking to me. BUT, and it is a YUUUUUGE “but”, I get it. While my head understands that if treated correctly a lumpectomy has the same results as a mastectomy and you heal faster – but WTF does treating something correctly mean? My tumor was muscle adjacent, so does that mean that one of those a$$hole cancer monsters escaped and is it hiding somewhere? Somewhere that chemo and radiation can’t find?  Faith.

This is where finding faith again is crucial – but it is so freaking different this go around, faith that is.

If you are prone to that which is beyond the physical and don’t judge, I can share how I am re-learning how to lean in to faith again.  The thing is, I will most likely appear a heretic to you.

The one thing I know, is that I don’t think faith is about re-birth (that concept is what caused me to abandon faith before)… if it is for you, that is awesome – but I don’t buy it one effin’ iota.

I, beautifully enough, am finding this process of rediscovering faith kinda cool. and a bit painful.

It is especially nice since there is a disquiet in this process, of being a person diagnosed with cancer. It was present the first time and it is present again this time.  The subtleties of it that I experienced the first time is magnified, but both of my cancer experiences, so far, are incredibly similar… at least internally.

Because my first round was stage 1 and caught super early and only required surgery it was subtle. I felt like a fraud of a cancer patient because phht, it just needed surgery. People (most of them), aside from the time during the surgery put me at the bottom or low-end of a cancer continuum (that was practically equated with being cancer free).

In this round, where I am currently listed as stage 2B (and probably only because they did not take out more nodes and we will see if that changes after the next battery of test results come in), it is still sufficiently low on that continuum that I still feel like a fraud (though only less so because, after all, it looks like I am getting chemo and radiation this time) and the news about the cancer itself has just gotten progressively worse. Many of those same folks from my first experience are still like “well, you aren’t dying”.

I am adding silently  in my head; “that I know of” because I am still waiting for more tests and results of tests.

No, I am not dying (well, at least I don’t think so, but as I said… I will have a more definitive answer after I see the results of the next test). Trust me I celebrate that!  I am not healthy, I have a chronic disease that gives me (according to my radiation oncologist) an 81% 5 year survival rate (though this varies depending on the sites with such data). Yes, 81% is super awesome, but before this all went down I was with most others and had the general average population of a smidgen over 98% . A 17% drop in my life expectancy is still a crappy thing to have as a part of my life.

Trying to balance a good attitude with crippling doubts is a strange place to be.

I struggle. The struggle is real. Not because I have a Christian need for an after-life – but because I want to be more than just a life form – I want something divine to be a part of this experience, I want to lean in to something when I am so riddled and consumed with anxiety. A set of rituals that I can be a part of, a community where I feel like I belong. IN my head I often say to myself, I just want to be loved through this.

I read about Sherman Alexie today, something that I struggled with, but which spoke to the spiritual little girl in me that the unseen world is there for those that listen.  (the story is here).

I have found great comfort in so many people in my life, women and men – willing to be a part of this process with me.  I hate to lean on them, how do you answer the unanswerable to someone like me desperately seeking?

 

 

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A seasonal urge

I grew up in the land of eternal spring… some even called it eternal fall.

I never have experienced four strong seasonal changes… usually it was two… but it could even be argued that there was one season unless one counts “more rain” as another season.

Ecuador had that… rain and more rain, it was eternal spring, or something akin to the glorious autumn season of the southwestern US.

Yes, it is confusing, but the big seasonal denominator for me has been the presence or absence of rain.

Today was that kind of day here in my beloved American Southwest… overcast and lightly rainy. A huge high pressure system that seemed unexpected causing tension headaches and achy bones. The release when the rain managed to push past. The smell of creosote wafting in the air.

I always feel a different kind of contentment in the rain, no matter in what part of the world I am in. If there is rain, I get this feeling. It isn’t particularly productive, but is a certain kind of peace or contentment. Though I do tend to write more when I can hear water droplets hitting the windows or the cadence of rain on the tin roof of my back porch. I feel the magic that my favorite authors are able to convey about this world, the kind that feeds the stories of Borges, Allende, Esquivel, and Garcia Marquez. While I do not claim that there is a Latin Exclusivity to the genre, as a daughter of its lands, I can understand the origins every so deeply.

When it rains, the world feels magical.

Rain in the magical jungle city of Tena in Ecuador


“The seasonal urge is strong in poets. Milton wrote chiefly in winter. Keats looked for spring to wake him up (as it did in the miraculous months of April and May, 1819). Burns chose autumn. Longfellow liked the month of September. Shelley flourished in the hot months.” Helen Bevington 

Invincible summers and calculated acts of kindness

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


It was late on December 20th, 2014 and I was still recovering from my surgery.   I read an email from my friend Gail in which she asked if the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP) would be interested in hosting a movie screening. Gail works at The Arizona Partnership for Immunization.


It was this movie screening:





I watched the trailer.

I called her to talk on the phone.

I pretty much told her that I didn’t know but I would find a way.  We talked about how I could manage this in my capacity as the member training committee chair and we came up with a plan. The next morning I sent out some emails to my Team Leader in the Junior League and my co-chair. Both were supportive.  Gail and I discussed venues and what options we had. We decided that my cousin, who is Lead pastor at Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene, would be a good person to approach. So an email went to him. I received immediate replies and all were supportive. 

Here I am 2 months later. The JLP team lead I serve under, has allowed for this to become a bigger deal within the JLP.  More partnerships have developed and are included below.

Our goal is to provide one large movie screening with a panel that is targeting about 200 viewers. 

If you are local – please save the date:

Date:
Thursday, April 9th 2015

Location:
Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene
2340 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

Time:
 5:30 – 9:00 pm / Movie starts at approx 6:30

Tentative Agenda:
Sign in opens with a meet and greet: 5:30
Movie and topic is introduced and screened 6:30 
(movie is 80 minutes long)
Panel discussion at end of film
closing meet and greet


Community Partners:


I am back – with some Calculated Acts Of Kindness (COAK)

Yes, I decided to  come back here. I figured out how to un-subcribe people and did so…

I did that because this chronicles my life for the last 10 years.. and a lot has happened.

But those ten yea

thank you deviantart

rs all had my Squink in them. And even when I did not mention him, it happened around him.

But it also feels like a new beginning and how wonderful that it coincides with the first day of Lent.

So, I am following after Kelli at AfricanKelli with a commitment to Calculated Acts of Kindness…

I will post updates on:

Flickr Pool

Instagram

Facebook

and of course HERE (and on my other site)!!!!

What a wonderful way to start

For the children’s sake

Today I went to a luncheon that was started by a family that lost their son/brother to the ravages of addiction.

As I listened to the mother and sisters make impassioned pleas for support, I thought about how I would feel if I lost my son… not just to addiction, but to anything. Considering that I was close enough to that when he was a new born, I felt the mothers anguish. Then as I thought about how the young man was only in his mid twenties, I wondered how that must feel if it happened now or ten years from now, or even twenty years from now… painful is what I could answer.

Following that, I began to consider what my parents must have felt when I called to give them my news.

I started to feel a little sick to my stomach. Just in anguish.

I thought about my mothers gasp when I called her, and my fathers silence when I called him.  I noticed them, but only slightly… I was so wrapped up in my own extremely feeble attempts to try and manage the news.

To call them and share the news that “I have cancer” was hard. And to now be able to put myself on their imaginary end of the phone line was pretty horrifying…

What would I do if Squink called me with such news… not a question… the mere thought brings me stomach pain, a heavy heart, my breath stuck in my throat.

Our children are not supposed to die, they are not supposed to get seriously ill, to suffer.

Life is pretty ridiculous, and I say that because in spite of everything,  it all results in death, and we humans become so attached to each other, that the death part becomes un-natural to us in a way.

And I am not trying to be-little it, I am more trying to wrap my head around it.

People we love get sick (be it cancer, addiction, heart disease, depression, leprosy…) and they die… and we have to deal with the mortality of the ones we love… and the pressure of things when it is your children who are going through the process, well it must be intense and I don’t think it ever gets any easier.

When we were asked if we wanted Squink to be given last rights, that was a tough moment. We understood that he was not a healthy baby, that he could die…. THAT was intense. Schatzy and I went home and prayed, we felt helpless and when that happens you turn those feelings over, they become outside of self.

So that is all I can say, getting that kind of news must be devastating, as devastating as it is to get and be aware of the news about yourself, but somehow I just know that no matter what his age, I would take the news from him far harder than I think I might if the news were about myself… and neither would be easy.

Revisiting 7 and then 8 – and perhaps a dash on 9 – Find the Beautiful

Revisiting 7

I suppose my last post was a bit premature, though it was true. It is amazing how something gentle can shift everything, even if it is only temporary.

After my post, I went to a meeting for an organization I belong to. I expected to get lots of hugs and inquiries about my health and my status. I was looking forward to thanking people in person for their kindness, but felt shy about the possible attention.

The hugs were nice, the kind words and gestures were appreciated. I was glad to have gone and it was not as much of a burden to my shy side as I thought it might be,

But at the end, as I was walking away.  One of the friends who was there often for me asked me how I was and I replied with my usual. I am good, lots to be thankful for, one day at a time. She grabbed my arm and said lets sit and tell me what you mean by this one day at a time thing? 

I was stunned, she had latched on the the subtle nuance of such an expression and knew that my words were far cheerier than I felt. 

So we sat down, and I tried to explain that navigating the whole thing is complex. Yes, I fully see that there is so much that is good but that there is still the tough that needs to be dealt with. Being told you have cancer is more complex that I had thought, especially given the provisions that no chemo or radiation is needed, like those somehow would allow (key word here is allow)  someone to feel like shit. Please don’t think I am trying to diminish chemo or radiation and that people who have to go through that are somehow exception in some regard… because they actually are exception. What I feel like I am missing is permission to grieve this process and that my grieving is allowed to be more than just sad.  After I feebly tried to communicate these ideas to her, I just looked at the hands in my lap and said, I want to be allowed my pity party, I just don’t know how.

She touched my arm and said you are allowed a pity party and I want to be invited, lets go get some wine together soon.

It was so beautiful being allowed to feel this way instead of being held to strict gratitude. My heart filled with something, I would hope it was grace. 

I am not sure she knew what I was talking about or understood what I was trying to say, but she asked and then listened… holy moly… what a gift. She asked, she allowed me to tell her something closer to the truth about how I am feeling, In a world dependent on daily platitudes (“How are you?” – “I am OK”) it was mind altering to pass that realm and move in to more of the brutal truth.

It is part of the dynamic between celebrating that I don’t need chemo or radiation or that my tumor was so freakishly small AND the whole truth in that it was fucking cancer and it robbed me of some things that I held dear. I am grieving.




I don’t think I am headed to deterioration. I know I will be fine, but this is a part of what has happened and is happening to me. I own it. 

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”  ~ William Shakespeare

Then 8

After the sincere gesture of my dear friend, I felt more lighthearted yesterday. It was a busy day, work with extra duties, rush to help Squink finish his homework, a school meeting for an exchange program, and cub scouts.

I was too busy to notice much more than the heaviness of my surgery site.

A dash of 9

We all woke up early, and in good moods. I even served Squink some oatmeal and let him eat it in bed. On my way to the kitchen, I noticed how amazingly pretty my orchid plant was. 

It was beautiful. 


Squink was beautiful. 



My family was beautiful. And somehow everything else seemed less important.

Life is beautiful – 6 & 7

Yesterday was tough, it is a tough spot right now. 

In my attempt to find the beauty, I failed… I mean, I had that poem, but I really found it the day before… and the rest seemed average and even hard.

It all, life, feels sorta like that – hard. 

I feel completely helpless in some ways (some very new ways) because I am just in a state… angry, mad, desolate to name but a few and all of them in one big huge swirling mass of emotional baggage.

I have no patience for this kind of nonsense. I have too much to do.

And, people keep calling me back to earth and reminding me that my behaviour is inappropriate. Which adds to this feeling of mixed mass emotions swirling and boiling and festering. Shame, I suppose. I am better than being an angry person.

I have moments of average, and when I see my son or husband I can claim joy. But that seems so selfish, in a way, to allow my son and husband to be my bringers of joy… what a HUGE burden to place on them. Guilt, I suppose. 

I am trying to remember to breathe, to mediate, to pray… but the words that come to mind when I do this are hard, and angry, and as my family reminds me… inappropriate.

I have and see so much to be grateful for, but these crazy emotions are so difficult to manage. 

How does one throw themselves a gentle pity party?


So let me conclude by stating that I suppose that the beauty I was able to find is that (#6) I am alive and (#7) I have people who love me. There is comfort in that. But, there is a tinge of insincerity in my heart with these right now. impatience, I suppose. 

The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within – strength, courage, dignity.  ~ Ruby Dee  

Find the beautiful 1 – 4

1. Having my mother, brother, and nephews over for a dinner of Wiener Schnitzel.


2.  A gentle and quiet day in bed, watching Netflix and having my husband make some more surprise Wiener Schnitzel for lunch.


Some Wiener Schnitzel being pan fried (photo stolen from Schatzy’s “The Facebook” page” – Thank you Schatz



3. Seeing my mom for dinner, drinking a strong margarita with her. Laughing.



4. Getting my first test results back and having them be normal.  

NORMAL!!!!!!!!!!

Dinner with a group of girl-friends. Coming home to a fire in our fireplace.

The fireplace in our living room




“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” ~ Anne Frank 

Find the beautiful

THAT

Find the beautiful

Yes, that…

is my theme for this year.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  


Finding the beautiful… it is very present in the external. 

But as I navigated just how ugly it was to go through this cancer thing, how easy it was for people to forget that it is my battle, and I had to find myself repeatedly trying to forgive… I lost my place. And I was so hurt by people that I am close to (who are ashamed of my diagnosis, who couldn’t/can’t talk to me about what was/is happening, who took things from me with out asking, who made things harder for me….) that I forgot to stop and find the beautiful.

So, fuck the folks who take away from this… they can live with their choices.

And I am so lucky, because I have people in my life who can help me do that. So, I have to let them in and help me see what I need to see.

I,  am so excited. Because, you see, this year, 2015, I get to find the beautiful.

Yes, that…

is really my theme for this year. 

holding the darkness at bay

So, after feeling a down due to yesterdays ramblings and self flagellation I find I need to pick myself back up.

The other day someone came to me and asked how I was. I told her that is is a day by day process. That I feel good, that I am grateful for so much.

She went on to ask if I had experienced any dark moments, any depression, and tears. She added that her sister is a doctor and had told her to expect me to get to that point at sometime.

I cried when I got the first message. there is something about being told to call an oncologist that puts a certain indescribable pressure on your heart. To hear it while alone in an office, is hard because it means that you have to call people and share the news – and I will be very, very honest, that I was tempted to not tell anyone. Though I imagined that my husband and mom would have been extremely upset with me had I gone this route – in spite of that though, I can’t tell you how tempted I was.

I even called the oncologist first. I called my physician back and asked for a copy of the pathology report we talked about the long wait until my oncology appointment and then what the report meant in terms of what was happening inside my body. I went and sat by the fax and waited for the report to arrive (he was sending it right after we hung up). I got it and sat in my office, reading (memorizing) and mulling the news, tears in my eyes. I dried them, and decided I had to call my husband and so… I called my husband and told him the news. He was devastated (he had been a young boy when his mother had gone through two cancer diagnoses, I think that what was happening to me brought all those memories back) and I had to be strong and reassuring. After I hung up, I sat in the office some more, tears in my eyes again. Bracing myself for the call to my mom. She was walking into a meeting when she answered. I heard that stop in her voice. It was the same stop when I felt when I had to schedule an appointment with a hematologist oncologist for Squink after he was born.  Granted that was just for some jaundice we did not seem to be able to get rid of, and I knew that it was the hematology part we were seeing rather than the oncology part, but still – it isn’t something you want to deal with as a mom, your babies should never see an oncologist, that should be the rule.

So that was a quick conversation and I sat in my office again, a sense of “why me?” prevailed. My boss who had gone through that cancer route walked by and noticed I was upset, came in and I shared the news with her. After that, the next 24 hours are kind of a blur. I know I called my dad, and he was probably the hardest one to tell… but only because I had no idea how he would react, and he has a tendency to avoid bad things and go on and pretend as if they did not happen so the idea that he would ignore me in this was something I considered highly probable. I only remember that at some point by the end of that night, I was sick of talking to people. Wait, I love talking to people what it was is that I was sick of re-telling the story, the news. I just did not want to have to say that damned word again.

That has been the darkest point so far.

The days following are still a blur. I talked to my siblings, texted with Prima. Made arrangements for all the responsibilities in my life that would be put on hold. Sent out a group email to women who I adore. Friends put me on prayer lists, and I got through the interminable wait until that appointment. Once I saw the oncologist, it felt so much better, because there was a plan. I knew what was happening and it felt good.

I would even say that I was a bit jubilant the day before my surgery, because that mass of mutating cells was getting removed.

I was in the hospital almost a week, determined that this whole thing would not bring me down. I have managed to stay positive through the rest, even that horrid backslide where, through projectile vomiting and other effluvia, fever spikes and chills all intertwined with a general sense of feeling horrid, I lost over 10 pounds, got dark circles around my eyes and began to lose hair. I was still in a good place.

I have these moments that seem to want to step in to those dark shadows; when I noticed that there is an area near my incision is numb (normal, but a strange feeling), talking to someone else who has gone through this process evokes some teariness, after time spent wondering if I am avoiding dealing with something, being told I hurt peoples feelings all brought forth some form of gloom to my mindset.

Thankfully, they are able to be beaten back.  And I think that is my job right now.