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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More News.

21/12/2010 was a long day!
We went into town yesterday to prepare for my appointment. The appointment was at 8:00 a.m. The first one of the day. I Spent last night with Chanda,Jason and the Grand kids,watching trucker shows, telling bad jokes and playing Nintendo. I even managed to eat a bit of junk food.

Neither of us slept very well but I can assure you that we were resting in Psalm 29:11:
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
Up at seven,down to the Health science by 7:50 am,and sitting with three doctors and a nurse practitioner by 8:20. Every thing running as smooth as silk.

Once again,I sat in the Green Chair ( The chair of honour), and again I was given the freezing spray, that tastes like something from another planet, and poked and prodded .

The bottom line?

* Your tumour was a BIG none
* It healed funny and left a lot of tissue behind.
* It's all so nice and soft.
* We think the Cancer is gone...NO GUARANTEE THOUGH!
* We certainly don't want to complicate your life by an invasive biopsy or surgery.
* We will keep a close eye on this for a while.
*Go and have a great Christmas!
* See you in two weeks.

The battle with Cancer never ends. I know the stress of visiting doctors with loved ones,and how anxiety rises when the appointment draws near . I know that every change,every ache and pain will be suspect. I know that Cancer may present itself again,and at any time....but that is true for all of us.

I am very thankful.
I am Humbled by all the love and Care I received,
I have been Changed once again by a cold earthly reality that invaded my life.
I have been changed in ways I don't even know yet!

I know that our new "Normal" is going to be very different.
It's a bit scary,but I think ....far more exciting. I am going to continue to heal - I will see the doctors regularly and I will live the gift of life to the fullest.
I will serve my Church and My Risen Lord.

Thank you for all the love.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This blog entry dedicated to my Friend Jim Burry, who went to join the Lord yesterday as I was travelling to St. John's.
Peace my Brother.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meditating, Reflecting and Waiting Entry 41

It's interesting just how many people look at me and say "You look Great".

At first it seemed to me that was a good a way to start a conversation with a Cancer patient as any, but after a time I began to wonder if that wasn't just a way people could mention my illness and then comfortably move on to another topic.

In discussion with other cancer patients,I see that is very true.

I understand and accept that. And I don't mind ...I love people.
In my ministry I try to readily accept people where they are,engage them where they need me,and walk alongside on their pathway. [even into the Valley of Shadows].
That is the hallmark of a good pastor or counsellor.
I try.
God knows I'm not perfect......I know it too!
Not perfect - but I try!

The last two weeks have been "strange".
I didn't think I would be too stressed about waiting a little longer to find out where I am in this battle...yeah. Right.

We came home two weeks ago and started planning our open house.
I was able to have a movie night with some of our families,and even get to Church on Sunday.

All of these things went well,and
I have been able to push the "What if,What if,
What if... mentality to the edges of my daily thinking. Karen has been doing the same.

Until this morning.
I woke up with a slight temperature, headache,fatigue,and unsettled stomach. You name it I am feeling it. What is this ? 99/44/100% stress? Maybe. Oh yes... it hurts when I pee. Again. I am going to set a new record for repetitive bladder infections !

I came up from downstairs and plopped my self on the couch. Karen opened the windows to help me cool off,then headed out to pick up another prescription.
Completely miserable,I waited to see how I would make out.

But this morning stank big time.
Today is the day I head back to see the doctor and continue the process of finding out what to expect.
The stink and sadness of this morning began to fade when I began to count my blessings.
Some amazing Grace in the Valley.....

Karen's concern and gentleness when she realised I was having a bad morning.
Bishop David and Brian dropped in,not knowing that I was having a rough start today.
I so value their friendship. They left...I became emotional.
Ralph called...I cried a little again.
Joanie dropped by for a coffee. Thank You Lord. Not only the best nurse and caregiver I have ever had,but a dear friend,confidant and security blanket.

I am thankful for those who draw near,smile-or cry honestly with me.
It is a beautiful thing when people realize all they need do is give me that gentle hug,a caring message and be present with simple, encouraging, words.

Honestly, there are a few things bothering me these days, and because I promised to be honest and open about this journey I`ll open the book for you again.

Here goes: If the long term goes bad....I am concerned about a (possible)

1. Loss of ministry

2. Loss of my voice . After Sunday when I preached,everyone was very encouraging and positive. But I was struggling to speak and stand.By the time I got back to the rectory I was very sad,because the full impact of the struggle just ahead struck me with full force.
I love the Church and my Ministry in it. It is my pearl of great Price.

3. Looming possibility of surgery

4. Wondering how to make ends meet if my ministry is cut short.

5. Wondering how Long I am going to live.

There you go. These are the practical and daily questions that haunt people when they are not well. They have been mine.

I am trusting that God's spirit will uphold me and my family in all of this. It's all we have!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

After the MRI Entry 40

Monday December 6 and

Tuesday December 7 have Come and Gone.

These were two important dates for us.

Monday was MRI day at the Janeway,and Tuesday we would meet with Dr. Saytha to review the results.

I am getting well used to MRI's now.

I have had two scans at the Janeway,and one at the Health Science Center,and in all cases the staff have been really friendly and helpful.
Monday was a good day - a pleasant drive from Gander with my darling Karen. I was even admitted early. The rest of the day was for our Grandkids!

I can't say we were worried about the results,but both of us were a bit restless through the night.

On Tuesday we went to the Cancer Clinic to meet with our doctor and ENT specialist.

On arrival we followed our normal routine: Find a parking spot,put lots of money in the meter,head inside,register,then wait for two hours to see the doctor.
We joked about the waiting time with some other folks sitting by us.

Behind the reception desk we caught a glimpse of our doctor. It looked like he was reviewing something. When Dr. Smith joined him, I said to Karen: "Looks like everyone is on deck today."

Dr. Saytha glanced our way,then headed off down the hallway.

I was surprised when we were called reatively early. The nurse that greeted us was really friendly,asking simple questions and putting her arm around my shoulder.

In the exam room Dr. Saytha greeted us. He is a warm and caring fellow,who has proven to be very careful and thorough with his diagnosis and treatment. He seemed to be ill at ease,first asking how I have been feeeling,then telling me that he needed to take a good look,because my MRI had shown something serious. He said that he was going to ask Dr. Burrage to come in and have a look.


We certainly weren't expecting this!

Karen and I exchanged glances,as both our hearts began to sink.

Things happened very quickly.

In came Dr. Burrage

In came another ENT Surgeon (a new one to me)

In came two med Students

The nurse was there too,and our doctor. Within a few moments Dr. Smith joined us as well.

(I could write a song about this gathering)

Without a lot of discussion each of the doctors probed my mouth and throat with fingers and huge Popsicle sticks,all the time talking to each other and using all the Greek and Latin words that doctors love to share when they get together.

Things are really just starting to sink in when Karen calls "Hold on!" "Tell us what is really going on..."

So they do.

Apparently, they were gathering to tell me that the news wasn't good and that I needed immediate surgery because the treatments did not do the job.


They all agreed that what they were feeling inside my throat was soft,pliable tissue. Not at all like a tumour. Tumours tend to be hard,and rubbery.
That meant they were not sure what was going on.

They said so. It may be soft tissue - maybe dead tissue left over from the war we had just waged.

MIGHT or MIGHT NOT be a tumour.

It seemed logical to all hands to wait a little longer to see if the mass will change.

The final decision : I will return to St. John's in two weeks,and if the surgeon is not happy with what he sees,he will do a biopsy so we can discover if cancer still abides in me.

Merry Christmas!

Are we okay?

Well,.....at first surprised,worried upset. As time passed we put things in perspective.

What happened is really good news. The doctors are still looking for what is going on...not telling me that surgery is my next option.

I live in hope,and pray that you do too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Advent 2010... Still Waiting #39

It's November 30th 2010.....
Karen is busy with our Advent and Christmas preparations,making sure that all is done for the children and grand children - and also planning our Open House.
I am doing my best to get reconnected with the parish,and doing the best I can to help out.

To be honest, it's not easy. I am still struggling to eat,still living with pain when I do,and every now and then I go somewhere to be alone and ask God to help me get better...quicker..... before people lose patience with me. (being honest about human nature,we all know that's a fact of life!) These are difficult moments.
As well,lately some friends of mine have been diagnosed with cancer. Their prognosis as I understand it at the present, means they have a huge battle looming.I ask God to strengthen and prepare them for the days ahead.
You know, we often hear people say something like "When I see how bad others have it,I don't think about myself as much."
My response to that is "it's a poor comfort taken by other people's misery."
It is a good thing to acknowledge your own pain,and to honestly care for those who suffer.

So here I am....not wanting to repeat my self..... but the story remains the same!
I am still recovering...still waiting. It's exhausting, debilitating, depressing. After a while you forget what it feels like to not feel sick.... After a while you get sick and tired,of being sick and tired!

The Blessings that come from a CurseI am , and will always be thankful for the love and support I have received.
I am thankful for the gifts of new perspectives,new understandings, and new friendships that have emerged as a tremendous blessing because of my cancer.

Many friends have reaffirmed their love for me in wonderful ways,and others have stayed away. All around me my friends and loved ones are all going on with their lives: new jobs, new relationships, new plans. I think it is wonderful!...But in the dark hours of the night, God help me,sometimes it can all feel so lonely.

I am trying to re-engage the challenge of recovery. My care-givers were right when they told me that I would take a long time to get better. Accepting that has been difficult. My feelings of thankfulness of the patience and support of my parish ,Reverend Brian, and my immediate family are often mingled with guilt,because of the time it is taking to get better. However,when I remember how my body was placed in an electronic and chemical abyss and forced to the point where it couldn't take anymore,it helps put things in perspective once again.

During my reading and study this month I re- read the story of the "Stockdale Paradox".
It comes from the story of Admiral James Stockdale, (1923 - 2005) who became a winner of the American Medal of Honour. James Stockdale survived for 7 years in a Viet Cong prisoner of war camp. It was beyond rough. Because of Stockdale's rank,his captors wanted to make an example of him. He was in solitary confinement for four years, had to wear leg irons for two years straight. He was systematically tortured 15 times, starved, and denied health and dental care.
By hanging on to two contradictory beliefs he made it through. Here they are:
1. His life couldn't’t be worse at the moment,
2. and.. His life would someday be better than ever

I believe that receiving the fullness of God's blessings means we must be able to confront the hard and cold facts of our current situations, and at the same time maintain absolute faith that in partnership with our Lord,whatever the outcome...we will prevail in the end.

I often pray for Grace and strength to embrace both faith and facts "at the same time, all the time". I pray this not only for myself, and for all whom the Lord allows me to meet and share. That means you who are reading this.

Ephesians 1:17-19
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you....

Cancer has helped me focus on something else about life.

Life,as sweet as it is, is hard and daunting work. It takes courage order to live life fully and we need it. We need the courage of people who push themselves to become doctors and nurses for the care and benefit of others. We need the courage of Clergy and committed pastoral workers who walk in love and truth for the sake of others, and ,we bless the courage of those keeping lonely vigils at the bedsides of loved ones.

May God grant the full power of Grace and faith to those who suffer,so that the courage of the ill fighting with everything they have,will not just cheat death,but allow them to live life to the fullest.

Cancer comes upon us as a thief in the night...but remember
John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Latest News - The appointments have been made!
I am still waiting for the results of my treatments.
On December 6 I will be having an MRI , and on December 7,an appointment with my Radiation Oncologist. Talk to you then!
Peace and Love Always

Monday, November 8, 2010

Those Who Wait Upon The Lord Shall Renew Their Strength #38

I started this blog a few nights ago in the Wee hours of the morning. (3:15 a.m. or thereabouts.)
I have been feeling restlessness since my treatments finished. A little over a month has passed since finishing my treatments, and this restive feeling seems to be evolving. The whole journey of cancer including treatments side effects, and the people I have met has touched me, not just body and mind, but in my soul and heart as well. For that reason, I can say that my restlessness is not all negative, but made up of varieties of fear/hope, - peace/agitation,- tranquility/impatience...get the picture?
I really wonder what it is that God is preparing me for in the future!

My blog has been silent
since 28 October, and some are asking when they can expect the next one. Many are also asking about the prognosis....
Let’s get caught up.

First of all, let me share some of what has been in my heart.
Over the years of ministry I have spent a lot of time with people who have received the diagnosis of cancer. When the diagnosis comes, ministers may become involved with the ill person, and their families and friends. I have had much experience with cancer and can say that no two cases or stories are the same.
Similarities? ......Yes absolutely – but every story is unique and belongs “to the one”.

Believe me I have learned so much more these past months about the physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and logistical effects that cancer has on life. I pray that my experience will make me a better pastor in the future.

Is all cancer as bad as yours?
Recently I have had discussions with people who have heard my story, or who have had cancer themselves. Often this question (or something similar) has arisen. Is all cancer and the treatments as bad as what you are going through?
I can answer: “Thank God, no! Not everyone goes through what I have experienced.” That’s true. Yet, some have it much worse. Some of the people I have met and befriended since I began my treatments in June have died. Thank God, some are doing quite well.
Off the top of my head, I recall some of the stories I have shared with people in the waiting rooms.
(You feel safe there to ask the question: “What type of cancer do you have?” )
I Have Cancer by the ankle. I Have brain cancer. I have ovarian cancer, it has spread. I have prostate cancer. I have cancer in the leg. I have lung Cancer. I have a secondary Cancer that has come back after twelve years. I have leukemia. My treatments are not working......

Some people are very calm. Some are angry. Some are incredibly sad. Some are in denial. Some don’t have any idea how bad things are, but their children or spouse does.
As I have said: “Every story is unique and belongs “to the one”.

The Holy Spirit speaks that way about every person’s journey of life: Again; “Every story is unique and belongs “to the one”. We are invited to share our lives in partnership with God.
Through the eyes of faith we can hear Jesus: “Take my hand, and you will be upheld in all things.”

How I am doing?
Thanks for asking!
I am living very much with the effects of my loss of appetite and reduced diet.
When you under eat your body will use up any excess fat. If the nourishment is not available after that, your body will begin to protect the vital organs by drawing on muscle tissue. In essence, body repair is compromised and muscle begins to disappear. That is what happened to me. As a result, I am still under 140 pounds, and find my legs and arms to be very weak. Dizziness is my constant companion, as is tiredness. I am also prone to being a bit emotional at times. Now that’s not strange for me. I once said to someone: “If I go to the post office with you, and you don’t get any mail, I’ll cry for you!”

I receive my emotions as a gift from God. I don’t consider empathy or sympathy to be signs of weakness. God has through his healing, shown me (and all of us) how to truly love one another. That’s not always easy to do, and it can be rather painful sometimes when people act the way humans are prone to do...

My physical recovery from the treatments is slower than I expected, and I now understand what the oncologists were saying. They have taught me about the need to be patient in relation to the results and persistent with trying to swallow and taking in enough liquid and nutrients.

BUT...every day I am getting a little better, a little stronger...a little closer to the goal. Every day I count my blessings.


In 1987 Johnson Oatman wrote a song called “Count Your Blessings” for a group of young people. You have heard it, I am sure.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

There are many blessings in my life – Let me name just a few:
+ The wonderful people I have met since I have developed cancer that I would never know otherwise.
+ New friendships that will last forever.
+ The Father’s teaching in my life, and a spiritual growth that is different than anything I have ever known.
+ Living through, and experiencing the unconditional love, of faith and commitment of my marriage
+ The faithfulness, friendship and love of the Church which lifted me up and carried me when all my strength was gone.
+ The affirmation of the years of friendship. We have been blessed by so many who have gotten in touch and reached out to help in some way.

What will the future hold in relation to your cancer?
My friends, I will soon be able to share my prognosis with you.
For now, we patiently wait for a M.R.I and an appointment with my doctor.
We expect this to happen before Christmas.
In the meantime, let me leave you with the thought I shared with my family just after we found out I had cancer.
“Listen girls, If the treatments work, I’ll be alright....If they don’t, because of Jesus, I am still going to be alright.”
Into your hands O Lord, I commend my Spirit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First follow up appointment #Entry 37

We are back from St.John's and my first follow up appointment with the radiation oncologist.
(8 hrs round trip,two hour wait,7 minutes with the Doctor!)

When I was ushered into the exam room it was similar to the first time I visited the Health Science Cancer Clinic in that a host of people,(although a smaller group), joined the doctor to have a look. Another similarity was in the reality,that once again we were waiting for some news about my future.
Accompanying Dr. Saythya was Dr. Smith,who provided an ENT consult,a student,and a nurse practitioner who works with the radiation department. I really wasn't expecting to hear a lot,because up to this point I haven't had any extra tests done. Nevertheless,It was good to see the doctor and hear what he had to say.

Both Dr. Saytha and Dr. Smith had a look down my throat,and agreed,that while things look promising,it is far too early to make any pronouncement about how successful things have been.
I am okay with that. I felt much better after seeing the Doctors,and left with hope.
It's amazing how stressful it is before an appointment,and waiting to hear some results. I remember,years ago when Dad was seeing the cancer clinic in St. John's how we used to feel after every CT scan. We were so anxious to know what to expect.

Well, the shoe is on the other foot now,and some one waits with me to hear the news.
Another appointment has been made,and I am waiting for an appointment for a CT scan or MRI within the next six weeks.

I have to express again and again how thankful I am for the support which has held us up,and still does. From a solid reassurance of prayer and love,to financial support,and countless emails and letters of encouragement,God has been present through you all to bless and heal. I will never be able to thank everyone individually,but we will try!

How am I doing?
I am doing better. The Doctor has told me to start eating,regardless of the pain in my mouth and throat. This is important to prevent the scar tissue caused by the radiation from tightening and constricting the passage. So, I am trying a little harder every day.
I am still underweight,get tired easily and some days I get emotional with thanksgiving or even just a feeling of being overwhelmed. BUT..I always feel the love projected towards me.
My appetite comes and goes,and eating is a real,painful challenge. Along with the pain,food has absolutely no taste at all.
When I try to walk,I get dizzy and weak. I am also getting a bit frustrated because there is so much I want to do,and can't quite get to it yet. I ask God to grant me the patience,and for folks to bear with me a little longer! I take that as a good sign!
I can live with a bit of pain,and I am determined to "get back" to the gift that is my life,as soon as I can.

I am also thankful to those who take the time to read this blog. It has been helpful to me,especially in light of all the cards,notes and emails I have received because of it. It has become (as I have prayed) A tool and means by which God could bless and encourage His people. After I have completed it,I will make arrangements for copies to be available. Thank you everyone,for your hands,hearts and minds with us. We have and still do need you!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some Shared Thoughts Entry #36

Some Shared Thoughts
We have been home from St. John’s for two weeks now. It seems like forever. Ending up in hospital in Gander certainly put a whole new slant on things:
While it was difficult and frustrating to realize that I could (and WAS) getting sicker, I am now at home with a focus on getting better that I could not have reached without help.

The last couple of days I have been reflecting upon this whole journey.
Oh how I wish there could be something else in the day besides thinking about the chemotherapy that has made me so sick and the radiation which still burns my flesh. Ever since my diagnosis I had to go to war with cancer. Every single day it’s in my face. Well, right back at you Cancer. I haven’t forgotten that every drop of poison and every moment of radiation means there is part of my life that you cannot have.

Right from the beginning of this tumultuous journey, it was my goal to never allow the “polite silences of cancer” to become part of my life. One Sunday morning just before service Revd. Brian and I were in the vestry preparing for worship. He was asking me about my nagging sore throat. “Brian,” I responded:” I’m not fooling myself. This could be serious. I think Cancer has come to St. Martins .Lets ask God to help us figure this out.”
Revd. Brian was about to be asked to carry my torch for a while. He has done so faithfully and lovingly.
Because of my love for the Church, I determined from the beginning to share this journey with God’s people. I honestly believed (and still do) that God would use this as a healing and teaching time for his beloved people. I wanted my cancer to have some meaning, a heart, and if possible – a smile and a hope
Thanks be to God because:
- The response from St. Martins and the outside community has shown this to be true. The power of love, prayer and generosity has been amazing. What have we unlocked in our Church? The Love of God!
- The blessings bestowed upon me from the doctors, nurses and other cancer caregivers is something I could never know without this dreaded companion.
- The faithfulness and presence of my wife through every moment is something I will forever be thankful for.
Indeed: More than I could ask or imagine

But I am human too. Believe me.
How many times in the quiet of treatment, or in fear of what the MRI or CT scans....have I prayed Please.... Please...God – here I am. I need you.

It is vital for people who suffer to remember how important it is to keep a positive attitude through your illness and treatment.
It is equally important to accept the fact that cancer (and other things) can be hard, depressing and scary ,and that it is okay to have bad days. It’s okay to have different emotions – and you are NOT letting God or anyone else down, by admitting it.

I have an appointment with Dr. Sathya next week. He is the Radiation Oncologist who directed the radiation portion of my treatments. I’ll be very interested in what he will have to say to us. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.
Love ,and Peace, Always.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back in Hospital Entry #35

Well. Well.
Wednesday night was just getting started,and I was running a temp,the night wasn't full of promise,but I but still felt that maybe by tomorrow I would be doing okay. Our friend Joni drops in with the news that my latest blood test was showing lower numbers still – all around.
You must come to the Cancer Center tomorrow for blood.
I know she is right. I had been harbouring what I can only describe as a low, sickly feeling. And I really knew that it was taking far too long to recover this time; my heart is slowing starting to hurt because it senses I am on a slippery slide heading back to the hospital. I was right.
When we got to the clinic and were settled in the bed, with blood cultures done, I was given two units of blood. After a time Dr. St. Croix comes to share the news that the blood cultures show no strange activity but there is confirmation of a bladder infection. The only cure was intravenous antibiotics , and in her gentle but firm way, I will have to be admitted to get all of this under control. I know she is right. She has been always, gently firmly and blessedly accurate in all her dealings with me and I trust her absolutely.
With a stiff upper lip, we head upstairs to see our old friends on the medical unit.
As always these nurses are God blessings upon a weary body and soul.

But That's not all this week had in store for me.
Through the past week me ole bum was getting tender. On the left cheek, a tenderness grew into a visible spot which became larger and larger. The hospital staff dealt with it right away with a big bandage, and by telling me to stay off it; I am thankful that I have just regained the ability to sleep on my sides again. On Thursday thought i just might be feeling the twinges of something on my right bum cheek. I passed it off as quickly as possible, because the very idea of an abscess forming in the midst of all this was unthinkable. On Friday its prescence was known to me and i intended to speak to Dr. St Croix about it, but she left before I was able. By Saturday evening it was noticeable.(a very scary feeling for me –one of these alone is more than enough to put you in hospital) But, thanks be to god it broke while I was sitting up. Made quite a mess, but after all was cleaned up we thanked the good Lord that surgery would not be required.

So here I am on Monday the 18, with Karen, back in hospital, waiting to get home. We hope to be there soon. Maybe tomorrow?
Places and times like this can be a real oasis on a long and troubled journey. Karen and I were talking and I said "We probably won’t see any visitors tonight will we?"
"John this is just what you needed. This is the first night you have been conscious since we have been here." She was right- almost every hour I have spent in this period of isolation, I have been sound asleep.
So I wait upon the Lord, expecting a re-charge that is both physical and spiritual.
On Tuesday we went home.
I am feeling better ,Thank the Lord for His Mercies -,and all my friends for your prayers

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First days back home (entry 34)

Today is Tuesday October 12.
I am just beginning to feel that I am going to come out of this blackness.
My daily routine has been very similar -sleep when you can,eat when you can , read and pray. Just as I was told, the effects of the treatments have became more and more pronounced as the days passed.

I hope I have reached a turning point ....We shall see.

It is hard to explain just how difficult it is to accept and journey through the treatments. There is just so much to consider. When someone has cancer in the throat there are unique problems. Radiation and Chemotherapy quickly drains your body of energy, steals your appetite, and causes damage to healthy tissue as well as diseased tissue. The tissues in the throat are very sensitive,and before long (depending on the strength of the treatments) you are in a fair amount of pain. You can't eat anywhere near the amount of calories you need, So on it goes. Your body needs nutrition now like never before, but at the same time,your body makes it difficult. One evening,I was very pleased with myself because I was able to get everything I needed through my feeding tube. A couple of hours later,I lost everything down the toilet. That was very hard to deal with emotionally.

Through the stages of life we all need healing. In my experience as a priest,I have met many wounded people who need to be healed not only from different kinds of disease, but of memories,guilt,remorse, fear,unforgiveness.....This list can grow quite long!

The very thing that makes us unique and beautiful ,makes us complicated as well.

That is because God has made us to be a "threefold being". We are made up of Body,Mind and Spirit. There are lots of Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible that we can draw on to learn more about this,but there is really no need to make it complicated.

Each part of who we are needs care and nurture to remain strong and healthy,because without all three we are not complete persons.

Often I am given the privilege to "come alongside" and walk with a person as Priest and friend. Usually this happens when someone who is physically ill, overcome by daily life,or spiritually unsure calls for help. I try to make sure people understand just how "God has made us",so that healing (which constantly flows around us) is possible.

Throughout this entire battle,I have done my best to focus on God's love and healing.

I have tried not to get angry at God.

I have tried to keep a positive attitude.

I have tried as a Priest to meet what I know is my responsibility

to proclaim and witness to the faithfulness and Love of God.

I find that in times of weakness and despair,all I have to do is "let it go" because I know that the Church,Cancer Clinic , my family,friends,and a host of witnesses were there to carry me through.

Through every moment Karen has been there with me,in Body,Mind and Spirit.

In just a few weeks I will be able to share the results of my treatments with you.
Peace and Health be yours!

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Home (Entry 33)

Last Radiation Treatment
On Friday October 1 we went to the Cancer Center for my last radiation treatment. Rather than leave right away for Gander,we decided to spend two more nights,so Karen could have Saturday with Joshua and Emma,and I could prepare for the trip home.

Believe me,that wasn't as easy as it sounds. The process of the Chemotherapy and Radiation is marching on,and I don't expect any respite within the next two or three weeks.
My present weight is 135 lbs

Friday Afternoon found me tired,hurting,and nauseous. I went to bed,and pretty much had to stay there until the evenings when our dear friend from Gander came and hooked me up to an I.V. to get some fluids and medications into my body.
On Sunday morning,fortified with Gravol and a few other anti nausea drugs, I gingerly made my way to the car,covered up in my blanket,and prayed that the dizziness would settle down.

By the time we got to the divided highway, I was feeling much better. I took Karen's hand for a squeeze and said "We are going home." Simple words yes,but they filled us both with emotion and hope. I fell asleep not waking until just outside Clarenville. By the time we reached Terra Nova Park,I was sleeping again.

So,we are home. Back in Gander,and I don't have to head out over the road again this week! Thanks be to God.
Remember what St. Paul Said to Timothy? :
I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.

I know the course is not yet completely run, but finishing those treatments is a major step in my healing. I know I have been blessed,wrapped in the arms of Love,extended by Jesus and the Father,through His Church - Through all of you.

Another Amazing Blessing.
I have written about my Grand Children, Joshua 7,Emma 4 (almost 5) and ,Delilah, 21 months
Delilah lives away,and is still far too young to understand what is happening to her Grandfather.
We spent several weeks in and out of Torbay while I was undergoing treatments,and stayed with our Daughter Chanda,and son in Law Jason. It was a real blessing for us to be with them during this time. My schedule of appointments was determined day by day,so we never really knew in advance when I would have to go to the hospital. We did go every day,sometimes as many as three times.
Joshua and Emma have been nearby ever since they were babies. Even when the family moved to Torbay,they have been with us regularly,whenever they can. They both adore Karen,who gives them as much time,love and attention as she can pack into each visit. Their energy levels are quite high!
Joshua and Emma are at the stage where they are old enough to ask serious questions,and young enough to accept simple,honest answers. "Is Pop going to die?" was one of them.
Young children are emotionally honest. They express their true feelings freely and spontaneously. For that reason,we explained as best we could what was happening with Pop. They watched me use my feeding tube,take my medications,receive an I.V.
Sometimes they would very quietly sneak down to my room,for a little cuddle,or to give me a blanket and say "I Love you Pop." When they were around me,I believe the Lord bestowed upon them a spirit of gentleness and healing that they passed on to me.
It was amazing how gentle and loving they were. Just like Jesus.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last Chemotheraphy (entry32)

Tuesday September 28 has come and gone.
It was the day of my last chemotherapy treatment.
We were at the hospital for radiation on Monday,and on the way out Karen noticed that I hadn't received my appointment card for my blood work. We ran down to the chemotherapy unit to see what to do,and one of the nurses took my blood right away,and had it sent to the lab. It saved us a lot of time on the next day,because normally I would have blood work done on the morning of treatment,and have to wait until my blood counts were safe.

Everything was a go on Tuesday, my blood counts were fine - and I received my treatment with thanksgiving.

Now I am in that period where I wait to see how sick the treatment might make me. I am well fortified with anti Nausea medications,and the doctors at the cancer clinic have me in for an hour a day for an I.V. to give me some more medicine,and to keep me hydrated.

I had a great day on Wednesday ,and even though last night was a terrible one (no sleep,upset stomach, the radiation burns really hurting...regular stuff now),I am very optimistic that I'll get through this in one piece!

Tomorrow I will have my last radiation treatment. I have got to know the staff there and in the Cancer Clinic as well as anyone is able under my circumstances. It's tough not being able to converse,but there are so many ways of communicating! They have been wonderful.

I have developed a habit of prayer and meditation that I use during the radiation sessions always envisioning the sounds of the machine as beautiful purple healing rays,that are a gift from God.
A good friend of mine tells me that he would sing during the sessions: What a Friend We have in Jesus. It helped him time the session,and keep his heart focused on the loving presence and promises of God in his life. I love it!
The actual sessions are not very long,and I have actually found them to be relaxing and comforting. The side effects are many,but after tomorrow the healing begins!

Come Lord Jesus,in the fullness of your Grace. I receive your love.

Me,mask on,secured to the table preparing for radiation

The Radiation Machine

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weary and Worn Entry 31

Do you think you might see a rabbit in the Valley of Shadows?
I do.
Think for a moment about their place in nature. Rabbits are cute,gentle,curious and vulnerable. They love the peace of evening for grazing, which makes them the potential meal of every other animal that eats meat. (including humans)
These cuddly,soft creatures know what it is to be living in danger every day that they live.
Many of us feel affectionate toward rabbits (usually calling them bunnies if we don't intend to eat them), and desire to have companionship with them. Certainly we have proven our affection by re-creating them as stuffed toys for every generation?

I have known the story entitled The Velveteen Rabbit since my childhood days. Written by Margery Williams, it was first published in 1922.
The story took on a whole new meaning for me one year while I was attending a palliative care workshop at The Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. More of that in a bit.

What do you remember about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit?

A fairly well to do boy receives a Velveteen Rabbit for Christmas. The rabbit is snubbed by other more expensive toys. They are so special that they think themselves "real". In the nursery our rabbit finds a mentor - a well worn Skin Horse who teaches him that a toy becomes real if its owner really and truly loves it.

Let's hear the skin horse speak:

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

One day the boy misplaces his favorite toy, and the Velveteen Rabbit is given to him as a quick replacement.
Before long the Velveteen Rabbit takes his place as the boy's constant and closest companion.
After many days and hours of attention and play ,the Rabbit begins to become shabby and worn. But the boy loves him even more.

He loved him so hard that whiskers fall off,the pink lining in his ears turns grey, and his brown spots fade. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful. The Rabbit loved him in return. He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because he felt Real, and when you are Real, shabbiness doesn't matter.

The boy falls ill with scarlet fever. Upon his recovery, he is sent to the seaside on doctor's orders. The boy wishes to take the Rabbit with him, but his doctor forbids him to take the germ-laden toy and says it must be burned along
with all the nursery toys in order to disinfect the nursery. While awaiting the bonfire, in which the Velveteen Rabbit will be burned, the Rabbit cries a real tear. This tear calls the Nursery Magic Fairy. She tells the Rabbit that he
was only real to the boy and brings him to the forest, where he realizes that he is a real rabbit at last and runs to join the other rabbits in the wild.

Perhaps when you have read this blog you might like to find the story and read it again for yourself.

In the meantime let's return to The Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal

I was in Montreal in the early 1980's at an international fellowship of Prayer Conference. One day of the conference was set aside for participants to choose and attend a workshop on something they found interesting.
The idea of treating the whole person,and not just the disease (especially in terminally ill patients, was just finding roots in North America,and The Royal Victoria had become a leader in this area. They opened up a Palliative care unit that was a fantastic place.
I was really interested in this because I wanted to be an excellent pastor and caregiver to people,so off I went. I was blessed to have a large chunk of time sitting and listening to stories of life and hardship, grace beauty and Hope... Stories also about how terminal illness certainly changes your world,and the lives of so many others.
One of the stories was about a woman who spent her last days here,and could often be seen visiting through the unit,smiling,and no longer caring about her hair loss,radical weight loss,and all the other affects that Cancer had on her life. She had faced life,and discovered that she wasn't alone.She was loved and real.
Every where she went,she carried in her arms,and old Velveteen Rabbit.

That's where I am now. Weary and worn. Chemotherapy has rubbed off my hair and whiskers,Radiation has really caused an upheaval in my throat,and my white blood cells are still low...Life hasn't always be easy...

But that's Okay. I am Real.
I am loved by Jesus and my Heavenly Father.
I am loved by my family
I am loved by my friends
I am loved by the Church

As I write this I am back in Torbay. I will begin my last week of treatments tomorrow,before returning once again to be at home in Gander,where I belong.
It is so good to belong!

Grace Be with you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Week Five of Treatment Entry 30

Seventeen Days have passed since I last wrote in this blog.
In these days I passed through the worst effects of the Chemotherapy.
The effects this time were different,because I am now really feeling the build up of all the treatments I have taken to this point.
A summary would look something like this:
- The radiation is really making my mouth and throat hurt.
- I am only swallowing water and broth now.
- Most of my Nutrition is coming through the use of my feeding tube.
- I have what is known as "Thrush". This is an infection caused by the radiation and
chemotherapy; it involves my entire esophagus. It hurts!
- When I try to speak it sounds like I have a mouth full of marbles.
- I am still losing weight.
I am down to 150 pounds,and all my clothes are way too big.
But guess what? Karen still calls me "handsome".
Yesterday she made a comment about how nice my legs are ,to which I replied :"Sweet of
you to say,but I know my legs look like two hockey sticks with doorknobs screwed on
them for knees."

Rough Start
At the end of my last entry I was preparing myself for the next chemotherapy round.
While they have all been tough (for different reasons),they have been different in severity and in the emotional impact I went through.

I was very apprehensive about what was to come - especially in relation to the nausea.

Throwing up is something you have little control over once it starts, and because of my sore throat I knew there would be even more pain if it did. Scarey stuff to meditate upon.
This was weighing on both our minds and caused a heaviness that could only be answered by Karen and myself falling into each other's arms,openly weeping for each other and for ourselves. It was a time of great healing.

A Time for Everything
When you are first diagnosed with Cancer, your world gets pretty small in a hurry, and while some people might be more prepared than others to hear the news,we are not able to take it all in. No one is.
We reached the point last week where we wanted to make sure that we fully understood the nature of my illness and what we might expect following these horrendous treatments.
Between the Doctors and Caregivers we received as much information as possible.

We listened and learned.
After the original biopsy it was determined that there was a possibility to defeat this large tumour if the treatment was aggressive and,if the tumour responded to the chemotherapy.
It did respond quite well.

According to Dr. McCarthy ,no judgements or further diagnosis can be made until all my treatments are finished and my body begins to recover. We have to remember that although the treatments will be done,they will not stop working or affecting me for some time.
When the time is right,we will be off to town for an MRI and the answer to the basic question: "Did this work?" You know, I believe it will!

I met with the St. John's care team on Wednesday . The doctors feel that although "I look and feel like I a chased a fart through a bag of nails",that I am going to be able to finish my treatments. They told my that not many people have been able to run the whole course. Dr. McCarthy simply said: "I'm amazed that you're still standing."
Thank you everyone. Thank you for the energy and focus of prayer,concrete acts of love in action,and for being close to us. God has a wonderful Oncology team!

Dodged a Bullet
Thanks to Joanie Wicks and Dr.St. Croix at the Cancer clinic in Gander ,I returned to St. John's armed with the prescriptions I needed to combat the nausea.
They worked!
Although I did pass through a miserable fourteen days or so, I did not have to face that enemy. I am very thankful.
One important part of our memories of this journey will be of Joanie Wicks coming regularly to visit from "wherever she was - to wherever I was," IV bags, medicine and encouragement in tow,to make sure I remained hydrated and on track. It has made a huge difference.

A Sighting of Grace in a Valley in India
As part of our Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations last year, St. Martin's made a commitment to dig a tube well for a village in India. We were blessed by this outreach - the villagers of Khutguda received a beautiful tube well from which flows fresh,clean,water. Now,the incredible amount of energy used for walking many kilometers a day searching and struggling to find clean water could be used for other purposes.
It also brought peace.
In India,it is not uncommon for family and friend to fight with each other over access to precious water. We received correspondence from the village,complete with pictures to thank St. Martin's for the concrete act of love,and to tell us that because there now was enough water for all,feuds that had existed for generations were disappearing and people and entire families were being reconciled.
We all loved the pictures they sent,showing us the well and holding up Thank You cards for all to see.

On Wednesday past,when I woke up I was feeling terrible. Still sad,lots of pain and just wishing this would all go away.
Before getting out of bed to head to the hospital I checked my email.
There was one there from the village of Khutguda. They had heard of my illness,and in their desire to let us know that they care,gathered at "our" well with get well cards and good hearts.

The letter they wrote caused me to weep tears of healing and thankfulness. I have posted the letter on our website and placed a link on the bottom of this entry,should you wish to see it.
Meanwhile Sisters and Brothers -- we stay the course, surrounded by His Grace.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Gift of Faith (Entry 29)

Many people have been in contact with me since this journey began. Although things have settled down, I have been ministered to in so many ways by so many,that my heart will be ever thankful.
I have received notes, calls and letters from folks who have offered kind comments about the strength and character of my faith. Many , (including my own daughters) have expressed amazement that I have been able to stay strong, hopeful, and at peace. (That I havent Lost It!)
I receive these words with gratitude when they come, but constantly admonish my heart to remember faith is a gift of God.
In the midst of my present life, I thank God that my faith remains.
As long as it does, Hope and Love are my constant companions as well!

The Gift of Faith - How do you do it?

What colour faith adds to each of our life's journeys! Think of the amazement little children show as they discover brand new things that only Mom and Dad can explain (or Nan and Pop! I love it. You should have seen Joshua's face when I told him all of my tubes and lines were there because the doctors and nurses were turning me into Spiderman!).
Ponder the times in your life that you kept faith in a friend or a loved one - someone other than yourself, and realized peace,hope and strength as a result.

Then, there is God to consider.
Somewhere in a wonderful and mystical way,God has planted within each of us the desire and ability to believe.
When I was much younger, I envisioned faith to be like a muscle. Once given,it was up to me to value and nurture it.
We all know that if we don't exercise and practise good health habits our muscles and bodies will weaken. As a result ,in times of illness, it is much harder to recover!

So it is with faith. Ecclesiastes 12 reminds us to:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them"

Bless God! It is never too late to start nurturing and growing the gift of faith within.

Getting Caught Up on This Week
This week has been a bit tough. I had several appointments in relation to my ongoing treatment,which meant long hours waiting at the hospital.
My throat is feeling the results of the radiation more and more every day; soreness and pain are constant,and swallowing is becoming increasingly more difficult.
The shingles that I had developed last week have been treated and are responding well so I don't think that my Chemotherapy will be stopped this week. Blood work on Tuesday morning will let us know.
A great challenge for me this week is facing Chemotherapy on Tuesday.
Thanks to the folks at the Cancer clinic and Dr. St. Croix,I now have the prescriptions I need to combat the nausea - but I am not fooling myself, I know the two weeks from Tuesday onward are going to be rough. I sincerely ask for prayer.

We remained in Torbay for the Labour Day weekend. Chanda and Jason headed to Glenwood,so Karen and I are dog sitting and enjoying the company of our Emma. Joshua is also gone to visit his other grandparents in Appleton.

Encouraging Words
Today, please let me encourage you to grow your faith within. We need it to fully see and embrace the "bigger picture" of God's purpose . Faith is not some hopeless or blind attempt to "get through" life. It is a responsible and mature decision to trust in God. It is an acknowledgment that the God who created you,loves you, and waits to be invited into every moment of your days. It is extending the invitation,and walking in Holy Providence, now and forever.

I Try...

I try every day to meditate, pray and give thanks for the blessings in my life. It's not always easy - in fact, some days it's almost impossible,but I submit my heart daily until it surrenders to the Love that is God.

May you be blessed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week Three of Radiation Entry 28

Its been a week of Birthdays.
Karen's birthday was on Sunday,and Chanda's birthday is today. I hope to spend some time with her following my radiation therapy today.
We arrived back in Torbay yesterday afternoon , having timed our departure from Gander so we would get to the Health Science Center at just the right time for my radiation appointment.
I am starting to feel the effects from the radiation now and trying to accept my new reality - my mouth is always sore,a dull ache in my upper jaw and a very tender throat. I am still trying to eat small meals because I know that it is important to keep my swallowing muscles working. (Hope for the future!) My tongue feels as if it has been burned, and most taste is long gone. My saliva glands are being affected as well.

It was a good weekend home. Always nice to see Elissa after a week away,and see that she is doing well. It is good to re-connect with friends and the Church as well. This week however,I wasn't up to Church on Sunday morning. Sunday morning was quite busy at our home though,because we had a fair number of visitors.
I really missed St. Martin's though.

Karen's birthday was quiet,some visits and cards, phone calls from the children - just the way she likes it. Usually we go somewhere together for a drive on her birthday. This year we just spent time together at the rectory. It was nice.

Before leaving for town,we went to the Cancer Clinic in Gander to have my PICC line flushed. (A PICC line is a long, slender, small, flexible tube with two openings for access that was inserted into a vein in my right upper arm. It stops in a larger vein in my chest near the heart) It's been there for weeks now.
Our dear friend Joanie Wicks met us with her usual smile and care,and before long we were getting ready for the road.
On the way out Dr. St. Croix stopped to say good morning,and quickly noticed a mark on my forehead..."Oh no..He's got shingles."
Yep. something else to add to my litany of woe.
She immediately wrote a prescription and I have begun treatment for that as well. I just hope that we can stop this. Shingles on the face can lead to eye problems as well as other things,and we don't want anything to interrupt the flow of treatments. I an scheduled for more chemotherapy after this weekend. I am NOT looking forward to it,but I will be very disappointed if it is unable to go ahead.

Lately I have been feeling a little "Cancer Isolation".
By that I mean that even though I am surrounded by people who love me and are giving so much,there are times, because of what is happening inside my body,that I feel unable to express my emotions. (Sadness? Lonley?) It is a strange mixture when you add Faith-Doubt-Pain-Prayer-Hope and Fear together. Strange indeed,but these things are very much a part of my life. Always were I guess,but the ratios have changed!True for most people,I'm sure.
Anyway,I'm off to face the day. Bloodwork this morning,Radiation this afternoon. I ask the Lord to fill the day with Grace and Love for each one of us.
God Bless my Friends!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trains..................... Entry 27

Yesterday I was well enough to Take my grandson Joshua to the railway museum in St. John's. It was a great day.
Joshua has the love that most little men have for trains,so we spent a couple of happy hours looking at the exhibits and playing "pretend we are on a real train Pop!"
No problem!I have always loved trains.
When my brother and I were quite young we lived in St. John's where our father served in the Canadian Army. Every year when school let out dad would put us on the train by ourselves and send us to Glenwood for the summer.
What an adventure!
My uncle Eddie owned a hotel in Glenwood that he was preparing to open for business. When my father retired he would join Eddie in a partnership. Eventually we moved to Glenwood permanently.

Growing up in Glenwood meant you were surrounded by the trappings of a logging town.
It was a small town in the sixties: all gravel roads, lots of trees all around - which meant plenty of trails to our hideouts, swimming holes,and other places where young people would gather for baseball or field hockey.
There were trains. Lots of trains. Bowaters ran the logging there; there was a railway siding just west of Glenwood where wood trains would back up and move forward - back up again, so another train could load and there would be the shuffling of wood cars.
There was one track that ran through the middle of town,and an additional siding that ran across town right in front of Uncle Eddie's Place.
We had all kinds of adventures playing on the tracks and around the trains. I should add,doing things that we should not have even thought about. But, who could resist placing an old key or a dime on the track to see it flattened by the train? Empty boxcars or flatcars left on the siding for any more than a day or so became part of our daily playground.
Okay, that's enough. I could write chapters of train story memories. Maybe later.
There is one memory however that I do want to share,because it really has been part of my life through many rough times.
Our home was fairly close to the main line,and there was always an early morning train. The sound of the train whistle cutting through the silence of the early morning air would announce the arrival of the huge locomotive.The sound would get louder and louder,then quieter and softer as the diesel moved further away ,until the only thing you heard, was the click-click-- click-click rhythm of the wheels crossing the joins in the track.
We were all used to it.
I was so used to it, that the noise did not upset my rest or even wake me up fully . There was a message in the train: morning was on time,the promise of a new day had arrived,and all was well.
I would always settle back to sleep listening to the peaceful rhythm of the rails; click-click click-click, and feel content and safe in those moments.
It has always stayed with me. Many times I have relaxed by remembering those mornings,closing my eyes and listening....

I often meditate in the Night Watch.
It is not strange for me to wake in the early morning hours with something pressing on my spirit. I wake with an instantly busy mind as if an arriving noisy locomotive had roused me from sleep. I use those times to pray, to think - and allow God to speak to me. Then,when I am ready ,the peace of Christ comes.
A peace beyond my understanding,but one that is a very real part of who I am today.

Yesterday I shared some train stories with my beloved buddy Joshua.
We had a great day!
I had to pace myself,and was feeling very tired by the time we arrived home,but I thank the Lord for the day. It refreshed my memories for sure. Spending time listening to Joshua talk and chat was as good as any medicine.

It is good to meditate on God's matters when we are well. It builds a reserve in your soul that allows you to sense the Presence when things are going badly. It is hard to pray and meditate when you are in pain or hurting, so we should prepare ourselves by being present with God whenever we can. That is another reason why Church attendance, regular prayer,study and involvement with the Body of Christ is so important.

Last Saturday evening, I was literally on my knees in my bedroom in Gander,retching uncontrollably into a bucket. It hurt -I was miserable and incredibly depressed. Then,I felt the hand of a friend who was there to help. She placed a cold cloth on my neck. Then the hands of my wife,comforting and strong,were upon me and I knew that God was there. What comfort and reassurance I felt!

May God give us all the Grace to see,and receive Jesus in each other.
May our hearts be open to the the gift that each day is.

Phillipians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
May you be blessed this day by your trust in God.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Radiation and Chemotheraphy begins..... Entry 26

Hi everyone.
It Didn't take very long for the Chemotherapy and Radiation treatments to take effect.

I had hoped to take my grandson to the train museum on Tuesday after my radiation treatment. The plan was to have a short nap,then head out with Joshua.
By the afternoon I was feeling nauseated.
I woke up feeling violently sick and began throwing up. Later still,things settled down and I was able to relax but I stayed at home for the afternoon.

I remember one of my girls saying "I hate throwing up. It makes me sick."

On Friday after treatment we went home to Gander and I settled in to rest.
On Saturday night it started again ..full force.
It seemed as if everything in my body was losing control: bowels not working,sore throat,vomiting lots of pain, hadn't eaten in two days and....it was as Karen said "The week from Hell"
I thank God for Joanie and Dr. St. Croix who came to my rescue with the things I needed to control the pain and nausea. When things settled down I slept for hours.What a gift their presence was!

We arrived back in St. John's yesterday and I resumed treatment. I am feeling better now.

While I am always certain that there is Grace in the Valley of the Shadow,I certainly struggled this weekend.
I will continue the radiation treatments every day until the wonderful number 35 is reached (I have finished six treatments). I will receive more chemotherapy on September 7 and September 28. The doctors tell me the next two chemotherapy treatments are going to be worse,so get ready for them. I'll do my best. My radiation treatment are causing be some discomfort - my throat hurts,swallowing is getting harder there is pain in my jaw and ringing in my ears as well.

Where is God in all this?
I have always felt that how we respond to diversity is a clear indicator of how much we appreciate life. When I was diagnosed with cancer following my biopsy we had a very quiet ride home. At one point I looked up at the sky and said a prayer of thanksgiving for the fact that I have very seldom taken the gifts and the joys of life for granted. I could honestly say to God,"I don't have a lot of regrets".
Of course there are regrets in every person's life .Far too many for most of us. I learned a long time ago that God is in every minute of my life,that he values it,and he loves me. I believe Jesus is with me, and when I weep and hurt,he does too.

I believe that any heart that is not thankful can never be happy or content.I try to receive every moment , and the people within the moment, as a gift. You cannot "Take" or claim any day as rightfully yours. Each one is a gift from God.
It is good to be truly thankful,for when you are ,appreciation,trust and Grace will abound in your life no matter what comes and you will be able to fully and truly walk in love and peace.
I thank God for each of you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First Radiation Treatment ........ Entry 25

Greetings all. We are in Torbay - The second fastest growing community in Newfoundland!

This morning began with an early rise then off to the Health Sciences Center.
The super friendly folks there introduced themselves while ushering me off to a comfortable little room. I began my first chemotherapy session around 9:30 and was there until around 5:30p.m Karen was with me and we passed the time together. I was pretty comfortable because I was in bed. Karen had to sit along side me and make the best of it.
God love her!

I was originally scheduled to begin the radiation treatment at 3:30, but because of some hospital computer problems I didn't get started until almost 6:30.
Even though it was "one of those Mondays" for the staff,they kept smiling and cheerful faces for all to see.

God Love em!

I sure hope our friends back in Gander at the Cancer clinic had a GREAT day today!

God love em too!

I always do my best to smile and encourage people when they are having a rotten day,even when I feel impatient and cranky myself.
There are a whole bunch of Scriptures that encourage us to be this way!
Job for example: “I will leave off my sad countenance and be cheerful.” Job 9:27
scriptures tell us to"Guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23).

When you put the best side out...it brings power to your Christian witness,helps you make new friends AND it allows God to bless you the way he wants to!

Time for Radiation

Before I describe the radiation, let me tell you about The Mask .

A few weeks ago I was fitted with a special mask that is designed to keep my head PERFECTLY still while the radiation is directed to the right place. They begin by placing you on a hard table with your head laying on a block,and your knees elevated by a piece of styrofoam. They take a piece of white plastic that is filled with holes and place it in a hot water bath. When it is up to temperature, nice and hot ,the sheet becomes very soft and moldable. Around the edges there is a metal frame with holes.
They pull the sheet over your face,very quickly line up the holes with a locking device on the table,lock it, then set to molding it all around your features. You feel them poking and pulling the plastic around your face until it makes a perfect fit, The locks prevent any movement, so when the plastic hardens it becomes a device that you can see and breathe through,but prevents you from moving at all. They place a cold cloth on the mask to help it set faster. If you are claustrophobic it might cause some stress. If you use your imagination it might feel something like a facial sauna.
Shape and appearance wise, it looks kind of like the headpiece of an Egyptian mummy. (less the gold trim!)

Getting Ready
When my turn came for radiation treatment I entered a room that was rather cool temperature wise. Soft music was playing in the background.
Like most special hospital rooms with special equipment , the unfamiliar environment effect was enhanced by the presence of equipment and machines I had never seen before.
Two friendly radiologists greeted me and apologized for the delay. I was asked to lay down on the hard table ,arms by my side,a block under my head and a styrofom pillow to elevate my knees.
They explained the procedure. My job was to relax,breath normally and wait for the process to finish. First some pictures to make sure the alignment was perfect,and then the radiation. You don't see or feel anything through the process which lasts about twenty minutes.

I see and feel things all the time. Too nosy to relax! Once on the table I get a chance to view the machine. At the head of the table there is a device which rotates a camera and radiation device around your head. It hums and chirps as it does it's job.
Looking up,you see a white ceiling that looks as if a large circle has been cut into it. The inside of the circle is black and has a number of little bright lights scattered through it. It is similar to lying down and looking at the night sky. Quite an effect.
Then comes the mask.
The mask is secured and clamped.
It is tight. Very snug indeed .
You take a breath and ask for grace to stay calm. I didn't do too bad at all.

During the treatment I envisioned the radiation as God's healing rays. Beautiful healing rays carrying the prayers and power of Jesus and His Church.- a gift of life.

May His healing rays wash over you and every need in your life.

All in all today went well.
The only turmoil in my heart and mind is wondering what the effects of the combined treatments will be. I know that the Chemotherapy's effects will settle in after a few days and my white cell count will drop. I also know that the radiation will cause throat irritation,loss of appetite,loss of saliva and possible remove my ability to eat.

But, armed with a feeding tube,great staff around and the gift of faith, we will overcome!

One of the things that made my day easier in terms of getting ready was a letter from an old friend and parishioner from a former parish . She has been through something very similar to my illness and has taken the time to share her story with me via email. She helped me prepare for today,and has blessed me greatly. Thank you my sister.

Thank you everyone for all the notes of encouragement.

The other was St. Martin's on Sunday.
I was able to conduct the morning worship services with the help of Revd. Brian. The encouragement and love I receive from the Church is much more than just a feeling. I have carried a strength that comes from outside - the gift of faith generated by my life in Christ and my life in his beloved Church.
During the worship and around the time of the Peace, Revd. Brian wisely called the Vestry members forward and asked the congregation to join their hearts in prayer as he anointed me for healing.

It was a powerful time for us all. Mine and Karen's hearts were blessed greatly.Healing flowed to us all.

Here is a passage from James (chapter five) that speaks about healing power in the Christian way of life.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.

Thank you for the gift of faith and fellowship everyone. May God bless you daily,and keep you in the light of His love.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Getting Ready for more ......... Entry 24

I am sitting in my old lazy boy chair downstairs as I write this .
That brown cloth and faux leather throne that sits beside our bed has been quite a friend to me lately.
When I recline, it sets me at just the right angle for my tummy to stay settled after those feeding tube meals. My last daily feeding is around nine o'clock in the evening so I generally spend the first part of my night tucked into the chair. After a few hours of sleep there,I make my way into bed . Honestly, I do try not to wake Karen when I climb into the bunk ,but there have been nights when I have wacked her in the head with my pillow trying to get comfortable!

Karen has been running around the house all evening packing up the stuff we will need in St. John's for the next number of weeks. Our Daughter Elissa is home with us so we have no worries about feeding the cats and dog while we are away. We do hope to get home on weekends if possible. If only I could get this chair into Torbay.....

I saw Dr. McCarthy on Wednesday,who along with her colleague, had a look at my results and chatted about them with us. We shared that things look very positive because my tumour did respond to the chemotherapy. We know that I have been through a very strong treatment and that it made me very ill... but ...the end result should be a cure for this Cancer.
To that end she reminded me that they still want to throw everything they have at the disease. That means more chemotherapy along with radiation.
It means I should expect to be very ill again--and not expect to be able to do much.
We will see...
The chemotherapy will be given three times over the next seven weeks.
During the same time I will be given 35 radiation treatments.
It starts 9:30 a.m on Monday morning

Part of me is longing to get started
with the treatments. I so desire to get on with this so that I can get back to my life.
Another part of me feels the apprehension fear and the anxiety of the unknown. "What if this does not work?" " How much more can we bear?"...you know...all those human questions that beset us about so many things in life.

When the shadow of apprehension comes, I am reminded by God's spirit of all the people who love us and are praying for me right now. I feel the power of my Lord through the presence of His Church. His Church is made up of a wonderful variety of people, and I thank Him for every one. It is good to feel surrounded by the positive energy of love!
My friend David reminded me of that this week in an email he sent to encourage me. It is from Hebrews 12:
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

I am ready. Thanks be to God.
I will continue this blog from Torbay,I pray, on Monday Night.

I want to take a few lines now to express my thanks to all who have been following this blog. At first I offered it as a way of inviting people to share this journey with me and to keep everyone posted as to how I was doing. I had hoped it would become a ministry of encouragement to others.
It seems to have accomplished all of that. I have prayed to the Lord that he would keep me connected to the Church through this journey into the Valley of Shadows. I have been amazed and blessed by the responses to my writings. Many people have been sending me notes through Facebook,or at the email address listed on this blog page.

I am thankful for the ministry others have had to me by their sharing.
Each week I hear from folks who have a story,a prayer request,or prayers to share. Last week's blog brought a number of affirming emails from people in the parish (and outside) who expressed how God has spoken to them.
I was truly blessed to have been able to preside at the services on Sunday past. It was so good to share lots of hugs. I'll be back this Sunday to be with St. Martin's congregation before I head into town.
With a thankful heart I pray for you: May the peace and Love of Christ,bless you richly this night and always.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Some waiting time entry 23

Certain childhood memories- good or bad, never fade much do they?
I was thinking this week of a trip we made to Niagara Falls in Mom's old Pontiac Strato Chief.
I would have been in Grade two as I remember. On the way home we stopped at an attraction called Pioneer Village. It was one of those cultural displays with wax figure reproductions of buildings and artifacts of daily life during the Pioneer Days. I remember it well. Looking back,I think the memory is positive simply because it was a good day for our troubled family and because it caused a chain reaction of good events that helped me later in my life.

Just after the visit I completed a school project on the "Life of the Pioneers." Armed with a child's imagination, several brochures,and mom's help I was able to write (in my own young mind's opinion) an incredible historical and scientific account of life in the olden days.
It was complete with illustrations too! I thought the paper should have been placed in the Smithsonian. The teacher gave me a B grade.
Mom was thrilled with it,and as a reward for staying focused and doing well ,took me out to a local burger joint to celebrate.

Another good day.

I remember that time in my life as a point where I began to appreciate the value of THE PROJECT.
I believe that God has planted the desire to be creative in all of us.
Think about it.
He created the world and all that is,and hasn't stopped creating ever since.
God works in partnership with us (if we choose to accept the partnership) and helps us create a life story that will resonate through eternity.
Each of us is part of a chain reaction through which the things we do and say have an effect on what is,and what is to come, in people's lives.

I have been a project oriented person all my life. I love creating,building and sharing. I love crossing that finish line knowing something I have started (either by myself or working with others) has been achieved. What a feeling!

If you want to think some more about that why not spend some time looking through the Bible with a view to discovering just how God tries again and again, to engage people and get them involved with "Tasks" that demand our best efforts.
Remember too, that God really does not need us to accomplish anything - but he WANTS us. Why?
Because (I believe,in my own young mind's opinion) He just loves to see a plan come together and all things working for good.
God loves to see us cross the finish line with joy in our accomplishments!

That is one of the things that keeps me going through this Cancer battle,even if I can't stand the thought of being sick.
More of that in a moment.

Here is a passage to get you started:

First Corinthians Chapter 3,verse 9 following:
We work together with God . And you (The Church) are God's garden and God's building. God was kind and let me become an expert builder. I laid a foundation on which others have built. But we must each be careful how we build, because Christ is the only foundation.

I love the thought that the Church (People...not the building) is God's personal project!

Reality Check? Time to Honestly be human....
I wonder sometimes (quite often actually) how others who have been affected by Cancer, some other illness or life situation, see God's plan for their lives. It's hard to get focused on the bigger picture when your world has been shrunk by adversity.

Let me honestly share just a few of the the things that I have pondered these past few months. I would be interested in hearing from people to learn if you relate to any of this tip of the iceberg.

Right now, I am still in a holding pattern. I am waiting to get to St. John's to see more doctors and to start the treatment that I know will be making me very ill again. Soon, I will drop off the radar in Gander for a number of weeks to re-enter the fight for life and a future.
I long to be back already. I miss my life,and I miss my Church. I miss working with Revd. Brian and Harvey. I miss the Sunday Worship at St. Martin's. I miss a good steak!

Right now,aside from a few medications I am not having any treatment. Several weeks will have passed by the time I begin more Chemotherapy and Radiation. I am trying to rest and be patient. I am also trying to do something that resembles work and moving ahead. Quite often I find my self wondering if the delay is allowing the tumour to grow again. Each ache and pain sets off a thought pattern of doubt and wonder... what if...what if....

Often I say that I am anxious to get started with these treatments. Let's get on with it! Yet, at the same time, I am thankful for the break in treatment because the whole experience of being sick was very rough. I know that a harder time is just ahead of me,and it does cause uncertainty and anxiety.I feel I am going to get better,but waiting can be so difficult....

Speaking of Anxiety: With any life threatening illness comes questions about your life span. My prognosis is good,but that does not stop me from looking back and asking questions about what I have been able to accomplish during the fifty years I have been here.

" Is there any lasting value in what I have done?"
"What about the marks I have left on people - good or bad?"

"Was I the best Dad and Husband I could have been?"

"And what of the future?"

"How much time do I have left to do "projects?"

"Will I have to spend the rest of my life fighting to be healthy and strong enough to enjoy life?"

"Will I be able to stay the course financially and be able to retire at a decent age?"

"Will there be any lasting value in what I have left to offer?."

"Any regrets?" .....Dear God, It's three in the Morning and I need to sleep. I place all of the past in your hands and come to you seeking healing and wholeness for the future....Now I lay me down to sleep.....

Helpless and Tired... Now that I am feeling better I am able to deal with all the negative thoughts and worries fairly well.
Even so,I can't do the things I used to. Yard work,physical labour,long conversations,writing....you name it...... It is harder to do everything. When you struggle to carry groceries into the house never mind something a little more strenuous,you feel helpless.
Not a good feeling at all!
There were so many things that I wanted to finish both at home and in the parish through the summer and early Fall.
These things are on hold until I can get back to them. I believe that I will be well, and that I will recover my strength,but the waiting is so long.

However , in these moments when I feel helpless I am helped along by my heart's thankfulness for all of the love and practical encouragement from my friends and family.
Thank you everyone for all your the gifts,in whatever form they have come to us.

Relationship Sensitivity Just fancy words that describe how one feels when overwhelmed by the love and kindness of people when hurting.

I have now experienced first hand what I have counselled people for years to prepare for during hard times.
Quite often when there has been a death or serious illness in a family, people are strongly supported through the early stages.
This is especially true when illness has been short and dramatic,or when there has been a sudden tragedy. People's hearts are full, and they come running to help.

Believe it or not, some people find it hard to deal with large outpourings of love and sympathy,preferring to be alone and in solitude. These people however, still need and appreciate the faithful support of their friends. it's just a matter of being caring ,sensitive and available.

People are helped and healed by the concern of others! People do really become the feet and hands of Jesus when they reach out. Love in action is a very powerful and practical thing which brings the power of healing to bear on hurting people.

But.... no matter what the situation,
people must return to their own lives and occupations. Life goes on. And it should. I always remind people that this will happen and you may experience a large vacuum and a sense of "aloneness" . Several times over the years as a priest I gave large amounts of time to people through tragedies . I have also spent much energy through the time following. There is always a time when you know as a counsellor,that you must help folks move on and reclaim their lives. I have always done that through honest conversation and by visiting less frequently to see how folks would do.Sometimes people take what seems forever to get back to living. Some never do.
I remember one man,who had lost a child, coming to me months after - still hurting and grieving,accusing me with anger of never doing one thing to help his family through. Years later,that still hurts. The truth is that I and our Church had exhausted ourselves through sharing the grief and had been rock solid through the whole thing.
When someone is angry at God,they will in one way or another express that anger toward anyone who is God's "representative" .

I cannot even begin to adequately express my appreciation and love for the way everyone has responded to me and Karen during this time of trial. The power of love and the outreach I have experienced has made a huge difference in my life.
I love my family and friends,and am very thankful for all the love and support. I am counting on it to continue when I head off for more treatments.

Moving Forward
I wait and rest in God. I am trusting in all he speaks to my spirit,and in all I see around me.
I wait:thankful for my family,my friends,thankful for the Church,for there I see my Lord, and the working and movement of His Holy Spirit. It is all around us.

We have faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Ephesians Chapter 2
Reminds me of God's love and support. It reminds me that he is working in my life to create something beautiful,and I accept the fact that Cancer is going to be part of the picture of my life's story.

My friend ,thank you for reading.
My prayer today is that you too will see that you are His personal project! That you will know that God loves you and is very concerned about each moment you live.
Whatever comes in your life ,remember that he is working something beautiful in you . It is something that you cannot even imagine.....a reality that will be revealed to you in the fullness of His Grace,and in the time that He knows is best.

May Peace and Love rest upon you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Getting Some Early Results ....... Entry 22

Yesterday morning found me back at the Health Science Radiation department to meet a whole new group of people, have an IV placement, a C.T. Scan,and a special mask made that will hold my head firmly in place when the radiation treatments start. As well as all of that I was to receive some news from the M.R.I. that I had a day sooner.
While we were in the waiting room one of the staff members came out and sat with us for a few minutes.
"You don't know me do you?" I replied, that I did, but couldn't remember her name. Turns out that she was one of the young people in Grand Bank who used to frequent the back yard of the rectory. When we were there our girls had all sorts of friends so our home, with it's large basement,big yard (with two wonderful huge rocks for lying on) and willing parents, became the hang out for a lot of young people.
This young lady and I began to reminisce,and in so doing recalled a couple of sad stories about tragedies that had befallen some of the young people in our town during those years. I had a special ministry to the young people of the parish in those days,partly because of my passion for youth work,but largely because many of our youth were going through hard times. We had a high rate of teen suicide,depression,drug and alcohol issues that obviously caused a lot of darkness and brokenness. The positive result was the formation of a community with a unique and strong bond.
Anyway,one of the young people we spoke of was a beautiful young lady named Michelle. She was a member of our Church,part of the youth group and a member of our little youth choir.
She was one of the kids who would come to the house,sleep over (sneak out to play in the yard at 3:30 in the morning,not knowing that they were being watched carefully the whole time), and was part of "the gang". She had a mischievous way about her ,and a smile that could cheer you up!
Let me make a long story a little shorter. In time, I left the parish,and physically left my beloved young people behind. They grew some more , graduated from high school and began to get on with their lives.
While Michelle was just out of High School,she was diagnosed with cancer. It broke my heart to hear the news.
It broke a lot of hearts,because the prognosis was not good. She fought bravely,finishing one semester of university and getting ready for another. In between, I had been invited to Grand Bank to do a wedding at the Salvation Army,so I went early to see my old friend. It was a good visit. She also attended the wedding. When the service was over,I joined her at the back of the Church for a chat and a hug. I'll never forget what she said. "Father John,that was a beautiful service. Promise me that when I get married you'll come and do the wedding?" A nod from me, and a smile. "Or my Funeral?" I looked at her and wept, I made the promise. Wasn't too long after that and she was gone.

Now, lets go back to the waiting room.
Shortly after my conversation, Dr. Sathya came and sat with us. This Doctor is so gentle and caring,that you automatically think of him as a friend. He explained the process of what was about to happen -pausing between P.A. announcements in order to ensure we heard everything that he was saying.
Then,after the technical stuff, said that he had looked at yesterday's M.R.I.
"Good News". He told us that the image shows a definite shrinkage in the tumour. he estimated it to be a almost fifty percent. "That's what I was hoping for",he smiled and left us.
What it means is that the Chemotherapy has been effective in doing what needed to be done. It also shows us that this tumour will respond to treatment. It allows room for some really positive energy!
So how did we feel?
- That prayer had been answered.
- We felt Thankful for the power of Prayer - and friends- and the Church - and all the notes and messages
- We felt like we had "Scored one for the Team". We were filled with joy.
We cried because of the emotions,and when we called our children, they cried too.

Any thing else?
I thought of Michelle and a host of other people who I shared news with over the years.
News that was not always good. I hurt for them and for for their families. Before God, in that moment I blessed their memories.
These wounded are the beloved of God,and the memory of them will remain in my heart forever. Their prayers and good wishes for me are precious.
I was amazed at how much it Hurt.

With all that we say about God.....
With all we say about His Goodness,Loving Kindness and Mercy.....
We should never forget that his answer is not always "Yes".
And, we should never forget that some people go through great pain and sadness - not because they don't have faith,or because they don't believe,
because life is hard sometimes, and we are human.

With all I say about God,
I remember....
.....and pray for Grace to remember,
that I am no more loved by the Father or more deserving, or better, (or worse)
than anyone else.

I believe with all my heart though,that no matter what happens to any of us,it is God's will and action to keep us in his hand and love us. Someday,all will be reconciled and made perfect in his love. What a party we are going to have when we all make it home someday!

In thankfulness today,I say to you that I am just a beggar who has found some bread (The Bread of Life), and I wish to share it with as many other beggars as I meet.

May God Bless you My friends.