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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Days Home (Entry 20)

At our house in Glenwood we have a Damson tree. This little plum tree was planted in our yard over twenty years ago. If you have patience enough to wait until after the first frost,the fruit becomes sweet and rich. Every year without fail,this tree has given us a great crop of Damsons,some of which end up in the Church fall sale,in our grand children's baskets,or as gifts to neighbours and friends.
Until last year that is. Over the past few years our tree has developed what is known as Black Knot. Black Knot is known by the rough, black areas that grow on trees that are infected. Eventually it kills the tree. I have been pruning and hoping for a couple of years that we would beat this,but last year it seemed that the tree would have to go.

I had decided to cut down the tree this year,but my health prevented me from doing my usual spring yard work so the tree was spared. When I did get out to have my Spring look around the yard,it was after my diagnosis and I was having a pretty good day.
I walked over to the Damson tree and looked at it. Not much promise. A few leaves trying to grow,but the tree was no where near where it should be.

It looked like a skeleton.

I placed my hand on the trunk and said: (yes ,out loud) "My old friend,you look like someone with cancer. I can't bear to cut you down. Let's see what happens."

That was another one of those moments where the whole diagnosis comes crashing back,and you are forced to spend some moments in wondering what is to come. Sadness ,Joy,and hope mingled together.
I guess in the same way I want my tree to live,I reach out in hope for my own future days.

Here are some of the scriptures I hold on to:
I went to the Lord for help. He answered me and rescued me from all my fears. -- Psalm 34:4

I'm convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. -- Philippians 1:6

Wait with hope for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the Lord. -- Psalm 27:14

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19

I have been home since Monday (July 19). My goal has been to rest and get those calories that I need each day into my system. I have lost almost 55 pounds since I was diagnosed with cancer,and it is vital that I stabilize the weight loss before beginning my radiation treatments. I am doing the best I can now with each day because I know when the radiation starts,the intent is to give me some more chemotherapy at the same time. I am bracing for this time,getting my heart soul and body ready as best I can. Through all this thoughts of Family,My Church,and all of you have kept me going.

When I got home from the hospital this week it took some getting used to. This fifteen days stint in hospital was quite the experience. The Chemotherapy overpowered my system,the feeding tube site was infected,white Blood cells gone . Reaching the turning point where my blood cells began to recover was a cause for thanksgiving. It touched my heart when the nursing staff would come into my room and celebrate with me! While I was in the hospital I was placed in isolation,so I want to thank all of you who tried to visit,but were stopped by the staff,or signs on the hospital room door. There was a time during all of this when I felt incredibly lonely and cut off from everyone. I especially missed St. Martin`s congregation because I enjoy the fellowship so much ,and draw so much strength from our Church. Thanks for all the love!

Anyway, when I got used to the fact that I was back in my own house and that Karen would actually be able to spend a night in her own bed too, I settled in for a good nights sleep.

The first day home I took some time to read the cards and emails I had received. I was sitting in my favorite chair in our living room and had a moment or two or three... in which I was overcome with emotion simply because I realized the extent of how much people care and were expressing that love. I have received some powerful personal notes and gifts from people. This is a powerful healing force,and I am humbly thankful for it.

I am also thankful for our health care system. The whole environment of care that you enter as a cancer patient is second to none here in Newfoundland,and that is because of the people for sure. I have always appreciated and been thankful for health care workers in my roles as a pastor and as a patient over the years,but this experience has certainly deepened my regard and appreciation.

Nurses and caregivers in the health care system seem to have a have a special wisdom and heart quality about them. That wisdom becomes obvious when you engage them in a conversation. It doesn't take long to realize that they have experienced much,care much and are doing the very best they can for everyone committed to their care. I wonder sometimes if people fully appreciate just how hard they work from the time each 12 hour shift begins until they are able to go home. Minute by minute,hour by hour,caring giving and sharing.
Thank you. Thank you So much.

Whats Next
As I mentioned, I expect to be in St. John's from the 27 -28 for an MRI and the imaging work required to make a mask for the radiation. Soon after the MRI we will be able to share with you how much the tumor is shrinking. We are believing it is. my voice is stronger and clearer,and I able to eat and swallow again.
I know that this is a temporary thing because the radiation therapy will cause my throat to be very sore - but at least we know that this is part of the cure!

I have been resting,but doing a few light jobs around the house to "get the blood going",doing a bit of work for the Diocese and parish websites,and even a few counseling appointments as I feel strong enough. I have been spending time in prayer and study as well. Who knows what Sunday will bring?

My first radiation treatments begin in early to mid August if all goes according to plan. I will see Dr. St. Croix this afternoon. Karen and I both look forward to meeting with this wonderful Doctor and her staff at the Cancer Clinic. She is direct,encouraging,caring,and has become a great blessing to us.

Oh The Damson tree? It's worth a drive by to look at it. There's a picture for you up above.There are a few bare branches,but overall the tree is doing great,and is loaded with Damsons!
I'll have lots to share in the fall. Thanks be to God.


Jimmy said...

So good to see your blog. I pray that you will
have the same good health to look forward to as
that damson tree. Take care.

Stella said...

Beautiful! Just beautiful! Praise God's abundant love and harvest!

Anonymous said...

It is important to anyone having a serious and life threatening condition to surround oneself with the positives,eliminating all negativity from all outside sources................so it is with your damson tree; black rot is "caught" from other fruit trees mainly cherry trees! That damson tree and yourself should thrive even though rough seas may be ahead by all the positive "fertilizer" you are surrounded by,through family, friends loved ones and a Heavenly loving Faather! Blessings by friend!

Sarah Holmes said...

Wow! I love your "damson tree illustration"! You are a beautiful writer and certainly provoke a lot of emotion and reflection in the reader. I loved the bible verses you shared as well, so much truth and promise!! And thank you for your ode to nurses, very touching!! I am sure I speak for all of us, it was a pleasure and privilege to step into your room each time! I know the tumour has shrunk too, can't wait to hear how much! Keep eating good! Keep trusting God and keep writing when you can! Love and prayers, Sarah

brent_val said...

Hey Rev'd John
I am happy to know that you are feeling better and I,too, am positive that the tumour is shrinking. As for your blog it is always inspiring to read them. As a gardener, I too would have given the damson tree another chance. There is always hope! Please know that I look forward to your writing. Since I cannot be home to participate in the services at my home church, it is the next best thing. Thank you for that.
Please take care of yourself.

Love and prayers
Val and family.

Stephanie said...

Hi Rev. John,
Glad to hear you are home. You are an amazing writer! It is one thing to be able to think such inspiring thoughts, but to have such a wonderful gift to be able to put your thoughts to paper and inspire others when you are going through a difficult time yourself is such a reflection of who you are.
I'm sure the nurses have been blessed themselves in caring for you as I was and are missing you now that you are at home( although very happy that you are home).
Take care and eat lots of calories! Thinking about you always, but especially this week and praying for great MRI results.
Hugs and prayers,

Anonymous said...

Hi Rev. John,

So good to hear you are gaining weight. Your blog is an inspiration to all of us. It is amazing what prayers, faith and hope can do for one. You are such a strong person and there is no doubt that you will come back to St Martin's and continue your pastoral work.


Anonymous said...

Hello Rev watton,

I am glad to hear you are home again. Its great to hear that you are gaining some weight back. Keep your head held high you are a strong and amazing person and if anyone will get through this you will...

Take care my thoughts and prayers are with you & your and your family during this time!

Darlene Carter- Button