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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.