Just Starting to Read this Blog?

Scroll down for the first entries

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.