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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Anglican Life Articles.

A while back I was asked to write a series of articles of around 800 words, to reflect on the nature of being a Christian leader with Cancer.  They are really just a summary (of sorts) of what is contained in this blog.
The articles are nearing completion; three have been published.
I share them here with you...one at a time.

Article 1  Beginnings

The nurses are all smiles and chat when I wake up. "You are still in the operating room.  Your biopsy is done, and the doctor will be right back to have a word with you."
"How are you doing old boy?.... Things went well. "
A little pause. The doctor looks at me to make sure I am getting it.
"You  have a tumor. There some things we have to do.  We will start with an MRI, and decide on treatments.  I might be getting ahead of myself here,  but we both know what this is." Another pause:
 " Let's wait for the pathology  and MRI results, and I'll see you in the Cancer Clinic. "

The MRI  revealed  the location and size of the tumor , and spots and shadows  on my  lungs and neck. While these turned out to be of no concern,  the pathology confirmed   stage three cancer  at the base of my tongue and throat.  Within a short time I was registered at the Cancer Clinic , and learned the raw details:
"The tumor is Cancer . It's a large one"
"We honestly don't know how this is going to go."
"Surgery means we will remove your tongue and most of your vocal cords."
"Your best option is Chemotherapy and Radiation.
"If it doesn’t work, we are not burning the bridge. We can do the operation later, but believe me surgery is your very last option.”

That week I was scheduled to attend the General Synod of Our Church.
Now I preparing for a different journey.
Off we went, reflecting  on everything that had happened up to this point . After some family time and discussions, we began to let everyone know what was going on.

I am blessed in the Parish I serve. There are many stories to be shared of the love, compassion and faithfulness of the Church through my illness and treatments. From the very beginning I resolved to share everything that was about to happen on a regular basis with the Parish and the larger Church.

I suppose the reasoning and motivation for this was simple.  First of all, I love the Church, and as a Priest, called and ordained, I know my responsibilities of witness and teaching. Secondly ,I am experienced enough in the Valley of Shadows to be able to point out to people some of the "Sightings of Grace" that I had experienced there . I began a blog, and was able to continue writing throughout the whole process. "Sightings of Grace in the Valley of the Shadow", was my chosen metaphor. It was shared online, and published on paper for Church members who did not have internet access.

I had no idea of how dark, terrifying  and demanding this walk was going to be. The doctors and nurses  began, as best they could, to prepare me for what was to come.
Every part of my Physical Mental and Spiritual  being would be tested and threatened by death.
 The treatment had to be aggressive if I was to have a chance .  The duration and dosage of Chemotherapy was far above that considered normal or safe. One of the Doctors in Gander insisted  that I get a feeding tube which would allow nutrition to be pumped directly into my stomach.  It saved my life.  Extensive Chemotherapy and Radiation  burned my neck and throat. I could no longer swallow, drink or talk; eight months without food brought me from 200 pounds down to 89.  
 The journey includes more than  challenges to physical health. Cancer demands control over daily affairs, personal finances, family, Church and  ministry.

I have always tried to encourage many hurting people to "Leave it to God and trust His perfect will." The prayer I wrote before beginning treatment was:
"Come Lord, and gently lay your hands on my body and my heart. Come Lord, I trust you with my loved ones and my affairs. Come lord, and use my weakness to Bless your Church".
There were days and nights when that prayer seemed unreachable. It can be tough to separate beauty from ashes when you are badly wounded. I'll let you know how it went.
Receiving Radiation after Chemo...meditating, listening to corny (but comforting music) and feeling very,very sick.

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