Beyond Day Six
My sometimes-daily blog of a photograph or two with a few words, celebrating all the days of life that flow through creation into perspiration, inspiration, reflection, sabbath, and resurrection.
Today is the beginning of my healing. My first chemotherapy session. I admit that I am anxious about all that I don't know: results of tests, the procedure, my physical reaction to chemo and all the days following. Fascinating that I begin this journey as the Christian community begins holy week. 22 weeks ago I began to look toward the future and imagined that by Easter, we would be vaccinated and spring will have burst out with proclamation of new life, and we would begin some semblance of "normal". I kept reminding friends how many weeks until Easter as the calendar pages were being turned. I did not expect this turn of events. But I am fortunate and blessed, surrounded by prayer partners. When I told my Kurdish neighbor Sabrina that I had a different kind of cancer and needed her prayers, she stopped our conversation, covered her hair with her black lace scarf, lifted both hands with palms to the sky and began to pray. It was a holy moment. My healing has begun as the tulips bloom in the backyard of the Hideaway on Holy Monday.
Even the most nominal church-goer recognizes the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem with the crowd waving palms and welcoming the Messiah into the occupied city. Change is about to happen, in ways that few can anticipate.
The lesson from Psalms for the day cites portions of Psalm 118 which begins and ends with the phrase "his steadfast love endures forever!" Constant, unending, compassion and grace is announced over and over, not only by this psalm, but others which affirm this experience of God's love. God's love will not weaken or disappear. God's love is for this moment and all those that follow. Change will happen in our circumstances, but our experience of God's care for us is an embrace that will not quit. Ever.
At first I heard nothing else as my doctor gave me the news. But the reality began to sink in after a few days, diffuse large B cell lymphoma.
How could that be?
Last summer, 9 months ago, I listened as another doctor told me I had aggressive prostate cancer, and the best option was to surgically remove the cancer. I had recovered well. My PSA was zero. No, the previous cancer had not returned; this is a completely different cancer, and even more perilous to my health.
So the last two weeks have been filled with blood tests, and CT and PET scans, and doctor appointments, and counseling. I have a good prognosis with the test results from last Friday revealing that in addition to cancer in lymph tissue in my stomach, I have cancer in the lymph node under my left arm. Fortunately, miraculously, this cancer was found before I have any symptoms, and with little dispersal through my body. I have heard too many stories of patients who were diagnosed too late. DLBL is a serious threat; it can be fatal.
I am hopeful. My oncologist is confident that the cancer can be, will be, cured.
Next Monday I begin chemotherapy with a combination of four drugs. Every three weeks I will get an infusion that will take 3-4 hours. Nasty side effects may follow each week following treatment. The doctor said I may need radiation following the chemotherapy. And I will have lowered immunity with the risk of infection.
I got my second vaccination against Covid in late February. Supposedly, I am immune. I was ready to break out of isolation, see my friends, invite them to my home, eat in restaurants, go to the theater, hug my granddaughter. But I have something new stalking me.
So I have a new journey ahead, not unlike the multitude of times I escorted parishioners through this perilous land. Except this time, it's my journey.
Of course I won't be alone. My neighbor said I certainly have more resources than the typical cancer patient: world-class medical facilities, amazing physicians, prayer partners including my Buddhist and Muslim neighbors, my wife and family, and my faith in God's healing.
I expect to be riding a roller-coaster of emotions, and sometimes the future may appear murky. But I have hope that I will be twice-cured.
New Year's Day, January 1, 2001, was a glorious day in our neighborhood. Windy, warm, with a high of 73 degrees. It was quite a change in weather from the previous day when it was cool and rainy. So we spent much of the day outside. Haircuts for both of us. The third or fourth time I trimmed Judy's hair during the pandemic while Judy has regularly cut my hair for more than 15 years. And we walked. The puddle near the road was still and the surface did not reflect the sky and beckoned me to use my new phone to record an image. Simple fun.
Like everyone else in the world, I am eager to see 2020 move on. But the reality is that a new calendar year is a bit of an illusion. Today is not much different from yesterday, especially when one is retired. Nevertheless, there is a freshness about a new calendar, a new budget, a new president (soon-to-be). I'm glad to be done with cancer, and hopeful for a COVID vaccination. I'm eager to be out and about again, and looking. This image is one I discovered last week as I was processing some photos from the autumn of 2015. I may have tweeked the saturation a little, but it does portray what I saw with the stack of basalt rocks at the Interstate State Park in Minnesota. I am looking for different in the new year, a different hopeful spirit in the country, a desire for justice and equality, a quest for peace, and images that will make me dance and sing (even at my age.)
One doesn't need a calendar to know that autumn is all around. As I drink my morning coffee and gaze out the window, I see one of our burning bushes lit by the morning sun. What a glorious day!
Actually, my countdown started two weeks ago as I looked at what adjustments I might need to make with the coming winter. Some might think I am rushing the calendar. But I need a marker of hope. I want to look forward to the future. this year I have survived cancer, avoided Covid, longed to hug my granddaughter, missed my family, yearned to visit friends. I want to move beyond the toxic chaos of political poison. So I set a mark on the calendar when life could be different again, maybe not normal, but not like it is now. Easter. The day of resurrection. Celebration. Spring. This photo is from April 5, 2020, captured in my backyard. 21 weeks until the dogwood is in full bloom again. And I will celebrate.
And to use the days ahead, I have begun to set goals so that these 21 weeks can have a purpose beyond waiting. I have a list of projects and hopes. By the time I get to Easter, life will be different.
Susan brought us gifts. She brought flowers to a gardener and a photographer of gardens. Wow! Unlike any flower we had in our gardens. The giver brought a special flower. But the point is not that the flower was different. The point is that it was a gift. Family is a gift. Faith is a gift. Friends are gifts. A simple day changed by a gift is truly a blessing. Every day can be changed by gifts and givers.
It's been a month since my surgery. The good news is that the pathology report reveals that the cancer was wholly contained in the prostate and the surgeon is confident that he removed all the cancer. When I return to his office in another month, I hope that the blood test confirms that I am a cancer survivor. I am so appreciative for the many prayers and notes of encouragement. It is good to know that the journey was not a solitary one. Thank you.
The magnolia tree in our backyard is reblooming as are a number of our daylilies. It's my hope that here in mid-August in a tumultuous year that we all might have an opportunity to rebloom.
Tucked into a corner of the garden are a few coneflowers, not many, just this red variety. The plant has been blooming for a while, but the sun this morning accented the various stages of growth in this single plant. I am glad that I saw it because it has been a stressful time, not just for me, but for all of us. My surgery is this coming Monday and I am hopeful that I will begin the road to recovery. I am not so optimistic about the national approach to the spread of the coronovirus. But I dwell among hopeful people.