Tuesday, December 27, 2005

One Year Later....

One year

365 days

(ok, minus a few hours)

Last year on this date, December 27, 2004 at 1:30pm I accompanied Frank on a visit to an urologist. We waited for a VERY LONG TIME in an office where we brought the average age down to oh, say about 65, and then we waited some more in an exam room where I began my education (from the posters on the wall in the exam room) on the male’s urology system and the different types of kidney stones one can have. Those posters are not suppose to scare you are they? Cause I never want to play with a set of jacks again.

Upon the entrance of the venerable Dr., our Frank “dropped trou” and said Dr. pronounced a diagnosis:

testicular cancer.

It was stunning, and not in the, "have you seen the latest fashion line, it’s stunning," sense of the word.

The afternoon Zombie like we wandered the halls of the hospital where Frank got to meet the nice ultra sound wand up close and personal. We also got to walk the results back to the Dr.’s office and INSISTED that he read them for us then and there. Yep, one was evil and diseased and the other, well, was just a dumb nut.

So began a journey that I never thought I’d take, never wanted to volunteer to take, but don’t begrudge that I had to take it because the reward was well worth the journey: Frank is still with all of us.

Thank you to each of you for having supported and walked with us this past year; it is a blessing to be able to know of the love and support that we have surrounding us.

Now, I just have to tell you about the most wonderful Christmas Day: Sunday, December 25, 2005.

Yes, we had church. AND we had decent attendance for a day when other churches thought it a good idea to be closed.

We, and by we I mean my mom (and a helpful cook in the church who had back up in case we needed more--we did!), made cinnamon rolls for everyone who came to church. Instead of Sunday School we had a fellowship time where everyone sugared up. It was delicious!

BUT the most amazing part was that everyone had been invited to bring a wrapped gift for baby Jesus; something that could be part of a baby layette kit or a baby bundle (page #14) for missions.

The manger was overflowing with gifts!

I tried to share a meaningful children’s sermon trying to equate how hard it is for us to talk to ants vs. how hard it is for God to talk to us and that is why he sent Jesus—I even had glow in the dark bugs for the kids to have—but mostly they were amazed that I’d even consider talking to ant, b/c it would bite you, especially the red ones, and when I tried to say we were kind of like ants, one young one said, I don’t want to be an ant, I’d get squashed by somebody’s thumb!

Admitting defeat (or at least recognizing that the cinnamon rolls and candy before church were working their sugary magic) I thought it best to move on to the presents.

There were enough gifts for baby Jesus each child to open 2 or three. They tore into them and were excited that baby Jesus was going to give them to other babies who needed them. Then they started showing me what they were unwrapping and I appropriately express astonishment and wonder at each thing presented to me.

“Ohh diapers!”

“Wow a sleeper!”

“Look oneises!”

“What a soft blanket!” (A sweet 4 year old wanted to keep the flufy pink one for herself--it was very soft and very pink, and she did ask very nicely. She is also the one who almost had a sit-in in my office because I wouldn't let her take one of the lady bug stones I have in a fountain in my office; I've since learned that she has given tours of my office to her grandparents to show them the lady bugs. *grin* Oh, I did not let her have the blanket either.)

At some point there were more hands showing me things than I could keep up with and they gleefully started piling all the gifts on top of me. Giggling. While I was still trying to share/tell what all the gifts were for the benefit of those not up front with us. Thank God the worship leader came to my rescue and helped usher the kids in the direction of putting the unwrapped gifts back into the manger. Meanwhile, one 1st grade boy began picking up the paper saying, “I'm the trash monster, err, err, err!" Then 5 seconds later, as he contined efficiently picking up the paper, "I CAN'T believe I'm picking up the trash!"

Then some of the children then went to "Children’s Church" where they set up a birthday party, complete with cake for us to share after the worship service.

One child decided that she didn't want to go back to sit with her mom and grandparents so she stayed up front with me through a hymn and the prayer time until her grandpa came and fetched her. She was very well behaved and cuddled on my lap during the singing of Angels We Have Heard on High.

So to recap:
We fed everyone wonderful sugary home made cinnamon rolls before church.
Had a gift opening frenzy.
And then fed them birthday cake before we sent them home.

Later my sister remarked the only thing I didn’t do to jazz the kids up before sending them home was to give each one of them a puppy!



I hope to have some pictures to share with you soon from our church photographer.

I hope each of you had a very Merry Christmas too!

The Rev

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Longest Night is Over; Watch for the Light!

Last night I held a Longest Night Service at my church. December 21, the winter solstice, more hours of darkness than any other night of the year.

I did my 1st one last year as a response to the heaviness and grief I was experiencing with the weight of all that had happened in the life of my church. Before any of the **** hit the fan with Frank I was exhausted. I remember lounging in my PJs on December 25 grateful that at least on this one day I could rest.

In 2004 in addition to the normal day to day things in the life of a church, from August through December I conducted a number of funerals that were painful and emotionally draining. I do not begrudge the job, it was an honor to walk with each person as they faced their grief; but because I was tired – and probably not acting out of my best self at all times – I too was in a state of grief and shock along with them. The December weather was also particularly dark and dreary, that coupled with the red and green commercialism found at every street corner wore on me. I had no motivation to do anything than what was necessary.

Darkness surrounded me.

In other words *I* needed to find hope and thought that it was a journey that others needed to be invited along on too. It was not enough to be present in church to watch the Advent wreath gain a candle each Sunday in Advent. I *was* watching for the light, but even for me, it can be hard to see the light for all the darkness that surrounds us.

So, a Longest Night Service. I first heard of it when a dear departed friend, Sara Fleming, conducted one at my parent’s home church. It is a service geared toward those who are seeking peace and calm in the midst of all the hustle/bustle/ho ho ho ness of this season. Particular attention is paid to those for who have experienced a loss of any kind. Perhaps this is the 1st year without a loved one, or the 10th and every year is difficult because of the grief that precious memories can stir in one’s hear.

For all that has happened to us personally in the past 12 months I am a bit surprised that I can say that I am in a much better place this year than last. I am enjoying listening to holiday music and a bit put-out that the radio stations I listen to are not playing more of it this week.

I'll admit I am a bit melancholy as we begin to recount the “on this day last year we found out ____ about Frank” but know too that I have always been prone to reflection about where I’ve been and where I’m going. It's part of being me. As for where we are going…I am wondering what wild and crazy thing we can do to mark the year anniversary of Frank’s diagnosis…we’ll see.

But I digress….For me things are different this year. I’m not waxing for things that I did in the past:

I gave my self permission to NOT put up a Christmas tree. We – I ;-)– hadn’t for two years and I’d felt bad about it – up to this year. I made a conscious choice to enjoy what others were able to do and not worry about being able to keep up with them; a girls gotta sleep ya know.

I set out a simple advent wreath at home. I light it on the Sunday afternoons that I remember (I’ve had a bad cold all December and the cold meds have made me a bit loopy), if I forget, oh well, it is not a reason to kick myself. Seriously. None of this "I wish I could have at least remembered to do that!" stuff.

AND I have also given myself permission to not worry about sending out a Christmas letter, or even and Epiphany letter (January 6, some pastors I know who in their busy-ness don’t get a Christmas letter out, opt for getting them out on the day the wise men arrived, the 12th day of Christmas or Epiphany), we will continue to blog and keep you, our friends, family and others in this journey of life with and after cancer informed.

Perhaps it is a new / different perspective? Is it having walked through the ambiguity of disease? Is it b/c I have finally gotten to a place of maturity where I really am able to let things go and just be to be? Maybe I am beginning to be able to prioritize that which is truly important and do that which makes my heart sing. (What I encouraged each of you to do.)

Following is the poem that graced the cover of our service bulletin. It is my prayer for each of you.

The Christmas Spirit
Is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces
In the face
Of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed in our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things are possible,
That even now
Unto us
A child is born!

Grace and Peace to each of you this Christmas.

-The Rev.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The “Bibby” season has begun!

Tonight marks the 1st anniversary of Frank telling me that “something” was not quite right with all his bits and pieces. For about a week he’d been experiencing discomfort and finally invited me into the situation by telling me about it.

Could it be that he’d gained weight and his underwear was just binding him?

Could it be that he’d pulled a muscle whilst trying to tone up by doing sit ups? (I don’t he’s done any since then…heh heh heh. Anyway.)

Could it be that he had testicular cancer?

Naw, it was probably just and infection of the epididymitis (an infection of the testis, or worst case (ALERT: the following will make you squeamish) a twisted teste—it does happen.

But that wouldn’t explain why one was hard and the other wasn’t.

It was Friday night, the church choir had a Christmas concert and he’d waited to tell me until after 5pm. I had half a mind to make him go to the emergency room. He didn’t want to go and in retrospect they would have told him what we decided to do anyway: Frank would make a call to an Urologist 1st thing Monday morning.

I sat by myself at the concert watching him sing with my imagination running wild. He’d not felt “good” for several weeks. His back had been bothering him, he looked tired. He has cancer! He can’t have cancer! Why would HE get cancer? It’s just an infection…..

That was December 17, 2004. The following week he wore bib overalls—“Bibbies”—every day in an effort to lessen the pain and be comfortable. He’s never been one to dress up for work, but even I thought he was pushing the fashion limits of his office. His appointment wasn’t until December 27, a full week away. We tried different kinds of underwear—maybe that was causing his pain? And he did TONS of internet research, sharing only some of it with me—why freak me out when I had one of the busiest weeks of the church year going on?

And now we come full circle, the choir has their Christmas program tonight.

What a year.

I’m glad it’s over and yet, I learned so much.

Some I didn’t want to: being an expert in testicular cancer is not always the most useful of party tricks for a female clergy person.

But, most of all my love, admiration and appreciation for my amazing husband grew deeper and stronger. I don’t know if I needed cancer to help me do that, but I’m trying to find the lemonade made from the lemons of the last year! Now I’m going to dry the tears that are inexplicably dripping from my cheeks!

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Rev

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

those darn inquiring minds...

In answer to the questions raised by Vinnys last post--'cause I just can't bear to leave you hanging--

Said nursing student evidently was "overwhelmed" (remember the patient also had antlers that he was shaking at the doctor) by the port-a-cath scar (about an inch wide above his right peck) and the insignificant 14 inch line running from his sternum into his underwear zone and did not initially recognize the tiny extra milk spout.

There was also all his hair...


You wanted to know......

Merry Christmas!

the rev

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yet another boring follow-up visit

Had a CT done yesterday along with blood draws. BORING! About the most excitement I had was when being examined by Dr. V: he brought in a nursing student to see if she would notice my supernumerary nipple. So add that to my list of party tricks (although this one isn't cancer related).

We talked a little bit about the Raynaud's I'm experiencing, but that's about it. Anything he might prescribe to help would make me loopy and would be verboten as far as the FAA is concerned, so I decided to pass. We'll see if I acclimate to the cold temperatures at all. It's freakin' cold today - it's 7 degrees this morning, with a chance for us to make 18 by the evening. I bought a new pair of insulated gloves yesterday to see if that would help.

I neglected to bring in a hat - I have a Santa cap with battery-operated Christmas lights that would have been perfect for the occasion. Fortunately, the phlebotomists in the lab lent me a set of reindeer ears with bells. When Dr. V. was doing his exam I shook my head and said, "You're making my bells jingle!" He decided to bring in Nurse Gay to document any further harassment I might initiate.