Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Thinking about healing

I'll have my PET scan next Sunday at 3:15. Meet oncologist-the-next on Monday. We'll go over results, history, treatment, next steps. We'll have an idea of what we're dealing with.
As I've said, if it's just that one site, my choices will be to do nothing but watch, or to take a clinical trial. That will be true whether it's a metastasis or a new primary. If it's gotten, it's been gotten. If there are more.... it means we do more. That will mean either a fresh course of time-buying sickness, or an experiment.

I know if we can't find any more cancer in me, I want to take a trial anyway. I want to throw something at it, even if that something may not work. My first oncologist told me that a PET can miss half a billion cells. That was an abstraction until two days ago. A friend at church who's a breast cancer nurse (and a wonderful, wonderful soul) translated it: four millimeters. Something just slightly smaller than a pencil eraser. My primary tumor, two years ago, was six.

I know that I will never know I'm clean, again.

A. knows it's my decision. She doesn't want me to choose sickness (therapy side effects) again, if the scan doesn't show anything. She said, you've basically lost two years of your life to this already. You write that you want to really be alive. She has a good point... and I don't know where I am with it. I won't know really, until we're presented with clear choices. How sick am I willing to be, without clear benefit? How much time do I want to lose to chemical sickness, when I could be feeling healthy?

I've gotten, again, that life is finite. You can probably safely assume that you'll be here in five years. I can reasonably hope for that, but I can't expect it. Even though I feel well right now, and even if my scan suggests health, I know what might likely be the thing that kills me. It's like living with a chronic progressive illness, while you feel well. I don't know how to live in that space. But I will need to, for my own mental health.

It's a simple question, with global implications. "You know you have now. What do you want to do with it?"

We know how I respond to interferon. That won't even be presented to me again. It's a one-time thing. I took it for a year. Recovery lasted almost as long as the treatment itself. Eleven months to the day after finishing it, I found the tumor that was diagnosed as cancerous.

Insert string of expletives here.

I have so many people praying for me, that I can't keep up with my inbox. Why? Because I asked. I was afraid, and I knew I wanted my community wrapped around me. You all are here. Your presence overwhelms me in all the best of ways.  That is healing in itself.

We went to the ordinations in San Francisco on Saturday. I had friends being ordained and I wanted to be there for them. I also knew it would be healing for me. I would see people I hadn't seen for a year. They love me. They know what I'm going through. Their presence would lift me up, hold me close, be enough.

I got all the hugs I needed and wanted. And +Marc did a really amazing thing. He gave me a smile like he knew I knew he got it. Communicated me. And anointed me.

I was not expecting that. Hadn't even thought of it. He had the presence to be in that kairos time with me, and to anoint me for healing. It was a visual exchange of love and courage. A prayer for trust in the presence of God. A cross in holy oil. I felt it soak into my soul.

Curing is physical.  Healing is the whole person.  I ask my friends to pray--and I know that they pray I be well. Or they write back that they're angry I have to do this again. Or draw me hearts on Facebook. Or tell me to be fierce with the Kaiser system, when I need to.  They are connected with me and there for me, in all the ways that they can be.  This love heals me.

I stood up in church on Sunday, and said that I'm back on the cancer bus, that the signs look hopeful, and that I'm grateful for life and for community. People clapped for me. It was a bit overwhelming, but it also worked. I could feel them saying, "Go, you can do this." I heard my name on the prayer list. I flinched just recognizing that I needed to be on it, even though I'd asked. I know that people pray I be cured. And honestly, I totally get where they're coming from, and I pray the same way when my friends are hurt or sick. But I still have reservations with the idea of God selecting certain people to be delivered.

What truly heals me, is God and my community being here with me. It helps the most to know I'm not in this alone. It is love that holds me up, that makes the choices in front of me bearable, even life-giving and good. Love makes whole, and makes possibilities possible. I don't believe that there was or is any cosmic reason I've gotten cancer twice. I make meaning out of it, and I learned how to use it for healing. I don't believe that God gave it to me. Why might I believe that God would take it away?

I know people whose illness gave them the faith that mine has given me. They went through it in loving community. They believe in the same loving God. They died. Something gets all of us. While I do want to live, I don't want to be excluded. God has no reason to cure me and not you. I'm not that special.

To be healed is to live your life, whole and free and real.  To love and to be loved; to know that love matters more than time.  Who we are is more than our bodies. We each matter infinitely to the Love who created us.

My doctors don't know how to cure cancer. I know how to heal the world. Love everyone like you love me when you're afraid you might lose me. Pray that I make the absolute most of the time I have, whether it's two years or five or forty. And pray that every human being does the same.

Cancer teaches me. We are in this world together, for as long as we each are here.


Caminante said...

Your words of wisdom make me weep because in them I find the Holy. Keep writing. And I'll keep praying. xo

Kirstin said...


it's margaret said...

Amen dear sister. Amen.

I remember thinking --well, even God died.... it was a turning point in faith...

I shouldn't be alive, you know.... and here I am. Not special. Just alive. And when I die, I shall be alive in ways unimaginable, God doing things that I cannot hope nor even imagine.

Life is not ended... only changed. When I read that during communion (proper preface, burial of the dead) my heart sings with hope.

love to you.

Apostle In Exile said...


Kirstin said...

Margaret, exactly. Alive in ways unimaginable. Love to you.


Lisa Fox said...

You blew me away with this one, my dear. God bless. You are in my prayers.