I am thrilled to be back at the church for at least a few hours each day. Prince Philip always asks me to recount for him my “favorite part” of each day. It’s not been difficult to think of many favorite things — things that comprise a typical pastor’s day and which we often take for granted. Things like praying for dear Susan before her scary MRI that she’d be so relaxed in the presence of Jesus that she’d fall asleep during the noisy test — and learning the next day that this is exactly what happened! Other things have been my favorite moments like answering emails from folks in the community who want to have their child baptized or a young, local pastor wanting some advice on how to prepare a couple for marriage . Maybe one of my favorite, favorite moments was a call from one of my Anglican church plant priest colleagues who wanted to chat about how the Rite of Reconciliation (Confession) can link with the ministry of demonic deliverance. Ah, I know it sounds weird, but these are the things that make my heart go pitty-patter! It’s been a good week, praise the Lord.
And after a few hours at the church, I call my dear hubby who is still my chauffeur as long as I am on narcotic pain-killers, and ask him very sweetly, “May I please have a ride home?” He always comes quickly, delivers me kindly home and then it is time for soft jammies, a pain pill, and a lay-back in my infamous recliner. I find NCIS or reruns of the Mentalist just what the doctor ordered for that quiet time of rest and recovery. By the time Philip arrives home, I can manage making him a tasty chicken and cheese quesadilla and, thank God, he’s a simple man in the culinary department, so we have a delightful time chatting about our day, how good God is and quite frankly, how long the process of having breast cancer is turning out to be!
I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on breast cancer once again. I did quite a bit when I was first diagnosed, but didn’t have the energy during chemo or radiation. Since refocusing on my reconstruction surgery, I’ve found renewed interest and energy and so am back hitting the books or searching the net.
And it’s been interesting. Let me make a new observations if I might:
1. Breast cancer is an extremely personal and private disease. When you are first diagnosed, your world slips out from under you and you are overwhelmed with not just the mere fact that you have breast cancer, but also the myriad and many options you must consider. My name and contact info has been given to many newly diagnosed women, but I’m finding that few seem to want to talk about what is happening to them. They retract, pull in, and prefer to deal privately with the trial. Who can blame them?
2. Everyone must choose their own path. My goodness – there are lumpectomies, mastectomies, double mastectomies, chemo, radiation, estrogen inhibitors, acupuncture and, well, the list goes on and on. Most of us go with what our doctors recommend but others pursue less conventional treatment. And I find it’s important not to judge or impose my way on anyone else — each must find their own path and walk it through. What we need most in times like these is a listening ear, a loving and empathetic heart, encouragement regardless of the chosen path and prayer, prayer and more prayer.
3. Breast cancer is a longgggg process! 2012 was a year-long fight with cancer for us — first diagnosis, then bilateral mastectomy, 6 months of chemo, 6 week radiations, then begin my 5 years of an estrogen inhibitor drug and then take a deep breath or two before the end of the year. It seemed as if the new year just began and now we are in reconstruction. This will take a while to heal and then another, more serious surgery for reconstruction for the other side of the chest. Then it will take another while to recover and by then 2013 will come to a close. That’s two years and that’s a long time. We are feeling the weariness that comes from the long process.
4. There is a time to fight and there is a time to rebuild and the transition from one to the other is not an easy one. We are so aware of the two separate seasons of this long process. Last year, every day, every moment was about staying alive — about fighting against this cancer that wanted to take my life. And now this year, everything has changed! That same kind of fighting for my life is over. Philip and I have needed to transition to another mindset, another attitude, another ethos — what we must now have a heart and mind for is REBUILDING. It’s all about rebuilding — not fighting, but rebuilding from our losses and choosing to partner with doctors who are helping to reconstruct and rebuild that which was damaged or even destroyed by the cancer or cancer treatment. That transition from being FIGHTERS to becoming BUILDERS has been a challenge for us. Pray for us that we might exhibit the same godly grace in this year of rebuilding as God gave us in the year of fighting!
May the Lord continue to bless us in our learning and may He continue to reach out and touch those dear women (and men!) who have been beset with this awful disease. May His grace accompany each of them as they fight and as they rebuild.
With love and blessings,
Rev. Cathie+ and Prince Philip
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.