Bowl of Life Seriously Shattered

A few days ago I posted the poem “Broken” where I likened a bowl that cracked at work last week to the suddenness of a traffic accident. Last week I learned there’s more than one way a dish can suddenly split in half.

On the 13th I came home from my shift at the Villa resolved that I was going to finally have a physical checkup to see why I’ve been so fatigued all winter, why my thinking seems at times so fuzzy, why I get so out of breath and my nerves burn so much. I put in a normal shift at work that day and my upper legs hurt all evening, somewhat like a bad sunburn.

I’ve been telling myself all winter I need to be more active, cut out coffee, etc., but Tuesday I decided these problems stem from something deeper than a sedentary lifestyle. So I phoned and made a doctor’s appointment, fearing MS, fibromyalgia, or some awful thing like that. Thursday I saw the doctor – a new one at our clinic – and he gave me forms for blood tests.

Because we had other things to do that day, I ended up putting the test off until last Tuesday morning. Wednesday before 9am I got a call from my doctor’s office. “The doctor wants to see you about your test results. Can you come in for 11:45am?”

I was surprised he even had the results that fast. “ Could I rather come in tomorrow?”

“He really wants to see you today.”

“Oh, dear.” Do I have an infection? Has he discovered I’m diabetic?  He was going to test my B12 levels. Has he discovered that I’m seriously anaemic? Or is my white blood cell count too high, which would be indicative that my body’s fighting something? Like cancer?

I scolded myself. “Don’t imagine the worst right away.”

My daughter was going to town that day so I caught a ride in with her and looked after her two youngest children while she shopped. And she waited at the doctor’s office with me. The doctor told me my white blood cell count was extremely high. I knew he was looking for tumours when he checked my lymph glands, liver and spleen, but said everything feels normal. He wanted to repeat the blood test for confirmation. He’d ordered one other test done, he said, but he couldn’t find – or didn’t have – the results yet.

Then we went to have dinner and while we were eating he phoned me. I could forget about that repeat blood test; he’d located or gotten the results of the last test. And he told me I have leukemia.

He told me he’d already called a blood doctor and that fellow wanted me to have an ultrasound of my innards to see if there was any sign they were affected. I should come pick up the form at his office.  When I got there the receptionist said the doctor had told her it was “urgent” so she’d booked it for the next morning. (Around here that’s amazing!)

CLL is what he wrote on the requisition form. We’ve read that Chronic lymphocytic leukemia – if that’s what it turns out to be – is a common kind in older people and it progresses very slowly.

So I’m sitting tight and hoping for good news from my doctor tomorrow once he has the test results. Then I’ll likely need to visit this haematologist – and maybe the Cancer Clinic – to find out where to from here.

On Friday I told my husband I feel like I’ve been blown out of the water and landed in a giant marshmallow where everything’s fuzzy and I can’t think about anything yet. But since then I’ve gone from “This isn’t happening” to “No big deal. I could live another 30 years” to “Shriek! I’m dying!” to “So what else is new?” I’m sure the picture will clarify after a few more doctor’s appointments.

So the bowl that holds my sweetness has cracked in half; in one way nothing has changed yet everything has changed. Funny thing, though: the sweetness isn’t lost; God is pouring it into everyday life all around me. The beauty of nature, the affection of my family, the laughter of my grandchildren – each thing tastes sweeter now. When you lose sight of tomorrow, everything you see and feel today can be so precious.

In the midst of this I’m preparing my manuscript; I’ve been giving it a final edit before publication and choosing suitable illustrations. So my posts may be sporadic for awhile but I want you to know your prayers and moral support at this time mean very much to us.

INNOCENCE LOST

When I was a teen my Mom & Dad F owned a café and we sold tobacco products.  Almost every day, among my other jobs, I would refill the wooden rack with the various brands of cigarettes.  When people came in to buy a pack I would hand it over and ring up the sale.

I never thought twice about the right or wrong of it; it was simply part of my job.  I didn’t smoke, thus I had no interest in those packages other than to fill the racks.  I had no craving for what was inside.  On the contrary, I’d seen a few pictures of tar-blackened smokers’ lungs, looking about the colour of the fresh asphalt being spread on the highway outside our door–and I sure didn’t want mine to look like that!

So, even though I was aware of evidence coming forth about cigarettes causing cancer and other diseases, as far as my own personal interest is concerned, I was handling them innocently.  But the time came when my Dad got cancer as a direct result of smoking.  It started in his sinus, erupted in open sores on his face, ate away at his nose bone and eye socket, and spread to his brain.  He looked so awful as the cancer messed up his face!

After that I hated tobacco.  Not the actual product, but what it could do to people’s lives–what it did to my father and so many others.  First of all, all that money going up in smoke.  The years of slavery; innocent babes living in smoke-filled homes, having their lungs damaged every day.  Then the suffering and death, whether from cancer, emphysema, COPD or other diseases.

While I oppose smoking for health reasons and the waste of money, I hate it for what it has done to someone I love.  When I was looking for employment, I refused to work at any jobs where I’d be involved in handling and selling tobacco products.  I can’t claim innocence anymore.

I believe this is a small taste of how God hates sin.  Not only is it an affront to His righteousness, but it separates mankind –His own beloved creatures, made in His image– from Him.  He also sees what a devastating impact sinful pursuits do to the lives of those affected, first of all the person in bondage to sin and addiction, then the effects on his/her family that result from this bondage: spouses and innocent children sold into slavery, neglected, abused.

When we are His children, we need to respect our Heavenly Father.  When something causes as much suffering, criminal activity, bondage and death, when it separates people from Him eternally, we can be sure Our Father hates it.  And when He hates something, let’s not think we can partake in just a little “in all innocence” and He won’t mind.

Scripture tells us that He will permit our innocence for a time and not hold it against us, but there will come a time when, through His Holy Spirit, He reveals His will to us more fully.  Then there’s no going back.  If we know it’s wrong, we are going to be held accountable.  “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

(This is the first of two related articles.  Part B to come: “Ticket to Perpetual Fame”)

Who Will Love Me When I’m Dying?

“Joan?” the nurse called from the waiting room doorway. “Is Joan here?” We all glance up to see a woman of about forty get up from her seat and follow the nurse. She looked healthy enough now. What kind did she have? How long ago?

This is the Cancer Clinic and we are all here for our regular checkups. Mine is once a year, thanks be, but many of the people sitting here are still having checkups every three or six months. Some are having weekly chemotherapy like I did way back when.

All of us seated there feel a varying degree of uneasiness–perhaps dread. At one point our lives have all been jarred by those unforgettable words: “It’s cancer.” And having heard them once, we know that we could hear them again.

I gaze around the room and see people weak and pale, with thin hair, some wearing a wig; it’s apparent that they are still in the early stages of recovery–or death. With others it’s not quite as visible and some, like myself, appear to be in perfect health. How long ago did they go through it? Will they get a clean bill of health this time? Will I?

Going in for my checkups I can’t help but think back to my bout with cancer. Can it be that ten years have passed since I heard those awful words? Actually, I had to squeeze it out of my doctor; he would have preferred mumbling vague terms like “malignant tumor” until I asked him point blank, “If it’s malignant, then it’s cancer?”

He was a young doctor, not hardened to suffering; this was tough for him.  He looked away for a moment, then said through clenched teeth, “Yes, then it’s cancer.”

Initially he had tried to reassure me that “it’s probably just a cyst, nothing to worry about,” but he knew right away that the truth would be much more painful. By my second visit we both knew it.  I asked him what the surgery would do to me and he made an attempt to explain about the operation and the scar, but he soon faded away into silence. It wouldn’t be nice.

The “valley of the shadow of death” was a dark one, but the Lord held my hand all the way and I praise Him for it. I had surgery, then a heavy dose of chemotherapy which made me lose my hair, but I was never horribly nauseated like some people. The worst was the depression that followed several months after the treatments, but even then the Lord was there to help me when I got really down. I am alive today and very thankful for the modern medical “miracles” that happen every day.

On one of those chemotherapy days, when I was called in for my treatment the nurse found the room occupied by another patient. The nurse told me, “We’ll move Mrs… to another room and you can go in here.”

Soon a very thin lady in a wheel chair was brought out of the treatment room; as they passed me at the door I heard her say to the nurse, “I want to ask the doctor how much time I have left.”

The nurse answered, “They really can’t say, Mrs… They just don’t know these things for sure.”

I looked down as the nurse wheeled her by and saw this tiny person wasted away to skin and bones because of the disease and/or the treatment. It was apparent to us all that she would not see many more days in this world.

When Isaiah writes about Jesus he calls Him “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” Referring to Jesus’ death on the cross, he prophesied that “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”

I read these verses one day and envisioned Jesus dying on the cross. Then I remembered the sight of that tiny lady who was wheeled past me. The Lord showed me something that has been a comfort to me all these years since.

We all want to die healthy, to go quietly, peacefully. A heart attack maybe–preferably just fall asleep and never wake up. Nothing traumatic, no suffering, nothing that will waste us away in mind or body, no incapacitating surgeries. Spare us all that!

But we all know of dear friends and loved ones who suffered terribly and perhaps their form was even so changed or disfigured that it was hard to look at them. We know it happens and we all wonder at times if that will be our lot someday.

“Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6

At this time of year we’re focusing on how Jesus submitted Himself to the cross, how He suffered that we might be reconciled to our Heavenly Father. To Christians the cross represents death–the death of our Lord and also death to our SELF. The Bible tells us that if we would be a child of God we must die to selfish desires and goals, to pride and hurt feelings. We must even die to our own human reasoning, to our right to determine our own path through life. We surrender it ALL to God.

The day I discovered I had cancer all my hopes, my goals, the plans we had made for the future, these all died. At that time I looked at cancer as a death sentence: if you have cancer you’re history! I was not afraid, though, for I believed that the blood of Jesus Christ covered my sins. I felt very unworthy, yet I knew that Jesus had paid the price for my salvation and the pearly gates would swing open for me because of the reconcilliation He had accomplished on the cross.

I could almost see into Heaven! Seldom has it felt so near to me as it did in those few days before I saw the surgeon! But once I saw him I got a different picture: I realized that cancer is treatable, that I was going to live, but that my life would be different. From then on I would have a cross to carry. I remember how heavy it looked when I first saw it and how hard I thought it would be to carry–but it has turned out to be a very light one.

Who knows what may someday come to pass? Someday I might be old and weary of life; I may be senile; I may be seriously ill. I may be disfigured by disease. Yet those verses from Isaiah tell me that if I will embrace the cross today and the death that it represents, then in my hour of need the Lord will embrace me.

If I commit my life to Him today He will never forsake me; He will love me and stay by my side even if I look so awful my own loved ones have to turn away.  And when it’s over He will carry me over death’s sea to those “many mansions” we read about in John 14:1-3.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23: 4,6