Holding Pattern

Cancer, General Thoughts

I spent time this morning on hold with a government entity. I needed to ask some questions about health care options for a family member. When I called in I was kindly told I had a 10 minute wait. 65 minutes and 35 seconds later, I had loaded the dishwasher, ordered contacts, added a news article link to the “Cancer News” page, started preparing thoughts to share at an upcoming conference, and still waited. Every few minutes a voice assured me, “You may encounter moments of silence while you wait,” and, “Your call is very important to us; someone will be with you shortly.”

Eventually I spoke with a helpful person. Who put me on hold again so he could research my problem further. I was so glad for his help that I said goodbye, only to find myself calling back 10 minutes later with another problem. I hung up after 20 more minutes on hold and will try another day.

Ever feel like you’re in a holding pattern? Raging waters ahead and an army of trouble tearing up ground fast behind? Patiently enduring the pause before you have to make a difficult decision? Or maybe you chafe against the silence. You need an answer and debate waiting or wading into the unknown. Maybe you are weighing strategies to cope with cancer. Silence and noise. Noisy silence.

And here is what Jesus said when worries rage and troubles abound and we’re tempted to get worked up about tomorrow:

“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:26-34, The Message


This Week’s Notes:
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Infinite Hope

General Thoughts

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I won’t quite call it survivor’s guilt. I will say I feel a deep relief and gratitude for the second good scan since the January 2013 treatment. Oh God; thank You for answering prayer as You have chosen to. Oh God; help people who are crying out to You in prayer and facing different physical outcomes and challenges today. Oh God; help me if I should have a different outcome in the future.

This week Tom and I journeyed, like thousands of other people every day, into the Big City. We navigated to the hospital — with the help of a friend who has kindly driven us numerous times — for The Visit related to my cancer. On our way out of the city after the scan we were held up at a toll booth. A huge bus was being ushered through the toll with two police cars in front and three police cars behind, barely stopping as it rushed through the gates. Was it a prison transport? Away it went with a whoosh and rapidly disappeared in the distance. Later, our local paper showed a picture of the Speaker of the House visiting Binghamton; he had come from downstate earlier in the day. Ah. So we had passed at the gate in our respective travel lanes; one for cancer treatment, the other for politics. Cancer. Politics. They both require protective helpers looking out for you, large amounts of money, and a strategy to deal with toxic environments. But I digress. What I meant to write was that if we could truly see what is around us, we’d probably observe our own personal caravan accompanied every day by guardian angels. More subtle than politicians escorted by police cars with flashing lights by far. I suspect angels quietly ride shotgun on quite a few cancer treatment runs.

Tuesday’s PET scan went quick but I felt yucky the day after. A little card on my papers said I would be radioactive for 24 hours, but I wouldn’t hurt anyone. Nice. I won’t say I bargained with God about this visit, but I did weigh the possible outcomes. God, do I try to continue working if the news is not what I hope? God, what if the news is bad; do I keep that from my daughter the week before her wedding? I’ve been tired, and have broken into a few night sweats recently; God, is that just life over 40, or am I sick again? Who scheduled this test for a week before her wedding (me)?! God, You can do whatever You want. Help me to handle whatever it is and trust You. People are watching. You. And me. And words. And reactions. Oh God. Help me to hope. And trust.

Today, Friday, these were the words I finally heard from the resident doctor who called with my results from Tuesday’s scan: “The scan was completely normal.” I hung up. Thought about it. Talked to Tom. And then called the doctor back because I could not quite wrap my head around what he meant. Normal. Compared to what? My life has not been normal in three years; normal may not be good. Give me a definition here.

On our second call the resident doctor patiently went on to explain in carefully worded phrases. “There is no evidence of cancer detected by the scan. Your scan looks good. It is very reassuring that it did not show any cancer at this time.”

“So,” I asked, “Does that mean I’m doing good, in your opinion, considering I had stage four cancer nine months ago, and a small remainder of the cancer was showing three months ago?”

“Yes. I would say you are doing great. Your body looks like everyone else. We’ll see you in six months for another PET scan.”

Praise God. And pass the carrot juice.

The last two weeks I’ve been sewing something for my daughter’s wedding. I had to check the directions to remember how to thread the machine. On top of my not having sewn on a machine in like ten years, the booklet was in Spanish. I wanted some part of me to be in the fabric of Katie’s day, and I had my big chance with a creation she wanted for the reception. It was a simple Pinterest idea that not even the lady at the fabric store could help us figure out. Just when my determination was wilting we found a solution and the sewing began. This is what mothers do. They blend delicate fabric one stitch at a time, rip it out if it’s wrong, and make labors of love to decorate their daughter’s special day. A wedding between a man and a woman signifies something beyond your every-day affection. It is love and hope. Hope in something good because of God’s plan. No matter the outcome in life around you.

I thought of two other women as I finished sewing for my daughter’s wedding. The chair covers we are borrowing were sewn by a mother for her daughter’s wedding; the mother passed away from cancer soon after that wedding. The music during the unity sand in the wedding ceremony will be played and sung by a young woman whose mother lost the battle to cancer the same spring I was recovering from my first round of treatment. There are other mothers we know and you know sewing hope and love into the lives of their families as they battle debilitating illness. Whether you’re sewing love into a wedding celebration or weaving hope into the daily fabric of your family’s life, let the One who gives infinite hope take the reins. He won’t fail, no matter what life’s pattern requires.

Sewing’s done. Time to get ready for a celebration.

“May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22