Archive for October, 2015

falling leaves

I knew that my hair would fall out sometime just before my second chemotherapy treatment. For the past week I’ve felt some scalp tenderness and then I began to see the extra hair in my brush. Right on schedule. So last night after supper and evening prayer Peggy and Carol went to work with the scissors, trimming what was left short so that when it falls out it won’t be so annoying. hair

I sat outside today, a beautiful autumn afternoon with a gentle breeze. As I ran my hand over my scalp I saw all the silver hair that fluttered to the ground and thought, “Look at that! My own falling leaves! Is this what trees go through each autumn?” Just like the trees that let go each fall, I can trust in the new growth that will come next spring.

It’s not easy but when I can see it as part of a necessary process then it makes sense. It is a sign that I am entering into a time of change, of renewal, of healing. What else, besides my hair, am I invited or required to let go?

I think of the caterpillar going into its cocoon. They say that it totally dissolves inside but that in the primordial “goo” there exist some imaginal discs that hold the possibility of the butterfly. This image works for me. Of necessity I have to let go of some of the things I am accustomed to do- in ministry, around the house, travel- during this time of treatment. If I can surrender those things, perhaps there is some essential work of be-ing that requires my attention and energy.

I’m glad to have the seasons of fall and winter to accompany me through this treatment time. Letting go, entering into some darker and shorter days, hibernating while the work of healing runs its course. This is way the Creator is unfolding for me.metamorphosis


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The past six days I’ve spent a lot of hours looking for signs. Mostly I’ve been reading the signs of my body: need for liquids, need for rest, need for medicines to ease the side effects of chemo.  I’ve also been looking for signs that the worst of it is over. So when today’s Gospel has Jesus scolding the gathering crowds that “no sign shall be given except the sign of Jonah”, I have been wondering what that could mean for me?

beesI usually enjoy watching my hummingbird feeders and have been happy to see that there are still a few loyal followers now in October. But in the past few days the feeders have been covered with bees. The spectacle is not nearly so entertaining. At best I figure I am helping ward off “colony collapse”. Today the sight of those bees swarming over the ports reminded me of the crowds coming to Jesus in hopes of signs and wonders. Maybe a healing, the driving out of a demon or two, or the multiplication of loaves and fishes… But Jesus says they are an evil generation and the only sign they will get is the sign of my old friend Jonah. That reluctant prophet had a message of conversion for the people of Nineveh and no one was more surprised (or disappointed) than he was when they took that message to heart.

What message of conversion am I reluctant to hear today? Am I just drawn to the sweetness of the Gospel or am I willing to hear a challenging word and let it turn my heart to God? I thought about an article I read this morning from yesterday’s New York Times called The Refugees at our Door. The tragic and complicated crisis of women and children fleeing the Northern Triangle of Central America has been an issue I have followed for some years. I have met these families and heard their stories. Today, still feeling pretty sick and tired, I found the article almost too much to take. And yet, I wondered, is this the sign of Jonah for me? The bottom line of the story is that we have forced Mexico to stem the tide of refugees in order to keep them from reaching our southern border- so we don’t have to see the misery, hear the stories, or offer assistance.

Pope Francis challenged Congress to not be put off by the numbers of immigrants seeking refuge but to see them as human beings in need. I post the link to the article here and invite you to read in this story the sign of Jonah I saw today:


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Beginning again

Yesterday was day one of chemotherapy. I will receive three drugs, all on one day, every three weeks for six cycles. The infusion center I am using for the treatment is located in my oncologist’s office. When Peggy and I arrived we followed the signs to its temporary location in the basement while the regular center is being remodeled. There is something about descending to the lower levels, to a windowless room lined with recliners and iv poles, that reminds me of the belly of the whale where Jonah spent three days. That story happens to have been the reading for Mass on Monday, October 5. He ended up there because he fled from his prophetic calling. How many of us are equally reluctant to accept what we know God is asking us to do?


Jonah is a good companion for this new beginning of therapy for recurrent ovarian cancer. I have had many moments of reluctance to accept what God is asking of me. But in the end I am wanting to do what Mother Theresa recommends: “Give what God asks and receive what God gives, with a smile.” And I am not alone, neither in the belly of the whale nor when spewed up on the shore.

When I woke from my many little naps during the six hours I was receiving treatment, I saw that the other eleven recliners were filled and vacated by a steady stream of co-journeyers. Almost everyone but me was familiar to the nurses and the routine. From frail to robust, each one of us was seeking a return to wholeness in this small basement room.

Gratitude is the best medicine of all. It was what flowed into me as I drifted off to sleep with the pre-medication before receiving the chemotherapy. How grateful I am to be able to receive this treatment! How grateful for the loving community, family and friends who have been praying with and for me during the waiting time and who continue to this moment, lifting me up to God!

The second time around is less anxious. I know what to expect and how to be ready for it. I am taking it easy, letting the medicine do what it needs to do and allowing for the consequences that aren’t so pleasant. I have a lovely place to let this be a healing time for me. casa de caridad

I will be sharing this journey with those who would like to keep me company this way. I look forward to your comments and reflections. I learned the last time that people benefited not just from what I wrote but from what was shared by others. And so let us begin again!

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