On September 11 I celebrated sixty years. Amid the funny cards, loving messages and delicious treats that put me way over my Weight Watchers weekly points, I felt a profound gratitude for the gift of being here on this earth. I truly rejoice at reaching this milestone on life’s journey.
September is ovarian cancer awareness month and the past two Septembers brought me a diagnosis of recurrence. Last year at this time I was waiting to start chemo, knowing that the healing journey would occupy my energies for the next many months. I took a photo pre-chemo to share with family members as a Christmas gift- but also as a hopeful reminder of the health and vitality that I prayed would return after treatment.
The hair fell and many of you followed my stories here and in the Global Sisters Report, “Inter-Mission” series. What I haven’t shared in the intervening months is my recovery and all the travels that ensued! I’ve had three clear PET/CT scans (Feb.-May-Aug). I continue to receive a maintenance medicine (Avastin) every three weeks at the infusion center but it doesn’t have all the side-effects of the full chemotherapy regimen. In between those treatments and scans I was flying the friendly skies. I traveled to the L.A. Religious Ed Congress in February, Cincinnati and St. Louis in March and went to Florida to visit with my dad and sister Jane in Florida in April.
The major excursion was an Asian Adventure with Fr. Bill Morton and SC Affiliate Romina Sapinoso: Hong Kong, Peoples Republic of China, South Korea and the Philippines. It was a trip that I had dreamed about for many years. Brenda and Stephen Shek made the air travel possible. Columban missionary priests and Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill (Korea) were wonderful guides and hosts.
Oh, and Hinkki Chen was our angel in Shanghai! And I discovered my Filipino Family with Romina in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines. All of this would take many, many blogs to describe but the gratitude wells up in me each time I look through a photo-book of the adventure created by Romina and my sisters for my birthday.
The travels were not finished! Five days after returning from Asia on July 17, I headed for Ecuador and the annual shared charism experience of the Seton Hill SCs. It is my little sojourn into the practice of medicine each year, offering health checks to the special children and young adults of the INESEM school and even a little “health fair” in a more rural community. Mostly the trip is an opportunity to reunite with the Korean SCs on mission in Ecuador and the wonderful faculty of the school for special needs. And to do all this with my Sister-sidekick and Ecuador specialist Tracy Kemme. We were also blessed to offer an in-service retreat for the teachers and staff of the school and a day of reflection on the Year of Mercy for sisters, staff and parishioners.
Returning at last to the States I prepared for a road trip with Romina to the Motherhouse. The rest of our Casa de Caridad community arrived by plane so we could accompany her for the opening of the canonical novitiate on August 20. Now we are all transitioning to this new normal- and it seems quite natural that a birthday celebration should mark the turning.
Re-missioning is in progress as I wonder what I am called to do, invited to be, in this new decade of life and health. Yesterday I looked through the many cards and notes and remembrances of the past year. I am grateful for all I received in the past 365 days and I am hopeful beyond words, aware with each breath of God’s great compassion. A jubilee year of mercy. A very happy birthday!