This Is My Body

Recently writing about my current medical issues and concerns, I’ve decided that perhaps it is true: a picture is worth a thousand words.  So, I’m sharing with all of you a picture of my body – an x-ray image of my torso.  Although the image was taken in order to look for pneumonia, you can see my spine in it and, so, the interesting twists and turns of my backbone and deformity of my ribs.  (Don’t say that I ever held back in bearing myself to you, letting you know me inside and out!)

scoliosis x-ray

Is it any wonder that surgery is not an option for me?

Last Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi, The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.  On this great day, we are called to ponder the wondrous and generous Mystery and mercy of Christ’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist – as he perpetually gives himself wholly to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity.  We also call to mind the profound Mystery of the Incarnation itself.  God, The Creator and Master of the Universe, became a human being, one of us, with his own human body to live, suffer, and die.  This is the most sublime and awesome act of love and unity.

In contemplating Christ’s sacred body, I consider my own little one.  Consider yours, as well.  Each of us is a frail, lovely, odd little creature – known and loved by God.  Every hair on my head is counted, every cell embraced, every moment that this body of mine grows and breathes and ages is held as exquisitely precious to my Lord and my God.

Of what shall I be afraid?

Be at peace, little one, live your life in your blessed little body and be not afraid, your soul rejoices in your eternal home always, says my Savior God to me…

© 2017 Christina Chase

Glory Days: Valedictory Speech

Twenty years ago today, I graduated from high school.  And, yes, that makes me feel old.

Graduating from Pembroke Academy was a big deal to me, for reasons that I gave in my very short valedictory speech, but also because I was the third generation of my family to graduate from PA – and the second to graduate with the highest GPA in the class.  I did feel a lot of pride on that day… although, I admit, I also had the sense that, perhaps, I didn’t really deserve to be valedictorian.  After all, I hadn’t even attended classes in the high school, instead, the public school teachers came to my home to teach me, due to my physical disability.  It wasn’t that I didn’t think that I was intelligent – I have quite high self-esteem, so I knew that I was intelligent – but I felt bad that I didn’t have the opportunity  to fully test the depth and breadth of my intelligence.  In a way, I almost felt too normal to be valedictorian.

Thankfully, I was not chosen because I was in a wheelchair and seen as “special”.  In my school, it was all about the grades.  So, I did, as I have reminded myself many times, earn the top spot with self-discipline and devoted studying, fueled by my love of learning.  All made possible by an understanding public school faculty and administrators, generously supportive parents, and the mysterious gifts of God.

In commemoration of this glory day of mine, I’m sharing with you my graduation speech.  As you read it, picture a tiny body swallowed up by a white robe, with a graduation cap fitting snugly on her head.  And when you’re done reading, listen for the standing ovation – yup, I got one.  With a body like mine, it doesn’t take much to move people. 🙂

My Valediction to the Glory Days of High School

“Many people have asked me the common question of what I plan to do after today.  The truth is that I haven’t made plans for the future because I never thought that I would have one.  You see, when I was diagnosed with my disease at the age of two, the doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live to the age of thirteen.  My parents never thought that I would be a teenager, let alone a high school graduate.  But I always dreamed of graduating.  I even planned on being at the top of my class.

Today is a great day.  For here I am, standing before you, graduating from high school, and realizing my dream.  And all of the challenges that I’ve faced and the obstacles that I’ve hurdled have made today the most satisfying and thrilling day that I have ever known.

Now I have this chance to speak to all of you and I don’t want to give any advice.  I just want to say that, today, we are all victorious.  Whether graduation means fulfilling a dream, accomplishing one of many goals, overcoming obstacles or exceeding expectations, for each of us it is a mark of success.  It is a testament to our perseverance.

The future lies before us, holding different paths for each of us.  For me, the future itself is a wonderful gift.  It is an open place for fulfilling more dreams.

Tomorrow may be an unknown.  But, today, we are being recognized for our commitment to succeed and reminded that we are all worthy of our dreams.”

© 2017 Christina Chase

The Unknown

ice, Frost, winter, mystery

How are you with the unknown?  Me… Not so good.  I mean, I love wonder and awe, and am willing to sublimely surrender to the unknowable, to Mystery… But, when it comes to the knowable – I want to know.

This, as promised, is an update on my current medical issue.  My last post asked the question, “What is it?”  Are the uterine fibroids now rapidly growing in my body cancerous?  I went to a GYN oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital two days ago and he said that there is no way to tell for sure.  So, I still don’t know.

Scans, MRIs, biopsies – none are definitive in diagnosis and, in his opinion, none are worth the effort for me.  As he explained, this particular kind of cancer would be very rare, so it is unlikely that the fibroids are malignant.  Because I have been taking a shot called Lupron for the last two months, there was an upsurge in estrogen levels in my body and, so, this could have caused the fibroids to grow more rapidly.  By continuing with the Lupron shots (I received my third one in that doctor’s office, as my gynecologist told me to bring it with me) the reasonable hope is that the fibroids will stop growing and maybe even shrink by about 25 percent.

That’s good news.  But… Continue reading

It Is What It Is… But What Is It?

Facing a forbidding possibility in my life…

Mountains, snow, daunting

I hear people say something a lot, which, I admit, rather bugs me: “It is what it is,” they will say when something difficult or unwanted arises.  “Well, yeah,” I think to myself, “That’s a perfectly obvious grammatical non-statement.  What is is?  Wow.”

I might be a bit of a word snob.

Many years after first hearing this saying, I do appreciate what is meant to be conveyed.  There are some things in life that we just can’t change.  But, really, did we need a trendy saying in order to know that?  Haven’t I known that my entire life?  Are the “enlightened” people of today just finally catching up?

Anyhow, I certainly did not mean for this reflection to be so rant sounding.  Although I have seriously disliked the saying, it has wormed itself into my brain and I now find myself using it – but not out loud or on paper.  Just to kind of shut my overactive mind up.

I have cause to do that at present… And this brings me to what my reflection is about.  Currently, my physical situation is far less than desired.  Never mind the motorneuron disease stuff, the not being able to walk or move my arms or take care of myself, blah, blah, blah.  And forget the last six months that started with pneumonia, then bronchitis, then menstrual flow for three weeks, then mild Crohn’s disease flareup.  That’s old news and behind me.  There’s something more pointed and palpably serious going on now.

I have had uterine fibroids for, well, probably over a decade.  Not a big deal.  I think about 50% of women have them, although most of them don’t even know it.  Those that do have symptoms usually find them, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, a cause of severe anemia or an impediment to fertility.  I have been able to keep the anemia under control with effort and I don’t have to worry about fertility, but… I’m little.  And these fibroids aren’t.  One of them is now the size of a tennis ball.

I’m beginning to realize that part of my being a bit short of breath while sitting during the last six months have been caused by the fibroids on the outer wall of my uterus.  They have been growing faster, probably over the last year or year and a half.  But, now, my gynecologist tells me, they picked up their pace of growth even more.  A bit too much.  Too much for comfort, certainly, and, maybe… Well, just too much.  When there is rapid growth of these things, one starts to think of that very scary subject: cancer.

At my appointment with my gynecologist last week, I did not shy away from that word.  It’s just a word.  Words have power – but over people, not things like fibroids.  (Saying it out loud will make it come true is a silly superstition.)  And that particular word doesn’t have quite the same power over me as it might have over some people – but only because I have been facing my own mortality, in one way or another, since I was a child.

Never have I thought or believed that I would live to a ripe old age.  (Though, perhaps, still a ripe age, for maybe we humans ripen at different times.)  Dying young is part of never getting married, never having children, never living on my own….  My life is different.  And this body is not made for the long haul.  SMA, or complications directly related to SMA, like pneumonia, are always going to be the likely cause of my body’s demise.  In fact, when I was younger, I thought that it was the guaranteed cause.  And then, a boy with whom I was acquainted, who had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

That was an eye-opener.

I realized then that I could die from anything – just like anybody else.  And even though I well surpassed my original prognosis of a 13 year lifespan, I still know that time is precious, that any year could be my last.

And, now, there’s this word.  This possibility of cancer in my own body.

“Is this it?” I wonder.

I am not alone in this wonder.  Thousands of people – hundreds of thousands, I don’t know, millions of people – every day face this question.  In the past, I have wondered what it would be like to know that you have cancer.  I wrote about my aunt’s experience and called it Perspective.  Does your whole perspective on life change?  Right now, just wondering if I have cancer or not is a bit life altering.  At least, it certainly feels like it should be.

At first, given specific things going on within me, I thought that the outer fibroids most probably are malignant.  And I thought that perhaps this is the best way to go.  Perhaps this is God’s plan to help me leave, to leave this earthly body, this beautiful earthly life.  The lack of fear was rather amazing.  But, then…

I’m still not afraid, but I am anxious.  Sometimes very.  Whether benign or malignant, I know the fibroids must be reduced in size, at the very least, because they are simply too large for me.  And, I really, really hope that they are benign.  I don’t want cancer.  Who in their right mind wants cancer?  The way things look, I believe that, if they are benign, then it’s truly a miracle.

I have been told not to dwell on the cancer question until I know for sure.  That’s sound advice.  Yes, okay, “It is what it is.”  But… the not knowing, as anyone who’s gone through this knows, is very difficult.  However, I’m quite sure that it would be extremely more difficult to know that it is cancer.  For all of you out there who are suffering with cancer, my heart goes out to you.  And for all of us who are wondering… let’s take this moment of our lives and dig up something deep and powerful and beautiful from it.

Hopefully, the moment will pass with a huge sigh of relief.  Before that happens, God willing (please God, may that moment of relief happen) let us discover the roots that connect us most deeply to our family members and friends, perhaps, even becoming surprised through whom the blossoms of love and goodness bloom most easily and freely; let us nurture our better angels, allowing forgiveness, gentleness, and kindliness to take hold and grow within us at a rapid pace; let us surrender to the unknown and the uncontrollable, letting go of the petty and trivial things that have usually plagued us and letting in the love that often manifests in suffering and sacrifice, but which is nonetheless profoundly beautiful, remembering that this earthly life in this earthly body was never meant to last forever – but the soul of who we are, in goodness and truth, will.

Then, no matter what will happen, we will have peace in knowing that we live well.  Even if we don’t feel well.

I’m still not particularly fond of “It is what it is.”  There is a nonpersonal non-purposeful nothingness to it back use the thing itself, the “it”, a kind of power that it doesn’t possess.  I say, “It is what God wills it to be in the unfathomable Mystery of the Divine that is too far too vast for my little mind in this bright little speck of the Masterpiece.”  And I pray the well-known prayer,

“God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage

to change the things I can,

and the wisdom

to know the difference.”

Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, in whose Sacred Heart I pray.  Amen.

I see a specialist at Mass General in the coming week.  Don’t worry, I’m staying positive.  I’ll keep you updated.  Until then, you may see some random posts from this strange moment of life.  Pax Christi

© 2017 Christina Chase


photo credit:  Jesse Orrico, used for free with no restrictions through Unsplash.com

YouTube Channel – For Better or for Worse

YouTube cover, wheelchair, church, light and dark

Sometimes, I think that people make YouTube videos because they like the sound of their own voices.  But, I assure you, that’s not the case with me.  I seriously DISLIKE the sound of my own voice!  My voice is preferred through writing not speaking.  However, I believe that I should try to reach as  many people as I can and I know that there are some people who would rather watch a video than read a 1000 word essay.  So…

Last month (April) I made and published a short video reading a poem about myself and I called the post about it Brave.  I really did feel brave and, yes, a little foolish.  And, yet… I went and made another one!  This one is longer, longer than I intended, and I thought about redoing it to make it shorter and better.  But, then I thought that one of the advantages of speaking versus writing is that I don’t have to be so particular with my grammar, word choices, sentence structures, etc..  Therefore, I simply published it as is. Perhaps as a sign that video production is not for me, I accidentally published  the post with the video “What’s Wrong with Her” early, last Sunday, (with an odd predate of the 18th) instead of on Thursday, my usual posting day.

So, here I am, on my regular posting day, with this little introduction to my YouTube channel.  My plan is to make and post a video every month or so, weather permitting.  🙂 They will mostly be about my disability and disease and, hopefully, under five minutes in length.  I still do feel both brave and foolish doing this, but, here I am…  On this Feast of the Ascension, reminded that Christ is always with us, I hope that I am doing God’s will…

© 2017 Christina Chase

A Word of Encouragement

Sometimes, I seriously wonder if I’m doing the right thing.  Writing my life story, blogging, trying to build a social media “platform” – is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?  I don’t know how much time I have left, after all…

DSCN9408

What we are called to do in life, I believe, is to live well.  But, this doesn’t mean the advertisers’ version of living well: fine dining, cruises, laughing with healthy looking friends, and so glamorously on.  To live well means to LOVE.  Therefore, my intellect and worldly accomplishments (whether big or puny) are not what matter most.  The loftiest thoughts and most eloquent words in the world don’t amount to anything truly worthwhile, certainly nothing eternal, unless they come from a heart of real love.  It’s like that famous Bible quote from St. Paul, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”[1]

I know that I do love.  Always have I been filled with a love of life.  My commitment is to, with the gifts that I have been given, love God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love the people in my life – and perfect strangers – as God loves me, through Christ Jesus[2].  I will be, and am, tested in this love every day, and sometimes I fare worse than others.  But, I am devoted to persevering.  Though I may fall, Lord, may I rise…

Hearing the following words, also from St. Paul, gave me a nice little kick where I needed it recently – for,we all need direction in our lives, encouragement, and community.  (The Bible, I’m learning more and more, is great for that.)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.  For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.  But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”  2 Timothy: 4 (emphasis added.)

Thanks, Paul.  I needed that.  🙂

More words from the Saint next month – words that made the old pagan in me very happy.

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo credit: “Communication” © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:1

[2] Luke 10:27

What’s Wrong with Her?

While in a mall or some kind of store, I have often seen, out of the corner of my eye, a young child staring at me in my wheelchair.  Sometimes, I can hear the little voice innocently ask the question to Mom or Dad, “What’s wrong with her?”

Out of the mouths of babes….  Usually, the parent responds with an embarrassed kind of hushed whisper, encouraging the child not to say things like that.  But, why not?  There is certainly nothing wrong with a child who is filled with wonder and curiosity – in fact, witnessing such innocent perplexity, sometimes amazement, and the pure desire to know is exquisitely beautiful to me.  There is no masterpiece created by any artist in the world that is more inspiring and powerful than that little boy, that little girl, with the intently looking eyes and the head cocked, pondering.  A child, I may add, that trusts the guarding adult to know and to teach well.

Of course, the adult usually doesn’t know what to say.  Sometimes, there will be a simple, patient response and I carry on as if I never heard.  It’s when the parent is embarrassed and shushing that I try be there for the child.  If I am near enough and I don’t have to turn in order to have the child in my sight, I have sometimes given answer myself. “I can’t walk because my legs are too weak, they’re not strong enough.  My body is just made this way,” I say gently, with a little smirk, sharing the weirdness of it with the child, and then a smile to show that is not such a terrible thing. Continue reading