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

Redemptive Suffering

The womb that cannot bear new life

is, instead, bearing pain.

Seemingly meaningless and devoid of promise,

for the hard grip – twisted deformed rocks –

makes it unrecognized as gift…

The fruit of love conceived

in union with the Pierced Heart

shedding blood, suffering,

giving of oneself for the other…

The womb that cannot carry

feels the weight of souls.

© 2017 Christina Chase

quote on suffering Saint Faustina

Trust in You

Trust is not something that I’m very good at.  I like to be in control, feeling that I can manage the outcome to my liking.  But, of course, I can’t always do that.  Some things are out of my hands – almost everything is out of my hands.

When I first became a Christian, I was actually glad that I didn’t control everything.  It was a relief to know that I wasn’t responsible for everything that happened in my life and the lives of my loved ones.  I can’t say that it was a relief to know that everything is in God’s hands – that actually scared me quite a bit.  But, if anyone is going to be in control, it should surely be the Creator and Master of the Universe – the One who knows best.

During my recent health odyssey, my problem with trust was made clear again.  I prayed for recovery, for the end of new illnesses – but I also worried every time a new illness appeared.  Legitimate concern is not a bad thing at all, for I do need to think about my body and make good decisions on taking care of it.  But, worry – well, there is no room (and really no need) for worry in the life of a person of faith.  And I worried a lot.

Sometimes, a song, poem, book, movie, or TV show can challenge our faith and inspire us to a better and closer relationship with God.  I discovered the song below during my health odyssey (which is not quite over yet) and it cut to my heart.  It is a challenge for me in my struggles – and a good inspiration to trust…

“Jesus, I Trust in You…”

© 2017 Christina Chase

Inspire

Breathe in deeply.

Over the last six weeks, what with pneumonia, then bronchitis, and menstrual flow for 22 days (and counting) I’ve been struggling.  Being as small as I am (58 pounds) with a twisted torso from scoliosis and weakened respiratory muscles – oh, and that whole spinal-muscular-atrophy-never-walked-can’t-move-my-arms-anymore thing – everything is just harder.  I thank God for the improvements, truly, deeply, and pray that no more difficulties may come – all the while knowing that there are so many people out there who have it so much worse.

And I’ve been thinking… Through the choking on mucus, pain and bleeding, shortness of breath… Don’t I believe in God’s will?  I have prayed that only God’s Positive, Perfect, Holy, Ordained Will be done.  Not God’s Permissive Will, the things that aren’t part of His ideal plan, but that He will make work out for the best, but God’s Perfect Will, what He ideally wants.  If being sick is exactly what God intends for the perfection of my life-never-ending, then so be it.  God sees the Big Picture, which I cannot, as I’m stuck in the little details of the day – and the Big Picture is an exquisite Masterpiece.

Now, I say, “So be it” or “Thy will be done” – but, do I mean it?

If I mean it, then I should not only thank God for the times of improvement – pneumonia cleared up, the bronchitis gone – but also thank God for the new difficulties: the ongoing cramping, bloating that makes it hard for me to breathe and causes my heart to race, the loss of blood, the anxiety that there may be something terribly wrong in my reproductive system, whatever new cold might pop up.  I should groan and nearly scream in pain, I should struggle for air, and I should say, “Thank You.”  And I’m serious here.  I’ve tried it, and I have to say, it’s much easier said than done.  I believe in the principle, I believe it’s a good thing to do, to be grateful for God’s Perfect Will… But, it’s another struggle.

I am trying to learn everything that I can from this trial and these tribulations.  I really do believe that there is a treasure here for me to discover, that there is richly useful knowledge and experience for me to gain.  As a character said recently on a television program called Nashville, “Pain is valuable.”  That’s true for country music writers, but it’s also true for all writers and artists.  Perhaps, it’s true for every human being.  I know it’s true for me.  All of this will bring me closer to my Creator, into a more deeply and personal and intimate relationship with my Savior.  Thus united and connected with God in my heart, I can then better be inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit to receive God’s love and wisdom and to be creative, to share the reality of Christ and the glory of God with others.

Being grateful for pain is extremely difficult and, being only human, I don’t know if I can really do it.  But, there is another little lesson that I have learned in all of this, a practical one that is slightly easier to do, but no less important…

Even though it’s more difficult to breathe because my body hurts so much, I have to take good care of my lungs and stay healthy.  So I have learned, and I continually remind myself, that, even when in pain, I must breathe in deeply.  And this does feel something like gratitude…

That’s the lesson I’m sharing here in this post today:

Even when in pain,

Breathe in deeply.

© 2017 Christina Chase

Quickening: Human In Utero

four month human fetusWhen you looked like this picture, your mother was beginning her second trimester of
pregnancy.

Your gender was determined in the instant that your life began, but it took a couple of months for your gender to “show”.  An ultrasound could have revealed your sex to your parents as early as 12 weeks.  Interestingly, gender dependent developmental differences begin to show at 14 weeks in utero – with girls moving their jaws more frequently than boys.  No kidding!

Diapers in the womb?  No, but… although your umbilical cord carried away most of the waste products from your developing body, you also had your first bowel movements at this age!  From about 12 to 18 weeks, the material expelled from your body was the same as what was expelled from your body as a newborn – meconium, a mixture of digestive enzymes, proteins, and dead cells.  Life is beautiful – and messy, too!

Still maturing in your external appearances, your tiny little face was gaining fat deposits at this stage, starting to give you those adorable, chubby baby cheeks.  And you were making facial expressions similar to your parents’ – at just eight inches tall!  With your bronchial tree and cerebellum formed, you began to gain more and more weight, producing tooth enamel, many hormones, and stem cells in your bone marrow.  Except for the top of your head and your back, your whole body was sensitive to even light touch.

You had been moving since you were only six weeks old – flipping, kicking, dancing – but, because of the thickness of the uterine wall, your mother hadn’t felt you.  By the end of the fourth month of your life, however, you were finally able to kick hard enough to cause your mother to feel something.  This first sensation of movement has often been called “quickening.”  It was a time at which some ancients believed that the being within the womb became human – obviously, they didn’t have the scientific technology and tools that we have today!  With increased knowledge comes the understanding that we are human beings from the beginning of our unique lives – that we are human beings from conception, no matter what.

Sensitive and responsive to stimulus from a very young age, at 16 weeks you reacted to stimuli, like needles and painful procedures, with the stress hormone that adults have.  Yes, little and hidden as you were at this age, you intensely felt and strongly reacted to pain.  “But here I am miserable and in pain; let your saving help protect me, God…”.  (Psalm 69:30)

© 2016 Christina Chase

from a post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/science_main.php?level=i

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/

Image from: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

Different Women in 2 Works of Art

How connected are you to your background, how intimate with your landscape?

I love pretty things.  I’m very much of the “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes”[1] sensibility.  The turn of the twentieth century is my favorite time period with its lovely style of dress.  And that is probably one of the reasons why I love the art of Frank
Benson and have a copy of this painting, Summer, in my room:

New England, women, seashore, painting

Summer, Frank Benson

This New England scene of sun-bathed softness and breezy lightness pleasantly soothes me.  Even the colors match my summer decor.  But… in recently looking long at the print and studying it more closely, I found that I started to like it less.  There’s something about the expressions of the women in this impressionist painting that does not touch or move me at all.  I cannot imagine myself in that place with them because I don’t feel like they are really present in that place themselves. Continue reading