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

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

Brave

I feel very brave posting this.  Three and a half years of blogging here and I have been careful not to show pictures of myself straight on.  In fact, you’ll only find two.  Yet, here I am sharing a video of myself.

Why?  Right now, I’m really not sure!  A video of me reciting one of my poems with no makeup and no video touchup software?  (That would have to be some pretty awesome touchup software…)

But… there is something to be said about showing your wounds…

Being a Christian isn’t about standing on a soapbox yelling out quotes from Scripture or pointing at people “in sin” and warning them that they better change their ways.  Christianity is about Christ – and Christ is about love.  Christ is love incarnate.  So, if I want to share Christ with others, then I must not only love them in my heart and my actions, but also share with them my love – which includes my suffering.

When St. Thomas doubted the Resurrection, Christ came before him and showed him his wounds, let him put his fingers right into them.  We all have wounds.  We all have sufferings.  And we shouldn’t be afraid of them or even ashamed of them.  I am not proud of my defective gene (you won’t see me in any kind of SMA pride parade or whatever) but I am not ashamed to have a defective gene – or to even call part of me defective.  For that is the truth.

By sharing the truth of who I am – all of me – I hope that you may come to better know my love and, through that love, to know Christ.  God doesn’t make junk.  Everybody is sacred – every body is sacred.  And, sometimes, it is through our wounds that the glory of who we are is made known.

Now, remember mercy…

© 2017 Christina Chase

From the Womb to the World: Ready for Birth

8 month fetusYou looked something like this drawing while you were in your mother’s womb, waiting to be born into the world – though you had unique and wonderful differences.  You took this time of waiting to practice blinking and breathing, preparing your still not quite refined lungs to breathe air.  In the last 11 weeks of your life in utero, your weight doubled!  The extra layer of fat you developed protected you from the change of temperature in the transition from the womb to the world.  If all went well, you initiated your own birth.  In the last phase of life in utero, you dropped lower in the womb in a head-down position and then triggered labor to begin.

At any moment in the last two months of your mother’s pregnancy, you could have been born.  Perhaps, you were premature.  Today’s advances in medicine allow very premature babies’ lungs to get what they need.  Many babies born a whole month early need very little extra help at all.  The only change for babies after birth, whether premature or not, is a change in external life support – then, mothers provided through the womb; now, survival is helped outside of the womb.

Nothing magical happened to you when you were born that made you human.  You were always human from the moment of your conception!  You didn’t change after you were born, except in the way in which you received oxygen and nourishment.  You were always growing, developing, and striving to survive and to thrive – and you continued this growth, development, and quest for survival while being born, as well as after your exit from the womb.  You are still developing, surviving, and hopefully thriving, today!

Parents can experience something wonderful in the moment when they first see their baby’s eyes, and, so, it’s natural for them to feel the most awe after birth.  Newborns themselves, however, cannot see very well.  But they can hear, and were listening – and even learning – for months before birth, as fetuses.

As a newborn, you yourself readily recognized the voice of the woman who carried you for the first nine months of life and preferred that voice to all others.  Stories read to you and lullabies sung to you in utero were still recognized by you after you were born into the world.  You had been hearing them, learning their particular rhythms and cadences, and growing familiar with them.  So, it’s only natural that you preferred them to any new story or lullaby introduced to you after birth.  Scientific research proves this.  And, yet, you may still be amazed by the facts.  Why?  Do you not know that you were you, unique and wonderful you, at the instant that you were conceived?

Before God formed you in the womb, He knew you.  Our Creator knit you uniquely together.  By Him, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Created in His Own Image, you are His beloved creature of flesh and spirit.  Your body is amazing and beautiful, but mortal.  Your soul is even more amazing and beautiful – and immortal.  Body and soul, you are one beautifully amazing human being!  You were lovingly created by God to know, love, and serve God in this complex and amazing life – and to be happy with God forever in the next.  You were created for a reason, for you have a divine mission that only you can fulfill.  May you always remember that your life here on earth has divine purpose – and that eternal bliss waits for you.  Rejoice and be glad!

What was true on your very first day of life in utero is still true today, no matter how old you are or in what kind of physical circumstances you live: it is good, it is very good, that you are here.  And God blesses you as you strive to be the person of love, truth, and goodness that you were created to be.

Every life is sacred.

© 2016 Christina Chase


Sources:

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/third-trimester-old

The Endowment for Human Development:

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit18.php

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit19.php

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, Respect Life: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

Psychology Today: Fetal Psychology

Genesis 1:27

Jeremiah 1:5

Psalms 139

Baltimore Catechism part 1

Sensing the Great Big World: 7 Month Fetus

7 month fetusWhen your mother began her third trimester of pregnancy, you looked a lot like this
picture.  During your seventh month in utero, you began to use all five of your senses!

Sight:

Ultrasound reveals that babies at this age like to open their eyes and look around.  What were the first things that you saw?  In the dark safety of the womb, the first thing that your eyes were able to distinguish was light.  “… God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good.  God then separated the light from the darkness.” [1] You could see sunlight and artificial light as it penetrated through the uterine wall, and your pupils dilated and constricted in order to better see in your watery world.

Sound:

With your cochlea, the hearing organ of your inner ear, fully developed, you’d been able to hear a variety of sounds for quite a while.  At this particular age, you could even distinguish between different voices!  “…at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)

Smell:

At this age, important parts of your nose were fully operational, so that you had a fully functional sense of smell.  Scientific studies show that infants born prematurely, at just 26 weeks in the womb, can detect different odors.

Taste:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalms 34:9) Swallowing amniotic fluid, you tasted what your mother ate while she was in her third trimester of pregnancy, developing that affinity for the foods of home.  Do you like licorice and those black jellybeans?  Chances are that your mother ate something anise flavored while pregnant!  Food tastes travel fast from mom to baby – reaching your little taste buds in just 45 minutes!  Sweet tastes would make you swallow faster and bitter tastes would cause a less pleased reaction that even showed in the expression on your face!

Touch:

“With skin and flesh you clothed me, with bones and sinews knit me together.” (Job 10:11)  You had been sensitive and reactive to touch from a very early age, by just five weeks in utero.  As you grew, more and more of your body detected touch and pressure and you even felt pain.  By seven months in utero, your entire body was capable of feeling touch and the grasp of your hand was even stronger than it was right after you were born!

And you were on the move!  Through a series of walking like motions, you liked to do somersaults!  You received antibodies from your mother at this age, that would protect you from a wide variety of diseases.  Small as you were, had you been born at this time, it’s highly likely that you would have survived – a chance that increases with ever improving medical technology.  Your brain waves, at this stage of fetal development, were similar to those of a full-term newborn – and you could even cry.  Yet, shockingly, babies in utero are not, by governmental law, considered human beings at this point in life.  Abortion is still legal in the third trimester of pregnancy.

© 2016 Christina Chase

from original post on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development:  https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit16.php

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-26-30

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#Science

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

[1] Genesis 1:3

Dream a Little Dream: 6 Month Fetus

By the time that you were six months in the womb, you were already physically reacting to music, moving rhythmically to songs.  What was your first playlist?  Probably your parents’ favorite tunes along with a lullaby or two.  Also, you had developed a blink-startle response to loud noises. You still have this response – think when something loud scares you. You shut your eyes quickly, jumping a little! This is a trait that girls develop sooner than boys, while still in utero.

Breathing motions were made with your lungs as a kind of practice for the outside world, better developing your respiratory muscles. Your brainstem was able to detect CO2 levels and trigger an inspiratory response when they were too high. You began sitting up straight as your internal organs settled into final place – and you even started to be responsive to light.

You may have been hidden from sight, receiving from your mother your every need, but your connections to the outside world grew. At this age, if you had been in just the right position, your father (and other family members and friends) would have been able to hear your heartbeat by simply placing his ear against your mother’s abdomen.

6 month fetusWhen you looked like this picture, you had already established a rhythm of sleeping and waking… but, did you dream? Well, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) began between 18 and 21 weeks of your life, which means that you experienced the kind of sleep that allows for dreams. What kind of dreams did you dream? Although your world was very limited at this time, there were stimuli that surrounded you – dim light glowing through the uterine wall, the swishing of fluids and beating of your mother’s heart, the waves of song your father would sing, the touch of your fingers and toes.  All of these, scientists speculate, were woven into the fabric of your dreams in your watery world.…  Perhaps, in your first sleeping visions, your very Creator spoke to you… “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon mortals as they slumber in their beds.”[1]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

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


Sources:

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#f66

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit15.php

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-21-25?page=2 (ages listed are from LMP, subtract two weeks for actual age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

[1] Job 33:15