The Cancer Question and Being Wary of Hope

August 9th is nearing.  And that’s when I’m supposed to find out whether or not I have cancer.

flowers, forests, rotting log, rhododendron

Decay and Flowers, Such Is Life

Statistically, I probably don’t, since the kind of cancer that we’re talking about is rare.  Of women that have uterine fibroids (leiomyomas) only about 1 in 1000 become cancerous (lieomyosarcoma).  Even so, I am rather a rare individual, already living with a debilitating motor neuron disease that only affects about 1 in 6000.  That and ultrasound imaging that shows rapid growth of the outer fibroids but not the inner one leave me with no feeling of assurance.

On my optimistic days (which far outnumber the pessimistic ones) I have confidence in the mercy of God and the reality of miracles.  Whether it started as cancer or not, I believe that God can cure it.  On those days when I feel like I probably do have cancer, it’s simply an acknowledgment that we all have to die of something… God works in mysterious ways and enables all suffering to work for the good in His Masterpiece, the big picture.

I am too small to see the big picture.  Right now, God knows what is happening inside of my body and what is best for me and the people I love.  I don’t.

Having said all of that, I can see something inside of me, a truth about my particular personality, that is making this waiting period a little more difficult. Continue reading

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

Advent Wreath

advent-wreath-4-candles-5
Waxen pillars tipped with fire

in a ring of evergreen;

like our souls, the flames lift higher

with our prayers to a God unseen.

 

And at the core, waiting…

the bone white sepulcher of Christ –

the eucharistic cradle of divine incarnation,

which yields the Everlasting Light.

 

– What SHE Said; The Scientist, The Servant, and The Mom

We did it! I was able to go to Mass for this First Friday, which is part of my Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Physically, I didn’t think that I would be able to fulfill this part of the Act, but I was feeling well today and my parents very willingly took me to a neighboring parish for a noontime service. Having started spiritual participation for First Fridays, I had been choosing “Facilitators” to aid me in making a good spiritual communion. Although I was able to receive Holy Communion beneath the Sacramental Veil today, I have still chosen a facilitator for this month’s first Friday.
Since the month of May is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in much of the Christian Faith, I choose her as my First Friday Facilitator. Rather than write something deeply theological about the Mother of God, or something poetic about the Blessed Virgin Mary, I decided to use her own words as inspiration and guidance.

“How shall this be, since I have no husband?”

This in response to the angel Gabriel telling her that she would conceive and bear a son. What I ponder in this is that Mary’s first words recorded in Sacred Scripture are in the form of a question. Her “How?” did not come from sarcasm or incredulity – but, rather, from honest and innocent curiosity. She really wanted to know how it was going to happen. …Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us – and pray especially for all scientists, researchers, investigators, and explorers. May we be like you, so that our questions and examinations be honest and moral pursuits of truth.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The angel Gabriel answered young Mary’s question – but not in a tangible way that her mind could fully comprehend. Yet, she knew one very important thing for certain: she knew who she was. Whatever God’s plan was for her, however God would make it come to pass, she knew that she belonged to God, that her true purpose and joyful fulfillment as a human being was to know, love, and to serve God. As one of God’s devoted servants, she united her will with the Divine Will, and submitted herself to God’s word. …Mary, Mother of God, pray for all of us so that we, like you, may know our true identity and true reason for being. May we be guided in all that we say and do, in all of our decisions and actions, by the truth of who we are: servants of the Lord.
Mary…greeted Elizabeth.
Though these are not recorded words of Mary, we can logically conclude that she said something, probably the name of her kinswoman out loud. On just hearing this greeting, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. Elizabeth immediately recognized Mary as “blessed among women” and “the mother of my Lord”. I believe that Christ’s very presence in Mary, though barely an embryo in form, radiated all through her and opened Elizabeth to the reception of the Holy Spirit. … Mary, Mother of my Lord, pray for us so that we may be open to the Spirit of Christ, who will dwell with us and within us, so that even our very words to others will open their eyes to God’s blessings.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”

This passage, known as the Magnificat, is a beautiful hymn of gratitude and praise. It is rich with reflection and whole books of sermons could be written upon it. …Mary, Blessed One, pray for us so that we may hunger for good things in humility and recognition of God’s majesty and mercy. May we strive to follow in the Divine Way and work to lift up the lowly and to be people of honor, appreciation, and generosity.

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”

These are Mary’s first recorded words spoken to Jesus, her son. Again, the words come in the form of a question – and I think it is fair to conclude that they carry admonishment, since she was a naturally worried mother looking for her son who had disappeared, but, also, honest seeking. We can think of Mary as the first and best of all disciples of Jesus and, as her innocent curiosity prompted her first question, she probably truly wanted to know why Jesus had done what he did and caused them to worry. As disciples of Jesus, we will often experience situations of confusion and anxiety – and, like Mary, we can freely turn to Christ and honestly ask him why. The “Wh  ?” that we ask should not be a mere complaint, however, but an honest question seeking understanding of God’s Will and of what we are supposed to as disciples of His Son. …Mary, mother of Jesus, pray for us when we are confused or anxious so that we will remember that we can turn completely to your son, our Lord, Christ Jesus, with our burden and troubles and trust in him. May we remember that God’s Ways are above our ways and, when we lack understanding, may we grow in faith.

“They have no wine.”

This is a simple statement of fact that Mary makes at the wedding feast in Cana. We could just gloss over it, but only if we forget that Mary spent more time with Jesus than anyone else did on earth. She was there from conception to Ascension and he loved her deeply, as is obvious when he speaks to her while dying on the Cross and there gives care of her to his beloved disciple. Often, Mary is exalted as nearly divine – but, she was absolutely not divine. She was human. She is human. And in the fullness of her humanity, she saw the plight of the family celebrating the wedding. Sure, it wasn’t like anyone was going to die because the wine had run out. But, as a matter of human tradition, as a matter of celebration and joy, the wine was important to those people. And Mary saw this and brought this small suffering to the attention of her son, Jesus. And this is why millions of Christians across the earth believe that she is attentive to even their smallest needs. Whether one believes in the intercession of Saints or not, we can all certainly see that Mary gives us an example of “giving a hoot”. The lack of wine had nothing to do with her and nothing to do with her son – but she wanted them both to help in any way that they could. …Holy Mary, Queen of Saints, pray for us that we may see the sufferings and burdens of others, no matter how small, and bring their troubles before the Lord so that, in our compassion, we may serve God by helping them.

“Do whatever he tells you.”

       These are the last words of Mary – and what perfect last words they are. It is as though this real woman, who was the real mother of our Lord and Savior, turns directly to us, looks into our eyes, and, in her one opportunity to tell us everything about him and everything that we need to know for our own happiness, speaks out these words. Slowly and deliberately so that they may dwell deeply and fully in our hearts, she says: “Do whatever he tells you.” …Hail Mary, mother of all the living in Christ, pray for each and every human being created, as we are, in the image and likeness of God, so that we will see and recognize in Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life. May we love him as you loved him and seek to do whatever he tells us to – and when we hear the Divine Will, may we have the courage, the humility, and the generosity to do it.
Amen.

Christina Chase