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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

There’s a popular spiritual belief that fear and faith cannot coexist. Maybe so. If so, I hope to attain that sort of faith one day. So far, my faith has kept me going, trying, taking risks, loving, despite being afraid at every turn. I’ve heard say that “courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” So, maybe I’ve experienced courage and have yet to know faith. I don’t know. I only know that I’m heading into New York City today to see my friend Polly in a play despite reports of terrorist threats. The play is called NEW YORK by David Rimmer and it’s about 9-11 with proceeds benefiting 9-11 Families for Peace Tomorrows and judging by this YouTube video clip, it’s going to be intense and heartbreaking and moving.

I’ve got to go. Not because I need this play to remember 9-11 on the 10th anniversary and not because I love Polly; but because I want to know faith and maybe the way to faith is to have the courage to keep walking through the fear. I need to go to join in the magnanimous spirit of 9-11 that had people ban together rather than to allow terror to rip them apart. And I need to go to honor heroes like Welles Crowther, the Man in the Red Bandanna, whose love for others supersedes all else.

In Awe,

L.

 

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There’s a little pink-striped book from The Libby Ross Foundation Pink Ribbon Kit called a Journal & Sketch Book that I carried in my pocketbook at all times to scribble in as needed after I gave up the little brown serious journal for the large black unlined journal that I kept at home. The scribbling I did in the days prior to the first transfusion was done in this portable pink book as I had shpilkes that kept me on the move. Since I wasn’t sitting still much, there isn’t much from that time period except for one comprehensive entry from a writing date with my husband. His presence anchored me, and I’m so grateful for that because I now have these notes from that precious time period.

Prelude to Chemo – July 11, 2009

Sitting on a footstool at Barnes & Noble staring at the New Age bookshelves wondering what I need to read next? What will help me now? None of the books seemed appealing though. I felt satiated with self help and spiritual manuals. Really I just wanted escapist fiction. And yet I was drawn to this section of the bookstore and plopped down on that footstool, so, I sat. Thinking. There must be more to learn, more to remember. Perhaps I could re-read all I’ve read before, I thought. It must be 25 years since I devoured Jane Roberts’ Seth books and Edgar Casey and Ruth Montgomery; however, I didn’t stand up to reach for Seth Speaks. I just sat and thought with frustration mounting as I beseeched my spirit guides to help me: won’t you please knock a book off the shelf and make it obvious. I recalled that my sister Brenda in a psychic reading said that I had a new guide,  a Mayan with a nice butt, so I considered a 2012 primer for a few laughs. But, honestly, no book called to me. I sat on that footstool in a trance.

“Excuse me.”

I looked up, perplexed. There was plenty of room in the aisle; but, the short, dark-haired woman with the slightly crossed eyes was motioning to move past me to look at the shelves to my right. I determined that she was being polite, smiled, and then we both went about our business. A minute later, she returned, knelt beside me and asked if I had seen the book Reconnect.

“Perhaps Customer Service can help you,” I said and gestured toward the center of the store.

But, she stayed crouched beside me and in a whisper suitable for libraries told me that the book by Eric Pearl was about Reiki. I smiled again and kept smiling with a skin tingling recognition that the book I wanted to fall off the shelf was standing before me in the flesh as this stranger went on about her path and her belief in energy healing. I told her that I had similar experiences and when I mentioned Julie Connor, she knew of Julie and the Reiki Share group. She explained that I could do Reiki to myself and told me to pray, “In God, with God, for God,” saying that I need only ask to be healed and my hands will move and show the way. “You only need to believe,” she said.

Since I got the word from my doctors, I’ve been thinking about the need for support for my chemo experience and there are so many opinions, approaches, alternative methods.

My friend Jill tells of various vitamins and foods. She has so much information that sounds like so much effort to procure and prepare that my mind tends to become porous when she talks. In our last conversation, I retained one word: Gingko to help with fatigue.

Then the Susun Weed book (Breast Cancer? Breast Health – The Wise Woman Way) told about nettle, comfrey, milk thistle, etc etc etc, and I would read her book more  thoroughly except she scares me. Her supremely judgmental tone about the toxicity and the damage that chemo can cause provokes fear, and fear of chemo will not serve me. Supreme faith will serve me.

Also, Lisa Orlando, the lovely woman offering the Cancerland seminar re. navigating the medical system, recommended acupuncture as did others.

So, there’s enough to boggle the mind.

Thus I chant: What I need will come to me. All I need will be told to me. And the means will always be made easy.

And then a cross-eyed angel appears.

In awe & gratitude,

L.

 

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Sometime in the month of May ’09 the PET/CT scan happened and the details of the event were reposited as deeply in my brain as the PET/CT laboratory was entombed in the hospital complex. I don’t remember much. Except I do recall traveling down down down into some sub basement of a different building a block north of the oncology pavilion of Columbia Pres; and that there was a complete colony of administration cubicles and exam rooms and dressing rooms, a waiting area, and so forth, there, and that everything was yellow lit. Then there was another long hall, and thick doors marked with radioactive warning signs that clunked shut behind me, and there was an Igor-like technician, and an enormous torpedo tube large enough for the Avatar, and it was all so Sci-Fi horrorific.

Although, the test was not at all physically painful, and, in fact, would’ve been relaxing had I not fantasized the possibility that the oxygen could be cut off in the tube while Igor twiddled his thumbs rather than respond to my suffocation. Otherwise, it was easy and over fairly quickly, and I guess the PET/CT happening was somewhat uneventful since I didn’t write a word about it in my trusty journal. I did, however, write about my anxiety while waiting for the results:

May 23, 2009  – Today or maybe only for this moment, I’m scared. I had a dream about receiving the results from the PET/CT scan in which Reade (my husband) answered the phone to receive the news from an Asian woman. His eyes seemed to look through me as he shook his head “yes” which I interpreted as positive for something unwanted and, so, was in such a tailspin that when dream Reade handed me the phone to talk to the dream doctor, I woke up in a sweat.

Perhaps if I had stayed asleep for another minute I would’ve discovered that everything was clear and that the message was positively positive. I ought to have faced my fears; ya know, face everything and recover.  Because I woke up, I remained in a panic and couldn’t go back to sleep. To calm myself I tried to visualize a clean, clear, white-lighted body. I imagined being in the PET/CT tube again but this time white light scanned my body and permeated every cell with immune boosting energy. Then I visualized a spectrum of light rays cleaning each chakra – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. But, the colors didn’t seem bright enough in my mind’s eye and I fretted that I was inept at visualization and so I chanted affirmations in my head: “My body is 100% healthy, whole, well, safe, and complete”. And yet, I’m not so sure about the effectiveness of affirmations and the healing-your-life-through-thought approach anymore, and I’ll tell you why – the letter that my father wrote a year before he died was filled with positive thoughts, gratitude, and a strong will to live and succeed.

I don’t know.

Maybe there are some things, lots of things, that are beyond my control. Maybe at all times I need ask my Creator for the serenity to accept the things I can not change. I am clear that I want to live though.

In my father’s letter to Clinton V. Johnson, his employer for the last two years of his life, he wrote that work gave his life meaning. I would’ve said the same before my cancer diagnosis, but work is not at the top of my Wish List anymore. I want to live to see my daughter grow up. I want to witness her successes and see her get married and meet my grandchildren, and I want to be there to hug her through all her joys and fears. I’d also like to travel and write another book or two; but, those desires are secondary to being with my loved ones which is something that disturbs me about the letter that my father wrote. In fact, I’ve been downright exorcised over that letter which, incidentally, was recently discovered by C.V. Johnson’s daughter and given to my mother who gave it to me for my birthday, and, so, in the spirit of “there are no accidents“, that letter and the resulting exorcism apparently were meant to be. 

Well… upon a second reading…

I do understand that the letter was written to his employer, so perhaps my father had targeted his audience with his emphasis on work. Perhaps in his private journals I would find that he battled cancer in order to watch his daughters grow up.  I choose to believe that his soul/sole motivation like mine was to care for his babies. I also choose to believe that he has been caring for me from the other side ever since as I would hover over my daughter; and that this letter is evidence that he’s particularly with me now.

I am playing tennis in a Rally for the Cure today. May God/Goddess please grant me extra Faith, Courage, Serenity and whatever it takes to keep my eye on the ball and the Cause to help all women so that we will not need to fear our breasts. Please let there be Health on Earth so that all the high drama surrounding the painful systems of breast cancer detection and eradication will not be necessary.

I have a dream that one day mammograms, MRIs, PET/CT scans, lumpectomies, mastectomies, reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy will all be stories in history books.

And that there will come a time when we simply drink fresh juice, paint, dance, laugh & sing our way to health; and all aberrations will be cured by the love in each other’s hands. Faithfully Yours,

L.

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My father was a man of legends. As the stories go Richard (Dick) Haldane Sperry was:

  • A star sportsman who sacrificed his pro golf career for the sake of his family. Dick felt that the touring would be too hard on a young wife and multiple baby daughters, and, thus, quit despite the trophies on shelves and mantles that testified to his talent and the highlight moments of rubbing elbows with the greats such as introducing Arnold Palmer to his wife.
  • An up and coming business man. As a strong proponent of Dale Carnegie’s Secrets for Success, Dick quickly climbed the corporate ladder and won many friends and influenced people along the way. The stories told to my sisters and me portrayed our father as a leader among men. Dick clinched the deals and advanced others in their careers as was evident by the amount of gray flannel suits who insisted we call them Uncle. The man we called Grandpa was the president of the company that hired our father after his cancer was deemed inoperable. Legend has it that Dick took a risk to search for new employment, for more money and better insurance benefits for his family when he learned that he was going to die. The man we called Grandpa Johnson hired him based on Dick’s promise that he would increase profits by a certain percentage within the estimated two years that he had left to live. Grandpa and Grandma Johnson told us countless stories about our father’s bravery and gallantry, saying again and again that they “loved him like a son,” and, so, remained important in our lives long after our father’s death.
  • A tragic hero who battled a monster molecular melanoma with experimental treatments. In the early 60’s there was little information about cancer. The surgeon general just issued the first report on the connection between cigarette smoking and disease in 1964, and it wasn’t until 1966, the year my father died, that “Warning: cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health” was printed on the side of the package. Although Dick was not a big smoker and quit when he determined that it cost too much money, he was diagnosed with skin cancer that had metastasized to the lungs at a time when cancer equaled death. There was no cure. So, as the story goes, he gave his body to science by signing on to work with a progressive Dr. Li of Nassau Hospital, Long Island as a guinea pig for cobalt treatments and a new “vaccine”.
  • A spiritual warrior with a strong faith in God. Our father’s faith was evidenced by our family’s daily prayer practices of grace before meals and kneeling before bed at night, as well as our weekly attendance at church, and by the Sunday school class Dick taught after he was diagnosed. Yet, the strongest piece of concrete proof we have of our father’s belief in God is the treatise on life that he wrote on his death-bed.

As I understand this story, the treatise entitled “What is the Use?” was dictated to a nurse after Dick came out of a long coma. Upon finishing the piece, he lapsed back into a coma and died six months later. My sisters and I believe that the writing is divinely inspired, that our father met with angels on the other side, and then returned to leave a legacy of divine guidance for us. The single page document of eight short paragraphs in a script-like typeface is framed and hanging in our homes as well as memorized and oft quoted by the four of us. It begins with a recognition that this effort will alarm Dick’s loved ones since the gesture to “summarize opinions on life” might imply that he’s quitting the battle, but he makes no apology for needing to “clearly express (his) view on living.”

God is love. (This is sure)” he tells us, and then proceeds to delineate the qualities of a “life (that) has been well lived.” After enumerating character traits to strive for such as purpose, daring, perseverance, focus, and self understanding, he concludes that “one (can) know the correct way to think and act” by studying the life of Jesus. “Understand His way and life will be a magnificent adventure.

Chiseled in our father’s rose-colored gravestone under Richard Haldane Sperry, 1933 – 1966, are the final words of his treatise: A Magnificent Adventure; and I do believe that was his experience. I need to believe that his words were inspired, that his life was Christ-like in its impact and brevity; and that all the legends of his wisdom, bravery, and generosity were true.

The last time I saw my father alive, he was frail in a white undershirt and boxer shorts, and in the thralls of a paralytic seizure. I discovered him. He was stiff as a plank, convulsing, and gurgling, “Marti,” in an attempt to call my mom for help. I fetched my mom and ran for help from our neighbors, then stood at a distance to watch the ambulance with its screeching red light take him away. The last image I have of my dad is of a slender, pale, and lifeless young man in a casket. I was eight. My sisters were six, five, and two. The legends, the heroic stories, are vital for breathing a powerful life into the father of our child minds.

As an adult, as a flawed human still striving for those estimable qualities, it has been equally important for me to meet a life-sized version of my father. The moments in therapy when I had insights into his humanity, the few hints at his fallibility dropped by my mom have helped to liberate me from larger-than-life expectations of myself; and, yet, for the most part, I’ve still relished the glowing eulogy of my father’s life story.

Then, in May 2009 in the thick of my healing journey, my mother’s birthday present for me was to meet me halfway for lunch. I drove an hour and a half from New York, she drove almost two hours from her home in central Connecticut, and we enjoyed a nutritious heart-to-heart conversation over large salads. It was the best birthday present ever, and, at the end of our precious time together, my mom gave me, among other gifts, a letter written by my father.

It took me a few days to find the right time and space, free of responsibilities, to read the letter as I was fully prepared to weep buckets; and I did weep, but I was also sobered by the gift. There, in a yellowed envelope addressed to C.V. (Grandpa) Johnson, were three pages of crude lined stationery. The handwriting was tight and forward slanting, the words evenly spaced and the lines double-spaced indicating the care the author took to be legible to the reader. The penmanship was imperfect, there were punctuation mistakes and misspellings, there were scribbled out errors and corrections. At first glance, it seemed written by a teenager or older child.

Upon reading, it became clear that the letter was written while Dick was in the hospital, awaiting the first injection of Dr. Li’s vaccine. The letter is a thank you note and begins: “What do you say to a man who has lifted you up when you are down and close to out? I know one thing for sure, I don’t have the words in my vocabulary to completely express the gratitude my Family and I feel for the helping hand.” As he believed that he would have had to “rely exclusively on strength of will to defeat the enemy within” if it were not for Grandpa Johnson.

There is no doubt in my mind that your help in my time of need has made it possible to defeat this cancer. That I will arise and walk out as a whole man. Ready, willing, and able to join in life’s larger wars. Confident in the fact that where there is a will there is a way.”

He goes on to tell how Dr. Li was in the night before to express confidence that the vaccine would work in his case; and then tells how the stay in the hospital gave him time to polish up his sales plan, and plan for the success of the sales program, how the treatments would be timed in such a manner that he would make the Chicago sales trip. “All in all, things are working out beautifully,” Dick writes with the power of his positive thinking. The letter is dated 9/16/65. Dick died a year later.

According to legend, my father had accepted his death sentence. So, it was so painful to read in his own words the extent to which he had suffered and struggled to live. It was so painful to empathize with his fear, to identify his fear as my own. I too have a strong faith and am willing to go to great lengths to heal and have a positive attitude in the face of strife. I too fear the “enemy within” me, and really want to live.

The gift from my mother: the words from beyond the grave written by the man who was my father, made me realize that my faith needed to grow to include an acceptance of death in order to truly be free.

Humbly,

L.

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Finding a therapist might have seemed daunting given the large supply in the metropolitan area except that I was glad to have a mission to add to my daily regimen of health promoting activities, plus I had a method. I approached my assignment to find a therapist the same way I’ve searched for a house or a job or, once upon a time, a partner/husband: I beseeched the Universe in morning and nightly prayers, and I wrote a detailed wish list.

What makes me believe in the efficacy of wish lists? Maybe I believe because the letter I wrote to Santa Claus produced a Chatty Cathy doll on Christmas morning when I was an impressionable kid. Or, maybe someone suggested a wish list like someone suggested a gratitude list at a time when I was ripe for taking a suggestion, and it helped to relieve my fear of the future for a day. I don’t recall what made me write my first wish list as an adult. All I know is that the sweet 9:00 to 5:00 job with adequate salary and benefits that got me out of the restaurant business manifested within months of making a list. Of course, I had to purchase a proper suit (it was tomato red) and apply to a job placement agency (I flunked the typing test) because actions + focused intention = success. But, truly, it was uncanny just how many of my listed wishes were answered by that job, and then some. My experience is that The Universe has a broader view of my capabilities than I usually do, and is much more generous. Which is why I always add a caveat at the end of my wish lists: “All this or better will come to me swiftly and easily. Thank you.”

So, in the spirit of Jane and Michael Banks in their petition for a “very sweet and very pretty” nanny, I wrote a list of wishes for my therapist. Then, I folded it up and hid it in my God Box. In the days that followed, I did my footwork by calling friends with therapists and friends who are therapists to ask for recommendations, and everywhere I went I carried a list – a list of the providers from my insurance company’s web site – which I would ask these friends to scan. Affordable was a top priority on my wish list. Then, after a week or two of concentrated efforts, I stopped. I stopped praying, stopped asking around, and, effectively, stopped thinking about a therapist. I let go, and let the Universe do it’s work.

Now, letting go is not something I do consciously or easily. It just happens as though it’s organic to the manifestation process. And, usually, I don’t even realize that I’ve let go. It might feel to me like I’ve given up, or taken a break, or that I’m gearing up for the next round of actions, or that I’ve been distracted. Meanwhile, the fallow phase is invariably when the Universe produces with a slight of hand – Voila! – magnanimity.

[Let’s see. Where exactly are we in this long leg of the journey? I feel as though I looked up from an absorbing book and don’t recognize the terrain outside my train window. OK, the sutures are out and the incision in my breast is healing. The tumors are gone. The prognosis is great but not perfect due to a speck of cancer in a lymph node, so I’m waiting to meet with an oncologist to determine what to do next. Right. I’m putt, putt, putting on down the tracks en route to the next great adventure. I’m on my way to meeting my next teacher: the oncologist.]

There are many pages of dream interpretations, meditations, self interrogations in my journal to flip through before I reach the part about meeting the oncologist. Finally, there’s a brief blurb about this momentous occasion. If I were skimming the pages, I might’ve missed it except that I was drawn into a detailed description of a magnificent lucid dream: I dreamt I was towed through the ocean on the back of a huge gray whale. The water, the air, the strength, the speed was palpable. I held on to the whale for dear life for I believed that I had to hold on or die – I was powerless – though, I also trusted the enormous beast to take care of me.

And then:

Today is the day I meet Dr. Dawn Hershman, the oncologist affiliated with Dr. Sheldon Feldman. [see The GateKeeper] In days past, I’ve had some anxiety about what an oncologist will prescribe. Ie. chemo that will kill healthy cells and make me nauseous and lose my hair. My way to cope with the anxiety has been to remind myself that I’m not doing chemo today and to breath into the moment. Today is the day I learn what an oncologist believes. For some reason, I woke up light-hearted.

After this journal entry there’s nothing about my meeting with Dr. Hershman. Nothing. I don’t record how I didn’t find her as warm as Dr. Feldman, but I felt she was very intelligent. I don’t tell how impressed I was by her youth and her bird-like femininity. She didn’t have spiritual icons in her office, though I felt connected to her through the photos of her children. And, I was impressed that her name was on most of the research projects being done by the Breast Cancer Department at New York Presbyterian. But, there’s nothing about her in my journal. Not even musings about how challenging it must be for a female doctor to balance work and family, or how difficult I imagined it would be for Dr. Hershman, a woman, to constantly encounter a sisterhood of amputated or potentially lethal breasts. I didn’t even take notes about our visit: the menu of options that she recommended, the tests that she wanted to run, the perchance that I might be eligible for the new and exciting oncotype dx test (more about this later). I didn’t write about Dr. Dawn Hershman at all then, so I’m glad I’m writing this blog now. My oncologist and her nurse practitioner, Lois, deserve a strong testimony as I will discover and you will learn in the blog posts to come.

Why didn’t I sit with my thoughts about the oncologist and inscribe them for posterity then? My guess is that I was hanging on so tight to that slippery whale that I was afraid to reach for a pen. To write about these matters, that is. I do, however, write about this:

My thoughts about cancer are constant. It seems that whatever I consider somehow harkens back to the primary concern of the moment and I’m so annoyed and intrigued by this. I suppose most of my thoughts have concerned myself always. But, I’ve generally thought in terms of the things I must accomplish, the ways I’m falling short or am not enough, how I’ve viewed myself in comparison to others. Never have I given so much thought to my physical health.

I am afraid of chemo. I am afraid of the side effects. I’m afraid of making a decision that will adversely effect my life for the rest of my days. I’m afraid and at the same time I have some small measure of faith and plenty of evidence of being taken care of by Love through my friends and family.

Just so happens that the therapist recommended to me by the friend that I just so happened to bump into in the health food store has a personal experience with breast cancer. Jean had a lumpectomy ten years ago and is on Tamoxifen.

As it happened, Jean was on my list of insurance providers, practiced within a stone’s throw of my home, and “was very sweet, and very pretty” just as I requested on my wish list. It had never occurred to me to ask for a therapist with a depth of compassion that can only come from personal experience though.

God/Goddess/the Universe is good.

Yours in Awe,

L.

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