Archive for December, 2011

posted by Amy on Dec 9

This is the last six days of the semester. I have final projects due next Thursday, a take-home final consisting of three essays of five pages each, and a research paper of around twenty-five pages. It is also the deadline for applying for the ThD program at BU for the fall, and I have to write a 2,000 word personal statement for that.

So what am I doing blogging?

First I wanted to expand on what I said last Saturday about childhood Christmases. Although the invitation to reflect on those days was a lot like a bomb going off in my psyche, derailing my plans for the day and disturbing my equilibrium, it started me sifting through memories for something positive, and I was successful.

My family lived in Germany from the time I was one year old until I was almost four, and we picked up the custom of celebrating “Wise Men Day,” otherwise known as Epiphany. I have great memories of Epiphany. We’d put our shoes out the night before, and the Wise Men would come and leave us gifts. We’d always get a new toothbrush, and something else. Quite possibly, the “Wise Men” took advantage of after-Christmas sales. One year I got a microscope. Another year I got a chemistry set. I loved them both, and I am thankful my family had high academic expectations for both boys and girls.

In 1968 we celebrated our first Christmas back in Denver. My parents had just bought a house on South High Street, but our stuff, including Christmas decorations, was still in storage. My mom borrowed a sewing machine from a neighbor and bought a bunch of felt, which I turned into customized Christmas stockings for myself and my brothers and sister. Each one had a distinctive decoration, and the name embroidered on it. As husbands and babies came along I kept making stockings. The most recent one was for my daughter-in-law early this year. So, at 14, I started a family tradition that is still going on.

When I started this post I hadn’t heard yet about my PET scan, but then the Nurse Practitioner called me from home to tell me the news. The liver lesions are gone. The lung nodules are less than 5mm, which puts them below the threshold of what a PET can evaluate. The tumor in the breast has not grown and is not active. It might be just inflammation, or necrosis.

I was mentally prepared to “keep on keepin’ on” no matter what the scan showed. But this is, of course, the best possible news. I am so very happy. I am healing and I will continue to heal.

posted by Amy on Dec 3

In the last post I said I was going to have a thyroid biopsy. The doctor took four samples from each of two nodules, one on each side of my trachea, using a small needle, and guided by ultrasound. The larger of the two nodules was most concerning for cancer, and it tested benign. (Yay!) There were not enough cells harvested from the other one to know what it is, so I’ll have to have another biopsy in January.

I’m scheduled to have a PET scan on December 5 to assess how my cancer treatment is working. I’m optimistic that it will show more progress toward the goal of “permanent remission, normal lifespan.” I feel and look healthy. I have plenty of energy. A doctor friend of mine told me this illness is just an immune system/hormone problem and there’s no reason to think it can’t be corrected. I agree.

I went to Philadelphia for the Thanksgiving break. I took a bus that left Boston at about 1:30 Thursday morning, and I got to my friends’ house at about 8. My host and his daughter were off running the Turkey Trot five mile race. His mom, who was visiting from New York, let me in, which is how I got to meet her. His wife, who was my first friend at Arch Street United Methodist Church, greeted me warmly when she got up.

I helped cook Thanksgiving dinner. That was a delight. My host printed out the recipes and taped them to cupboard doors around the kitchen. I did the sweet potatoes, and they were excellent. They had fresh ginger and cayenne pepper in them, which gave them a nice little kick. And they weren’t too cloyingly sweet. I love cooking, and it was fun to cook in a group. The other great thing was having leftovers to eat for the rest of the weekend.

I had a wonderful weekend, even though I also had to write a paper. I decided to write just a “good enough” paper and not let it take up all the time I was there. It was due Monday morning. I finished the first draft by dinner time Sunday night, and I left it alone until early Monday morning, when I edited it and emailed it in. But while I was editing it I kept thinking, “the argument is weak here,” or, “I need a citation for this.” But of course it was too late, so I just turned it in as it was. I took an afternoon bus back to Boston Monday, and arrived home at about 11:30 p.m.

Today I’m at a “reading retreat” at school. Reading retreats are a chance to combine spirituality and community with scholarly pursuits. The school provides food, and Robin Olson, the director of the Spiritual Life Office, plans three short worship services throughout the day. It is a joy to be part of a community of worshiping learners. The retreats reinforce the feeling that God brought us together for a reason and is working within and among us to bring about healing, reconciliation and wholeness. I love taking part in these gatherings.

This morning Robin guided us to reflect on a specific Christmas memory from our childhoods. That was tough for me. My mother loved celebrations and had a great sense of joy and fun, but over the years she became  increasingly incapacitated by mental illness. She was less and less able to keep everything together, and my father was no help, being lost in his own personal hell. So, sadly, the increasing weight of ever more stressful, dysfunctional Christmases has dragged all my childhood Christmas memories into a dark, twisted jumble of images and scenes that I would rather not remember. I was able to recall feeling a sense of hope and wonder anyway, as if God was bathing me in light and love and protecting me from my parents’ demons, but it was a struggle to find that one bright jewel among the ruins.

I tried to build warm memories and healthy traditions of Advent and Christmas for my own children. I think I succeeded.  Maybe I’ll write a separate post about that. Right now I need to get to work on end-of-semester projects.

 

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