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Monday, August 22, 2011

Diagnosis What

Ten days ago I had surgery for uterine cancer.  The surgeon said it looked like he expected, early stage, contained and probably there would be no need for follow up treatment.  Good news, right?  Okay, that's how I'm taking it.  I won't know for sure until my follow up appointment tomorrow and receive the pathology report, but I am feeling very positive.  The interesting thing is that I wonder if that's how I'm supposed to feel.  I have had a variety of responses.  Most people downplay the whole thing and even the doctor said at our first appointment, "Well, if you're going to have cancer, this is the one to get!"  Okay...I guess.  A lot of folks tell me stories of relatives who have had the same thing with good outcomes.  Others tell me cheerfully that their (insert relative relationship) who died of cancer x started with this one.  Hmmmm, and that is encouraging to me because?????  This is probably all coming up for me because of a card from a friend with a flyer to the Wellness Community, a non-profit cancer support group in our area.  Today, and if the results are as expected tomorrow, I just don't feel I need a support group.  Not even sure I would feel "worthy" to enter into that.  Now, if they could fix insomnia and other side issues of surgery and major hormonal shifts, I'd be there in a flash!  Otherwise, it feels like my faith communities and friends and family will be support enough.  On the other hand, I'm open, for tomorrow, that could all change. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shopping as Evangelism?

So, today was the first day that I left theay house beyond walking on our court.  My friend took me to the bank and then we walked around Lafayette a bit, with the goal of going to Patxi's Pizza which serves Blue Bottle Coffee and is open morning, noon and night.  (very dangerous for me!)  For those of you don't who may not know, Blue Bottle makes Peet's seem like Folgers!  Anyway, I digress.  I couldn't resist asking if we could stop in a clothing store on the way just to look around.  Well, we were virtually the only ones in the store and of course, the sales clerks were more than eager to help us.  So, they began to show us a new item that had just come in:  a wrap that could be worn about 10 different ways.  I in my t-shirt and elastic waist shorts was in no mood to try on anything, but happy to watch my friend be Barbie.  In the midst of this, the woman asked my friend what she did.  She said she was a pastor....oh, why did she have to say that? probably did jump into my head.  Then, she came and asked what I did.  Well, at that point, I had to say that I, too, am a pastor.  She was exclaiming and oohing and aahing in a way that is not a common response to my admission of the vocation I have chosen.   She told us she thought it was fabulous.  Really?!  Really!? she exclaimed.  Then she wanted to know where our churches are located.  She asked if we preach sermons.  She lives in Oakland and said she goes to the Cathedral of Light (well, nominally she goes there), but she wanted to come to our churches.  She wanted our business cards.  She just kept going on and on about us both being pastors.  Then, she started telling everyone else in the store that we were pastors.  I suppose this might be remarkable in many settings, but here in Northern California, in this bastion of secular life and the embarrassment over the C-word and the J-word (Christian and Jesus), it seemed downright implausible.  Now, I'll tell you that I've had other people exclaim in similar ways at memorial services, weddings and other chance encounters and I've seen nary a one of those folks enter the doors of a church in the weeks to follow.  But then again, I wonder if I'd really want them to.  I wonder if the church would disappoint them.  I wonder if evangelism is really about getting people in the doors of churches or is it reminding them of Christ and the many ways that each of us is called to follow him.  I wonder....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Post Operation

I am still pinching myself that only four days ago I was on an operating table with a tube in my throat and having my stomach cut open.  Four days!  Since then, I've had some remarkable experiences.  The volume of prayers shared and all sorts of lovingkindness has been offered to me.  My family has been amazing.  Also, the source of these gifts have been many and varied.  Some totally expected and others completely unexpected.  I think that is what is so amazing about receiving.  One puts it out there, and then see who is able and willing to respond in ways that will be helpful and healing.  I do not see all of this as necessarily pre-ordained, but I take every moment and every instance to give thanks for what is.

For those who like a bit more of the nitty gritty, I did want to share that the surgery was deemed "successful."  Took all the parts that were supposed to go and nothing new or unexpected was discovered.  The surgeon felt confident enough to say that though he can't be sure until he reads the pathology report, he feels confident that it was very early stage uterine cancer and that no follow up treatment would be required.  That, of course, would pretty much seal the deal for as good an outcome of all of this as I could possibly hope for.  Once again, praying for what may be and giving thanks for what is.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pastoral Deflections

Disclaimer:  This post is not directed to any individual or intended to be accusatory.
What happens when a pastor ends up being on the receiving end of care?  Well, a lot of reflection and a lot of projection and a lot of rejection.  Here are some lines that I have found somewhat surprising, sometimes embarrassing as I recall my own miscues and sometimes down right aggravating.
1. I'm sorry to hear about that.  I know what it means, but it gets said so much, and it is technically NOT what is meant.
2. I'll be praying for you.  Why not just pray for me?  Now.  In the moment.  Sometimes I think the person will pray and other times I am doubtful.  I'm really okay with phone prayers....I do them a lot!  One has to be careful when driving to not close eyes while praying!
3. Let me know if you need anything.  The great pastoral deflection.  It puts the onus on the person potentially needing care.  Some have said that we pastors don't know how to accept care from others.  I honestly don't think that is true for me, but people in need don't always know what they need and there is so much going on that it would be awesome if people would just say I can do "x" "y" or "z" and then the care receiver can choose.  It is also important for people to realize that sometimes prayer is all and the most that can be done.
4.  Ignore the fact all together.  This is a biggie.  I was just speaking with a colleague who mentioned a friend that never called him, never wrote, never checked in when he was going through a horrible family crisis.  Later on the friend's wife said he didn't call because he didn't know what to say.  That is okay.  Simply offering your presence, voice on the phone or card and the words "I don't know what to say," is really enough.  In fact, it may be the best thing possible.
5.  You are going to feel this or that.  When I had this happen blah blah blah.  You'll be just fine.  All may be true, but in advance, not all that helpful.

The first duty of love is to listen.
Paul Tillich
One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other's stories.
Rebecca Falls

Thanks for listening!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Counting Down

So, on Friday at roughly 11:30 am, I will go in for the full hysterectomy.  I appreciate all the response with prayers, notes, calls, lunches, offers for meals etc.  I feel so amazingly blessed by the community that surrounds me.  I will be working this week but have to start surgery preparation on Thursday so probably will head home mid-day and relax.  Who knows, maybe I will schedule a massage!  If you want to call to check on me, you can reach David, my husband at 925-783-4786.  I am not going to take my cell phone to the hospital with me, nor do I plan to do much communicating while I'm in the hospital.  My main focus will be to rest and recuperate.  I feel incredibly calm and "ready."  Pre-operation doctor appointment tomorrow to check me in for the surgery on Friday.  I will update you myself when I feel up to being "electronic" again. 
Living what I preach! Gail