Dear People of St. Catherine’s,
I am still recovering from the extensive surgery – as I can’t take narcotics I am in a good deal of discomfort, but each day I feel stronger, and I’ve had some amazing help from the lymphedema specialist who is helping me with the results of lymph node removal. I am sporting a very chic compression sleeve and glove which should keep my left side from swelling while my body does all kinds of re-adjustments. I give thanks to God for the medical expertise and the adaptability of the human body!
Saturday, I had a short meeting with the Wardens and a small group of parish leaders to hear from them, and have them hear from me, as a first step in my transitioning into re-connection with the parish, still planned for September. The group thought it would be helpful for me to share a little of what I shared with them, so here goes:
When I received the diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer in mid December, it was a total shock. It was difficult for me to not share the news then but I was advised to wait until I knew more, until I knew when I would be beginning my medical disability leave, and exactly what my treatment would be, before I shared with any except the wardens and Fr. Allen+. Epiphany weekend I celebrated 4 services (Friday eve for Epiphany, Sat eve, and Sunday) and basically said goodbye to you for a while. I was in shock. There was no guarantee that the chemo would work. I knew that God would be with me whatever happened, but there was no guarantee that I would make it through. I was fighting for my life. My spiritual director, my clergy friends, and all I consulted with told me that I would have to stop taking care of everyone else for this time, and concentrate on taking care of myself. And so I did. It took every bit of energy and focus that I had. They “hit me hard" with the first two months of a very strong chemo which required 4 different anti-nausea medications. The nurses called it the “red devil" because of what it does to your immune system. I had to have an injection 26 hours after the chemo so that my bones would remember to make white blood cells. I was still recovering from the removal of a lymph node which did not heal well because I started chemo 3 days afterwards. So I think I was in shock for at least a good two months. The one time I did get around a lot of people for a family birthday celebration I got the flu and then had a very high fever and got dehydrated and fainted and had to have IV hydration for several hours. So I stayed away from public places entirely, except for my doctor appointments, for a number of months.
There were a lot of losses for me to deal with. I lost my normal life, at least for a number of months. I lost the ability to celebrate the Eucharist with you and be an active part of the community of faith. I lost my hair. I lost my independence. I had very little energy and almost none for reading or any kind of intellectual activity. I sat in my comfortable chair drinking more water than you would think humanly possible, most of the day, every day, for much of 5 months. And then of course the surgery, the necessary but painful losses of both breasts and 10 more lymph nodes.
This journey with cancer has been an incredibly intense inner process, largely between me and God. It has been a deeply spiritual experience that has affirmed my deep conviction that God is always with us, in every situation, as close as our own breath. I will share some of the blessings that have come in this journey at another time, but know that there have been many. Sometimes we have to stop our normal patterns of living and accept our vulnerability in order to be able to see how God is working in and around us.
Again, I deeply appreciate all of your prayers, the wonderful cards, the delicious and nourishing food that many of you sent to us during those first months of chemo. It was wonderful to think every Wed. And Sun. “What’s for dinner today?" I realize that my long absence from the congregation has been difficult, even with Fr. Allen+ and our great Wardens and Vestry and other parish leaders stepping up to carry on our ministries.
THE HOLY EUCHARIST
Sunday 8:00 A.M. Rite I
HOLY EUCHARIST RITE II
Sunday 10:00 A.M.
Sunday 5:30 P.M.
CONTEMPLATIVE SUNG EVENING PRAYER
Second Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m.
5:30 p.m. in the Chapel Monday – Thursday