Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

comfort

My late wife and friend, Patricia, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. After many surgeries and over a year’s worth of chemotherapy, she went into remission. In August of 2006, she complained of chest pain and went to the doctor. She had a chest x-ray done which discovered that the breast cancer had metastasized to her lungs and chest wall. After seeing her oncologist that treated her the first time, he told her this time it was much worse and that this cancer now is of the terminal kind. In January 2007, her oncologist gave her 8-12 months. In August of 2007, she was still here, and was doing her best to keep on living!

I have always wondered why she had cancer. I have always wondered why it has affected me so much. I have heard of others with cancer, Lance Armstrong for one, who has continued to “beat” cancer. Then there are those I’ve known who haven’t won over cancer, my mother, a real good friend named Bill, and countless others.

Then a friend of mind named Jim sent me a reply to a message I sent him regarding a bulletin he sent about his daughter reporting that her friend Hillary had “beat” cancer. It was about her receiving a “wish” from the Make a Wish Foundation. Her wish was to care for some children in a third world country. Her wish came true.

In his reply, he said that my family was “sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” I was taken aback from his reply; I was kind of hurt by that statement. I asked God, “how is Pat being sick sharing in Christ’s sufferings?” How can that be? Then prompted by the Holy Spirit, I looked up the passage, Philippians 3:10, which says, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

Did God make her suffer? Did God give her the same cancer – twice? What I came to understand was that God had given her Himself; God was very present with her. He was a God of mystery to her; yet now she knows He is the God of all comfort. She knows that now with Him in heaven. Moreover, I know this now…however much it hurts me inside to actualize the reality that any kind of suffering we experience, Christ suffered the same on the Cross.

Isaiah 53:3-5 explains it, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

I really know this now. I know this experientially. I feel that most people don’t know this until it actually happens to them. At least, that is how I feel about it myself.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

Through my friend’s words, God’s Spirit touched my heart, and even though I weep at this knowledge, I am comforted as never before. I am comforted knowing that God had compassion on Patricia. He had compassion on even me! God has compassion toward all of His creation. I feel that God may be enabling me to help others to see the compassion of God in times like these, when they are fearful, hurting, doubtful and in despair. Pat went to be with the Lord eight years ago, July 29th.

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grief

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

The short book entitled “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis relates how the author joined the human race when his wife and spirited poet, Joy Gresham, died of cancer. Lewis, the Oxford professor whose Christian apologetics make it seem like he’s got an answer for everything, experienced crushing doubt for the first time during her illness and after his wife’s tragic death. A Grief Observed contains meaningful reflections on that period: “Your bid–for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity–will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high,” Lewis writes. “Nothing will shake a man–or at any rate a man like me–out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

This is the book that inspired the film Shadowlands but it is more wrenching, more revelatory, and more real than the movie. It is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

Although this book is non-fiction it is written like the author of so many famous books of fiction can write.  Yet, from a very personal standpoint, Lewis comes to grips with the reality of terminal illness.  It is always from the viewpoint of “this can’t be happening to me!”  He goes through stages of denial, first of the illness itself, and second of the untimely death of his wife.  Sharing his feelings with her son was very hard for Lewis.  Lewis and Joy’s son Douglas became very close.  The relationship started because he enjoyed reading Lewis’ classics.  Douglas truly admired and respected Lewis. Lewis was always the professor and statesman, and always had that stiff upper lip of the Englishman.  But when it came down to facing his feelings, Lewis was the first to really get in touch with them.  His wife, Joy, helped him get through the times of unknowing before she died.  Lewis and Douglas grew very fond of each other and mourned the loss of Joy together, arm in arm.

JoyJack

Joy was very warm and caring toward him during her therapy and temporary recovery.  She insisted on spending as much time with Lewis as possible.  They basically did everything together.  What is really touching about this story is what became of their marriage, and the reason why they married in the first place.

From the first meeting of Lewis, Joy Gresham, and her son Douglas, the beginning of their lasting friendship, through the courtship that took many years, A Grief Observed blends the two worlds or cultures of American values and those of the British.  The book brings you into the heart of Lewis like no other book he had written.  When you finish this book, your heart will be warmed and your mind will rest assured of the possibility of loving someone so deeply as to suffer more than the one who is sick.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is going through the illness of a loved one, especially if he or she has been diagnosed as terminal.

July 2008

I stayed awake last night after about 0130 AM, just thinking about my situation.  Here I am looking about my home from the cushions from my couch, as my wife lay next to me in a hospital bed furnished by Hospice of the Valley.  I hear the whooshing of the oxygen concentrator as it pumps fresh oxygen into my wife’s lungs at 4 liters per minute or second, whatever it is.  I look about in the semi darkness and hear her labored breathing.  I think about the bills I have to pay, the rent that is very past due, and everything else one thinks about when his wife tells him the hour is near.  We have until July 9th to come up with $2153.76.  We have exhausted various local resources for help.  They are either out of money or ask us to wait a few months.  We can’t wait.  I can’t wait, and my wife and child can’t wait either.  Yes, I was working a job, but when I told them about my wife’s Dream Foundation vacation they approved, they weren’t very happy with it, but approved it.  When I returned from the vacation and told them my wife’s condition has declined since leaving, and that I needed 5 more days to find someone to come into my home to watch her, they weren’t happy about that either.  Above all that, I had to drive 40 miles to work every day.  I loved that position, but it is realistically too far to travel because, a) don’t want to be that far away from my sick wife, b) at $4.30 a gallon I was paying almost $100 a week in gas!  The company wouldn’t compensate for any of the travel.  So now, I am without a job.  I will start looking Monday, for something very close.  I need to find something that will bring in some money.

It is sad, that the state of the financial situation of many people in our country is pretty bad.  For one reason or another, a lot of Americans are robbing peter to pay paul in their life to survive!  I was laid off last May of 2007.  I was on unemployment until the end of November.  I couldn’t get a job until like February.  Things started to fall behind.  I had to take out a couple of loans from Army Emergency Relief (thank God for them!) to catch up.  But, it was only temporary.  I have never really caught up.  Now my rent is due…..it’s July and very hot, and I am NOT going to leave this house!  God must supply ALL of my needs according to His riches in glory!  Why?  Because I believe He will, and I am praying very hard, with tears, as to why He is testing us so!!  With all that is going on, why must we have to go through so much more?  I am feeling like Job again.

What to do, what to do.  The clock ticks the minutes, and hours and the days go by, one by one getting closer to THE day ~ when the rent is due, and when the lights will be turned off, etc., etc.  Life is hard.  For the young out there, it is NOT a cakewalk.  You have no one except family to care ABOUT you, and not always care FOR you.  They have their own responsibilities and expenses.  It isn’t required in the complicated world we live in today.  Oh for the days when several generations would live in one big home, like the Walton’s (sorry for the reference)!!  When we could enjoy our brothers and sisters, and grandparents all under one roof!

Today I look at the icons of Jesus Christ and pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon my family.”  I am threatened of life on the street and no place to stay, and yet my wife says she isn’t going anywhere.  Does she know something I don’t?  I have relatives staying with me from North Carolina, a daughter and granddaughter.  I was so relieved to see them, to have family near and dear, which I have missed so much.  My family is spread all over the country,  Florida, Michigan, California, North Carolina, and Arizona.  Why do families and children want to be so far from each other?  What has society done to these precious relationships?

God wants me to build His church, but then His church starts with my family, then it grows from there.  As a married Orthodox priest, I see how family is related to the Church and the Church to family.  The Church has helped us, but is unable to help us completely.  Thank God for what they could do!

Is this a plea for help?  Or is this an observation of someone in need maybe too proud to ask or to afraid of rejection?  It is probably both.  Some of you are subscribed to my blog and others aren’t.  I wish all my friends were subscribed to my blog.  Not just for this piece I am writing now, but for the instruction and writing that I have done to teach you the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, I fell asleep last night thinking on all these things.  I dreamt weird dreams, about raging rivers, and ragged rock faces, treacherous roads, and strangers hindering me.  I feel as though I am facing doom, but I know my Savior is near me and loves me, and will not let me down…..it’s just the process that really sucks!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

My wife passed away July 29th 2008.