Sweet Family of Friends,
I woke up this morning in Hyde Park to a light falling snow. It is the first of the season and I am reminded of how grateful I am to be able to actually wake up and see. I sat up and noticed that there was a thin cover across the landscape. I hurried to get dressed and walked south to the University of Chicago; a campus that looks more like Princeton than Princeton. My hopes for a snow day are replaced with the gratitude of the cold air, being pain free and just being out.
For the past two weeks I have been based out of Chicago. KP returned home and I have been here by myself as planned, taking time to be alone and to gather the knowledge, resolve and peace that can comes through solitude. I am both healing and crawling back into a routine that resembles something other than living in a memory care unit or a senior coffee morning at McDonalds. I have even resumed teaching an on-line class titled, “Prayers for the People” with my friend Professor Ken. I am quite sure that as one of the teachers it is I who is learning the most as I seek to “Be transformed by the renewing of my mind”
I have had some sweet times since I came back to Chicago, especially with some of my college classmates. Holly met me at the Institute of Art where she tied to keep up with me as I did my “walkabout through the galleries”. The rules of my “game” are to keep walking. “You’re not going to like it,” I said and “your wont be able to do it”. And I was right ,. Maybe there is something illegitimate about strolling past a Monet, glancing at a Picasso, ignoring a Warhol or glimpsing at a Rodin.
Kulu met me downtown and we waked miles along lake Michigan after which we met up with Sarah for hot chocolate. On Monday Quazz invited me to his house on Lake Shore drive where we ate in and devoured a roasted chicken and a beer … or two, watched Monday night football and talked about other classmates, his new home in San Francisco, The Game, kids and fantasy football. And just this week my friend Cliff and Susha met me at a super fancy restaurant where I tied to gain back all 25 pounds that I have lost in one sitting. At the end we ordered a huge apple pie that I took home and am still trying to finish.
I am moved by the sweetness of my friend, your generosity, your interest, your care, your concern and your resolve. Each in your own way has said loudly and boldly, “your doing great”, “we need you here”, “your are special to us”, “you’re going to make it”, “we are present for you” and “we love you. “
My recent epiphany is something that most figured out while in nursery school…. It is good to get out and be with friends and to make time for people. Every time I have made plans to meet, my feet get cold and I feel my old habits knocking on the door.” I don’t have time for this. I should be working or doing something else”. But that voice no longer has a hold on me. I go out and do and feel a sense of grace and joy that is becoming more familiar. I am beginning to embrace that new self, the one that slows down, shows up and makes times for friends. Am beginning to realize that not everything has to involve a memo, a speech, a program or an outcome.
A friend asked me what was on my bucket list and encouraged me to get up and start checking things off. As I thought about it, going to Iona in Scotland, or climbing Mt Kilimanjaro or spending a winter in Middlebury Vermont have been replaced. Now my list involves trying to heal old hurts, reframe certain disappointments, reconcile differences and make sure family and friend know how much I love them, Maybe there is a lesson or two I want to share with my kid (if they are up to listening) And I suppose I want to create one or two more ideas and programs that I have left in me that I think are unique and /or necessary for me to earn the grade of “a job well done.”
Back to Mayo Clinic
Next Tuesday I will fly from Midway airport to Minneapolis. I am hoping to see colleagues from Luther Seminary and dear friend from Macalester College. My sister will pick me up and wants to take me to White Castle but doctor’s orders are too fast. My brother in law Mark, who spend over two decades getting up super early to deliver the US mail will rise before the sun again and drive me the seventy miles on Route 52 to Rochester for a 6:15 AM appointment.
The next three days will be filled with tests, sans and consultations and oh yeah not a lot of eating and a lot of waiting. The tests are difficult for me mostly because they involve sitting still for 20, 30 even 70 minutes. You know me so you know that this is my greatest challenge. There is something violating and humiliating about cold metal entering your body. Because I will have a PET Scan on Friday, a procedure that involves an injecting of radioactive die in your arm, it will make air travel a bit more complicated. The clinic will hand me a document that lets TSA know that I am “hot” but not a dirty bomb nor have I been making one. I decided to fly out of the Rochester airport this time, assuming that other patients like me have arrived with similar documentation and they will know what to do.
But truth be told I am anxious. I have read about the stress that comes with post surgery and the beginning of a life long journey of “routine” scans and blood work. Tests every three months for me starting now for who knows how long. I am not anxious about reoccurrence, at least not yet, but the process is a statement that my life has changed, that I am vulnerable. And all the toxins and x-rays and dyes they put in you can’t be good for you either.
Chemo and Radiation
I had hoped that because my tumor was small, well placed, moderately differentiated and with clean margins that I would be able to skip the chemo and radiation, like my surgeon had indicated. As I have talked to people in the medical filed and done my own research. It looks like everyone who survives gets in that chemo/ radiation line. I should be happy that I have progressed so well so fast and I am grateful. But UG. I have gotten use to walking around pain free, having people tell me “I don’t look sick “ and working in ways that remind me why I do what I do. My poops have gotten normal, at least the first one of the day. After that the day is filled with surprises. All this is likely to change after next week. When I asked one patient who had gone through all this she told me that I’d begin to feel like my old self in a year.
I take strength from the woman I know from church and around town that wear theirs scarfs of courage and endure the months of treatments for breast cancer. They not merely survive but thrive and walk with grace not anger or regret. They will be my inspiration, my instructors.
There is more to say, but as my son Abe is fond of saying, “no souls are saved after ten minutes”. No, this is not a quote for scripture but rather Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. Anything over two pages is the equivalent of “more than ten minutes.”
I will return home for the first time since September 4th. I will sneak up to The Game in New Haven after which I will hitch a ride to Boston for a gathering of seminary and divinity schools. I will make it home to Princeton by Wednesday. I can’t wait to hear about Will’s new internship and see his car, hear about Zac’s work and school and to learn from Eli about his first semester at Richmond and life as a Bonner Scholar. And all of us will be eager to hear from Abe who will remain out on the west coast where he is dancing and living his dream. Thanksgiving Day will fall on KP’s dad’s birthday. We had thought we would be out in Hutchinson with him, but now he is with us in a different, but very present way. Thanksgiving will include special THANKS. Thanks for the gift of life, the miracle of healing, the joy of discovery and the love of family and friends.
Ill let you know how things go. Thanks for carrying me when I collapse, picking me up when I fall and walking with me as we move forward