Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

Yesterday I went down to the Juravinski Cancer Centre for the first check-up since the end of my radiation treatments. My radiation oncologist Dr. Wright and his resident poked, prodded, peered and perused every corner of my throat, inside and out. The tissues are healing nicely, slightly ahead of the average curve apparently, there’s no swelling anywhere there shouldn’t be, and everything is returning to a colour vaguely resembling the colour it was before it all began. The conclusion: he is willing to go out on the proverbial limb and declare me to be 100% cancer free – with 95% certainty.  The 5% is reserved until after I have a high-contrast CT scan performed in the next few weeks in case it reveals something completely unexpected. Failing that though, I’m done. To quote the good doctor, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll see you in six weeks”. In two weeks we’ll see if my surgeon is willing to make the same bold declaration.

If he does, it’s a declaration that has me facing some previously unexplored territory – the future.

Let me explain…

I was 14 in 1967 when my Dad decided to explore the family genealogy as part of the whole ‘Centennial Year’ thing. What we discovered was that the males in the Gray family are pretty short-lived. On average we tend to kick off in the mid-Fifties, with the overall average being a ripe old 56. In the dozen or so generations he was able to track down nobody survived past the age of 60. My father did not buck the trend, passing away from colon cancer at that very same Gray family average.

So over the next few years I thought about that from time to time and by the time I reached my twenties I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that 55-60 years was the best I could hope for. Planning for retirement was pretty much set aside and I started living life with little more than your basic 5-year plan.

But now, it looks like I have to re-jig my thinking. It would seem that there is a new paradigm on the horizon; for the first time in my life I have to seriously consider the prospect of growing old!

I know, to you it sounds strange, but the reality is that I truly had fully resigned myself to dying of cancer sometime in my Fifties. In fact, in some respects I was actually looking forward to it; you know, seeing Jesus and all. When Dr. Wellman revealed that cancer had been found in my cyst back in November there was no shock, no dismay, no fear, because I had been expecting it all along. The diagnosis arrived exactly on schedule just as it did with my father. There were no surprises at all.

However, one thing has changed – medical science. Unlike all the preceding generations, when the inevitable struck me, no one was saying, “This is it I’m afraid. You have x months to live.”  No, instead, there was a very confident team of specialists saying, “Here’s how we’re going to get you out of this.” They laid out a very convincing plan of action and all that they planned has gone exactly as planned, maybe even a little bit better.

There was another difference as well. While my family has always been of the church going variety, faith in God to change the future was never a part of the religious dynamic. Faith was something that carried you through the hard times and gave you the strength to face certain doom with the traditional British stiff upper lip. Disease, misfortune and death were not things to pray your way out of, they were part of God’s mysterious ways and no one seriously expected anything to change.

I however, have been blessed to be part of a praying and more importantly believing faith community. Dozens of people have contacted me to tell me they are praying for my successful recovery; there have been dinners brought to the door, rides to treatment offered and a variety of other expressions of love and support that have, quite frankly, left Roberta and I feeling slightly over-whelmed. And it would seem that all that prayerful support have borne fruit. The cancer has come and gone and I’m still here. Praise God!

Now, before I get a minor flood of emails taking exception to my crediting God in this I will answer your objection right now. I have absolutely no idea why everyone who is prayed for as I was doesn’t get healed. I have no doctorate in theology, no inside track on the details of God’s plans for the Universe, and no pretensions for being anything other than the simple believer that I am. However, I am a believer, and I believe that the prayers of my friends at Kortright and elsewhere have had just as much a bearing on this outcome as the ministrations of the doctors, nurses and technicians at the Juravinski and St. Joseph’s in Hamilton.

And I am immensely grateful to each and every one of those who prayed, cooked, drove, hugged, filled in for, and gave of their time and resources to support Roberta and I over the last 5 months.  You people are amazing!  God bless each and every one of you!

However, that still leaves me facing a future I never thought I’d face.  And though the prospect is actually a little scary, I’m looking forward to it. I now have to actually ponder what I might do with my twilight years. Any suggestions?

Till next time… Shalom.

Well, it’s started; the radiation regimen that is.

Today I went down for the first in a series of 35 radiation treatments and, as advertised, it was a very simple and, at this point anyway, painless process.  Well, not entirely painless. The bed they have you lie down on is pretty hard but that’s because a softer surface would allow too much movement and when they are trying to aim a beam of radiation (high energy x-rays I believe) as accurately as possible-movement results in more serious consequences than just a blurry picture.

The drive down was actually rather nice and not just because of the sunny weather.  The Canadian Cancer Society volunteer, Dave (not his real name) is a retired gentleman who has been doing this sort of thing for 8 years. Three times a week (occasionally four if he feels up to it) he drives people with one cancer or another to a variety of medical appointments in Southern Ontario. So far the furthest he has gone is London in one direction and Mississauga in the other.  He refuses to go to Toronto; the traffic there is more than he can handle.  He got started when he mentioned to a friend that he found retirement extremely boring and needed something to do. His friend was already a volunteer and suggested Dave join him.  As I mentioned, that was eight years ago. The friend can no longer drive, but Dave is still going strong.

The depth of Dave’s experience showed best when we hit downtown Hamilton.  Rather than taking the expressway up, for lack of a better term, the back side of the mountain, Dave sped along one back street after another, winding his way through a maze of tree-lined, one way streets miraculously avoiding heavy traffic and arrived at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in a mere 40 minutes.  This was the best time in which I have ever made the trip and it does go to show that if you do something often enough you get very good at it.

At the Centre things went very smoothly.  After a brief wait a charming woman named Kristy led me to a small comfortable room and made sure, first of all, that I was actually Dennis Gray.  When I was there for my orientation they took my picture; she had a copy of it with her and took the time to compare it to me.  Since five days growth of beard hadn’t changed me enough to make me unrecognizable she moved on to the next step.

She  made sure I fully understood what was about to happen, what the side effects of the treatments would be, the recommended ways to deal with them, and what I was going to do with each return trip.  All questions were answered in a pleasant, unhurried manner and repeated in the same manner when needed. It was a very comfortable experience. (See last few Paragraphs of previous post.)

Then after she showed me around a little I changed into a traditional hospital gown (only needed to strip from the waist up which was nice). Then there followed but a brief wait until it was time for me to go in to Machine 10B for my treatment. I had arrived a little early, thanks to Dave so I had time to get in a little reading. Love my Sony eReader.

When the time came Kristy escorted me to Machine 10b and introduced me to the other two treatment technologists. Since I didn’t see much of them (my glasses were off by this point) I can’t seem to remember their names; at least that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.  But they were all very nice and made me as comfortable as they could on the aforementioned hard bed designed more to keep me immobile than comfortable.  Two quick low-energy x-rays to make sure I was lined up right and then it began.

From the patient’s point of view nothing could be simpler, or more uneventful.  For the next 20 minutes I laid flat on my back, staring straight up at the lights on the ceiling while servo-motors rotated the linear accelerator around me and made slight positional adjustments to the bed I was lying on until I was properly positioned for each of the 9 individual firings. Each firing lasts 20 seconds and is noticeable only by means of a very low volume buzz coming from the direction of the large circular head of the machine.

When the procedure was over (painless this time as I mentioned) I changed back into my shirt and jacket and rejoined Dave in the main lobby. After a quick stop at Tim’s for a double-double we were on our way back to Guelph.

I thanked Dave for his efforts on my behalf when I got home around 5:30, but somehow it hardly seemed adequate. I’ve been thinking about him and his ilk, volunteering the way they do. He picked me up at work, drove me down, waited for me for over an hour, drove me back to the work shop-because in my slight anxiety I forgot my keys, and then drove me home. In all about a three hour slice out of his day.  And this he has done 3 three times a week for the last eight years. They say Guelph is the volunteer capital of Canada. People like Dave are the reason why.  Thanks again Dave.

Speaking of driving; a number of you out there have expressed a willingness, dare I say even a desire, to drive me down for one of my appointments. Well, though it looks like the Cancer Society may have things well in hand, I too would greatly enjoy a chance to spend some time driving with you and getting to know you a little better in the process.  With that end in mind the link below will take you to an online version of my schedule of appointments.

Follow the link and let me know which one (1) appointment for which you positively know you are available to drive me down and drive me home. Keep in mind that each Wednesday they will be giving me an update of my schedule and when they do it’s possible some changes may take place. With new patients coming in all the time occasionally some juggling must take place, so please check back once a week or so.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ApI5vq3YTQfNdFgtSVZaZmV3MTZnckoxMC12eVNvdnc&hl=en&authkey=CO73uqYB

Trinty Prayer Shawl

The Prayer Shawl knitted for me by the ladies of Trinity United Church in Guelph

Well, that’s it for this time around. Oh! Except to say thanks once again to my good friend and theatre pal Beth Freeth, her mother, and the folks at Trinity United Church in Guelph, who knitted and prayed over the lovely prayer shawl in the picture at left.  They do this for people who are brought to their attention. They knit the shawls and then pray over them so that the folks who receive them will have a continuing reminder of the warmth of God’s love and the prayers that are going up on their behalf. It’s a marvelous gesture and I will treasure it always.

Gratitude as well to all of you who are praying for me and offering help in other tangible ways. (Great pot roast Margaret!)  I love you all and think of you often.

Till next time.

Shalom.

Well, after a few hours sleep in Day Surgery I’m back home once more. The disconcerting thing is I went in feeling fairly well, pain free and able to move around under my own power. Not after the surgery designed to repair my torn Achilles heel. I am feeling less than chipper, experiencing significant discomfort, some pain, and I’m about as mobile as a three-legged Galapagos tortoise. Ah well, what’s the old saying, “Short term pain for long term gain.”

I want to thank all of you who took a moment to think of me and pray for me today. As I lay on the gurney in the hallway waiting to go into the operating room, I could feel the anxiety building. Then I reminded myself that there were people in the world who were deliberately and purposefully thinking of me right at that moment. I will admit that the comfort to be found in that thought surprised me.

There’s a quote that I have used many time over the years to try to help me keep my ego in check.

“Most people would worry less about what people think of them if they could just realize how seldom they do.”

I don’t know who said it but this sentence has kept me from obsessing on people’s opinions more than a few times. As a teenager I spent a lot of time worrying what my peers thought of me and tried to “fit in” by doing things that would improve those opinions. For a time my insecurity was largely fueled by the idea that people didn’t like me at all and spent a lot of time telling other people how much I sucked. The turn around came when I finally came to grips with the reality that people didn’t think about me as much as I feared.

Then the opposing obsession took hold, “What do you mean people DON’T THINK ABOUT ME? Am I that insignificant that I’m not WORTH thinking about?” This quickly led to a new personal philosophy that stayed with me through-out most of my twenties..”I don’t care what people think about me as long as they do!” My self-esteem now centered around a fear of indifference – to me. It’s amazing how many different ways peer pressure can manifest itself – real or imagined.

With maturity I like to think I’ve struck a balance between the two. My self -esteem is now founded more in my identity in Christ than anything else. Well, most of the time anyway.There are a few individuals whose opinions I use as kind of a benchmark. Other than that I am content to simply be who I am and let the world try and cope with my opinion of it. What people think and whether they are thinking of me at all are of significantly less importance than they once were.

What happened today however, was something all together different. For a few hours it mattered to me a great deal that people were, in fact, thinking of me – and deliberately so. After they wheeled me away from Roberta’s company into the inner labyrinth of the surgery area, I felt suddenly very alone. They took me to the hallway outside the assigned operating room and left me there to gaze out the window. The anxiety rose, and fear started to set in.

Then I remembered what my good friend Brian Watson had said, “We’ll take time at 1 o’clock to stop and pray for you.” In that moment I also remembered the dozen or so others who had committed to do the same thing. I did some quick tallying and estimated that while I was lying there at least 34 people were out there, somewhere, thinking about me and my situation and lifting my name up to God in prayer.

Suddenly, the fear subsided. The anxiety, while still there, no longer took my breath away; the shaking in my hands was reduced to a barely noticeable tremor. I was comforted and encouraged by the knowledge that there were people out there who cared enough about me, who loved me enough to stop what they were doing and lift me up in prayer. I found myself praying for each one of them.

I know, it’s what prayer is all about. It’s why we are commanded in the scriptures to pray for one another. But I, like you gentle reader, are human, and the challenges we face can often overwhelm us and we find ourselves in need of a palpable reminder. Today the Spirit reminded me of that fact in just such a tangible way.

So thank you Brian, et al. Your prayers were heard, and I was greatly blessed.

May God bless each of you for your faithfulness.

Shalom.