Wednesday, March 9, 2016

GOD AND CHEMO

As I dealt with yet another gut upset this morning, I thought about how out of control my body sometimes feels now I am going through chemo; how, when I go into the hospital, sit in the barcalounger, and wait for a friendly nurse to stab my port to start the infusion, I know I am not in control. This is sobering, humbling, often frustrating, and another one of those f...ing blessings where I learn a crucial life lesson. Damn it.

This is what's going through my mind now as I watch my hands tremble on the keyboard like some absinthe-addicted Parisian of the 19th-century.

Christ shows us how to keep walking when we are not in control, when life seems arrayed against us, when even our ability to walk across the room on wobbly legs seems uncertain.  I rather suspect that He looks at me askance, a slight smile on his face. "Yeah, Annie, I know how you love being in control! How proud you were of doing 10,500 steps on your Fitbit each day, exercising to the Peppy-Peppy DVD so your legs would be thin, and keeping your weight in check. I know all that."

Perhaps he shrugs as a way of saying, "It doesn't matter, honey, none of that matters in the end."

Then how do I figure Christ is with me in this debilitating chemo? I both look for Jesus in the process and invite Him in:  When I sit in the chair for the infusion, I make a small sign of the cross over my heart, putting Christ there. I wear my St. Peregrine medal (patron saint of those with cancer) and my St. Michael's medal, defender against all ills.  They help me to feel safe. I look over at my beloved husband of 49 years who always shows up to drive me to appointments, sit with me, ask questions, bring me tea, and comfort me if the day is bad. How is that not Christ showing up in the guise of my beloved?

If I don't understand what's happening to my body--as in the recent appearance of some festive and painful mouth sores which made it hard to both eat and talk (two of my favorite activities)--I ask Jesus, "What fresh new hell is this? How're we gonna deal with this?"  


Maybe the only answer to that lies in something I recently read about a man praying in front of one of Rouault's paintings of Christ on the cross. He asked why his mother had Alzheimer's, how such a good person could
suffer like this? In the silence the praying man sensed Christ saying to him within, "I understand. You are not alone."  Not, "I will fix this for you, but I will stand with you in this."

When my hair fell out--a startling process even if expected--I remembered that I had made a promise to God earlier, that to ease the sadness of losing my hair (naturally curly!) I would imagine myself gathering it all on a plate and offering it up to God; "Here, this belongs to you. You created it, and I am giving it back to you."

In the end, isn't that what this whole life journey is about? Not just surviving chemo but being alive until our end comes? Then I will say to God:

This body belongs to you. I never owned it, though I thought I did. Here it is back with all of its scars, mileage, sorrows, joys, and abundance. Thank you for the loan of it. Now it is yours.


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