Chemo and Dreams

My dear readers: It has been a month since I have been able to post, one filled with adapting and a new way of living with unknowns and surprises. My hope for White Hair Grace is to continue to focus on the graces that show up in these later years of life. That continues, now couched in the life of cancer treatments and new graces showing up in their paths. This blog was written around September 24th. I introduce it as the first of a few yet to be written, to catch you up gradually on what graces have transpired in the intervening few weeks. To say that graces have arrived is to put it mildly! To admit that it has been sometimes an uphill climb is to be honest. But it has all yet proven that our life lessons arrive as they will, and if we pay attention, they have the most deeply important truths to teach us. And keep bringing us closer to home. 

My first chemo went quite well last Friday. One little glitch at the beginning and that was it for complications. I left 6 hours later under my own steam and felt elated when I got home. This was going to be okay! The doctor was right. “Most patients tolerate this chemo quite well.”

Then Prednisone by mouth entered my lymphoma life, and the weekend was a misery of nausea, fatigue and “why am I not one of those “most patients”????? Sunday afternoon I went to the ER with chills, at a doctor’s recommendation, and 6 hours later, I left with a clear slate. All was just as it should be – except for some dehydration due to inadequate food and fluid for 2 days.

I had a lot of time lying on the gurney waiting for test results. By myself in the quiet during the waiting times, I found myself taking a surprise trip back across my life – all of it – and for the first time, all of it was wonderful!

All the guilts, mistakes, bad decisions, grudges, unintended consequences that hold us back from being free was done! Forgiveness had become real. I never thought it was possible, but there it was.

I had a wonderful, wonderful upbringing. Loving parents who also loved each other openly. Two younger sisters who, among the inevitable spats, were the loves of my life – and still are. It was a slide show of memories…each one going by in brief minutes or even seconds…jumping from one part of my life to another and back yet to another. 

There were memories of painting the wooden boats at the summer lake cottage with my dad. And lying in the bottom of one of those boats one starry night with him and my grandpa, looking up at the stars. And there they were – the northern lights, glistening neon green, hanging down like curtains undulating in the dark sky. My first wonder.

Memories of my mother who would sit and rub my back when I was lying on my bed, feeling rejected and homely and saying that some day, someone would come along who would see the real me and love me. And she was right. My dear mother, who would rub my chest with Vicks Vapo-rub when I had a chest cold, and wrap a scratchy wool sock around my neck, fixing it firmly with a large safety pin. Mother’s love.

Memories of my young marriage and birthing and rearing my two wondrous sons and making my way through the unfamiliar life of a doctor’s wife.

Memories of graduate school in music, performing on stages over the years and hearing the applause that made it all worthwhile. Memories of trips abroad: my first on a 6-week college choir trip through Europe. Norway and Sweden, my ancestral homes. And others taken during my second marriage.

Memories of Dwight and my fishing expeditions in Minnesota, sleeping in our little cutty cabin, and he, always proudest of the fish I got.

Memories of my churches and the amazing congregations I was so blessed to serve. Making such dear and lasting friends in the midst of it.

Memories of beginning this blog, fearful that I wasn’t good enough but encouraged by my amazing mentor over and over again.

It was all so calm, so tender, so fresh again in this new look, and I found myself overflowing with gratitude and wonder.

And I realized once more that when gratitude is at the center of our life – gratitude for those things and those people in the past and present that have challenged and blessed us and shown us the paths that we are meant to be on – the pain that has been an inevitable part of all our lives can be diminished and made bearable. Gratitude washes the past clean of enough of its darkness. It sets us down in the green valleys of the Psalmist and on the tops of the tallest mountains.

And finally, all is well. It is grace.

It takes a lifetime to get there. But the sooner we begin, the sooner we will arrive. It’s taken me 79 years, but it’s been worth every one. It may have been cancer that brought this to a head, but whatever happens to this body in the months ahead, I am at peace in my spirit.