" I implore you, my child; observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of nothing (ex nihilo), and that mankind comes into being in the same way..." 2 Maccabees 7:28

Monday, March 31, 2008

Doctor email

Well, I received an email from the oncologist in Marin today in response to my question: do the doctors not recommend radiation because they don't feel it would do any good, or because they don't feel it is necessary. Her email response was: both are true. This was not a very clear answer, but what is clear is that two sepaprate radiology departments (Kaiser Santa Clara and Kaiser San Rafael) have both said that they do not recommend radiation in my case. So I will take that as the answer I was seeking, despite it being delivered in a vague or confusing manner. I really do feel like Kaiser has been great and I have confidence in their doctors, despite the occasional confusion.
I will put up a real post tomorrow- I want to be more self- disciplined and write everyday (but no commitments, don't know how I will be feeling once treatment starts).
Love, Faith

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blogging etiquette

One of the great things about blogging is that you connect with people you've never even met! SInce I am new to the blogging world, however, I have been hesitant to step out boldly as I don't know what the blogging cultural norms are. There are several blogs that I read everyday, however I wasn't sure whether it would be appropriate to attach their blogs as a link to my own without going through some sort of ritual that everyone knows but me; the violation of which will result in loss of limb or social isolation. Would this be considered akin to a marriage proposal in some countries? Do I need to ask their parents permission? I mean, I just don't know. But imagine my joy when one of my daily blogs puts my own blog as a link on theirs! So now I am casting caution to the wind and linking my daily blogs here. So, yes, Musings of a Madwoman, I will marry you!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Medical update

I received a voice mail from the oncologist regarding the possibility of radiation therapy. If you remember from previous posts, she was concerned because the total size of the tumor was very unclear and they did not have the clear margins upon removal; because of these things she resubmitted my case to the radiation board as a potential patient for radiation in addition to the necessity of chemotherapy. She said that the radiation board came to the decision that radiation "would not be helpful" in my case. Since it was just a voicemail message, I didn't get an opportunity to question her further as to what this means.

I have mixed feelings about this- I am very happy to not have to undergo radiation with all its potential long- term side effects. However I am unclear as to what they meant by "not helpful" ; are they also concerned about the issues she raised but just don't think that radiation would do any good, or do they mean that they feel there is sufficient evidence from the post- surgical biopsy to trust that the tumor was completely removed? I will put in an email for further clarification. In the meantime, chemotherapy is still scheduled to start Mon. April 7th.

Thank you for all your prayers, and please rest assured of my own.
Love, Faith

Thursday, March 27, 2008

High Maintenance Woman

Music hath charms to soothe a SAVAGE BREAST, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. - William Congreve

Note that the quote refers to BREAST, not beast which was what I had thought it was all my life. I only opened with that line because it brings up the topic of savage breasts, which is what this post is about. Other than that, the quote is entirely irrelevant.
You'd think that after a mastectomy, if nothing else, it would be faster to get ready in the morning, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong. After the surgery, Kaiser sent me home with these 2 little mastectomy camisoles; complete with adjustable cushion things that attach to the front with velcro, and pockets for your surgery drains (if you want more info on the drains, I can tell you about it in an individual email. I took pictures to send to my sister who I would've thought could handle it, but she wrote to me that she unassumingly opened the email while eating breakfast and the pictures made her feel "kinda funny". )

So anyway, these little cushiony things are deceptively complicated. First you have to take the right amount of stuffing out of it to make your two sides appear balanced (another advantage to having a bilateral mastectomy- at least I would be symmetrical). Then you have to get it attached at the right part of your chest. I gave myself 20 minutes in the morning to wrestle with those little savages and still make it to mass on time, but it took 30. Even then I had to conceed the battle and ended up leaving the house looking like the darker side of plastic surgery (one side subtly higher and the other side most definitely larger). Fortunately the weather is still cool enough to excuse a light wool coat. Don't know what Ill do when it gets warmer- I guess that's a problem for another day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pollyanna vs Woody Allen

Have you ever prayed a bad prayer? I have. A few years ago I was asked to lead a task that I felt very unfit for. I remember praying "God, I will do it if you promise me that I won't fail". Even before the prayer was fully formed in my mind, I felt the uneasiness of knowing I'd just made a mistake, but not yet quite sure what it was. I picked up a bible sitting next to me and opened it to a random page; I put my finger down on this verse "You speak as the foolish woman speaks. Do you accept goodness from God and not adversity?"

It's awfuly convenient to say that one doesn't have any interest in God because he allows us to suffer. I've heard that so often, but really it rings rather hollow. I know many things I've written or said since my diagnosis could easily be seen as a sort of naive optimism or worse; passivity baptised and disguised as virtue. But we're all adults here, right?

If we blame God for everything bad that happens in our lives (after all, he is omnipotent) then, in keeping with our own philosophy shouldn't we also thank him for all that is good? Our health, our families, a good marriage, a secure job, our gifts and talents; we like to take credit for all these things when in reality so much of that is beyond our control. Yes, bad things happen and God apparently allows this. Yet who do we thank for the good in our lives?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Knock Knock...

Today the Jehovah's Witnesses came to my parents house. My mom loves it when they come around and she sure did give them a run for their money. One of them was a former Catholic and by the end of their conversation that lady was backing away slowly with their hands up in what appeared to be a defensive posture. They were just not prepared for her responses to their questions; my mom really enjoyed the stimulation and after they left she did a little jig down the hallway. She's got spunk, that's for sure!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Kombucha and other stuff

I think it's important to have a picture in each post, but I don't always have a relevant one. This picture is a Kombucha mushroom. Kombucha (look it up on Wikipedia) is a fermented tea originally from China- it claims to have many health properties. Not much of a looker, I know. But many people take it for a variety of reasons, and my friend Katherine who recently completed chemotherapy swears by it- she would take it as soon as she could tolerate food after each chemo treatment. Since it is full of live micro organisms, it returns healthy bacteria to your body (especially the GI tract) that has been killed by the chemo. And the taste is...well.. it tastes like vinegar. And it smells like vinegar. Not so pleasant, but if you add ginger or lemon it tastes... well, still not so good.

Kombucha is only one of the new foods that I have been taking since this whole cancer debacle started. In addition, every morning I take a tablespoon of turmeric and black pepper mixed with plain yogurt (cancer hates turmeric, unfortunately I agree with cancer on this one). I am getting much better at swallowing this- now I can get it all the way down after only 3 tries (the first two tries don't usually get much past the tonsils before they start reversing). And wheat grass! It has been described as tasting like licking a lawn mower; this is not an unfair description in my humble opinion. But there are several foods that cancer hates that taste good; berries, grapefruit, avocados, tomatoes, sprouts...it's not so bad. I can now justify spending four bucks for a tiny carton of raspberries.

Charity and I were thinking of blog titles for someone with cancer and one of my favorites was "Waiter, There's An Eyebrow In My Kombucha!" Sorry, just a little bit of cancer humor there...

Today is Easter Vigil- I am leaving now to have some time by myself in the chapel before the crowds come. Rest assured of my prayers! As Pope John Paul II said "Do not give in to despair! We are an Easter people; Hallelujah is our song!"
Love Faith

Friday, March 21, 2008

Meeting with Oncologist

I hope everyone is having a profound Good Friday. How's the fasting going?

I met yesterday with the Oncologist in San Rafael for the first time; it was a mixture of news, both good and bad but nothing too surprising. She went over the biopsy reports and the post- surgery pathology reports with me and made her recommendations. The most disappointing news was that she still feels I may be a candidate for radiation therapy- she is submitting the case back to the radiologists for review. Due to the indeterminate total size of the tumors (there was the part I felt, plus additional areas around it that had unclear boundaries) she (and the surgeons) are counting the total tumor size as 3.3 cm. Because the border of the cancerous area was poorly defined and came in deep, there is a chance that not all was removed in the surgery. The radiology board will make the call as to whether or not they can trust that it was removed completely. For you cancer buffs, here was the status of the tumor:
Her2neu negative
Estrogen receptor positive
Lymphatic invasion suspicious

Cancer in younger women tends to be of a more aggressive nature for 2 reasons- first the cancer itself just tends to be a type that is more aggressive, plus when you are young and healthy your cells are dividing so rapidly and your systems are moving so quickly (as indicated by my very quick recovery from surgery) which enables the tumor to grow and spread more freely. Because of these factors and the possibility of lymphatic invasion (cancer in the blood vessels of the tumor) they are going to respond with maximum aggression and give the strongest chemo available. I will be taking dense dose chemotherapy-8 doses total, given every 2 weeks for a total of 16 weeks in treatment (as opposed to every 3 weeks for a total of 6 months). The first treatment is scheduled for April 7 (the doctor wanted me to have a full month to recover from surgery) at 1:30 pm here in Kaiser San Rafael; if all goes according to schedule I would be finished around July 28th. It is common, though that a treatment would need to be delayed for a week or so if I catch any bugs or if results of blood work indicate anemia or low blood cell count, etc.

So now I'm waiting to hear back from the radiology board. I was hoping to avoid radiation with all it's potential long- term side effects, but all those are outweighed by the risk of recurrence.

Please send me your intentions- you have my email, most likely.

Happy Easter, all!!
Love, Faith

PS Trisha wants the record clarified- she was in the adoration chapel, NOT the cafeteria, when the doctor came out to report(see last posting). She sent me an email from Germany, simple and to the point. "I was praying, not eating".

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Last Few Days...

No post the last few days...very busy. I finally had my drain removed (I had a drain inserted under the skin at the site of the tissue expander) and all bandages removed by the plastic surgeon. Charity went with me to the appointment- while the nurse was waiting for me to sit on in the examination table, Charity said to her her in a whisper "I don't know if you received the memo or not, but they usually do a four point restraint on her". According to the plastic surgeon, I have set the record for the most people attending my appointments with me. For the first appointment where they discussed the biopsy results, both of my parents and Trinka accompanied me. For the preliminary meeting with the plastic surgeon, I again had both my parents plus Charity and Trisha accompanying me. The doctor seemed a bit taken aback as he had to go and get chairs from the waiting room to accommodate us all. I informed him that he was lucky- there were 2 other people who had wanted to come to this appointment but I had to turn them down. As it was, we had to come in two separate cars.

At that meeting there were so many of us that it caused some humorous confusion in the waiting room. When it was my turn to see the doctor they called my name in the waiting room; myself and those accompanying me all stood up and began to walk back. As my party made up about 2/3 of the people in the waiting room, one middle aged woman (who did not speak much English) assumed everyone was going back together so she stood up and eagerly followed us. We didn't really notice her until I was sitting down and taking off my sweater to have my blood pressure taken; Trish then noticed this lady who was also taking her sweater off and moving to (what must have, to her, appeared to be) the end of the blood pressure line. Charity had to try to explain through universal sign language, that she should go back to the waiting room and they would call her name soon. Trish was giggling too hard to explain anything, despite the fact that her grandpa speaks Spanish.

Another funny incident: the surgeon said that, after he completed his part of the surgery and the plastic surgeon took over, he went into the waiting room to talk to my family. To his surprise, there was no one there (Trink was in the hall, Trish was in the cafeteria and my mom and dad had not yet arrived). He went back in and reported to the other doctor that he tried to make a report but no one was there. The plastic surgeon said "no, I'm sure you're wrong. Go back, she's got a whole posse out there somewhere". He was right, of course. I have quite a support posse!

Today (Thursday) I have an appointment with the oncologist here in Marin; we will set the chemotherapy schedule and hammer out all the details. Will let you know what we decide- I am hoping to start early to mid next week.

An interesting piece of information- most people know that Marin County (where I grew up) has a very high rate of breast cancer. But what I didn't know is that within just 2 blocks where my parents live there have been 4 or 5 diagnosed cases of breast cancer. Very interesting, especially considering I have none of the risk factors associated with breast cancer (no close family history, no interruption in hormones such as the use of birth control, no loss of a pregnancy) not to mention I am way too young. All very strange.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Good news!

I had the doctors appointment today and received some good news. A little simple anatomy information first (forgive me if you already know this). Before the surgery, they injected radioactive isotpoes into the breast area in order for the isotopes to reveal the location of the lymph nodes closest to the breast for removal and biopsy; if cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes it is an increaed risk that cancer has spread to other parts of the body as the lymphatic system carries things throughout your system (they call it the biological highway). THe isotopes revealed 4 lymph nodes close to the breast; they removed those 4 and all 4 were clear of cancer! I was so surprised at the news- I had been prepared for the worst as the doctors had already told me that, because of my age, it was most likely already in the lymph nodes. So I cried hysterically for about 40 seconds because I was so shocked.

They said that as far as finding the presence of cancer cells in the blood vessels of the tumor (called angiolymphatic invasion) it is still suspicious. This is a concern as, if cancerous cells have invaded the blood vessels of the tumor, the cancer could be carried to other parts of the body via the blood, even though the lymph nodes were clear. I did not ask if there are means to bring greater certainly to whether or not the blood vessels have been invaded, I will ask tomorrow at my next appointment.

The fact that the lymph nodes are clear means that I will not need to do radiation, however it will have no effect on the chemotherapy ( they are still planning full, aggressive chemotherapy to target any remaining cancer in the body) however it is a great psychological burden lifted from my chest (no pun intended). In the not too distant future I will have to make decisions about the removal of the other breast to prevent recurrence (I have pretty much decided that I am going to do this at a later date) and whether or not I will have the recommended hysterectomy (breast cancer and ovarian cancer are very closely linked as they are both hormonal cancers, but ovarian cancer is difficult to detect in its earlier, more treatable stages. Because of this, someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer is at greater risk of ovarian cancer as well, especially someone who was diagnosed at such a young age.

Oh, gosh... too many other decisions to mention now... but it was a great and unexpected blessing to receive the news that the lymph nodes were clear. Other decisions can be made later...

Love, Faith

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Have you seen Signs?

Has anyone seen the movie "Signs" with Mel Gobson and Joaquin Phoenix? I have been thinking about that movie a lot lately. Without givig too much away, I will say that the movie plot is about an alien invasion, but all the substance of the story and the relationships between the characters are really centered around the concept of faith; how it is lost, and ultimately how it is once again redeemed and restored. The climax of the movie is not triumph over the aliens, but the moment when our main character discovers that all these tiny events in his life which had he had dismissed as random or purposeless were actually "Signs". It's a great movie, but you wouldn't like, mom. You wouldn't last 10 minutes, you be running up to your room to pray your rosary.

The reason it has been on my mind is that, ever since this diagnosis, I feel like so many events in my life which didn't make sense before or seemed random are now illuminated. Lots of little details, from the near plane crash in January to my flat chest to the breakup of a relationship a few years back... in the light of this experience now I understand why things were better the way they worked out. A tumor the size of mine (1.3 cm), according to a chart in the doctors office would need to be 3 or 4 times that size to be discovered by accident, as I discovered that one. Had I had more breast tissue, I would easily have missed it until it was too late. Being single and not having children has given me a great freedom to entrust this experience into God's hands; had I had small children (or even harder, to be one of those women diagnosed during pregnancy) I would never be able to experience the peace of mind that I rest in now, instead I would be plagued by fears of my children growing up without a mother., having to watch me suffer... Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with gratitude at all that I have been spared that I start tearing up even in the most inappropriate times or odd moments. I know this gratitude itself is not something that originates with me; I can feel the power of the prayers being offered for me throughout 1/3 of the populated world right now. And I also know that, although it is easy now, there will most likely come a time when things are at their most bleak that I will have to make a conscious effort to trust God and his purpose. But for now I am just trying to accept the blessings showered upon me and not worry about tomorrow.

Here is a link to a Polish music video that a friend sent me, with English subtitles. It's pretty bizarre- kind of like a Polish Monty Python.

Love Faith

Friday, March 14, 2008


I realize that I have been giving you my musings, but not much as far as factual information. So this will be the situational update.

I was released from the hospital on Saturday, and have been recovering amazingly quickly. I have been off painkillers during the day as of Wednesday, and I think I am going to go drug free tonight for the first time (hate to waste those Vicodin...). I have been up and around, to the farmers market, walking to church, and I will drive myself home from Larkspur to Campbell tomorrow (another reason to lay off the Vicoden tonight).

I have an appointment Monday to (I assume) discuss the results of the biopsy and set the dates for chemo to start, etc. At this point, I know nothing more about what the surgery revealed. I suppose I could call, but I think I'd rather be sitting down and in a calm place to hear the news. If there is cancer in the lymph nodes, I may have to have some radiation treatment as well, but chemotherapy is inevitable at this point due to the fact that the invasive tumor had blood circulation, which means that the blood could have carried it to other places whether or not the lymph nodes are involved.

I don't know when chemo will start; I am hoping for Good Friday, but that may be too soon for them to get everything together as I will be transferring my care from Kaiser San Jose to Kaiser San Rafael (and living at home with my parents).

I have some friends coming down from far away places to be with me during some of the chemo sessions- we haven't worked out the details but I am very excited. BroRo even bought a new board game for the occasion! Yay! I am hoping that during the chemotherapy session we can just bring all our petitions and we'll pray the rosary for all the intentions we have received. My dad likes the idea, but is a bit concerned as to how many rosaries that will equal, as a chemo session can last several hours. So many people have told me they wanted to be with me during the sessions! I am so excited (well, sort of... you get the idea). I feel like praying the rosary during this time with friends close will give this experience shape and meaning.

Don't know what I would do without the floods of support I am receiving from family, friends, total strangers.. it is awe- inspiring and humbling. I always saw myself as one who GIVES support, here I am in a position where I can only receive. I will let you know more as soon as I find out more from the docs.
Love Faith


It's early...

It's 1:45 am and I can't sleep. Sometimes I have strange dreams- not scary, just strange. And they linger. Woke up half an hour ago thinking about ALL the decisions that I need to make soon... I heard a talk once about the difficulty of the early morning hours. She said if you visualize grace and will as 2 separate faucets that both need to be turned on at the same time; those first hours (or all the night hours, I might add) are difficult because, although the faucet of grace is still on full, the faucet of my own will is not. We have to make a conscious effort to engage our will at these times when we feel weak.

I had a strange dream before my surgery - it was not a nightmare, although it did have an element of fear to it. I was driving my car near a freeway overpass; on the side of the road was a little boy running as fast as he could. I pulled my car over and caught up with him and asked him what was wrong, running beside him. He said he was being chased by a monster and was scared. I felt so much compassion for him- I said, well then, we will run together. As soon as I grabbed his little hand, I could feel the wrath of the monster (I could never see the monster, it was always just out of sight but I could feel it's presence) blazing up against me as well. I was scared, but I was also so happy to be here with this little boy that the fear was secondary. It was actually a calming dream, and I woke from it strangely comforted.

Had another dream that Scott and Kimberly Hahn visited me in the hosital and brought me a huge box of cabbages, because "cancer hates cabbage!"

I hope you all wake refreshed and at peace, and I will pray right now for all of you in your own struggles. God bless!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Friends Rico and Masayo

We had many exchange students staying in our house over a period of several years, but none like Rico and Masayo. Rico was with us first, then through us she met Masayo who stayed with us for another period of time. We have kept in touch with them over the years, and they are planning on visiting us in a few months. I have pasted a letter from Masayo below, describing to me how they decided to give a hand- painted good luck bear.

"When we had a lunch together, thinking what the best gift for you, because
we wanted you to cheer up little by little...
and we've decided to make a 'Good-luck bear' and enjoyed drawing !

Rico: 'What is her favorite ?'

Masayo: 'Um......'

Rico and Masayo : 'Of course! The Lord of the Rings !!!'

That's why we painted the picture of the rings on his bottom, Ha Ha !
it's kind of hidy spot...isn't it ?

We're always praying for your happiness and really looking forward to
seeing our American family in the near future...

Love Masayo ;)

P.S...i'm doing well, and enjoy working as a tough nurse! Ha Ha."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reports of my death...

A parent came up to Trish at school extremely concerned for her, and asked if she was doing okay...Trish was confused and asked her why. The parent told her she had heard about the death of her best friend...
Let's just put any confusion to rest... as they say, "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

My friend Jim

I have a friend, Jim. I met him 4 or 5 years ago in Medjugorje and we have kept in touch all that time. I think he's in his 80's or so, but he is deceptively tough. In medjugorje, he hung out with all us young'uns and climbed Cross Hill in the pouring rain at midnight, despite his heart condition. Pretty awesome. He also lost his camera not once, not twice, but three times in the 9 days we were there, but it always somehow miraculously ended up coming back to him.

Anyway, Jim recently send me an email telling me that my new blog is very snazzy. This means a lot coming from him, who is pretty high in the snazz factor himself. I will look around and see if I have a picture of him I can post.

Blogging in Larkspur

I am at my parents home in Larkspur for a few days- blogging on my dad's PC. Trisha got a kick out of my post inspired by her birthday- the letter to women. "Who do you think you are , John Paul II or something?" she asked. Nothing so exaulted as that, Teeta.
And everytime Charity takes a corner too fast or bumps into my bad side, she's afraid that I'm going to write it up in my blog. I am feeling the dreadful responsibility that comes with the power of media. But, hey, I'm up for it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trisha's birthday

On the occasion of Trisha's birthday, I am inspired to write a letter to all women out there- girls, wait for the right guy! Don't compromise! God has good things in store for us if we'd just trust him!
I think a lot about Trisha's path to finding Tony- it was not easy. But Tony is truly the perfect one for her, and my own life has been so enriched by her faithfullness because now I have a brother. Tony drove me home from the hospital- an easier post -surgery ride was never experienced, I'm sure. He drove about 8 mph (3 when turning corners) and I could see him making calculations in his head before going over any speedbump as to what would be the least jarring way to approach each individual bump. (Next morning Charity drove me over those same bumps- very different experience. I felt like we were the Dukes of Hazard catching air as we sailed over those things and finished off with a bone- jarring thud on the other side... I checked my stitches when we landed, just to be safe).

Marriage is no joke! You never know what's coming next in life. I am so thankful for my brothers Bjorn, Tony, John, VIncent, Lemur... the list goes on and on. And all these men came into my life because these women waited for a good one!

Me and my bong

After the surgery, the most difficult part of the recovery was not being able to take a full breath. Here is me with my breathing game which I was supposed to play every hour. (Tony would whisper to Trish to tell me to play it again if I forgot). Here is me playing my game, which Frank said looks like a medical bong.

Trish's illicit visit

Read previous post for explanation of this pic- can only upload 1 photo at a time, apparently. Sort of a pain in the arse.

Since you can't eat or drink from midnight the night before a surgery, I was pretty hungry all that time in the waiting room. The only magazine I had to look at was Fine Cooking- EVERYTHING looked good. Even the pictures of canned lentil soup, which is when you know your hunger has reached epic proportions. Trinka had me pick out a recipe, and she promised to make it for me during recovery; she came over last night and made it for the 3 of us. Charity and I have been looking at a book called "Foods Cancer Hates", and Charity kept remarking to Trinka "cancer HATES this soup!" It was a good soup, with white beans, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, etc. Then lots of homemade pesto on the top.

By the way, today is Trisha's birthday!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pre- surgery pics

Presurgery pics-
I was so grateful to Trinka for waiting with me those 5 hours before surgery . The hospital volunteer did break the rules and let Trish in even though there was only supposed to be 1 person waiting with me. He (the volunteer) actually told the doctors she was another sister of mine (you'd think the skin tone would've given it away, huh?) But she got to stay for about 15 minutes and we were planning to pass her off as an IV pole if anyone asked any questions (see pic in next posting). It was a very scary moment when they told everyone to go and started wheeling me down that cold hall.

Letter from my mom

My mom doesn't like computers, but will occasionally overcome her suspicion to send out an email to Hope in Rome. Here is one she sent out a few days ago- I thought it was especially cute. She only types with one finger, so I left all the typos in so you get a feel for the personality of the sender.

dear hopey Overnight, my girls have become " little woman. Trinka went to the hospital with Faith@ 9 AM. and stayed till they wheeled her in at @2 PM. Only 1 person could be with her at that time. ,before surg. Then Trinka called us to say when she got out,so DAD ,I and Charity drove to the hosp . AT 6 pm ,in recovery ,with her drains,, oxygen,and machines popping out numbers and wiggly lines EKG Blood pressure,etc, Charity took over like an all knowing angel. Being a paramedic, she knew what every thing meant. And she stayed with Faith all Knight. When Faith was taken to her room, she slept in the folding chair. and was available every minute. The early morning wes full of painfor our dear Faith ,and they tried morphine, but it did Not help, so they switched to another, and it Did help. She was discharged at @PM ,and needs to come back in ! week for check-up. She felt too weak to make the trip to Larkspur --70 miles so she and Charity,and Trinka and Tony and Trisha and Bjorn took her to her own apartment.....very slowly ,over the bumps and turns. DAD and I met them there @ 3;30 pm and my little women had all under control. Charith got the Meds from the pharmacy , Trinka and TRisha got food from the delly, and grocery store and Faith was comfortable on the couch,and it was great being together and Soooo greatful to God for THE PRESANT moment All i could do was give her a foot massage. Charity Will remain there all week. Ron and I will care for our Granddog Alice. LOVE ...Till next letter. MAMMASITA ..AND PAPPA. xxxxxxx

Pics in the hospital

This is Trinka, Charity and I in the hospital. Actually we took this photo about 5 times because one of us looked bad every time we took the shot. It started to get a little tiring, but I swear my family is obsessed with pictures now and when I finally said "okay, that's enough with the pictures, guys" they pretended not to hear me and took several more. Oh, well. It's fun to look back on them now.
I'm the one in the hospital bed.

Hope and her "issues"

Just got off SKype with Hope- Hope has a reputation for laughing in life- threatening events (like the time when her and Charity were rowing a canoe; the canoe was about to tip and Hope was laughing and standing up. Charity had to use her meanest schoolteacher voice to yell at her to calm her down) . Well, Charity and I were just talking to her and telling her about the details of the surgery and recovery. She was giggling so much that we could barely understand her at times, a total madwoman. Finally I asked her if SHE was on Vicodin. Evidently that was pretty funny, as she burst forth into a whole new wave of giggles. Oh, well. I hope she's caught her breath by now.

Home Again!

Hello, all!
The surgery itself went pretty well, although it didn't start till 2 hours past schedule. Then when they finally wheeled me in to the surgery room there were additional glitches and they couldn't anaesthetize me. So they just started doing some of the little things they would normally do once I was under- they compared their surgery notes, went verbally through all the procedures they were going to do. I was lying on the narrow surgery bed and my arms were stretched out on either side so they could check my lymph nodes, etc. I was so scared though, and I could hear the beep of my heart rate monitor rising slowly. The doctors were so kind, trying to calm me down, patting my arms, telling jokes, etc. FInally one of them said
let's just put her arms back down- this crucifixion thing's just not working for her. THey tried to distract me by asking me questions ("What is the best school district in this area?" "Where would you send your kids?") I didn't really have many answers- I wasn't very interested in the questions. I was more worried that my heart would pound out of my chest, really.
Finally the anaesthesiologist said "can't we just sedate her?" The surgeon gave the okay, and they gave something through my IV. I felt the sting in my hand, and then almost immediately I felt my head swirl and said "I feel strange". The doctor said, It's okay, just go with it". She told me to think a happy thought before going under and the happiest thought in the world at that moment was :"thank God, they're sedating me!"
Next thing I remembered was waking up and hearing Tony and Charity's voice. It seemed really important to make sure everyone knew how nice the doctors were to me; evidently I said it like 5 times. FInally Charity said "okay, we'll send them a thank you card!"
So I spent 1 night in the hopital (just so everyone knows, morphine is way overrated and Vicoden is way underrated) and have been at home these last 2 nights. The pain is not so horrible, we even walked around the farmers market on Sunday. It was a perfect day and then later Fr Chad came over and did a communion service in the apartment. It was really great, and he gave a beautiful homily. I feel so fortunate!
The results of the surgery will not be in for a week or so, I will go in for a post- op appointment to review results, have the drains removed, etc.
I have a friend, John Stubler who is a professional photographer (http://www.johnstubler.com/). He has been taking pictures of this whole thing for me and when it's all done we will compile the pictures into a book and I can share the experience with others who are facing it. It was such a great idea! He was there for the anointing mass, my haircut (it's really short now), shopping at the wig and hat store, etc. It is a really great use of his gifts, both artistic and interpersonal. Now my whole family is into taking pictures of everything; my mom even tried to take pictures in the recovery room until the orderly told her no more. And Charity is trying to take artistic shots, like pictures of me sleeping taken through the handle of a coffee cup, etc. I will post some soon.

Friday, March 7, 2008

My plane ride home from Medjugorje

The following is the email I sent out following the trip home from Medjugorje:

Hi, all-
> > Hope you had a wonderful trip home and are not finding the "re-
> > culturization" process too painful. It has been said that when one
> > returns from such a mountaintop experience as we did, that there are
> > often challenges for us immediately upon returning. In this line of
> > thought, I wanted to tell you about my experiences getting home from
> > Washington to San Francisco.
> > At the DC airport I found that all flights into SF (except for my
> > own) had been cancelled due to weather conditions. Our plane took off
> > 6 hours late and about 3 hours into the flight our pilot announced
> > that the airplane navigation equipment was malfunctioning , so due to
> > the extreme weather conditions in San Francisco we were going to head
> > to Denver to change planes rather than attempt the flight into the
> > planned destination. We landed in Denver and waited another 3 hours
> > until a plane was ready for us. We boarded again and set off on our
> > flight. As we were flying over the Sierra mountains our pilot issued
> > a direction for everyone to return immediately to their seats- he said
> > we were on the honor system to put our seat belts on as all the flight
> > attendants needed to be seated as well. About 5 minutes later, the
> > turbulence hit. It was strong but everyone remained very calm. Then
> > we dropped. There is really no other way to explain it- we just
> > started falling and fell silently for 3-4 seconds; it felt as if we
> > were a paper airplane unsupported by any air current, just dropping
> > silently and swiftly. At this point, people started screaming. The
> > fall halted and more turbulence hit; this turbulence felt as if it
> > were shaking the plane from the front; the nose appeared to be
> > pointing downward and then jerking up again rapidly. The turbulence
> > was extreme; some overhead bins started opening and suitcases were
> > falling into the aisles. Then we dropped again; more screaming and
> > babies crying all over the plane. I felt strangely calm during it
> > all- praying my rosary slowly (though I confess I was not
> > concentrating on the mysteries...). We did 3 such drops (although
> > none so prolonged as the first one) followed by extreme turbulence.
> > During all this there was not a word from our pilot or crew, we had no
> > idea what was going on. After about 15 minutes of this the turbulence
> > lessened and about 30 minutes later we heard the clunk of our landing
> > gear coming down- on looking out the window we could see that we were
> > pulling into a landing strip with fire engines on either side of us.
> > Ironically the landing was so smooth it barely felt as if our wheels
> > were touching the ground at all. Finally the very shaky voice of the
> > pilot came over the loudspeaker with the 3 words "we made it" then the
> > intercom clicked off again. Then a minute or 2 after the flight
> > attendant, also in a breaking voice announced that we were in Salt
> > Lake City. My whole body was now shaking uncontrollably- we got off
> > the plane and by 3:30 in the morning were all put in hotels for the
> > night and booked together on an additional flight for the following
> > day at noon.
> > We all arrived the next morning- there were a few empty seats and a
> > different pilot, but other than that the crew and all the passengers
> > were the same as the flight before. We discussed with nervous
> > laughter the events of the previous day. Weather conditions were
> > good- we took off from Salt Lake without a hitch and San Fran was
> > reportedly cloudy but other wise good conditions. The flight was
> > uneventful until the last 30 minutes. Suddenly the pilot announced
> > that were all to get into our seats again on the honor system; we were
> > beginning the descent into San Francisco. Then turbulence. As soon
> > as the first turbulence hit, I heard the man behind me beginning to
> > hyperventilate loudly and my heart beat jumped. Suffering from the
> > post trauma of the flight before, it is difficult to say how bad the
> > turbulence was this time around, but people were hugging their knees,
> > holding hands and sittting in absolute silence trying to remain calm.
> > The plane again began dropping (but nothing like the night before).
> > Then we heard an explosion, felt the plane jerk slightly and saw a flash of
> > bright, fire orange light; not a word from pilot or crew. We
> > continues falling and more turbulence, this time no one was crying-
> > the whole plane was silent. After a few minutes we came beneath the
> > clouds and could see the city spread out beneath us; I had never been
> > so happy to see it before but we still did not know what was going on.
> > The turbulence lessened and our landing gear came out; upon landing
> > we all clapped, some cried. The flight attendant finally came on- in
> > a teary voice she said " I don't know about all of you, but I am so
> > thankful to be home" She said that she had never been on a flight
> > like this; everything possible had gone wrong on this "harrowing" 2
> > day trip. A team of men was outside checking the side of the plane-
> > the pilot confirmed that we had been hit by lightning. When I got off
> > the plane I felt my knees wobbling and as soon as I saw my sister and
> > friends waiting at the airport I started crying. I am so thankful to
> > be home. I can't help but feel that our lives really were preserved
> > that day.
> > So anyway, I'm not sure what all your experiences have been upon
> > arriving home. My sister, after a safe trip home came down with a
> > raging stomach flu and high fever. So all this to say I guess we can
> > expect trials; we have to fight for our faith; it is somewhat
> > therapeutic to write these experiences all down. I hope you all are
> > doing well- please keep in contact and know that you are in my
> > prayers.
> > Love, Faith.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Someone once asked my sister about why Catholics pray to Mary and she gave a response that has remained with me for some years. She said that God's love is like an ocean, and Mary is like an empty bottle in the ocean- completely filled with Gods love, but when you are contained in that bottle, you are somehow safer.

I love that- it is such a strong visual! There are times when God's love feels so dangerous- swept up this way and then that, riding on the crest of the waves one moment only to be thrust to the floor the next, choking in darkness for each breath... is there is no limit to what he may ask of us? And it is so hard to conceive of this love of His which does not protect us from suffering! Yet Mary, so small and contained; like glass, solid, yet fully penetrated by light, somehow in her protection we are spared some of the dreaded impact, though we may still feel the dizzying rise and fall.

We had a pet cockatiel once- her name was Frannie and she was so tame! Although her wings were not clipped, she chose to walk around the house like one of us. We would be sitting in the dining room talking and she would come- we could hear the tiny click of her little claws on the linoleum and soon her little gray head would peep around the corner. She was so fearless, that little bird! She would navigate under the table with all the big, noisy feet and the grinding wheels on the bottom of our chairs until she found someone wearing shoelaces,then begin her climb to our shoulder. Starting with the shoelace she would work her way up, inch by inch. And when she finally got to our shoulder she would just squawk until she got the attention she felt was owed her. She might try to steal food off your plate once she was there, or perhaps she would pull chew on your necklace or earrings. But the most endearing thing she would do was to rub her soft little gray head on your cheek or under your chin- I remember when she would do that I wanted nothing more than to hug her with all my might, but my love would've killed her. So the best I could do was kiss the top of her little head- you could barely feel her under your lips, just the slght warmth of her feathers.

That must be how God feels about us.

It is late, and I'm tired. Thanks for reading my thoughts- disconnected though they may be.

In The Beginning...there was a lump.

For those of you not big into the whole "religion" thing, I apologize for the old testament feel to my blog title, my first post, etc. But you know what they say; if you find a metaphor that works, then you work it into the ground! (Actually I don't think anyone ever said anything so idiotic as that...)

This has been a very interesting year in my life, the most interesting yet. It started with a pilgrimage in December to Bosnia (where a priest in confession said some very profound things to me), then a near plane crash coming home, followed by a diagnosis of breast cancer a few weeks after my 33rd birthday. Tuesday was my last day at work for the rest of the year, Friday will be surgery followed soon after by chemotherapy and who knows what next?

My friend Christina said something the other day that is still turning in my mind. She said she was thinking about why these things happen- why do people get sick? And the answer she gave to her own question was so that we can love each other.

More to come later on the near plane crash, the diagnosis, the confession, my friends and coworkers, my haircut... lots still to tell you.
Love Faith