" 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

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My First REAL Sick Day

Wednesday was my first real sick day yet. I had severe back pain before I went to bed on Tuesday night, but nothing that my buddy Vicoden couldn't handle. I assumed that it was due to having weakened bones and sitting in a bad position for too long. But at 2 am the pain woke me up; once again those darned 2 am hours really are the pisser, if you'll excuse my French. You are already exhausted just because of the hour, but you are not thinking rationally to boot. Combine that with action- packed dreams and an already over- active imagination, and you have the recipe for sheer panic. Well, I cooked up a batch of the stuff that morning, let me tell you.

I had enough knowledge to know that kidney or bladder infections often manifest as back pain, so I got up to email my doctor. I hadn't walked very far when the nausea hit and my vision began to blur. I knew I had a few seconds before I passed out, so I called for my mom and made it to the couch, sweating and CONVINCED that this was NOT a bladder infection, but a new cancer. So I was back to the beginning in terms of fright, begging God for the grace not to choke on my fear. My mom woke up my whole family who were down with me as I was doubled up on the couch and vomiting. By this time the lights were on and I wasn't alone in the dark, so my fears subsided and I was able to think rationally again.

I was able to go back to sleep after an hour or so. When I woke up, the back pain was completely gone, without a trace (even Vicodin hadn't been able to do that). The oncologist said I had just gotten unlucky- the back pain is a common side effect from the white blood cell booster, and she suspected I had picked up a stomach virus as well (as evidenced by my sub temperature). By the evening on Wednesday I was feeling much better and keeping down food.

FEAR. I remember it from the nights after I received the diagnosis- I could be fine during the day, but those wee hours... you are just so vulnerable. I sometimes find blogs or websites from other people at various stages of different life threatening illnesses, and that's always the first thing I pray for - God protect them from the FEAR. During the day you have so much support, people holding your hand and telling you how brave you are, how proud they are of you... but at night you wake up, aware that you are walking this alone. Even those you love who would go with you cannot- they have their own paths to walk and their own sufferings to face. For those who don't have faith that they walk this with a God who loves them and will never leave them I feel the most concern as those times can lead you to desperation. The disease, the symptoms, those are nothing compared to the fear.

I don't think it was an accident that God allowed me to experience these 2 unassociated symptoms together and to go back to that dark place; it reminds me that I need to be praying with my whole heart for those souls who truly are living with that fear, not just a panic induced midnight version like mine. Even St Therese, toward the end of her life as she was dying with tuberculosis told her sisters to be watchful and never leave powerful medications near someone who was dying- it was too much temptation.

My friend Tony, after my diagnosis told me of his own experience with cancer 10 years ago. He told me there were times when he was so exhausted and wanted nothing but to sleep, but they were turning him over and giving him shots and the closest he could come to a prayer was to squeeze the crucifix on his rosary with all his strength. He said to me "Faith, in those moments, she was so close to me I was certain that I could have reached out and touched her..."

Just so everyone is clear- I'm doing really well! I have times of fear and anxiety, but nothing lasts for long. Sometimes I think God leaves me in these places only long enough so that I know what he is redeeming me from when he pulls me out again. Also it sure keeps you humble; falling apart in the middle of the night. Just makes me love Him more for loving ME at my worst; bald, cold, weak and defenseless; scared of my own dreams. I suppose, like any good father, that's when he loves me the most; when I need him the most.


Br. Robert, OP said...

It's true that He is with you most when you need Him most. His love truly does endure for ever.

Thanks for sharing this with us, because it helps me (at least) be closer to you, too. You know you have my prayers. Know, also, that you are a huge inspiration to me. God bless, guide, and protect you always!

hopeyg said...

I love you papes, I didn't laugh at this post actually I cried- real tears. hoper

Chris said...


Your description of your fear in the small hours struck me, because I've been dealing with my own fears that have the same effect on me, and now they all now seem to pale in comparison - my job anxiety versus your existential anxiety.

How right you are that those small hours are when you realize that it's only you and God. How terrible it would be to suffer that WITHOUT God. What a rude awakening those hours have been to me recently, as they show me the limits of my trust in Him. Your post on Nietsche reminds me in a strange way (I'll explain later) of Ben Franklin's statement - "That which hurts, instructs." In the case of trust in the Lord, I think the hurt of Fear a gift, because it provides a stick to accompany the carrot which encourages us to trust Christ.

I've been thinking about Fear a lot lately. The more I have looked inward the more I have realized how much fear has influenced me throughout my life. My two years of unemployment taught me to trust God more, but I have a long way to go still. I've just gone through the most stressful period of work ever in my life, and it taught me that as much as I can trust God when there is absence, loneliness, desert... I also need to learn to trust Him when there is overwhelming pressure to get things done, too. The event is over and I think the only reason I survived it was what little trust I had in Him. Now, the next time, it should be easier to manage with my increased trust in Him.

Some closing meditations about Fear that have helped me lately, from various sources:

Father Emmerich, (quoting a Saint - Catherine of Siena, I think): "Fear is the chief activator of all our faults."

Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled: "The basis of all neurosis [not biological in origin] is the avoidance [fear] of legitimate suffering."

And my favorite -

John Paul II: "Be not afraid!"

Pray for us, John Paul the Great!

Thanks for your courage, Faith. It's inspiring.

Praying for you!