Saturday, December 02, 2006

December 2, 2006 - Anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. One year ago today, Claire and I were sitting in one of Dr. Lerner's examining rooms, as we heard him share the biopsy results confirming that I have cancer.

The process of diagnosis took some considerable time, of course. For more than two months prior to that date, I knew a cancer diagnosis was possible, even likely. Yet, it was not until December 2 that we were sure. That very evening, we began informing family, friends and church members. Life has never been the same since.

The past twelve months have been quite a journey. I've traveled from shock, bewilderment and fear, through a self-imposed crash-course in human biology, through a whole season of chemotherapy treatments and more tests than I could number, to the place where I now – thankfully – find myself: in remission.

As I shared in yesterday's entry, the preliminary results of my latest CT Scan indicate that my remission is continuing. I'm thrilled with that news, of course, although the victory is not complete. It can never be complete. For, as I understand it, the type of cancer I have is not one that can ever be considered "cured." I'll be going for periodic scans for the rest of my life. Always, in the back of my mind, will be the nagging thought that it could – and very possibly will – return.

That's all right, though. I can live with that. (What choice do I have?)

One of the most influential books for my seminary student generation of the late 1970s and early 1980s (and for generations since) has been The Wounded Healer, by Roman Catholic pastoral theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen. Nouwen's main point, in this brief but profound reflection on ministry, is that authentic ministry begins at the point of our own personal woundedness. If we pastors are to serve in a truly Christlike way, we must get in touch with the ways we are wounded, ourselves – and, from that place of our own healing, reach out to others.

"The world breaks all of us. Some of us become strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway wrote those words (or words very much like them). Tragically, Hemingway – who died of a self-inflicted shotgun blast – never learned how to become strong at his own broken places. Still, It's a thought very much in line with Nouwen's model of ministry.

The ultimate model for that sort of ministry, of course, is Christ himself:

"Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.' Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.'" (John 20:26-27)

There are pitfalls to the "wounded healer" style of ministry, of course. I've known some colleagues, over the years, who have put a bit too much emphasis on their own woundedness, and not enough on their healing – filling sermons and pastoral conversations with "poor me" autobiographical detail. Some have sought to transform congregations into their own personal therapy groups (which, ultimately, helps neither them nor their people).

I hope that, in what I've written here over the past year or so, I've struck an appropriate balance. Cancer, in our culture, is too often shrouded in secrecy. I've felt the need to break that silence: to tell my own story, so others may know they're not alone. I've not written, primarily, as a pastor, but as a cancer survivor.

Am I celebrating my one-year anniversary? Not really. But you can be sure I'm noting it. It's a milestone, a mark of how far I've traveled. And the journey continues...


George, Group Admin said...

Congratulations on your one year survival anniversary. Many in our group, now up to 90 members, of Merkel Cell Cancer survivors have reached and surpassed every record for survival, we have also lost six members in six months. Like yourself they have chosen to openly and freely discuss their survivorship. The most common factor is that it may be harder on the family, spouse, and children to have someone live with cancer. Be well.

Group Admin & MCC Survivor
Merkel Cell Cancer discussion group

"We are a group of MCC survivors, made up of patients, family members, and other professionals that have gathered to share our experience with this terrible disease."

Carlos ("Carl") said...

Thanks for the good wishes, George!

Deb said...

Congrats on that one year marker. What a blessing... and a gift to those of us who blog on by. God's peace...


Bint Alshamsa said...

Woohoo!!! Isn't God great? I'm so happy to hear your good news and I just look forward to seeing you reach your second year anniversary too. I know I don't comment here all that often but I did want you to know that I do still stop by and read your blog. May God continue to bless you and keep you in His care!

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