Monday, March 19, 2007

March 17, 2007 - A Gap in the Record

Today, I officiate at a St. Patrick’s Day wedding ceremony. The couple chose this day to honor the bride’s Irish heritage, but they had an uninvited guest: a fellow Irishman named Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law – “If anything can go wrong, it will”).

Last night’s rehearsal took place in the middle of a Nor’easter – sleet, snow, high winds, the works. Not all the wedding party made it to the church, but enough did that we muddled through.

Today – the wedding day – one of the missing groomsmen never does arrive (airline flight canceled), the church roof springs a leak (melting ice dams) and the groom’s father arrives on crutches, having slipped on the ice outside his hotel and broken his ankle. Before the ceremony, Murphy’s Law ruled, but not after we got started. Everything goes just fine, from “On behalf of the families, I welcome you...” to “You may exchange a kiss.” I’m happy about this couple’s prospects. They’re fine people, and their unseasonably icy wedding day will provide some colorful stories at a future anniversary party.

Afterwards, I do as I usually do, and record the essential details in my pastoral record-book. This book is a sort of events diary, a log of significant liturgical occasions at which I’ve officiated. I started it years ago, before I was even ordained, on the advice of one of my mentors in ministry. It includes baptisms, weddings and funerals, as well as the titles and scripture texts of all my sermons. It’s an old-fashioned sort of record: pen-and-ink entries on archival-quality paper. No electronic data storage here (which, given the rapidly-evolving world of digital storage media, is a good thing).

Anyway, as I record the new entry, I notice there's a gap in the record. Between December 30, 2005 and June 10, 2006, there are no weddings. That period of time coincides with the months when I was undergoing chemotherapy.

I do something like a dozen weddings a year, on the average. It just so happened that, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t have any weddings on my calendar for many months. That was just as well, as it turned out – I didn’t have to call anyone and beg off. I didn’t accept any new wedding bookings for a while, directing all inquiries to Robin (our associate pastor). It’s hard to make firm commitments when you’re getting chemotherapy.

Now, my file of wedding applications at the church is bulging again. It’s another sign that life is returning to normal.

The gap in my pastoral record-book is a reminder of what I’ve had to go through, in this strange season of my life. The beginnings and endings of this season are indistinct; it took two or three months to diagnose the cancer, and even now I don’t know for sure whether I’m out of the woods. It was a time when nothing was happening, and everything was happening. I’m still living into a full realization of what it is I’ve been through, and am still going through.


Anonymous said...

I sent you a comment on your March 14 post but I'm not sure you read it as there was no response.

You last line of this entry says it for me also-living the full realization...of the before diagnosis,the chemo and now the on going maintenance.

I saw my primary doc. last week and was complaining about having lost 8 months of my life.R-CHOP really leveled me and I was not able to function as well as you.Later I told my friend and caregiver what I'd said.He told me that I had it all wrong he was the one who'd lost 8 months of his life consumed with my care and I hd gained 10 years,at least of mine.

I'm still reading through your past

Annette from New Mexico

Carl said...


I've now caught up with my replies, and have posted a response to your earlier response.

Interesting phrase, "having lost ___ months of my life." Do we ever truly "lose" time like that, I wonder?

I don't consider my season of cancer treatment to be lost time, myself. It was hell at times, but it was also a powerful learning experience. Cancer is some teacher, huh? I'm still living into those lessons, and probably will be for some time.

You're certainly entitled to your own perspective, though. I don't think anyone can speak for anyone else, when it comes to cancer. We've all got our own distinctive voices.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for both responses.I find your blog informative,inspirational as well as humerous.Perhaps I can relate to your experiences more because we had similiar cancers and the same treatment.

I finished chemo three months ago.I think it will take me more time to process the effects of cancer and the chemo on my psyche.I'm probably going through that anger stage you and Leroy wrote about.I will have to shift priorities and change my life style.For 23 years I have been an adventurer traveling to remote areas in 3rd world countries.Six weeks before I became ill,I had spent three months backpacking sola in Patagonia.(No discernible symptoms).A return trip was planned fall '06, but of course I wasn't able to go.Perhaps this fall.By then I hope to accept that there will be limits to what I can do physically,like carrying a 40lb backpack and hiking 10-15 miles a day.The neuropathy which makes my legs feel like they are made of rubber will take a long time to heal,so I've been told.

I still haven't finished reading all of your diary.I did read the suggestion about keeping a journal.Great theraputic idea.

Thanks for listening.


P.S.The docs said that I had a "dramatic" response to the R-CHOP.I trusted that it would cure me although I've since heard that some patients with non-Hodgkins large cell don't respond.Guess we were lucky.