In 2003, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins lymphoma with 25% bone marrow involvement. This cancer of the blood became jarring reality. Our children were in college, my husband, Dan and I were both working, looking forward to enjoying family, travel, and friends with a new freedom. But, the diagnosis brought us to the prospect of suffering that intense chemotherapy brings, emotional and spiritual stress, and financial strain. The picture wasn’t pretty. We were feeling the “brokenness” of illness, grief, and fear of the future.
Initially, everything seemed strange and confusing. We had to “learn” a new vocabulary, understand and choose interventions and treatments which seemed incomprehensible—and yet to remain calm, stable, and reassuring to our family and friends. If you have been there, you know exactly how we felt. If you haven’t, please breathe a sigh of gratitude and relief with those of us who have.
Service through a reality of Cancer
Since living out my reality of a life with cancer, I’m honored to serve our community through the educational and self-advocacy group All Souls Trekkers: Living Beyond Cancer. Our first meeting of the church year is Wednesday, September 5, 5:30 to 6:20 p.m. As an ongoing survivor of various stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and as a clinical social worker, I will co-facilitate the group with Mary Lou Keller, a Nurse and Educator who has been a long-time member of the Pastoral Care Team.
More importantly, it’s the members of this group—the survivors of all ages and forms of cancer, patients currently in treatment, long-term survivors, family members and friends of survivors, and healthcare professionals—who will join with one another to look “within” and to become empowered by knowledge, wisdom and hope, supporting one another in love.
Throughout my treatment, I’ve received Chemotherapy of Rituxan, a monoclonal vaccine that attacks the cancer cells directly. CHOP, a cocktail of potent drugs, was added to the protocol. Don’t get me wrong, despite the fact that this treatment caused hair loss, nausea, muscular weakness, sleeplessness, GI issues, moments of extreme anxiety, I was so happy to be able to receive it every three weeks for six months. I have found that when you take charge as best you can, let go if you have to and are surrounded by a loving community, you will truly survive no matter the “stats” or the “outcome.”
Facing our brokenness
I share insight of my “treatment journey” only as context for understanding. My point is to focus on the promise and hope that education, knowledge, and support offer. All Souls Trekkers provides that community of support so we all can face our “brokenness.” Henri Nouwen, a theologian, believes brokenness becomes a transformative aspect of all of our lives. Cancer or not, we can choose to “bless” the “broken chards” of our lives rather than “curse” them by our courage, perseverance, openness, and trust to “look within.” We all have it in us, however “broken” we have become, through whatever circumstances we face.
Please join us every second Wednesday of the month to explore this cancer journey. We offer the wisdom and “light” of professionals as speakers and the “love” of our members. Our first presentation of the year will be Nicole Ogundare, All Souls Ministry & Life Events Coordinator, who will address the challenges of Spirituality when we are faced with a crisis of health and mortality that a cancer diagnosis brings.
In the meantime:
What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And, when you bring what is within you into the world, miracles happen. —Henry David Thoreau
All Souls Trekkers is one of our many support groups which meet monthly at the church. Spiritually-centered care giving is at the heart of our church and is conducted through our many Pastoral Care Teams. All Souls members have access to pastoral care 24/7 every day of the year.
Faith Boudreau is a long-time member of All Souls and a passionate advocate and educator about the cancer experience. To learn more or to connect with All Souls Trekkers: Living Beyond Cancer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more from Faith on her post, Metanoia: Looking Back on a Cancer Journey.
Read more from our members, ministers, and friends on our blog, beyondbelief.online.
BeyondBelief shares stories of our free-faith curated from the heartland.