December 29, 2004

Long Nights

For about a week I have had difficulty sleeping. There has been discomfort in my lower back and/or abdomen which makes it difficult to relax and sleep. This is combined with a cold and congestion creating a cough and difficulty breathing through my nose. These are minor complaints, of course, unless one has recently undergone a few medical procedures in that region of the body. Today I will call the doctor, but the question is, which doctor? The urologist who did the gold marker implants, or the radiation therapist whose staff did the prep for radiation therapy? Perhaps I shall call both and let them sort out the problem. I mention this on the blog, not to complain, but to be candid about occasional discomfort. Physical pain has generally been a positive thing in my life. It usually is symptomatic of something that needs attention. So I am treating this as a simple attention getting device and am interested to see if someone can give an explanation for it.
Posted by Donel at 09:07 AM

December 28, 2004

Singapore not hit by Tsunami

We've been getting lots of inquiries into Dani and Charles in Singapore after the devastating events in Asia. This is just to say that Singapore was not physically damaged by the quake or tidal waves, and accordingly our familiy is fine--they didn't even feel it. Those interested in a Straits area perspective of the events of the world might wish to investigate the Straights Times.
Posted by Martin at 11:03 AM

December 27, 2004

A New Image for the New Year

In November, Marilyn and I spent four days at Yellow Point Lodge near Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. While there we visited the Barton Leier Gallery nearby. Nixi Barton and Grant Leier are wonderful and colorful painters who have created a fantasy garden around their gallery and home. It is a must visit for us. This year we decided to make a Christmas gift to each other of one of Grant's paintings. B-L_Gallery01.jpg B-L_Gallery02.jpg B-L_Gallery03.jpg A few weeks later I met with the Committee on Ministry of the Pacific Northwest Comnference of the United Church of Christ. This group is charged with maintaining clergy standing for ministers in this area. They have embarked upon a new program of inviting one or two clergy to their meeting to engage in a conversation about their ministry and church. I spent an hour in conversation with five members of the committee including clergy and laity. After a wonderful time of sharing back and forth they invited me to stand while they circled around me. Laying hands on me, each shared a prayer. It was a rich experence for me. I especially remember that Susan prayed that I "keep dancing". I mentioned the image to Gail who told me about a frind of hers who is a cancer survivor. As part of her supportive therapy the friend was invited to imagine bad cancer cells and good white cells in battle, with the white cells winning. She said that war imagery wasn't comfortable for her so she meditated on a dance of her body's cells, sometimes the white cells led and sometimes the cancer cells led the dance. I found the prayer and the image of dancing to be especially fitting because this is the painting we bought. Keep_dancing_web.jpg
Posted by Donel at 10:16 PM

December 26, 2004

My Biological Calendar

finger_moons_web.jpg Following surgery I noticed small white bands on my fingers and toes. So far I haven't found a doctor who can explain them so I am left to my own devices. I presume that during and immediately after my surgery either the immune system was depressed which affected the color of nails, or some medication I was on created the effect. Judging by the width of the white bands and the normal growth of the nails I imagine they represent about a two week period. I have decided that when the nails are grown and the bands are clipped of it will be time for a celebration. I welcome ideas for an appropriate way of commemorating the restoration of ordinary nails.
Posted by Donel at 01:55 PM | Comments (2)

December 21, 2004

Next Steps

Last Tuesday I dropped by my urologist's office to have three gold markers inserted into my prostate gland. (It wasn't as yucky as it sounds). I am now a marked man. Today I spent an hour in the Cancer Center where I will receive radiation. They took a couple of CT scans and inserted various appliances to facilitate the tests. I left with a sense of what happens when I report for treatment and what to do: where to change, where to leave my wallet and Pocket PC, where to find the tea and cookies. The staff is gracious and accommodating and the ambience of the center is wonderful . . . lots of light and comfortable chairs. On January 10th I will report for the first radiation treatment. I anticipate that they will be daily M-F for eight weeks. It is comforting to know that highly trained staff is providing the best treatment technology has developed to date. I am anticipating another positive experience.
Posted by Donel at 02:57 PM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2004

Check-up Time

Last month I went down to Seattle to have four scans. All morning I lay on my back on various narrow palates for a Dexa scan to measure bone density, a CT scan to look for any unusual spots in my abdomen and chest, an MRI to survey the region of the surgery, and a bone scan to look for suspicious spots. The report was good. My bone density is great and there are no unusual new spots within. The bone scan showed a second shadow on a rib (the first scan has revealed one). The first is certainly an old injury and Dr. Higano believes the second was a consequence of my surgery. (I wonder what they were doing all that time I was out?) I will have this set of scans every three months for the first year. Generally I find them a restful and meditative time. I like to use breath prayers with my breathing while waiting for the instrumentation to do its thing. Sometimes I doze off for a time.
Posted by Donel at 02:46 PM

December 14, 2004

God is Still Speaking

Advent is a time of expectation . . . and surprise. The surprise is that we can never anticipate the ways in which God will speak to us. Therefore we are encouraged to be watchful during this time. My watchful waiting has led to a decision which I brought to the Church Council last night. I requested that I be allowed to reduce my time to 50% beginning as soon as convenient in 2005. The reasons for the decision are several: 1) The recent diagnosis and treatment of my cancer has led me to reflect upon my life and work style. I love and cherish my work with you and want to continue it as long as it is beneficial to the church. On the other hand I am aware that the position necessarily carries a significant amount of stress. Reducing the work load will minimize that stress. 2) I will be undergoing various therapies in the months ahead to treat my cancer. I cannot, in conscience, continue to attempt a full work load when my energy may not support it. Working half time will ease the work load and give me the flexibility I need to manage my health. 3) Finally, the awareness that death is a proximate rather than an indefinite possibility has caused me to cherish time spent with Marilyn and my family. I covet the opportunity to devote more time to those I love. I am certainly not the first to discover that the awareness of death enriches and stimulates one's appreciation of life. My choice to ask for a reduction in my time rather than retire immediately, followed some personal reflection and counsel from wise friends in the church. I love preaching and shaping worship. I love the interaction of staff, members and friends of the church as we find new ways in which to use and share our facility. I believe the challenges and tasks of ministry will be a positive focus as I continue treatment. This decision has been made following consultation with the leadership of the church, Cindy, and Sharry, and the personnel committee. I am grateful for their understanding and support even though this change will create an extra work load for the staff and additional tasks for the church leadership. I look forward to next year with anticipation, and some anxiety about how I can continue to minister to this congregation in a reduced capacity. However, in all things, I have learned to trust that Spirit which convinces me that God is still speaking.
Posted by Donel at 02:47 PM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2004

I'm Still Here

I have been negligent in keeping up on this blog. My Apologies. Yes, I have been busy at church. Yes, I don't have as much energy at the end of the day as I used to. And, yes, I have simply not been diligent in maintaining the narrative of my journey. I had a call a few days ago from a friend in Washington. A mutual friend in California had called him worried that I might have died and that's why the blog is not up to date. I assured him that my death would be immediately posted in the blog. I am feeling well these days, no pain and a very positive attitude. I do need to walk more and get back to the gym before I put back the weight that my illness removed as a side benefit. Since my last entry (Ouch! Over a month ago) I have had an appointment with a Radiation Oncologist who briefed me on the course of radiation which will be forthcoming (yet to be scheduled.) An intensive external bombardment of the prostate tumor will require eight weeks of five day-a-week radiation sessions. I have also interviewed three Naturopaths to explore nutritional and supportive therapies to nurture my body through the period of radiation and beyond. Now I am working on the difficult task of discerning which of the three, all highly recommended and competent, will be an appropriate match for me. A week ago Marilyn and I spent the better part of a day at The Fred Hutch for my three month scans. Marilyn read and did crossword puzzles while I rested for varying periods of time on the narrow pallets of four impressive, and rather massive machines. First I had a Dexa scan to check my bone density, then a CT scan of the chest and abdomen. That was followed by an MRI of the same general area and finally a bone scan of the whole body. I requested and received a CD of all the scans and have had fun looking inside myself. Unfortunately I can't tell one organ from another in the body slices of the MRI, except it is clear that I have a single kidney rather than a matched pair. All in all it was a restful day and I was introduced to some new technologies. Life moves at a little more leisurely pace now that I am limiting myself to 40 hours of work a week. I probably would be in better shape today if I have moved in this direction years ago. The discipline forces me not to follow every idea and possibility that comes my way, but to question which are the most important tasks for the church at this time. I am enjoying preaching and the planning of Advent worship. It is a beautiful season for the church and our new sanctuary is made more elegant with quilted banners, dozens of poinsettias and a large Christmon tree. Favorite creches are taken out of storage and placed around the church and our Fireplace Room has a lighted tree and electric candles in the windows. This year Marilyn and I bought a four foot lighted wreath which is hung in the round window of the church bell tower. At night, the church is quietly festive. This is a season of magical beauty, a time when each morning offers delicious surprises. May your days be full of joy.
Posted by Donel at 07:50 PM | Comments (3)