Archive for the ‘{Open Forum}’ Category

Stressors and Conversion Reaction - Truth From Gloria

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Have you ever remembered a dream that was obviously telling you something you could no longer supress from your subconscious mind?  I’ve had more than a few of these since facing and battling cancer.  The subconscious is an amazingly powerful thing.  Last night, I had an experience that was reminiscent of one I’d had in my early 30’s that I did NOT care to repeat!  I woke up to use the bathroom and felt my right knee buckling underneath me.  I simply could not bear weight on that foot without consciously stiffening my leg from the knee up to keep me from falling!  Thankfully, I soon realized that my upper leg had merely fallen “asleep” as it began tingling and coming to life before I returned to bed.

There is a strange phenomenon, called “hysterical conversion reaction”, when the body warns the mind that there is trouble brewing.  A limb may become suddenly useless without any physical cause.  This happened to me prior an inevitable divorce from my past marriage while I was walking down the hall of the hospital where my former husband worked. I was heading for the cafeteria where we had agreed to have lunch and, yet again, discuss our bleak future.  It was so unexplainable that, after nearly falling to the floor, I sought a medical opinion from the nearby office of an orthopedist who was willing to talk to me without an appointment.  He motioned for me to sit down in the chair across from his desk while I told him what had just happened to my leg.  Kind concern crossed his face and seemingly unhurried, he calmly asked me this question, “What’s going on in your life at home?”  At first, I was taken aback, and then burst into tears.  How could he know our well kept family secret?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that mind/body connection while here in the hospital in Germany, where all patients are encouraged to look at the various aspects and contributors to our “symptom” of cancer.  Looking back on my life so riddled with fear and anxiety and left-over habits from childhood patterns, I’m not too surprised when I learn they might have something to do with the big “C” wake-up-call I’m facing.  Standing on our own two feet instead of always adapting to the expectations of others is a must!  Someone named J. Kirshnamurti once stated a very simple truth that “If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation”.

Somehow we seem to have been under an illusion that if one follows the rules and works hard to keep everyone happy, everything will come up roses.  Adapting to our circumstances is initially helpful but according to the brain function specialist and author of Mind Waves, Arlene Taylor, PhD., for our own mental and physical well being, prolonged adaptation is NOT!  I for one, refuse to stay stuck in denial of this life threatening adaptation.  Constantly trying to conform to the supposed or real expectations of others, is a formula for failure when it comes to many ailments which include fatigue, lack of concentration, risk of burnout, midlife crisis AND major illness.

Living authentically involves making some conscious choices. I want to always remember that “above all, to thine own self, be true!”

Fear of What? Words from Gloria

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I currently reside as an in-patient on the fourth and very  top floor of a 50-bed “klinik” with a spectacular view overlooking the picturesque medieval town of Bad Mergentheim, Germany.  Several times a day, while stepping into the elevator with fellow patients or staff, I hear or say the German word for “4″ which sounds a lot like our word, “fear”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about different kinds of fear lately, both the warranted but mostly the unwarranted kind, much of which is a category we call “the fear of the unknown”.  Since being on the other end of the thermometer and IV infusion - as a nurse turned cancer patient - I’ve experienced more of this fear-of-the-unknown than I’d ever wanted to know about, these past couple of years!

I remember reading a book, Go Out in Joy , when I was working in a Los Angeles children’s hospital as a nurse on a cancer ward. It gave me amazing perspective on the differences between how adults and children face the uncertainties in life.  These kids were amazing!  They simply accepted whatever reality was thrown their way, often lifting the spirits of the staff who were in anticipatory grief over when their other proverbial “shoe” might drop and it would be “curtains”, as they say, - time to go!

Tomorrow I face something new to me called IPT (Insulin Potentiation Therapy).  This is where, using an insulin IV push, they artificially force the blood sugar down into the 30’s or low 40’s, making the tumor cells “hungry” enough to open up to what’s coming next, a mixture of low-dose chemotherapy and glucose.  Besides having known a person who ended her life with an overdose of insulin, I probably know too much about what could potentially go wrong to view this therapy as a “piece of cake”. (It actually is a piece of cake here, as they do it routinely and have for decades now.)  I’m preparing mentally for the potential transitory nausea and profuse sweating this brings on, knowing my blood sugar levels will be checked very often to make certain they don’t get me too low.  I’m trusting Dr. Demuth (Internal Medicine / Naturopathic) and his great medical team to pull me through this less conventional approach to cancer treatment.

Then why can’t I sleep after laying here for over an hour?! My mind drifts back to another Physician with a less than conventional approach to the healing arts.  He is saying these words to my heart, “Why are you so afraid, Gloria?” and reminding me He also emphasized that we must, “become as little children…” or life can get pretty scarey.  So, I’ve just decided to simply trust Him, turn out the light and drift off into a blissful slumber.  Afterall, if I’d tried this childlike approach more often during my lifetime I just might not be in the predicament that I’m in right now!

More Thoughts from Gloria - Trust

Friday, September 5th, 2008

My program here in Germany, being a holistic approach, includes some psychological counseling.  Each time I’ve had a session here with my counselor, Frau Weidner, she has emphasized in her beautifully German-accented English, that I “need to trust more”.

it was on my early morning walk through the quaint little town here last week on my way to church when I noticed the things my mind was wrestling with and the anxiety I was feeling because of them.  It was while listening to the music of the fountain in the park and passing amidst the beautiful green trees that I was struck with the inharmonious sound of my own thoughts.

I didn’t have any stockings for church and hoped I didn’t offend anyone.  In addition to that I had left my Euros behind so had nothing to put in the offering plate.  “What will people think if I don’t give?”  Then just when I thought I was making good time I became stuck at the train track by a passing train which might make me late.  The pastor had gone to some effort so I would have translation for the services!  My shallow quick breathing alerted me that I was stressed.  The voice was shouting, “Gloria you’re not being a good girl!”

My life has been riddled with these symptoms of anxiety ever since childhood.  I remember as a little girl my mother giving me a paper bag to breath into to alleviate some of these symptoms.

What a lot of wasted energy when there were ducks to watch as I passed over bridges, sunshine to bask in to warm my stocking-less legs, not to mention that I have noticeably more stamina to even TAKE this kind of long walk!  I consciously chose to begin to think of my blessings and put these unfounded worries out of my mind and trust that things would be fine, a real learning curve for me to be sure.

When I got to church (just before the opening prayer) and was introduced to the lady next to me (who was stocking-less, as well), I had already felt relaxed and open to what God had just for me as a guest in His house!  Since I had no offering I’d decided to think of it as a symbol that I was there to receive the gift of His blessings today, more than try to please others with what I had to give.  I would just trust.

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me . . . and you shall find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Dancing to the Music

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

After reading my wife’s words in the previous blog, I had to ask myself how much stress there is in my life because I try to please too many people.  The more I thought about it the more I realized how often a thought comes into my mind regarding if someone is happy with me for doing or not doing something.  There are plenty of people out there who are willing and even eager to let you know that they are not happy with you.

Some words of Jesus came to my mind from Luke 7:32.  Speaking of the people who were unhappy with him he likened them to children who complained “We played the flute for you and you did not dance.”  That’s what it is, there are so many flute players out there with their different tunes and each one expects you to dance to their music. Trying to dance to all the conflicting tunes can drive us crazy!

Some words from my favorite writer are about people who “. . . do what’s right because it is right.”  Not because we think it will please anyone but just because it’s right.  Can you imagine your life lived by principles of truth, from the heart, doing every day what is right just because it is right, not worrying about what people think?  That’s true freedom.

Now it may be that doing right might be pleasing to some people but that’s a secondary benefit.  The prime motivation is doing right because you want to be that kind of person.  It may also be true that some people won’t like it when you do right because it’s not always in harmony with the music they expect you to dance to.

The truth is we need to decide to embrace the tune of truth and dance our lives away.

Words From My Wife Gloria

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I’ve often wondered what people might say about me at my funeral.  I went to my first one when I was in Junior high school.  An older girl who I did not really even know had lost her mom to some horrible fate and I guess I just wanted to intellectually experience a funeral, so my mom let me board the school bus with the others.  From then on, I noticed the glowing things that were always said about the cold, stiffly made-up corpses so peacefully lying there in their open caskets.  Was everybody else always SO wonderful as those things so generously recalled at every single one of them?  Of course, maybe I’ve never attended a funeral of a really bad person, but I can only think of one exception to the accolades in all these years, and that being so mildly stated it might just as well have been a compliment - but it was not lost on me!  Of one poor stiff cancer victim it was said, “She was giving to a fault.”

Now THAT resonated with ME and ever since, I have to admit, I’ve worried a little about MY funeral when the real truth about me could possibly come out!  Maybe I had no big need to worry as the real me has been kept neatly hidden from all those who don’t really know me very well.  They’d surely say all those nice things about me, but what about the ones who really do know me?  What might THEY say about their late wife, mother, sister or close friend - the one that’s been so “nice” that she’s been nauseating at times to live with?  The one they longed to get close to but she was often too busy “taking care” of them to need anything from anyone else?  The one who’s closest childhood friend had finally “had it” one day exclaiming.  “Why don’t you let somebody ELSE be the good guy once in awhile!”  It’s pretty sad when your loved ones don’t even know what to get you for Christmas because you don’t have enough of your own interests for them to have a clue what you’d like and like a “nice girl” you would probably just give it to someone else, anyway.

Since my life took a serious turn and I’m now on disability, battling cancer and really COULD face such a scenario (sooner than later), I’ve had lots of time to reflect on life’s priorities and have decided to stop “shouldering the world”, playing the martyr and smiling all the time.  I’m going to try really LIVING for as much time as I might have left on this old earth.  Of course none of us really knows when that time might come, but for me - it’s really been brought to the front-burner for the past year and a half.

So, here it is - my newly developed committment to myself and to all those who really know me.  Starting here in Germany, where the emphasis in health care is on the whole person instead of just a body part, it’s “goodby Mr. nice guy” (or in my case “nice girl”) and “hello” to the unique but special person - warts and all - that God intended me to be in the first place.  I won’t promise to come home transformed and am warning you that I’m definitely in that ugly, awkward stage of metamorphasis, but you won’t mind because I know in my heart you’ve all been waiting and hoping for a very long time to see this happen.

Will We Ever See Our Clothes Again?

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

It’s a good thing that laughter is the best medicine. It must be noted however that laughter is usually connected with irony, and irony usually means something doesn’t seem right. That’s how it was today when we went to do some laundry. A little language barrier mixed with a strange looking washing machine makes for plenty of irony.

First of all we planned to wash only one load today even though we had two. So Gloria and I took the whites down to the basement, followed the direction listed on the washer (in English) put in the soap and our three euros (about five dollars! Talk about irony!) and got our load started. Things looked good as we could see the wet clothes beginning to tumble around through the glass window of the front loading washer.

Keep in mind that we were told by someone that if we didn’t get our clothes out at just the right time and two hours passed, the door to the washer wouldn’t open and we would have to put in another three euros just to get the door open. This alone filled us with apprehension about our prospects of success.

Just as we were leaving the room a jovial German lady came in with a big smile on her face jabbering something that we couldn’t understand. She looked at us as if she expected a response.

The dazed look on our faces must have told her that we were completely confused. We were. So in her helpful jabbering way she began to push buttons and turn knobs. She turned off the washer and opened the little drawer on the front where we had put some powdered soap. The water had already washed it out so she must have promptly concluded that those confused Americans must have forgotten put soap in. Taking the scoop she put in another very large heaping scoop of dry soap, making motions and expressions that made me think she thought it took an extra large scoop to do the job.

Grabbing a plastic container of water and pushing buttons she poured the water into the tray to wash the soap down into the now churning clothes. I don’t know exactly what happened but we ended up with a large pool of water all over the floor in front of the washer. She immediately grabbed a wash rag from a nearby pile threw it into the pond and began to dab it with her foot. The smile on our face must have made her think we were pleased for she was smiling at us too.

Checking the digital display on the front of the washer I learned I had one hour and forty two minutes before I had to be back to meet the deadline if I didn’t want to be penalized another three euros.

One hour an thirty five minutes later I returned and began to watch, wondering what the signal would be. The now spun dry clothes were being rolled to the right then to the left slowly every three or so seconds. Soon the time was up on the digital display but nothing happened. The clothes kept rolling one way then the other. I tugged on the door but still nothing. The clothes stopped. Nothing. I had visions of a crow bar to apply pressure but relaxed thinking about the irony of the situation. I gazed over the German words on the front of the washer but nothing gave me a hint. I pushed a button that said Ein but nothing. I waited a bit thinking time would solve the problem.

Well maybe it was going to cost me three more euros. I thought about it for a minute and decided, “If I’m going to put three more euros in I want to be able to wash another load of clothes with it.” So up the elevator to the fourth floor I went and came back down with my second load of clothes. When I arrived the door to the washer was wide open and there stood my smiling German friend jabbering with delight. She must have seen the delight on my face as well but I was still wondering what I had missed.

So I transitioned the wet clothes into the dryer and as I did my friend turned the knobs to the “proper” positions seeming to explain that where it was would be too hot so she bumped it down a notch. Again another three euros were inserted to dry them!

Can you imagine over ten dollars to wash and dry one load of clothes?! I had gone to the bank and got fifteen euros in change thinking it would last us the six weeks we were here, I had already spent six and Gloria had spent two on something else.

Anyway having brought my second load down I was determined to wash it. My friend had stepped out into the hall so I went through the same procedure as before and quickly got the load running. Another three euros!

She stepped back in just in time to see the container that I was carrying my euros in. It was a container that I use for my retainers. I could tell immediately she thought they were for false teeth and she began to laugh shaking her head and pointing to her teeth. I didn’t try to explain but just smiled and wondered if my teeth looked false.

Feeling pleased that I was making headway I went into the hall to go to six o’clock supper when my smiling friend stopped me and called my attention to a sign that I couldn’t read. She pointed out that I had until seven o’clock and they were going to lock the door to the laundry room. There was an hour and forty two minutes again on the dial. There was no way I could make it. Our, clothes were destined to turn sour after sitting all night in the locked washer which would cost me another three euros to open. I shrugged my shoulders, smiled said “danke” like a Yankee and left to eat.

I returned from supper at 6:45 pleasantly surprised to find an elderly gentleman ironing his shirt in the laundry room. Maybe I could make it before the door was locked. Checking my time there was only a few minutes left. The dryer was stopped so I opened the door and pulled out my half dry clothes.  Oh Well.

My attention turned to the washer again. Spun dry clothes flopping slowly back and forth every three seconds, I was waiting and watching. The gentleman saw that I was trying to figure out how it was supposed to end so he began to read instructions in German and tugging on the door. He pointed to the English instructions but they made about as much sense to me as the German ones. Nothing worked after he poked a few buttons so he motioned for me to go up to the office and ask for help.

Going up one floor and to the office I stepped in and much to my surprise there was my smiling jovial German lady friend. I motioned to her that I was trying to get the door open on the washer. “Two hours?” “Two hours?” she said. I tried to assure her that we were well under the limit and she scurried back to the basement with me.

The nice gentleman was still ironing shirts when we arrived to the basement but the cord to the iron was drooped across the front of the washing machine plugged into the only outlet in the room. Swiping the chord away and pushing buttons again she began tugging on the door. The man held firmly on to the iron as she jerked on the chord. Pointing to another timer up on the coin box on the wall she told me there was another five minutes to wait. Un-plugging the iron chord she threw it over the ironing board where the gentleman was still ironing his shirts. He and I smiled at each other. A smile in any language means the same thing.

By this time she was pushing more buttons and all of a sudden water started pouring in onto our already spun dry clothes! They were already drenched when she reached for the water valve on the wall and turned off the water.

I was standing there in dismay when she turned to me from a moment of deep thought and said apologetically “Three more euros.” She wasn’t smiling now. I reached into my pocked and pulled out my embarrassing euro container only to see her chuckle about it again and even point it out to the gentleman who was still ironing his shirts with a now cooling iron. I held it out to him so he could have a good laugh at me too.

Handing her three more euro’s she deposited them and motioning and jabbering she tried to assure me that we didn’t have to put soap in this time. I was grateful for that but realized that now I had another hour and forty two minutes to wait for the next opportunity to attempt to open the washer door. Worried about the laundry room door being locked I had visions of another three euros in the morning to just get the door to the sour clothes opened. What a vicious cycle! Pun intended.

Returning to the lobby on the first floor I thought I have to write this story down and put it in my blog. Gloria was in a class and I was just about finished when she came out. I figured she needed a good laugh so I read it to her as we sat in the lobby splitting our sides. The healing endorphins were flowing as people stared at us. One lady even sat down on a nearby couch and began laughing as well. Healing was taking place.  I didn’t know if she was laughing because she understood what I was reading or just laughing at our laughing.

By this time our hour and forty two minutes were coming up so we headed for the basement again. Twenty minutes left we sat and worked on this little story a bit more and had a few more laughs. 5 -4 -3 -2 -1, the digital display said “ein” whatever that means. We waited, nothing. I saw an orange button on the front with a word that meant nothing to me. I hesitated, I pushed it and the door popped open. We looked at each other in wonderment, moved our clothes to the dryer, and dropped in three more euro’s. Looking at my funny retainer container we saw one lone euro left.

Friendly Support

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

One of the things that Gloria and I have been thinking of and very thankful for is the help we are getting from our friends. I don’t know how anyone could go through a crisis like we are without help. We have someone looking in on our cat while we are gone. We have someone watering our house plants. Someone even loaned us some luggage. There are those picking up my work responsibilities. We had someone drive us to the airport and our friend Daniella picked us up when we arrived in Frankfurt and drove us to the clinic.

Daniella is a native of Germany whom we met while at the Lifestyle Center at Uchii pines in Alabama. She of course has an excellent command of the language, something Gloria found very helpful in communicating with the staff here. She was here for over a week. Just the providence of having met her before we came here and that she was here at the time we needed her reminds us of God’s care for us.

Peter encourages us in “casting all our care upon Him for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) We see that care reflected in our friends. Jesus said “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29)

The truth is we need each other to make it through difficult times.  Thanks to all of our friends for the peace of mind you have given us with your care.

Paradigm Shift

Friday, August 8th, 2008

As I observe what they are doing here at the Hufeland Clinic I’m struck with the words paradigm shift.

A bit of history I read in the book Cancer, Outside the Box. It spoke of the early development of medicine in the United States. In the 1800’s there were two basic approaches developing. One approach was the idea that disease was an invader that needed to be attacked from the outside with medicines. Sometimes this approach is good.

The other approach was the idea that disease came about because of the breakdown of the body system and its own ability to counteract a disease. The idea was that one needed to address the problem in the system then let the system prevent and correct disease.

Because the former approach gained the support of the US government we ended up with the “take a pill” approach for everything. The truth is - a combination of the best of both approaches works best. That’s what they do here at the Hufeland Clinic.

To experience this approach is quite a paradigm shift for us. For example in the US when you get chemotherapy treatment for cancer it seemed strange to us when we first saw those hope-less looking people with scarf covered heads sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the room getting IV’s of cell destroying chemo. This was the only option offered us.

Here at Hufeland my wife entered a similar room lined with chairs with smiling and jovial people. Gloria took her place among them, had a half pint of blood removed, it was infused with ozone then re-infused into her system. She will do this twice a week. This effort by a medical establishment to do something to boost the body’s inner systems is a new paradigm a new experience for us

Time to Wake Up

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

On the morning that we were to leave for Germany to get treatment for my wife’s cancer we had our alarm set for 3:15 a.m. to be on time to the airport. Much to our surprise at 2 a.m. a raccoon darted across our back deck with such speed that we were both startled out of our sleep. Though we both wanted to sleep a little longer it turned out good that we were awakened because we really needed the extra time to get ready.

I thought of Paul’s words that “knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep”. (Romans 13:11) He also says; “Awake to righteousness and do not sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:34)

Having cancer hit the family has been a real wake-up-call to us. Sometimes we need a wake up call so we can have more time to focus on things that will get us ready for the kingdom.

During our long twelve hour flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt, I didn’t sleep at all. When we finally arrived at the clinic in Baud Mergentheim, there was checking in, orientation, examining of medical records, an EKG, laying out a treatment plan, lunch, and supper.

By the time our sleepy heads hit the pillow at 8:30 pm Monday evening it had been thirty three hours since the visit from our furry raccoon friend. Much to our surprise two hours later we were awakened again by the sound of fireworks. Standing on the balcony of our 4th floor room we watched fireworks for a while. It was no surprise that at 3 am we were both wide awake again because of jet lag. Lying in our twin beds in the dark we chatted and counted the every quarter hour chimes of the nearby church until they told us it was 4 a.m. So now I am up typing these words.

The truth is the Lord wants us to be awake.

Hope and the Ridiculous

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

My wife is a nurse, trained in the American medical establishment to think of disease and its treatment within a narrow paradigm. We have begun to think outside of that box. Rather than seeing disease mostly as something that has to be attacked by a slash, burn and poison approach we have begun to take a more holistic approach.

The truth is disease is a symptom of the breakdown of the systems of the human body. So at this point we are taking an approach that focuses more on fixing the system than destroying the disease itself. One problem with doing that is it raises the eyebrows of people who are dedicated to the American paradigm. When you start talking about extract of mistletoe or enzyme therapy they think you’ve gone off the deep end. It sounds ridiculous.

God’s ways often sound ridiculous to us when we have been trained to think in seemingly sophisticated ways. He says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

There is a story 2nd Kings 5 in the Bible about a dignitary named Naaman who was a highly respected Syrian military hero but he was “a leper”. A young Hebrew servant girl in his home recommended that he go to the prophet in Israel for healing. When he got there the prophet didn’t even come out to greet him but sent a message for him to do something ridiculous. “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you.” Naaman feeling like his intelligence and dignity was insulted almost went away disgusted. Finally he was persuaded to do the humble act and he was healed.

The truth is God, in order to help us learn and heal, might use some seemingly very unlikely methods.