Blessed to Receive?

October 17th, 2008

There is a popular adage that comes from the Bible that says, ” It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts20:35).  This saying popped into my mind as a seeming contradiction to something my wife Gloria had shared regarding her resolution to learn how to “receive” instead of merely giving.  After looking at the context of the adage it became clear to me that the Apostle Paul in quoting Jesus, was speaking of his own willingness, as a role model, to provide not only for his own needs but for the needs of others as well.  I don’t think anyone would argue that we humans have a selfish bent that needs to be addressed and a bit of encouragement to “give” now and then is in order.

The thought that there may be times when it is appropriate to address our need to know how to “receive” was thought provoking to me.  Another popular saying from the words of Jesus is , “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) So it is not only “blessed to give” but it is “blessed to receive” as well.  In fact how can we give unless we first receive.  We start our life as little children in the receiving mode.  It is only after we have received for a while that we can even begin to give in a conscious and meaningful way.

When we look at God’s world around us we discover that it is one massive, perpetual, receiving and giving system.  Every living thing receives and gives.  Plants and animals all receive nutrients and water, air and sunlight and in turn give fruits as well as beauty.  The truth is, all who lose the ability to “receive” will soon not have anything to give.

Gloria on: A Time to Take

September 15th, 2008

When I was 16 years old I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was going to become a nurse.  I geared my high school curriculum with this in mind, taking a few college courses before-hand so I could accomplish my goal in a timely way.   I never read much as a kid so had no heroes such as Florence Nightingale and there were no medical people in my family.  Except for a broken arm when I was nine I had no real exposure to the field of medical science until I went away to nursing school.  I just somehow knew I’d “found my niche”.  No doubt It was related to the comfort zone I had found in the imagined role of taking care of every one in my family.

I’ve been a health-care giver for most of the past three and a half decades now, never dreaming I would be on the receiving end, especially as a cancer patient, a full decade before I am even old enough to retire! Alas, most of the “helping professions” have a down side, attracting those of us who would prefer not being an equal.  I’m finally learning that my very “giving” nature is in part responsible for a life out of balance with its subsequent health hazard.  I’m finally discovering this balance and sincerely believe that “give” AND “take” is where it’s at.

As an in-patient, I recently found out that the cleaning ladies normally make the beds here for the patients each day while they are having their various treatments.  In my “good girl” way I was carefully making my bed each day, even hanging the “do not disturb” sign on the outside of my door, trying to save “the help” from having to bother with my room.  When that didn’t work and I realized their job description included a daily routine of floor and bathroom cleaning, as well as bed tidying, I finally accepted the fact and even started to leave my bed unmade, symbolizing to myself that it’s high time I learned to take from someone who wanted to give to me!

Friendships flourish on this basis and while I have dear and wonderful friends, I’m not sure I’ve always been so wonderfully dear to have as a friend.  My tendency to “carry the world” has been an intimacy barrier for me in some ways.  I’m untouchably invincible when I’m giving in excess.  Only when I’m in crisis will I readily take support from others so there has been a lop-sidedness in my relationships that I’m realizing HAS TO GO!  The healthiest relationships are based on equality where lots of giving and taking are going on from both sides.  Even with the language barrier here, I’ve picked up that people want me to communicate my needs better.  If you’re cold, just ask for a blanket!  They can’t read my mind and I’m certainly not bothering anyone when I ask for something I need.

Jesus role-modeled the right balance when he asked for a drink from the woman at the well, or invited Himself to supper with a tax collector or received the gift of perfume annointing Him for His burial.  Even Jesus was dependent on others for a place to lay his head.  The ability to receive is as much a virtue as the ability to give.

Gloria on “Do No Harm” How About “Do What’s Good”

September 14th, 2008

Posted in the lobby here at the Hufeland Clinic, (like somewhere on a wall in most medical facilities) is the Hypocratic Oath which all physicians in all countries, apparently, are supposedly committed to. In a nutshell, it is their promise to their patients while they “practice” the art/science of medicine, to first of all, “do no harm”!

The more I read I’m appalled at the harm done in my country, by the seeming neglect to offer what has been shown to be safe and effective medical care. (Not to mention the medical mistakes, which constitute the third leading cause of death in the USA. Do no harm?)

For example, my daughter sent me a forward here the other day on the amazing benefits cancer-ridden laboratory rats are getting from the simple infusion of Vitamin C. This research was begun earlier on but was squelched by a double-blind study proving the lack of benefits of taking oral Vitamin C. Of course, that was comparing apples to oranges, so now we’re back to square one, “crossing our fingers”. as the article said, hoping this will be legalized before too many more cancer patients “kick the bucket”!

Vitamin C infusions are given here at Hufeland on a regular basis, along with other protective vitamins and trace elements because, according to current research findings, these substances protect against free radicals. A doctor who says to a patient, “I don’t think much of that”, is often simply revealing that he/she knows nothing about the subject! Because Vitamin C supports the immune system and your body’s own repair capabilities, it is vital for recovery! In quantity, “Vitamin C is the best broad spectrum antitoxin, antibiotic and anti viral there is”. per Abram Hoffer, M.D.

What “harm” can be done by using a simple substance like vitamin C when it can help. Is there not “harm” done by denying its use?

Gloria’s “Reformation”

September 13th, 2008

According to the tourist information center, here in Bad Mergentheim, Germany, the local “Reform Haus” (or healthfood store) sells the town’s best selection of chocolates, known for their “anti-oxidant” properties, of course.  I’m not shopping for myself but for my daughter who is in hopes that I can find a certain special dark German variety wrapped in blue foil and filled with hazel nuts.  Yum!  Getting diagnosed with cancer has been a call for “reform” on many fronts in my life.  Reform takes sacrifice and I, for one, have long since stopped feeding my “sweet tooth”.

“Change” (another word for reform) seems to be the buzz word for both presidential candidates.  “Reform Washington!” is the cry.  We even hear about a change the wife of one of the candidates had to make in overcoming her addiction to prescription pain medicine.  She says her recovery includes continuing to talk to anyone willing to listen, about her battle and commitment to staying drug-free.  I have been encouraged to do that and maybe that’s why I’m feeling the need to contribute to my husband’s blog a few times while I’m making the needed “reform” in my life which also includes getting rid of some long-entrenched thinking patterns and behavior.

While living here in the land of the Protestant “Reformation”, I am realizing that “reforming one’s ways” sometimes means the pendulum has to swing a bit far in the opposite direction before finding that change is here to stay.  So please bear with me during this leg of my journey while I cement my resolve to “reform” by sharing each step of the way, in my endeavor to cooperate with God’s principles of healing.

Stressors and Conversion Reaction - Truth From Gloria

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

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

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

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

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?

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.