Awaiting the Redemption of Our Bodies

November 5, 2013

Ever since I arrived home from Africa on August 18, I have been coughing. You might have noticed that my blogging was sporadic this fall; it was because I have not been feeling well. Ten days ago I found out that a 6cm mass had formed in my left lung, and a surgical biopsy was conducted last Thursday to determine its makeup.

Yesterday afternoon, the thoracic surgeon strode into the examining room with the pathology report in her hand. Andy and I wondered how this conversation was going to start, but she who has delivered this news many times before just said it: “Well, Mary, it is cancer.”

To be more specific, the tumor is a “squamous cell carcinoma” (a non-small cell cancer). One lymph node is also positive, which bumps us up to “probably Stage III.” Some imaging needs to be done to see if the cancer is anywhere else, so a PET scan and a brain MRI could be done as early as tomorrow. I already have an appointment with an oncologist who will talk over the treatment options. It is a whole new world, and, as the surgeon said, “You’re going to be busy for the next few months.”

The news is quite shocking for several reasons:  1) this type of lung cancer is found primarily in people who have smoked, which I never have; 2) I have virtually no family history of cancer; and 3) I just turned 60 in perfect health. Yeah, this ball has come out of left field for sure. I’m still getting my head around it all.

One way I cope with difficulties is to write. In that process I get some clarity of thought and rehearse inwardly the great assurances given to me by our Savior and Shepherd.  I didn’t feel it appropriate to blog about the slow-motion process of the last few weeks, but now that we know what is going on, “bringing the Word to life” is going to be less about PC(USA) denominational stuff and more about bringing God’s Word to the very real life I will be living in the next few months. Difficulties and testing are in my future. There may even be some parallels between cancer treatment and ecclesiastical discipline, which when noticed will be lifted up. But it seems to me that this is a moment and a season to relate the Christian’s very real faith to the very real dangers of this life and determine how we shall be.

I will spare you any further technicalities of medical updates here, but I have opened a “Caring Bridge” website specifically for those who are interested in that aspect. You can find it here http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/marynaegelinews and sign up for the type of notification you desire. In any case, we’ll keep the medical stuff in its place, and this space will be dedicated to theological reflection and faith journeying.

And so I begin with an excerpt from one of the greatest chapters in the entire Bible, Romans 8, starting at verse 18:

18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?  25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Yes, I am groaning and waiting. Be honest—so are you. I pray that through the process God has appointed me to undergo I will be calm, curious, and courageous. All these things are possible because God is working out his purposes for my redemption and resurrection. Yes, even through a serious illness, I have hope and I feel perfectly safe. It is not a curriculum I would have chosen—like, “this year I am going to become an expert on lung cancer”—but the teacher in me is going to become a student of the medicine and of the Great Physician. If I learn anything while sitting in the Waiting Room, I will share it with you, because that is what I do.

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11 Responses to “Awaiting the Redemption of Our Bodies”

  1. Michelle Says:

    Aaah sister, this was not what I wanted to read this morning, my human brain ran quickly through the typical responses as I re-read your diagnosis and tried to digest it. Then I hit your desire to be calm, courageous and curious and was startled that apparently those words were meant for me too. As I woke this morning to a 16 year old son with a dibilitating migraine that will leave him powerless most of the day (and missing school again), my initial response was not calm, courageous, or curious, and I have been despising the waiting room (though your earlier posts were niggling at me). As the one who will minister to my son today, you’ve reminded me that I too often allow God’s voice to be lost in the noise of what is going on around me. My prayers for you will shift some, to include this new part of the journey, and I will continue to thank God for the words he speaks through you. Blessings…

  2. Debi Murphy Says:

    Mary – what comes through loud and clear is your complete faith and trust in God through whatever may come. Praying now for complete and total healing of your body, peace for your soul and a community to surround and care for you. Please let us know if/when there is anything we can do. Food always comes to mind! God be with you especially today. Debi

  3. Jodie Says:

    Mary,

    Let me add now my voice to what will indeed be a loud chorus of support and prayer for a dignified struggle and a speedy recovery from this frightening illness. For you and for your loved ones who will surround you with love and will hurt with you, and for you every step of the way, I ask for peace and healing. Jodie


  4. Two questions (at least) push to the fore: “Who sent this?” and “What to do about it?” Answer to the first is not very fruitful: “God” or “The Other Side.” I think the answer lies more toward “The System,” or “Creation,” or “Whatever…” The second is something you can respond to: This WILL require time and effort, and some of your attention; yes, you’ll “be busy.” But it does not have to take your precious SELF, your Maryness-in-God, just reorient some of that stuff in direction and purpose for awhile. And you’re so wise, to leave some of the mechanics to the Caringbridge site; great to spin that part off from the main thing, so that it can remain the Main Thing.

  5. Jeff Gissing Says:

    Mary – thanks for sharing this. I’ve enjoyed your writing for several years now and am grateful for you. Christ’s peace. Jeff

  6. Sue Longacre Says:

    Amen to what everybody else has said. I know that the spirit will provide in abundance for everyone of your needs and will enable you to be calm, curious and courageous. However, as a nurse, I also feel it is important to say it is okay if you aren’t always calm, curious and courageous. We will still love you and pray for you.

  7. Bruce Pope Says:

    Thinkinboutcha!!

  8. Debbie Berkley Says:

    Mary, a couple of years after I had cancer, I developed heart problems. When I first became aware of it, while I was in an examining room, I realized I should probably pray. But when I started to pray, what I ended up saying was, “Dear God….whatever.” And that was because God had been so faithful throughout my cancer, that I didn’t really have anything to ask him for in any future health problems. I just meant, in that one word, “Whatever my future has in store, I know you are there and that you’ve got me in your hands, and that’s all I need to know. I trust you.” And I can tell that you have that attitude too. It’s going to be hard going through cancer treatments. But I know with every fiber of my being that he is utterly able to see you through whatever comes to you. We care about you very much, Mary, faithful servant of the Lord!

  9. L. Lee Says:

    Rev.Mary,
    I will add my prayers that God’s loving presence will surround you with wisdom, healing, strength, understanding and peace.

    Linda Lee

  10. cnlongacre Says:

    The last several months have been a season of letting go for me. It has been an interesting journey, and one that has been surprisingly freeing. I pray that you might experience that same sense of freedom, joy and peace as you let go of what was and embrace what is in the knowledge that you are God’s chosen and beloved daughter, and that He has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you. Shalom.

  11. John Erthein Says:

    Mary, I’ve put you on our church’s prayer list. You will have intercessors in the Florida Panhandle!

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