Feeling for Job

As always, thank you for your prayers. They have been having some amazing effects. In fact, last week, I started getting the familiar stomach pains and trying to make my way through them when suddenly, they stopped. Later, I learned that a friend traveling in Israel had been praying for me at just that time! Please keep them coming, and know that I pray for you.

Last week during chemotherapy, a priest asked what gives me hope. I am grateful for a strong faith, and I believe in the beautiful synchronicity in this universe, even if I don’t always understand it.

That doesn’t necessarily keep me from feeling stressed or sad. Last week, when I got my latest CEA number, I was definitely down. And as I sit here, waiting to be called for my CT scan this morning, I am definitely stressed.

I’m not intimately familiar with the story of Job, though lately I relate to the pieces I know. Job had this fabulous, awesome life and then it all seemed to go downhill. He went through various phases: He was bitter, he tried to make sense of it, he tried figuring out cause and effect, he prayed excessively. Nothing seemed to help.

I don’t think I went through a bitter phase, but I definitely went through anger and fear. I also tried to make sense of it – what could be the reason for all this? Did I do something to cause this? If so, maybe that knowledge would help me to reverse it. I looked at others who had cancer and did well – what set them apart? How did they do it? Could I do that, too? I could find nothing consistent. People who are low-risk got cancer as well as people who are high-risk. There are vegetarian survivors as well as those who eat bacon or pork rinds, optimists as well as pessimists, meditators as well as type A individuals. Survivors include those who believe in God as well as, thankfully, those who do not.

After years of puzzling this, I can only conclude that things happen to us, both good and bad, and our job is to deal with it all as best we can, whatever “best” means to each of us.

If I understand the end of the story, Job reached a point where he basically marveled at the beauty of life, with all its ups and downs and good and bad, and it somehow became okay.

I woke this morning in the dark, thinking of Job and praying that I could see the beauty in the universe, the light in the dark, something. As I lay there, a bright light suddenly shone from outside into my bedroom window. We live in a city area, so floodlights are not uncommon. But since this was shining right into our bedroom, lighting it up, I’m sure I would have noticed it before. Or maybe one of the neighbors recently installed it and the timer was off-schedule.

After I put on my glasses, I could see that it was the full moon, which had risen just above our roofline and the nearby trees. I marveled at the whole scene: the beauty, the answer to my prayers, the bright light in the darkness before the dawn. While it shined so brightly that my eyes hurt to look at it directly, I felt the glimmer of hope again and gave thanks.

Sending love and prayers your way,

Disengaging for a bit

Sometimes, it is hard to see this journey as an adventure. I went into chemo yesterday, and I asked the nurse to check my CEA (my tumor marker). I saw her to go the computer near the area where I was sitting, type some things in, and walk away.

My instincts felt that wasn’t good, but I tried to push away those feelings with logic. “Maybe that isn’t a computer she can use to check the numbers.” Which I know isn’t true.

She returned to hook up another bag of chemo to my line.

“Did you find my CEA?” I asked her.

“Oh, I need to print it out. I couldn’t print it from the computer I used,” she said, keeping strangely busy with her work.

“It doesn’t show on the screen?” I asked her. “I don’t need a printout. Just the number. Did you see the number?”

“I don’t remember it.”

“Can you check again now?”

“It is up a little.”

“A little. How much is a little?”

“It is 160.”

“That’s more than a little. That is more than double my last number.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“If the chemo isn’t working, maybe I can just skip today.”

“You can’t. You need this treatment, then get your CT scan next week. You never know. It might be stable.”

“A CEA that doubles does not indicate stable.”

We were quiet from there. This is hard.

Two different religious people came to visit me that session, the first time in the year that I’ve been at Dana Farber. They were a nice distraction and listened to me so well that I actually felt entertaining. One of them even asked if he could use my words in his sermon on Sunday. Then I slept.

It is a day later and I still want to escape this whole thing. I spent the day reading and futzing around on the computer. The kids came home from school, and they played around me.

Then, the younger one asked me to help him build a garage out of blocks. I had been in my all-day habit of doing nothing and it was hard to step out of that, so I told him that I would watch him. He moved closer to me and sat on the floor, quietly building and periodically saying, “Look, Mama! Watch this!”

While he was building and I was escaping into my own world, it occurred to me that, now more than ever, rather than escape, which I dearly, dearly want to do, I need to do the complete opposite. I need to engage even more.

Man, I never thought it would be this difficult to just live life. Thank you for being there, for helping to carry me, especially when times are hard.



The law of attraction

A number of years ago, I consulted to the IRS as part of a team that measured the impact of the funding we got from Congress. We didn’t deal directly with Congress – we primarily collected data and generated reports.

As you might imagine, this task could be frustrating and we sometimes felt discouraged. At one team meeting, we tried to plan the week, but our work had hit a wall. There seemed to be nothing productive we could do toward our current goals.

We sat for a bit, wishing for things to be different, when someone said, “What we really need is for Paul to talk with someone from Congress.”

Now, Paul never worked directly with Congress, and as far as we knew, he didn’t even know anyone in Congress. To our logical minds, this was a pie-in-the-sky wish. But that statement hit a chord deep within each of us, in that part of our bodies that recognizes the truth, and we all came alive.


“That’s exactly what we need!”

Each of us was buoyed as we internalized that statement, and we ended our meeting on that note.

A few days later, one of the team members burst into our team room. “A Congressional aide called Paul – his Congressman wants to meet with him on our project!”

It happened. What we envisioned, the seemingly unlikely if not impossible, happened. And in just a few days.

We all laughed about it and at our next team meeting, we decided to try it again. We each made random statements until one of those statements hit that same place inside of us. Once that happened, we all agreed on it, wrapped up the meeting and carried that statement inside of us.

Again, within a week, what we envisioned, happened.

For grins and giggles, we started doing this every week. When someone made the statement that rang true, we seemed to be one person as we recognized it in the same moment, almost simultaneously shouting out with enthusiasm. We never even discussed or debated each “goal”; we just felt a recognition and an uplift in energy.

We called it “The Vibe” and it helped us to achieve things that we could only imagine at a faster speed than we had ever worked before. We went from being surprised that these things happened to assuming they would happen, and generating these statements soon became a matter of course.

In each of these instances, we did no tangible work toward these goals. In fact, The Vibe statements were all things that felt big and outside our direct control. But they all happened.

I haven’t generated “The Vibe” in a regular way since that time, but these past weeks, a few things happened to remind me of the power that even our casual thoughts can have on events in our lives.

One example: Ordering sushi and getting the one I was thinking about, not the one I actually ordered.

Placing a take-out food order on the website of our local Japanese restaurant, I choose an avocado-asparagus-cucumber sushi roll (AAC).

I also noticed the avocado-banana-cream cheese roll (ABC). Though the ABC didn’t sound good to me at all, I kept wondering what it would look and taste like. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I placed my order for the AAC, along with a couple of other items, double-checked the list, then drove to the restaurant.

When I arrived, something told me to check the contents of the bag, but I didn’t. Arriving home, I found, not the avocado-asapargus-cucumber roll I wanted but the avocado-banana-cream cheese roll that I distinctly did not.

I checked the receipt. It said avocado-asapargus-cucumber. I checked my online order. Again, the same. What are the odds that they would make this exact error, giving me the item that I was so focused on NOT getting?

Another example: Writing a book review for a book I wanted to read but didn’t see how I could.

Each week at my acupuncturist’s office, I would notice the book Writing and Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors. Though I was intrigued and wanted to read it, my book list is long, and I didn’t read enough of it to push it to the front of my queue. Still, it stayed in my mind.

Soon after that, I was asked to write a review of that very same book! Suddenly, it jumped to the front of my queue. And, I no longer could find it at the acupuncturist.

These examples and others remind me to focus on the things I DO want, and to be conscious of where I focus my thoughts. It reminds me that something larger than myself is at work in my life, and that I am connected to it, as we all are, and that our thoughts bring elements into our life as if they were already tangible reality.

Lots of love,


P.S. After I wrote this, I parked at a meter. I almost never get a parking ticket, but I put money in the meter and I thought, I don’t know why I am doing this. I am going to get a parking ticket anyway. And sure enough, I got a parking ticket, and although I wasn’t excited about paying, I was oddly excited about the ticket. Gotta watch those thoughts!

Chemo today, after more answered prayers

Chemo time today, on this election day, and I’m back asking for more prayers! I hope you don’t mind, but they have such a strong and positive impact on my life. Thank you.

Last time around went really smoothly and I am incredibly grateful for that. And I got to have a wonderfully normal week – I was able to take the boys trick or treating on Halloween, we watched both a magic show and Cirque du Soleil, and I went to see Ivan from Medjugorie.

In Medjugorie, Ivan is one of several people to whom the Virgin Mary has appeared, every day, for over 31 years. There is much more to this story, of course, but that is the basic idea. He was in Massachusetts and speaking at a church nearby, which I felt was an answer to my prayers.

My friend Hilary joined me, arriving first. Hilary visited Medjugorie a few years ago, so she has first-hand experience with all this. She also has a strength of will and character that can move mountains. I feel stronger just being in her presence.

I sat down next to Hilary and noticed AnnMarie, my dental hygienist, sitting two pews in front of us. I see her every four months in the dentist office, where we exchange lots of life stories so I knew this was her parish – how fun to actually see her here!

The program began at 6 p.m. with a Rosary service along with the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At a specific time during all this, Ivan knelt for his vision of the Blessed Virgin and the rest of us were quiet and prayerful.

I wish I could say that I could feel the vibe, but I didn’t really feel anything out of the ordinary, which makes me wonder what else is going on around me that I am not attuned to.

During this time, while Mary was appearing to Ivan and in our presence, we were to pray for whatever we wanted. Though I want healing for me and countless others that I know personally (plus anyone in the whole world who is dealing with difficulties), other wishes kept creeping into my mind and heart. One had to do with the faith of my children. Though I believe that each person can make their own choice with respect to faith and spirituality, I would love for my children to be exposed to all this in order to make the choice.

Like many families we know, my husband and I are of different faiths. Instead of attending Sunday morning Mass with me, my kids prefer to stay at home with him and watch TV. In fact, whether it is Mass, religious ed, or even church dinners, they express a strong preference to opt out. While this is occasionally fine, I noticed that this has become the norm.

Outside the church, prayer is not a regular occurrence in our household. Grace before meals is the exception, not the rule. I personally don’t pray out loud, unless it is something like, “Please help me, God,” which the boys  hear not as a prayer but as a warning that I am about to scream. So, among other things, I prayed for a way to help them to learn to pray and build their spiritual life.

Following this time with Mary, Mass was held and the priest gave a fabulous homily. The packed congregation actually gave a standing ovation, which I’ve never seen before in any church. After Mass, Artie Boyle spoke (father of Brian Boyle, the hockey player), talking of the miracle he experienced as a result of his trip to Medjugorie. And Ivan spoke about his encounters with the Virgin Mary.

Afterwards, there was a Benediction and then we were done.

It was after 10 p.m. and I was tired, but Hilary suggested that I talk with Ivan. We made our way to him, then she hung back to give me more time with him. He really wasn’t so interested in speaking with me, but then picked her out of the crowd and said hello. I assume that he remembered her from Medjugorie; who knows.

Like all of us, I’m sure she has a million things that she could be praying for. But in that moment, she so generously asked him to pray for me. I still can’t get over how huge that was.

He then turned to me, asked what I was dealing with, and said that he would mention me to Mary when he saw her on Sunday night.

On that particular Sunday night, I decided that I would pray at the same time that Ivan would be seeing Mary. So I went to an empty room in our house. Soon after, my six-year-old son entered and asked what I was doing. When I told him, he quietly said, “Can you teach me how to pray, too?”

And so we began. An answer to my prayer, a start to his, and, while I thought that attending that event was the logistical conclusion to answer to a prayer I had over a week ago, I suspect it is actually just the beginning.

Thank you for helping me to get here, for helping me to always have new beginnings and faith that there is always more.