Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gave up dying of cancer for Lent

Well it is after 3am and surprise, surprise I am still awake. It has been a couple of weeks since my last post, so I think I failed on my goal of posting weekly, but I will continue to strive for a post at least once a week. I also want to let you know that my shift key is not working and I am waiting for Dell to send me a new keyset. I have just now realized how often you use the shift key with your right hand. Please forgive me if I do not capitalize correctly, I am a little too tired to notice.

Last time I wrote about my birthday reflections and received feedback that people really enjoyed reading them, so I have a few more reflections I want to share.

In some of my posts I mention my faith. I don’t always get to church often, mostly because mornings are very tough for me, but that does not reflect on how important my faith is.  I believe my faith has helped me get through these past few years. My two favorite seasons of the church are Advent and Lent. These are not to be confused with Christmas and Easter, which are very important in the church year, but it is the preparation for them that is most important for me. Advent and Lent are not only about preparing for Christmas and Easter, but about focusing on the journey towards these two awesome celebrations.  I have always said that getting there is half the adventure and we should not focus solely on the destination.

I try to get all of my shopping done prior to advent so I can concentrate about what the birth of Christ means to me. I try to spend time during lent reflecting on Jesus’ own journey towards his death. One could say that I have been on the same journey the last two years and my own lent has lasted more than 40 days. I think Lent is most commonly known for giving things up. In the past I have given up things like swearing, chocolate, soda, vending machines, pizza, sweets, beer, happy hours, and eating out. Except an improved diet I am not sure what if any benefit giving these items up has done for me. Sometimes I have been successful, but sometimes knowing you gave something up makes you crave it even more and I have cheated. Years ago my priest sad that Lent should be about removing the things in our lives that causes distance in our relationship with God. She also said maybe we should take this time to consider what we can do for others. If we do give up the afternoon candy bar from the vending machine, we should think about donating the money we would have spent on the candy bars to a charity. I have also taken things on during Lent including daily meditation or bible study. Sometimes I think these might strengthen my relationship with God more than giving things up.

I do have a point to why I am talking about religion and the virtues of lent. For the past three years I have been expending so much energy fighting cancer that I have not had as much time, emotional capacity or desire to focus on my spirituality as I would have liked. Not to mention that fact that I was royally pissed at God that I had cancer. The idea of giving up something for lent the last two years was laughable. The first Lent after diagnosis I was still in chemo and I could not get behind giving up anything I enjoyed or made me feel good considering that most the time I was miserable. Last year I was pretty sure I only had a few months to live and I basically said life is too short to make any more sacrifices than absolutely necessary.

On my way to Ash Wednesday service this year, my friend and driver asked me what I was giving up. I flippantly replied that I was giving up dying of cancer. I had not really thought about doing anything for Lent and this was just another case of me being a smart ass. However, I started thinking about that comment during the service and for several days later. Why shouldn’t I give up dying during lent? Having terminal cancer certainly has put a hardship on my relationship with God. Plus, I have found that having something to look forward to in the future helps me stay strong and focused and encourages me to strive to stay alive to do it.

So this year I officially gave up dying for Lent. Of course having the sense of humor I have, I made a number of jokes about this like: “I can’t die till after Lent or at least till Holy Week.” or “Dying on Good Friday has been done before and gives a lot of expectation of resurrection.” Another one is “Heaven help us if I am the daughter of God, the chosen one.”

Not sure if you noticed, but I tend to make more jokes about the things that I worry about or spend a lot of time thinking about. I try not to, but I do think a lot about dying these days and when that will occur. I was determined that it would not happen this spring, so giving it up for Lent seemed like a good thing to do. As I was sitting in church during the Easter Vigil service, I thought to myself “I did it – I am still alive!” “Wow, for the first time, I gave something up for Lent and never cheated or even had the desire to cheat”. I was so thankful that I was still alive as that service, that for the first time I felt like God answered my prayer about having more time. Then I thought, “What do I do now that Lent is over? I am certainly not read to die today so do I continue giving up dying. How long can that last?

I don’t think it is practical for me to say that I am giving up dying of cancer. What I have given up is being the person who is dying of cancer. I am the person who is living my life even though I have a terminal illness. Instead of worrying about when I am going to die, I am planning things I want to do in the upcoming months so I have things to look forward to.
These are the things I have so far:
May - Ovarian Cancer Survivor Retreat in Montana at Camp mak-a-dream.
May – visit from my sister and her family. Spending a lot of time with my nephew that lives in MO.
June – I have decided to participate in this year’s Relay for Life. Please consider joining my team or making a donation. Here is the link to my site:
July – Taking a cruise to the Bahamas with my oldest sister and husband, 3 of my adorable nephews and my parents. 

I also want to set up one day a week that I meet up with a friend for a visit and grab a coffee, drink, food or just hang out. My current theory is the longer the list, the longer I have to stick around.

Does anyone else have any ideas of things to put on my list of things to live long enough to do?


Kris said...

Good morning Alli. Once again, I sit here with my jaw hanging down, in awe of how your words cut right to the heart of things! How glad I, and so many others, are that you gave up dying for Lent! One day, God will call you to come to the kingdom of eternal being, but for now I have this picture of God watching in wonder, smiling at your determination, introspection, and zest for living. You are a role model and inspiration for all who know you and read your words, for your spirit shines through. As a cancer patient/survivor myself, you make me stop and appreciate all that I have and do in life, as well as helping me to see how I too might one day travel my path to the end, should I be told that my cancer is terminal.

Shift key or not, please keep sharing your insights with us, and know that I am out here praying for you and cheering you on, each and every day of your amazing life.
Love and hugs, K

Allison said...

Kris - I can't find your email, can you send me an email so I can add it back into my address book? Thanks -

Trish said...

I keep reading because of posts like this. It is something *I* would say...give up dying for lent. Makes people uncomfortable often. But what they don't get is that when you have cancer, that death thing IS something funny sometimes and jokes ARE appropriate. Life is short, sometimes shorter for some than others. Why spend it not laughing? I had someone try to rip me a new one a while back calling me irreverent. I looked at her and said "and? God made me in His image, NOT yours and I suspect He kind of enjoys my humor". She stood there, agape, then told me I was going to hell. To whit I responded "well, I guess all my friends will be there with me and you won't, we'll have a grand time!". I have faith, it is what has gotten me this far thru cancer, but I don't let people use it against me.

I've got something else to add to your list "to live long enough to"---make my birthday in late August!

From one redhead to another, I certainly hope you are around for my bday. Yup, a little selfish, sure, but I'm a Leo, whaddya want? ;-)