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The ART of BEing: Cancer Journal-February 6, 2022 Crying Praying Composing


I have collected all of the supplies one is coached to prepare for the launch into chemotherapy. Making sure you have coverage for the extra, very expensive med for white blood cell production that you have to inject to stimulate your bone marrow to produce and that you need to be ready for with strong painkillers because it will ache like the dickens. An electrolyte drink and Imodium for diarrhea, and stool softeners for constipation. A wig prescription because you WILL lose your hair with this treatment, for sure. Itch cream and moisturizer because your skin will feel like it is peeling off your body. Anti-nausea pills because the first time has to be so comfortable that you will want to come back and do it again. But get lemon candies and flat soda water ready in case the nausea meds don't fully stop it...


Oh, and don't use this natural product, or any of the things you have spent the last several decades taking so you don't lose your mind, because it will interfere with these insidious chemicals we are pumping into your body that are designed to kill any cancer before they kill you by suppressing your immune system so that you must avoid all contact with other humans, but you have to come into the cancer center and go for lab work on the regular. And here is a paper you can take to the emergency room (full of more humans) with you if you EVER have a temperature above 38 Celsius because that means you have an infections somewhere. And be prepared to be admitted when you come (to spend more time with more humans in an enclosed area), just in case it's that bad. And the list goes on. I already knew it was horrible, but as reality sets in and all the "possible side effects and eventualities" are listed and provided for, the anxiety is building. Thank goodness there is a team at the ready to assist, inform, support, and problem solve.


And then there is the inner preparation and processing, which is what this post is really about. Like the other day, driving back home to Ponoka from Grande Prairie where I had gone for a week, for work and follow-up medical stuff, only two weeks after my mastectomy. There is so much to absorb about all of this! I have lost pieces of my body. I had been in constant pain with nerve “miasma” in my arm from losing a nerve, and I am guessing, all the rerouting my body has to do while it heals from the incision and excision. My clothing and an unfortunate “ dog ear” on the tail end of my incision, just around and onto my back, have been rubbing against that arm, driving me to distraction with my already compromised mental health situation.(thankfully this is subsiding slowly) I am also wearing a heart event monitor, waves of pain and pressure in my chest continuing as I go down the highway.


So much has been roiling in my mind, pulling at my heart, and weighing down my soul. How I looked, how I felt, physically as well as emotionally, still so much uncertainty. The oppressive anxiety about my upcoming chemotherapy and all of the other treatments they have planned. Concern about my business and all the things I needed to do but was falling behind in. Decisions that have to be made, and even if I should be continuing to do the work! Wondering if I am doing the right thing to trust the medical profession so implicitly. Unable to do all the things I am used to doing. My brain not working up to snuff due to being under anesthesia three times in a month, not to mention all the STRESS and INFORMATION OVERLOAD!. To top it all off, experiencing guilt and disappointment in myself for continually neglecting my commitment and responsibility to my spiritual care, and the ever present worry that I am just not doing enough.


I had been a mess on the inside but putting on a good British “stiff upper lip” on the outside for most of the GP trip. On my way home I found myself praying aloud, breaking down, sobbing, trying to see my way, through the tears, along a thankfully not too snowy highway. Asking for help, apologizing for my lack in spiritual efforts, grateful for so many blessings. Concerned and even fearful for loved ones going through things. Feeling the uncertainty and anxiety of not knowing the timeline, how things are going to unfold, and feeling that they will not be as straightforward as everyone hopes they will. Wanting only to be an instrument in His hands and wondering how the things I feel I need to be doing will be accomplished. Putting my life in those hands and committing to continue trying, no matter how unclear and misted over the path was at this point.


The feelings and the words keep coming, along with the sobs, and the conversation unfolds as He answers me, as unworthy as I feel. In my heart and mind I hear him reason with me, assure me, comfort me, while I pour out my worries, desires, recognitions and recommitments. Clarity forms through this pure, sadly rare, unfettered expression and communication. The reaffirmation that this is who I am, who I want to be, in spite of everything and even in my neglect of it, I am His. I am here for Him. I just need to get out of my own way. It was soul cleansing and releasing and the rest of the song for a hook that has been with me for years has begun brewing. “The road to where I want to be, runs right through the middle of me.” Crying, praying and composing; a song and myself. Moving back out of the shadows and into the light. Finding my feet and planting them firmly under me. Hold the line and weep for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. I have been here before.


Years ago, I was in the throes of a mental and emotional “miasma.” I recall, almost as if I was floating above myself and watching from the outside looking in, expressing, in my conversations, all the indicators of suicide that a person who knew anything about this would have picked up on. I was scaring myself, not to mention others who loved me. I remember driving home from a preparation session for a women’s event for which I had been asked to perform a song and just sobbing and praying. So much roiling in my mind, pulling on my heart and weighing down my soul. In my misery, I started asking for help, apologizing for the neglect of my spirit, expressing gratitude for so many blessings, concerned for loved ones, uncertain of how things would unfold and panicking that I was slipping back into the shadows, no matter how hard I was trying to claw my way out, knowing I did not want to feel the way I was feeling. Wanting to be an instrument, a light, and not this walking cancer of darkness I felt like I was most of the time, fraudulently (it felt like) purporting hope and faith while encompassed by despair and doubt.


This particular time, the prayer came out as a song, fully formed with lyrics and melody as if it was being given to me, or maybe I was remembering it from another time and space… “Softly, I ask of Thee, be near me! See Thou my weary soul, and hear me! Thou sayest, be my hands, but Father, how can I? This is angel work and I don’t know how to fly. Hold my trembling hands, carry me ‘til I can fly. Help me feel the love thou hast for every child of thine… For the errand of angels is mine.” As the song continued to unfold I knew that I was expressing how I felt, This was who I am! This was what I truly wanted for my life! I felt it so strongly, and it pulled me out of the pit I was falling into.


I was saved in a visceral prayer that came out as a song while I was broken, feeling useless and ineffective, driving down the highway, eyes flooding with tears, barely able to see my way along the road. That particular battle with the forces of darkness was won as I felt His touch, His strength, His call. “Hold the trembling hands, carry them 'til they can fly! Help them feel the love I have for every child of mine. For the errand of angels is thine.” That service, that partnership, ever present, and in that moment saving me, has been the watchcry of my life. I found my feet again and planted them firmly under me once more. Hold the line, weep for a night. Joy cometh in the morning.


In our efforts for, and struggles with, community making and saving, we are facing a societal “miasma” of conflicting agendas, resource deficiencies, disconnect, cultural clashes, concerns, miseries, confusions, frustrations, judgements and excuses, trauma and need. Raw, painful, unrelenting, unignorable need, from many, sometimes surprising, places. Even our own selves, when we are honest. When we pull back the curtain, and look past the circumstances, we are all just humans. Hurting, trying, crying, praying, looking for purpose, for answers. Uncertain, afraid, doing the best we can with what we have, and hoping for something better somewhere up the road. Maybe around the next corner. I think those of us who feel we need to be the “helpers” to those who need “helping” may be surprised to find that those “poor souls” we feel we should help have more resilience and inner strength than many of us have had to develop in our more gentle lifetimes. Either that, or we will find out how many parallels we have and experiences we share.


As rewarding as helping others can be, it can often feel thankless, hopeless, endless and we find ourselves crying and praying, just like those we feel compassion for in their seemingly hopeless, inexorable struggles. We cannot forget that we each are the answer for the other, that every one of us in a community is needed, necessary, important, and valuable. Reviewing our priorities, questioning our motives, repenting of our neglect, and renewing our commitment, time and time again, all of us, to just keep trying, individually and collectively. Discovering in our pleading and self-examination that it is who we are, what we want to do. It’s in our DNA. This. This feeling, this desire to try, to help, to overcome, to make a difference in any way we can, leads us from our pits of despair, out of the shadows and into the light. Things need to change. Things ARE changing, good things are happening, and more needs to happen to move us in better directions as humans. Individually and as communities, if we are really honest.


All of us, those in need and those with means to help, are struggling, suffering, trying, failing, and trying again. Crying, praying, and composing, each in our own way, the lyrics and melodies that weave into new ways of doing community, a new way of being. It’s those choices made in those moments, by each of us that will either keep things cycling in the same old patterns, or will change everything, for real and for good. The road to where we want to be runs right through the middle of each and every one of us. We have the power to envision the possibilities and change what is into what could be. The errand of angels belongs to all of us, for each other, for Him. And whether we see it, believe it, or not, we all have the “stuff” to carry it out! Together, we can find our feet and get them under us time and again!


Hold the line! And yes, weep for a night, if you need to. But never stop believing that joy can come in the morning. I know! I have been here before.



For your listening pleasure, here is a google link to the Errand of Angels, that prayer of a song composed on a dark highway, that saved me, on a number of platform options


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Shirley Penny
Shirley Penny
06 thg 2, 2022

I love you so much, my gifted and gift of a daughter ❤️

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