We Can Do This

 

When I woke up on Shabbat, I was hesitant to open my eyes fully, dreading the malaise that had been dogging me for days. But I’d already slept in longer than I wanted, and so I pulled myself out of bed and stood up. And I felt, well—almost normal.

After two interminable weeks of feeling so poorly (yes, malaise is the right word but yucky describes it more fully for me), I was so relieved to feel a sense of my former self. It didn’t last long, and throughout the rest of the day, fatigue showed up now and then. Yet I could have breakfast, even a small cup of coffee (!), do my Torah study and reading, have a decent lunch—well it was a very special Sabbath, to say the least.

As I did my meditation that morning, the thought came to me: I can do this. I couldn’t imagine enduring the whole chemotherapy regimen. But I realized that I had probably survived the worst, and there was more “worse” to come. Yet among those days would be good days: days where some of my energy returned, some days when I laughed and cracked jokes, days where I took a walk and breathed in the sunshine, other days when I could truly appreciate G-d’s presence. My friends had tried to reassure me, but I had to know for myself.

Because that was the other realization I had.

When I was miserable (and many of you know just how miserable I was early on), I peevishly wondered why G-d wasn’t helping me out? Why wasn’t I feeling better? Why was I suffering so? (I was pretty self-centered, immature, and foolish.) I knew G-d was there, but it was hard to sense Him. And the more alienated I felt, the angrier I became and the more distant I became—from Him and those I love.

But on Shabbat, I realized that G-d’s distance was likely of my own doing. Paradoxically my demand for G-d’s presence was keeping Him away; I had built an impermeable barrier, all on my own. He was only a prayer away, but I wouldn’t let him through.

And now, finally, I know He’s here.

Now I’m beginning to shed my hair, but I’m as ready as I possibly can be. I already have a couple of scarves and plan to go on a shopping spree any day now. After I have my head shaved.

*     *     *     *     *

When life feels upended, it’s so much harder to follow the news. It is like watching a nightmare that simply won’t stop. It makes me wonder, where is G-d in all this?

There are so many ways of looking at this question. For me, G-d is watching all of it. I believe he is anguished by the state of violence, deceit, and destruction that tears our cities apart. These are evil, depraved actions, the kinds of behavior that human beings are wont to follow in our most decadent times. I suppose it’s possible to say that G-d doesn’t perform miracles anymore, and He can only stand by and watch us destroy each other and our cities and homes. And I know for certain that I cannot know the mind of G-d and how He views what is taking place.

But somehow, I believe that G-d is present and has acted. If many people have died, He may have saved the lives of others. If people are emotionally devastated by events in their lives, He will comfort and buoy them up—if they will allow Him. We have no way of knowing how many people have survived for reasons we wouldn’t understand; how many businesses will find a way to rebuild in spite of their owners losing everything; the number of children who eventually will thrive in spite of the soul-destroying efforts of governments and teachers’ unions. The hearts and minds that are quietly being transformed as they realize the destructive objectives of their former allies.

I trust that rather than G-d being remote, He is studying, acting and comforting all of those who are impacted. And for those who follow G-d, he will be looking for us to do our part, buoying up our neighbors, supporting our churches, encouraging our friends and families.

He is counting on us.

We can do this.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Thank you, Sir Percival, for both comments! I know I can always rely on you!

    • #3
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    I was worried when I didn’t see a post by you earlier today. You are in my prayers as you negotiate this roller coaster ordeal.

    When I’m going through my physical trials, I keep reminding myself to ask, “What does God intend me to learn from this experience?” That helps to take my mind from my self to where I should be looking.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I was worried when I didn’t see a post by you earlier today. You are in my prayers as you negotiate this roller coaster ordeal.

    When I’m going through my physical trials, I keep reminding myself to ask, “What does God intend me to learn from this experience?” That helps to take my mind from my self to where I should be looking.

    Thanks, Jim. And thanks for your wise suggestion–I have much to learn! I don’t plan on writing on a schedule, just when I have something to share. 

    • #5
  6. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    You do such a splendid job of expressing this experience. Thank you.

    • #6
  7. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

     

    Get Well Soon

    Ronin reads Susan’s update

    I spoke to God about you, I told him I was concerned.  Not that I’m the best character reference, but I think he got the message.

     

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    You do such a splendid job of expressing this experience. Thank you.

    Thanks, Doug. That means a lot.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rōnin (View Comment):
    I spoke to God about you, I told him I was concerned.  Not that I’m the best character reference, but I think he got the message.

    Hey, @ronin, I’ll take all the help I can get! And I suspect he did “hear” you.

    • #9
  10. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):
    I spoke to God about you, I told him I was concerned. Not that I’m the best character reference, but I think he got the message.

    Hey, @ ronin, I’ll take all the help I can get! And I suspect he did “hear” you.

    Something for your funky disco enjoyment while you relax:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxE83hLYN8k

    • #10
  11. navyjag Lincoln
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):
    I spoke to God about you, I told him I was concerned. Not that I’m the best character reference, but I think he got the message.

    Hey, @ ronin, I’ll take all the help I can get! And I suspect he did “hear” you.

    Wife’s first two chemos were tough. But then she got used to it. And got her hair back within 8 weeks of finishing them 11 years ago. Hang in there. You will get through it. 

    • #11
  12. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Well, you must be getting through it OK, if you can post here so well!  Sending you hugs and good wishes.

    • #12
  13. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    You can do this.  I never doubted it.

    • #13
  14. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    The contemplation of G-d is like drawing from an infinite well with innumerable vessels of great variety and volume. That which cannot be truly known, but which is essential to be known, has a drawing power like no other. You can sequence DNA, but not G-d.

    • #14
  15. Sam Thatcher
    Sam
    @Sam

    Getting your head shaved just popped out from your post. I know that wasn’t really the message but I can tell from your photo that you will be beautiful without hair as you are now

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Sam (View Comment):

    Getting your head shaved just popped out from your post. I know that wasn’t really the message but I can tell from your photo that you will be beautiful without hair as you are now

    Oh my gosh, Sam, that is so incredibly sweet! Thank you! I am so touched.

    • #16
  17. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Think about it this way, if your hair falls out, then the chemotherapy is effective and destroying cells with “growth” turned on.  Cancerous tumors are simply cells that have lost their particular function and that have decided to grow and vascularize.  Hair follicles share this ability (except mine.)  The chemo has turned them off.  But unlike “cancer” cells, hair follicles simply stop producing keratin.  Cancer cells have no real function (other than to divide); if they can’t grow, they simply expire, or that is the hope.  The idea is to keep flooding them with this anti-growth stuff until they give up.  The treatment is general as cancer cells can break off and travel.  Doc’s don’t want them taking up residence anywhere.

    Keep the faith.  Other than particularly malevolent breast cancers, docs are pretty successful at ridding women of this nightmare.  We are all on your team!  My wife had a lumpectomy about 2 years ago and now is fine.  A friend’s wife was diagnosed with early stage 4 breast cancer and after a decade, is doing well with no recurrance.  You will get past this.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Think about it this way, if your hair falls out, then the chemotherapy is effective and destroying cells with “growth” turned on.  Cancerous tumors are simply cells that have lost their particular function and that have decided to grow and vascularize.

    Thanks, Doug. That’s a great way of explaining it. I’m counting on my hair growing back a gorgeous silver and my usual curls! Good to know that those close to you have come through so well.

    • #18
  19. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Think about it this way, if your hair falls out, then the chemotherapy is effective and destroying cells with “growth” turned on. Cancerous tumors are simply cells that have lost their particular function and that have decided to grow and vascularize.

    Thanks, Doug. That’s a great way of explaining it. I’m counting on my hair growing back a gorgeous silver and my usual curls! Good to know that those close to you have come through so well.

    Susan, for me losing my hair was the most traumatic part. Some women look gorgeous bald. Not me! My head itched continually and having a wig on was even worse. And you lose your eyebrows too! I’ve never worn makeup and couldn’t draw on eyebrows to save my life. I knew the chemo would be over some day but I absolutely could not wait until my hair grew back. I was hoping for something thick and wavy but no such luck. I’m 15 months away from the end of chemo and I’ve pretty much got back exactly what a lost – same mousy brown and gray streaks in the same place. Oh well. So don’t worry too much about the hair. A year from now the misery should just be a memory.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):
    I’m 15 months away from the end of chemo and I’ve pretty much got back exactly what a lost – same mousy brown and gray streaks in the same place. Oh well. So don’t worry too much about the hair. A year from now the misery should just be a memory.

    I think seeing myself bald at first will be a shock. But I do wear make-up and already have light brows, so I’ve been practicing! I think mine will likely grow back the same; I just hope I’m comfortable wearing the scarves they make; I won’t wear wigs. Maybe I’ll get something that will make me look like a gypsy! Thanks for checking in with me.

    • #20
  21. navyjag Lincoln
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):
    I’m 15 months away from the end of chemo and I’ve pretty much got back exactly what a lost – same mousy brown and gray streaks in the same place. Oh well. So don’t worry too much about the hair. A year from now the misery should just be a memory.

    I think seeing myself bald at first will be a shock. But I do wear make-up and already have light brows, so I’ve been practicing! I think mine will likely grow back the same; I just hope I’m comfortable wearing the scarves they make; I won’t wear wigs. Maybe I’ll get something that will make me look like a gypsy! Thanks for checking in with me.

    My wife didn’t want to do wigs but wanted to go back to work. And they helped. She got used to them. And still has them 11 years later. In case our daughter, who about to turn 46, goes through this and needs them. She never throws anything away. One reason I cannot park our car in the garage. 

    • #21
  22. Sam Thatcher
    Sam
    @Sam

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Sam (View Comment):

    Getting your head shaved just popped out from your post. I know that wasn’t really the message but I can tell from your photo that you will be beautiful without hair as you are now

    Oh my gosh, Sam, that is so incredibly sweet! Thank you! I am so touched.

    Susan, keep us up with how you are doing. Cancer sucks. No ifs, ands, or buts. Keep in touch. You give me strength!

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It’s time to shave my head. I have a text in to my hairdresser, a dear woman, devout Christian and a friend. We have a bond, especially through our many discussions of faith. I’m hoping she has an opening shortly; I dislike leaving trails of hair behind me!

    • #23
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    It’s time to shave my head. I have a text in to my hairdresser, a dear woman, devout Christian and a friend. We have a bond, especially through our many discussions of faith. I’m hoping she has an opening shortly; I dislike leaving trails of hair behind me!

    Still praying, Susan.

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    It’s time to shave my head. I have a text in to my hairdresser, a dear woman, devout Christian and a friend. We have a bond, especially through our many discussions of faith. I’m hoping she has an opening shortly; I dislike leaving trails of hair behind me!

    Still praying, Susan.

    And still hugely grateful for your prayers, Percival.

    • #25
  26. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    It’s time to shave my head. I have a text in to my hairdresser, a dear woman, devout Christian and a friend. We have a bond, especially through our many discussions of faith. I’m hoping she has an opening shortly; I dislike leaving trails of hair behind me!

    When I realized I was leaving hair everywhere I texted my hairdresser ( one of the only four people I use text as a communication method!) and she was in California on vacation. I had to wait a week for her to get back. Very uncomfortable. If yours is like mine she won’t charge you for the shave.

    But you CAN do this.

    • #26