By Barb Arland-Fye
I stopped by my son Colin’s new apartment in Davenport to drop off a Catholic Messenger because his copy hadn’t arrived in the mail. But I had an ulterior motive, which was to explain to him that I have been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma.
Worried about how his autistic mind might process the information, I stumbled through a simplistic explanation of the illness. He interrupted me. “I saw what Patrick posted on Facebook.” Of course, I should have thought about the possibility of Colin reading his younger brother’s post on Facebook. I had to keep myself from smiling. Colin let me waffle through an unnecessary explanation!
“So what did you think about what Patrick posted?” I asked Colin. As usual, he responded with the two most important questions on his mind that Friday night: “Will you be at Mass tomorrow night? Who will pick me up for church?”
To be fair, those questions surfaced as a result of that bumbling explanation in which I said I might be too tired sometimes to have dinner with the family or to do the things we typically do together. Because I mentioned the possibility of some changes, he informed me that he has been dealing with changes at the center he attends for adults with developmental disabilities. I guess he was looking for a little sympathy from me! Or, perhaps that was his way of expressing empathy.
He’s picturing my situation in relation to that of his paternal grandfather, Bill, the only other person close to him who was diagnosed with cancer. But Bill had an aggressive form of liver cancer and died nine months after diagnosis. “Cancer,” Colin said, “means you are weak. Only God can tell you when you get to be normal.” My son also said, “I just need to keep praying and praying for you.” Amen!
Many unknowns still exist, including what my oncologist and I will decide for treatment. But I feel blessed to finally have a diagnosis and a surgeon’s confidence that my active, healthy lifestyle is a big asset. Embarking on this journey wouldn’t be doable, though, without knowing that God remains at my side. Proof of that is conveyed through the prayers, love and support of family members, friends, colleagues and people I’ve never met. My mother reminds me almost daily that “The guy upstairs is looking out for you.”
My own prayers have been focused on maintaining a positive attitude and continuing the activities I love, including serving as editor of The Catholic Messenger. The Gospel reading from Matthew at last Sunday’s Mass centered on Peter’s faltering faith when he noticed a strong wind as he was walking on water toward Jesus. Peter cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” Overcoming the fears in our lives was the central theme of my pastor’s homily. But he also reminded us that Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, leading him safely back into the boat. That’s an image I hope to imprint in my mind, along with this one, a favorite from the canticle for Saturday Morning Prayer, Week II: “As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, so he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions ….”
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)