Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.

He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.

Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."

I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.

I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why do We Suffer?

It's Sunday.
On Sundays before I generally reserved my posts for news on the news, thoughts on the news, and experiences with the health care system and the need for legislation.
I thought of my Sunday Post a little like the Sunday Paper.
Except in "The Blogosphere" the highest readership times are on Monday. I'd save a good one for Monday too. Mondays are the online Sundays.
That was when I had the capacity to organize my thoughts. That was before the "chemo brain" I've been so desperate to avoid took over.
Now I just write, but today I've realized, I've never really dealt with religion, spirituality and faith head on.
I've courted the ideas. I've mentioned my spirituality. I've definitely put my beliefs in the forefront, but I've never put what I think is true in black and white.
I didn't want to sound like a preacher or Holier-than-thou.
Except, I am religious, and Sunday is the Holy Day.
For me, it would be impossible to face the depth of human suffering and constant threat of mortality in my life stoically without a spiritual foundation.
I would have cracked a long time ago. I would have lost my mind. All you would be reading here would be incoherent meanderings.
Thank Goodness I have faith.
Through every treatment, from tumor to diagnosis to today, I've held closely to my faith.
I believe their is a divine being that directs a moral code which we all must follow to join in an afterlife better than the life provided here.
I also believe that sacrifice and suffering are part of the redemption that will ultimately lead me to a better place, life everlasting without the restrictions of this body with my constant pain.
When I was first diagnosed, I thought I was being punished.
I know I'm not perfect, but I try to be good.
I was raised Catholic and have remained loyal to these tenants throughout my life.
I was confirmed into the church (made official) in high school after my parents had stopped forcing the issue.
I have prayed a meditated on the rosary to understands the misfortunes of life. The Rosary is a dedication to Jesus' Virgin Mother Mary who conceived him through divine relations with God.
Dedication to the rosary comes with promises of certain graces, such as the promise that you will never die without first having the Sacrament of the Sick or being allowed to confess.
These rituals are important to my faith since it ensures that my soul will be free of sin when I present for judgement.
In all my periods of illness, I have received these gifts. Mary has never once failed on her end.
I have though, like many people, I've practiced religion "buffet style" for years.
I pick a little of what I like from here and there, a little of what is convenient, and try to get away with the rest.
I do the best I can.
What I try to do is live life under the Golden Rule tenant to "love everybody as yourself," or if this doesn't work, since there are many times I love people more than myself, treat others like the one I love the most.
Of course, I've just said all the things I have done to remain devout to my religion. I didn't mention all those "failures in judgment" i.e. the anger and indulgences. I certainly have much to be forgiven for.
Secretly, and this is a confession, I've always wished I had the stamina to be a saint.
I don't know why I feel so silly about this.
Probably because I've done so many naughty things.
But it turns out it is far easier in life to be bad than good.
Despite not quite reaching sainthood (at least not yet) my faith though has provided comfort where I have found none other on earth.
When I am alone in bed and suffering, I have a foundation that says this is happening for a reason.
What's the reason?
With all the catastrophes on earth it's easy to think that it's one big punishment.
I know I did during my "Why Me?" stage.
I thought about what I could have done to deserve such awful treatment, but always in the back of my head there was what I had learned as a child, the idea that only those who can handle the trials receive them.
I began to believe that I had been diagnosed due to a trust.
I thought about the Book of Job, the Chapter of the Bible that deals with a religious man who is wagered between God and the Devil.
God says to the Devil that of all the men on earth, Job can be tried and not sin. He allows Satan to have free reign on him, killing his entire family and taking away his livelihood, but leaving his body untouched.
The Book of Job follows his suffering and how he copes.
It's refreshing to see that he questions God and mourns like all of us, what he does not do is curse him or take his suffering out on others. In doing this, he proves his love.
Suffering is about love here, at least that is what my experiences have taught me.
It is about self sacrifice so others may not have to endure what you have faced. It is about alleviating the suffering of others through "bearing the cross" yourself.
In Christianity it is said God gave up his only son, Jesus, to show that he loved the world and did not want them to suffer punishment.
With the death of Jesus, the gates of heaven were finally opened where they had previously been closed by the original sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus' death opened the doors so the good could pass through and share in the joy of God for eternity.
I keep hoping for eternity.
Pope John Paul, in his explanation of Human Suffering, says "Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering, which always remains a mystery: we are conscious of the insufficiency and inadequacy of our explanations. Christ causes us to enter into the mystery and to discover the “why” of suffering, as far as we are capable of grasping the sublimity of divine love (Salvifici Doloris §13).
In the years since my diagnosis, I have been blessed to see the depth of love that can come from people in all walks of life when confronted with tragedy.
It's refreshing to see that from suffering can come good if we only now what to look at and appreciate. I have never before felt closer to a divine love than when I have been ill and comforted.
The love then is pure and unassuming. All vanity has disappeared. Selfishness is removed. Distractions fall away. All that is left is what is being felt within ourselves.
This feeling is what has allowed me to feel blessed when my body fails me, and all I can do is lay silently with my thoughts.
It is this that has kept me going, the knowledge that unconditional love exists and the hope that others can experience it like I have.


Chris said...

Very beautiful post, thanks!


linda keenan said...

i agree with chris. very thoughtful. though it pains me to think that you ever thought that you deserved punishment.

Anonymous said...

This should be published somewhere - it is absolutely poetic. I'm so proud to know you.

Laura Z.