Tuesday, 20 October 2015

OK, I'll Do It

I'm damned near close to living on borrowed time.  We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of when my original tumour was discovered.  Statistics for mesothelioma indicate that if I should make it the full year, I won't be around a whole lot longer.  Statistics be damned!  Let's just live it out and see what happens.

Here's what happened about three months into the cancer journey, last spring.

Knowing I had an abdominal tumour,  I went for a CT scan and a follow-up appointment with an oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. We learned that the mesothelioma had spread and set up new encampment in my lungs and lymph nodes.  It was a major setback for us.

For three months I had shown fortitude living with my life-threatening cancer in the abdomen, did I have it for a deadly disease now spreading in my lungs (that explained the cough) and in my lymph nodes?  It was a dismal diagnosis.

And it was one week away from Holy Week.  Lent was winding down, a Lent lived more vividly this year than ever before.  I had spent the last six weeks prayerfully joining my life and death to Christ's.  I was focused, very deliberately asking for Jesus to accompany me and I would do my best to emulate him in the pain, suffering, loneliness, and betrayal he endured, in the faith, confidence and almost super-human strength with which he lived.

In an absolute daze, I stood up to shake the hand of my oncologist and her student nurse, who were clearly anxious to be done with me.  Claire hugged me, tears in her eyes.  Everything was in slow-motion, crystal clear and yet weirdly surreal.

And I heard the words come out of my mouth in a conversation that I didn't realize I'd been silently having with God until that very moment.

"OK. I'll do it."  Where'd that come from?  It didn't matter, it was true;  I would do it.  I will live with this nasty development with the same faith and hope that I had been showing so far.  (Later I asked Claire if she heard me speak; I know I distinctly heard me say it.  She hadn't.  It was truly a holy and private moment between me and God.  It was the moment I regained my direction after a slight misstep.)

OK, I'll do it, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday, when he asked if God might consider lifting the death sentence he was about to receive, knowing He wouldn't.  Thy will be done,  I had been repeating endlessly for the last three months.  But things just got different.  Things were surreal at the very same time as being very real indeed.

OK. I'll do it, as chemo was proposed as a way to control, not cure, they disease.  OK. I'll do it, as my morning routine, or a walk around the block with the dog, becomes impossible without being connected to an oxygen tank.  OK. I'll do it, as I admit that my wife and kids have extra responsibilities that used to be all mine.  OK. I'll do it, as I have to decline most guests and visitors because my health is so tenuous.

OK. I'll do it, but you're going to be there, too.  Right?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Thankful...and Moving On...

Is it wrong to not feel particularly thankful this year at Thanksgiving, or throughout the year?  Ah...there you go. Some of you slipping into your soft shoes for the conversational two-step that lies ahead. "Do I tell him he's wrong to be ungrateful in our land of such plenty?  Do I tell him it's ok just this once, just for him to get down in the dumps?  He didn't actually say he was ungrateful, there's some nuance here, maybe if I parse my answer, what does parse mean....?  What do I say?  What does he mean?"

Look, I'm not ungrateful. Perhaps I have thankfulness fatigue on Thanksgiving weekend much the same way I weary of the frozen smiles on New Years Eve.  So what are we going on about here?

All That I Have
I mean that I know I come from a wealthy land and a wealthy family, comparatively speaking. I say thanks and ask for God's protection every day during morning prayers for all this and more.  Once upon a time, I traveled like a boss and took clients to the finest restaurants.  I have savoured the sweet smoky earthiness of the perfect scotch in one hand, the perfect cigar in the other, the perfect band on stage and a beautiful sunset on the patio, all at the same time.  I'd have a lot of autographs if I collected famous people's signatures; I don't.  My car works; both of my cars do and so did I before I got sick.  I own property (I told you I was wealthy!) My meds are covered. 

I met and married the most beautiful woman who gave birth to a most beautiful baby, three of them actually. One grew up to be the other most beautiful woman I know. 

I mean that for a brief period of time after I was ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, I was able to do the work of charity, liturgy and a touch of evangelizing here and there, and there, and dear God, even there....  I mean that God had my back. I mean that God feels so strongly of my work in palliative care, it is apparently His will I join the ranks of the dying while I am still busy living. I mean that I am blessed to have the strength of my faith tempted by despair, anger, discomfort and pain, fatigue and bewilderment. His will, not mine...   

God, I laugh when they tell me I'm courageous.

All That I Want...
I mean that it is a blessing that while I never took everything I had for granted, I am not burdened with a sense of impending loss, of sorrow, of doom.  I was never all that attached to the things of this earth, though I do appreciate a good car, a great steak, a decent glass of wine and a good laugh every now and then. 

...Is What God Wants For Me
I mean I give thanks to God for the things I have, and say prayers for the people I love.  Claire and I are blessed with adult children who share our faith, expressed in quiet thanks for the people in our lives, and absolute disregard (contempt?) for that which can be bought or sold.

In December 2014 Jeremy Tyrrell was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a disease considered to be incurable. He has already quietly outlived the initial prognosis of several months and attributes it to the love of God, the prayers of friends and family, and the wonder of traditional modern medicine.

Here is the Tyrrell family, anti-clockwise from the bottom; Claire, Jeremy, Andrew with his wife Katie, Emily, Graeme