Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nat's Cancer Diagnosis

You just never know.

All these years I have worked closely with cancer patients as a Chaplain.  I have often felt as if Oncology was my calling.  But when it hits an immediate family member, it's a whole different story. 

One thing is for certain, you sure find out who your real friends are.  Friends that we have collected over our 27 years of marriage have come out of the wood work.  Thank God for the friends and family who have kept contact: my large family - six brothers and sisters; Nat's three brothers and sister; the myriad of cousins and nieces; my friends and colleagues from Memorial Hospice in Santa Rosa, CA; Nat's friends and colleagues; our new friends from The Grove in Hercules, California; and our friends and family on Face Book.  We don't know what we would have done without you, and your prayers have carried us through this whole process.

Speaking of your prayers...

I want to share an experience I had with my husband while he was still in the hospital after major surgery.  I felt the need to pray for him, and as I reached out my hands to pray for him, the words began to flow out of my heart.  But something extraordinary happened - I began to feel a tingling and what felt like chills or an electrical charge in my arms, which came from within my chest.  I have felt this before when I have prayed for people, but the difference this time was that after I lifted my hands from Nat, the feeling lingered in my arms.  I told Nat about it, and laid my hands back on him and kept praying.  As I was praying, it came to me that the prayers that everyone had been praying for Nat were coming through me.  I kinda brushed it off, thinking it was kinda silly, but the thought came to me again, and this time I told Nat.  When I told him, the power I felt surging through my spirit into his, got even stronger.  This all lasted about 10 minutes... this inexplicable, yet very real electrical-like current that was flowing into my husband as I prayed for his healing, comfort, and strength. 

It was incredible, and I know without a shadow of doubt that this was real.  No one can take that away from us.  And that same feeling came back to me when I began sharing the experience with some friends after church on Sunday.  They were moved deeply by what I told them and seemed to feel the magnitude of what had happened.

So even though this has been the fight of and for our lives, God's presence and power have sustained us beyond what we could ever imagine or understand... or fully know.

I will keep you posted as the story unfolds, but for now, Nat is recovering from a 11-1/2 hour major surgery that removed his entire colon.  He now has an ostomy and cannot urinate. The tumor was removed, which was about 5" x 2.5".  But it had grown through the wall of the colon and attached to major blood vessels and to the ureter (the tube that runs from the left kidney to the bladder).  They scraped those structures off, but left titanium markers inside so they could target the area with radiation.  We are not sure if or how much is left, and whether there is lymph node or other areas that are affected as well.  As soon as he is strong enough, they will treat him with chemo concurrently with the radiation for a number of weeks.  The pathology report from surgery is pending and we are meeting with Surgeon Dr. Samuel Ooommen to review the results on November 18th.  He and Oncologist Dr. Jason Sun will be coordinating the plan of treatment in consultation with a board of Oncologists.  The staff at John Muir Medical Center in Concord should be canonized.  What an awesome team.

We are trusting God fully as He guides us through this process, and provides the healing that we are all praying for. 

Peace and Love to You All,


Monday, July 29, 2013

It's been awhile, hasn't it?

Time seems to fly by for me lately.  I'm becoming increasingly aware of my age.  I'm beginning to feel like Rumpella Stiltskin.  All of the sudden I woke up from a thirty year nap, and am thinking Lordy, Lordy, I'm not forty.  And, it's not so nifty, cuz I'm over fifty!  But the upside is that sixty is the new forty, they say.  So I'm really thirty.  Hahaha!  NOT!

We often wish we could go back.  But I'm not so sure that would be a good thing, at least for me.  As many mistakes as I have made,  God has somehow managed to take my junk and turn it into treasure.... perhaps to help other people.  Remember Sanford and son?  One man's junk is another man's treasure.  Easy to say.

I hope you are well, but if you aren't, I am praying that God will bless you with His strength and comfort.  And I pray that with time, God will help you, and turn things around for you; that some good things will come your way. Know that God is only a conversation away.  It may seem crazy or silly to you, but it's not really.  You may find that Someone has been there all along, just waiting for you to pick up the phone and call.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How Can I Ever Thank You Enough?

Hello my dear friends,

I'm sitting in front of my computer while dinner is sizzling on the stove.  The one surviving gold fish is swimming gracefully in the tank across from me, searching diligently for food.  My dachshund Zoe is also scouring the floor like a little vacuum cleaner, hoping and praying for something edible that fell to the floor.  For dogs, that means anything.  Nat is in the other room playing games on his phone.  He returns tomorrow to work in the City, commuting in on the BART train.  It is Sunday evening and I'm feeling a bit unsettled.  I am off tomorrow, with some personal business to tend to.  But, Tuesday is the beginning of another work week for me, when I will load up my Jeep and my computer, and head to beautiful Sonoma County.  We are both exhausted with our commutes, but I feel very  blessed as one who gets to work with the staff of Memorial Hospice, as a Chaplain.  It's hard work, but it is also work that I can feel good about when it is all said and done.  It is something that I feel called to do... to help people with their spiritual concerns at the end of their lives.  At least for now.

I recently met a woman and her son in their home after receiving a referral from one of our RNs.  After I described myself as being like a pastor, she asked me if I have my own church. I looked around the room, and at her and her son, and said, "This is my church."  I continued, "People like you can't get to a church right now, so I have come to you to help you through this time."  She smiled and was happy that hospice offered this service.  She is struggling to come to terms with her life, what it all means, her faith in God, and the doubts and concerns that she is grappling with as she approaches the end of her life.  It must be very, very difficult and scary to know you are dying.  But in some ways it is a gift because some amazing things happen along the way, such as the healing of one's spirit, reconciliation to God and estranged family members, and priceless memories and conversations with loved ones that take on such a deeper meaning when you know that time is limited.  And it is a GIFT that I get to spend time with this amazing woman and hear her life story.  I learn so much from my patients.  They are truly a gift to me.  

So beyond my work, what am I thankful for?  Well, I am thankful for today.  For my husband, son, brothers and sisters, friends, and colleagues.  Every day is a gift.  Life is a gift.  Each breath we breathe is a gift from God.  Thank you for all of you - every last person - that I meet and exchange a smile with, or a few words, a lunch, a work-day, an afternoon, or a life-time.  I  love you all... REALLY, I do! Thank-you!

Chaplain Nancy

Sunday, October 21, 2012


No one likes change. Pure and simple. Some of the simplest changes can throw a normally calm, cool, and collected person into a maniac. We all like things to stay the same. Go ahead, throw something completely unexpected into your schedule, and watch what happens. Like a sudden change in a doctor's appointment. Or, turning forty. Or let’s say, coming home and finding that your kitchen light is no longer working. How many times do we flip the switch until we give up and accept that we need a new one? So let's get a bit more invasive. How about a change in jobs? New people, new expectations, new tasks, and responsibilities. Or how about a change in health which requires a complete change in lifestyle for you? A new diet, medication, limited activity, hospitalization, or a terminal illness. We don't even want to go there. I pray you would find strength and comfort wherever you are in the process of what we call life.

So what is your change at this time in your life? How will you respond? Will you panic? Yes, maybe at first. Will you keep trying to make it work? Probably. Will you turn it over to God? Not right away. With change comes loss and grief and then a feeling of disconnect and drifting endlessly, feeling as if things will never settle. That takes time, my friend. So be gentle on yourself, and be gentle on others. Just know God is with you, and that you are loved. Open your heart and mind up to whatever God has for you right now. Yes, turn it over. Cry on God's shoulder. Cling to God's promises for you. And, never ever forget that you are loved very deeply by so many people—family, friends, and co-workers. You are important, needed, and loved.

Always remember that somehow, some way, and somewhere, you will find your bearings again. You will be stronger, more focused, and more compassionate. And with change, there is always a new beginning; and with that comes something to look forward to. But it all takes time. So don't give up! Keep pressing! Keep hoping! Keep believing!

I am praying for you!
Chaplain Nancy

Monday, September 10, 2012

I haven't blogged in quite some time.  So much has happened.  My brother Ed was airlifted from Crescent City with heart failure in October of last year, at California Pacific Medical Center in SF for a month, and living with me for the past 10 months.  He came very close to death.  He is doing so much better, but they are still saying he needs a heart transplant.  The cardiologist said his heart wasn't getting better unless there was a miracle of God.  So, I'm asking God for that miracle.  And your miracle?  I'm asking God for that too.  Hang in there, my friends.  You may not understand why, but there is one thing for sure, God will never leave or forsake you.  God loves you.  God sees you.  And God is still at work, even in the tough times.

Chaplain Nancy

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dear God...

Praying has got to be one of the most difficult tasks to do.  What do you say to someone who has it all, knows it all, sees it all?  What is the point anyway?  And besides, God is too busy to hear our prayers.  Am I really that important to Him?

It took me years to get to the point where I was able to understand these questions more fully.  The reason we pray to a God who is greater than anything or anyone, is not to crawl up to the throne trembling, in order to ask for something.  It is because God loves us and wants to spend time with us.  God wants to have a relationship with us.  God's nature is such that He simply wants our attention, love, and friendship. 

We don't have to say a certain prayer, or be in a certain place, or say the prayer with a certain tone.  We just have to sit quietly before God, without any distractions, perhaps with a cup of hot coffee and open Bible in front of us.  We simply have to take the time to pray, even if we don't have much to say.  And maybe the time to listen to what God has to say to us. 

Let me challenge you today.  Take fifteen minutes alone with God this morning and talk to him, like you would anyone.  Tell him about your concerns and your frustrations.  Thank him for your gifts.  And, ask him to help others.  Sit quietly, letting your thoughts come and go, and perhaps writing down some things in the form of a letter, or as a prayer list.  Breathe deeply, listen to that still small voice, open your heart to God and let Him fill your thoughts and your deepest inner being completely.  Do that every day when you get up, before you do much of anything, and your days will go much more smoothly, you will feel more at peace, your capacity to love and be loved will grow and expand, and life will be more hopeful and joyous each and every day you honor this practice in your Spiritual life.

Then skip a day and tell me if you notice the difference...

Chaplain Nancy

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Joy in the Morning?

It is May 5, 2011 and I am in the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York visiting family.  We are in Elizabethtown, which is a blip on the map, with a population of about eight hundred people.  I am at a desk, wrapped in a comforter with a cup of coffee and my Bible within reach.  It is quiet here.  All I can hear is the steady rush of water as it cascades down the hills through the property.  Every now and again a car rushes by, but otherwise the silence is strangely healing.  I needed this respite.  The silence is once again pierced by the distant sounds of my husband snoring in the other room.  I am happy he is able to rest so well as he works so hard for his family... for me.

I sense the nearness of the Spirit as I pause and close my eyes to soak in the silence, thankful for every breath I have.  The birds begin their song in the distance, happy that there is a break in the rainy weather.  I pause to go out on the balcony to watch, and I see two birds playing in mid-air.  But it is brisk and drizzling.  They sing anyway.  I retreat back into the house for my coat, scarf and hat... and my camera.  The view is breathtaking.  As I come back to the desk to write, there is a verse that I hear in my head... "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."  (Psalm 30:5, NKJ)

As of the date of this entry, my sister is in the middle of chemotherapy for breast cancer. We are praying for her healing.  We are hoping for a miracle.  It feels as if it is raining outside.  How could our family be hit with this?  But even in the midst of uncertainty and fear, I sense the nearness of God's Spirit coming alongside of us, to walk with us through this difficult time.  We are not alone -- we have a close family -- but I believe we are all surrounded by the Spirit who carries and comforts us.  "Where were you Lord?  At the darkest times in my life, I saw only one set of footprints."  He replies, "It was then that I carried you."  (Adapted from the poem, Footprints)

Like the Psalmist says, "weeping my endure for the night."  We are weeping, much like the rain that has dumped so much water in these mountains.  Weeping indeed, as the rain, we endure through times of darkness when we cannot see our way.  But the Son rises in our hearts to bring joy even in the midst of our tears; moments of laughter and serenity that break into our storms.  It is then that we can know that He is carrying us.  We can trust that we are not alone.  But we must allow ourselves to weep at times... there is healing in tears.  Then we can know a peace and strength that transcends our times of uncertainty and fear. 

God is carrying us through.  You are not alone.  We are not alone.  Some how, some way, even in the rain, a song will emerge.  A song will pierce the storms.  A rushing stream will gush forth, even when we don't understand and are in the middle of a relentless trial.  God is there.  God is working.  God has not forgotten you.  He will see you through.

Remember these words that have comforted me in times of difficulty - "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18 - NRS).

Grace and Peace,