Saturday, October 27, 2018


“Mass shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue.”: NBC news, 27 October 20-18

God’s Chosen People
– the Jews –
have been hunted down through the centuries
and murdered in their innocence.
Is it the jealousy and envy
of those of us on the outside
who want their divine blessing?

Jesus Christ
– God’s own Self –
was hunted down and
murdered in his innocence.

Perhaps those of us called by His name
would kill less
and be martyred more
if we were really true
to His claim on our lives!

27Oct2018 - mshr

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ringing the Bell

In many cancer centers the custom of ringing the bell marks the end of active treatment for cancer.  Today MarySue had her thirty-fourth and final radiation treatment for lung cancer. Immediately after that treatment, the Zangmeister Cancer Center staff invited her to "ring the bell" to celebrate.  

We realize that the cancer fighting effects of chemotherapy and radiation will continue for several weeks after active treatment.  Thus, we may not know for some time what the results of treatment have been, but she is already experiencing less coughing and easier breathing.  We look forward to the results of a CT scan scheduled for the last week of November.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Memory Stones

Reviewing the river of my life.
It’s a long stream, sometimes flowing placidly
and sometimes roaring rapidly
through varied landscapes and all kinds of weather!
For three-quarters of a century it has surged on gaining strength and character.
The river runs slower now and its bed is more varied,
but it continues to move forward.
I hold in my self a host of memory stones from the past eight weeks
– each colored by cancer –
to throw or drop or skip across that river
enriching its stream bed with new colors:
        -dark gray of fear, personal and borrowed from others
        -pitch black of panic when left alone
        -warm yellow of competent and compassionate care
        -soft white of encouraging words and promises of prayer
        -brown of exhaustion and abject fatigue
        -green of nausea and vomiting
        -burgundy of togetherness and deepening love
        -purple of pain, coughing, and anxiety
        -more white stones as words of encouragement continued to pour in
        -red stones of hope as the cough decreased
        -blue of the constant anorexia and revulsion of food
        -silver and gold of the constant, compassionate care of my angel caregiver husband.
Memory stones from the sharpest bend in the stream of my life
have beautified the river of my existence!
How can that be?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Life’s Great Leveler

Have you ever allowed yourself to feel self-important, powerful, and irreplaceable?  Spend a few sessions underneath a cancer radiation machine, lying inert and helpless.  You may experience an attitude adjustment.

Have you ever experienced a time of feeling worthless, helpless, and good-for-nothing?  Take some time on a chemotherapy unit receiving the competent and compassionate care of human and mechanical caregivers.  You may come out with a more positive perspective.

Suffering is a universal human experience and life’s great leveler.  Whether the cause of suffering is the growth of cancer cells, a drunken driver, or a 6.5 earthquake, it thrusts us out of our comfortable routines and into a state of chaos.  Everything familiar is stripped away and we feel lost and frightened.

In a book entitled Good is the Flesh: Body, Soul and Christian Faith (Jean Denton, editor), Daniel Sulmasy, OFM, MD, PhD has written an informative article on what suffering does to us when we experience it.  His article is entitled “Suffering, Spirituality, and Health Care” and in it he reminds us “Suffering must be distinguished from pain. Not all suffering is caused by pain and not all pain causes suffering.” Pain, he writes, is the result of negatively stimulated nerves in our bodies.  “Suffering,” in contrast he says  “has less to do with the stimulation of pain fibers than with the experience of persons.  As John Paul II has remarked, ‘What we express by the word ”suffering” seems to be essential to the nature of human beings.’” (pg.83-84).

Sulmasy goes on to share “ simple insight into the spiritual meaning of suffering…. “All suffering may be understood in its root form, as the experience of finitude [limits].”  As human beings we are oriented to limitless good, beauty, health, freedom, and yet we live in a world constantly surrounded by evil, ugliness, illness, and limits. “Human beings are oriented toward the infinite but live in a world that is finite.  ”[pg.87].

In my recent experiences with chemo and radiation therapies for lung cancer, I find Sulmasy’s observations to be both accurate and comforting.  Suffering puts us all in the position of confronting the limits of our human lives. It is, indeed, life’s great leveler.  It puts us all on the same playing field coping with the limits surrounding our human lives.

When I realized that, I decided that if I were wise I could use this “leveling” time of my life to learn and grow emotionally, psychologically and spiritually even if my health is limited.  It’s too late for a total makeover of who I am but there are three areas I can work on: acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude.

I want to become more accepting of other people, whoever they are and whatever they do.  I want to be able to lay aside any judgment of differences and approach each person with openness and positive feelings.  My model will be an African-American woman, whose name I don’t even know, who I regularly see in the radiation therapy waiting room.  She can tell when she looks at me when I am having a bad day and she never fails to give me a huge, compassionate hug and words of encouragement.  What a blessing!

I want to increase my appreciation for the good that surrounds me.  This requires me to turn off the TV news sometimes so I can enjoy the morning sunshine, the fall-coloring leaves, the busy squirrels gathering nuts for their winter stash, the brilliant blue of the sky, the gentle rhythms of the rain, the splashes of color made by the chrysanthemums, and the smiles of (some) of the people I see walking by.

Finally, I want to develop a sense of gratitude.  In the midst of all my aches, pains, and complaints, I want to learn to thank God for life and for all that has made it a cherished gift to me.  I want to give thanks daily for memories, for accomplishments, for ancestors, for mistakes I’ve learned from, for family and friends, and so much more than I can list.  Thank you life, thank you love, and thank you, Lord.  And - this is hard to say - thank You for this, life’s great leveling experience!

MarySue H. Rosenberger

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Home Sweet Healthy Home

The Cancer Treatment Center begins to feel like a “home away from home” as I have visited it five days a week for the past five weeks.  Staff has become familiar; many who have helped me over the rough spots in my journey are like new friends.  But it is not home.

I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I can thank them for their care, bless them on their professional journeys, go home and stay in my own familiar surroundings.  You see, I’m longing for a life that consists of more than just disease treatment!  Days of visiting with family and friends, laughing together, enjoying the out-of-doors, and feeling well.  I guess I’m homesick, not for a place so much as for a feeling of wellness and freedom!

The month before my treatments began, home was a hospitality center.  We enjoyed visits from two dozen or more family members and dear friends.  What a joy!

Home has also been a place of comfort and safety.  Even when Bruce had to be whisked off to the hospital unexpectedly twice, leaving me alone at home, employed companions helped me feel safe and comfortable.

Home provides me with the privacy I need to feel rotten, let my body make the messes it must make, shed all the tears I need to shed, and pray myself back into harmony again.  And all this privacy is filled with hundreds of greeting cards and silent words of encouragement from more friends than I knew I had!

At home I know where to find my shoes, how to turn on (and off) the TV, and which pile of papers on my desk is hiding the one I need.  Home is familiar.  I know where things are and I am surrounded by pictures and items that remind me of happy, healthy times past.

Yes, friends, I am homesick -- for a place and for a state of well-being.  I know where the place is.  Will the state of well-being be there when I get there again?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Social Security

Most of you are old enough to be well acquainted with the phrase “Social Security.”  You know it is a program of the federal government to help senior citizens save some of their employment earnings to help provide retirement income.

In our household just now, however, that phrase bears a different meaning.  It refers to a small green carry bag of emergency supplies that go with me wherever I go away from home. It is my “Social Security bag”!

You see, I am halfway through a six-week course of concurrent chemo- and radiation-therapy for cancer cells in my lung!  During the past three weeks I have discovered that the treatments (and the anxiety that goes with them!) can make my body do strange things, sometimes in very embarrassing places!  Coughing spells, nausea, vomiting,and diarrhea (sometimes explosive!) can occur suddenly and without warning at home or in public places.  So I need some help close at hand in order to feel “socially secure.”

Therefore, tucked discreetly away in my little green “social security bag” is FIRST, a generous supply of  emesis bags.  They are handy, dandy small blue expandable plastic bags attached to a firm plastic ring around the top.  These modern-day wonders can catch the “wrong way stomach contents” unobtrusively as they exit the mouth and be quickly sealed off and disposed of. 

SECOND, my “social security bag” contains a generous supply of incontinence pads.  These are essential as there are lower GI tract explosions to contain and floods to control.

THIRD,There is a bottle of some type of nutritional support fluid down in that bag which is replaced each time it is used.  I must guard against weight loss in order to keep the treatments on course.

FOURTH, if my serious current level of “chemo brain” ever improves, I will tuck a favorite book or two down into that bag also.  Sometimes the hours of chemotherapy treatments move slowly and having something interesting to focus the mind on helps time pass more quickly.  However, presently my ability to focus my eyes and my thoughts is so impaired that my “husband-angel” gave me a “chemo gift” of an MP3 player loaded with my favorite peaceful spiritual music!  It spares me the need to think, and so, of course, it, too, is tucked away down in my “social security bag.”

So for the next few weeks in our household, the phrase “social security” will not refer to retirement income. Instead, it will refer to more urgent needs and the ways to manage them that are contained in a little green bag that helps me feel more “socially secure”!