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Where to start? 56 plus 31. The way the nuns taught me to add still works. I don’t have to take 50 +30 and then 6 + 1.  No. I can add and carry, were that necessary. What is necessary to recognize is 87 weeks after taking a new job that required implementation of nearly an entire title of Alaska Statute, I finally have time to write again.


I’ve gained a limit humility in those 87 weeks. The only one who needs my writing is me and the only reason I need to write is to glorify God. If I had to pick a reason for this position it likely stemmed from unexpected medical results after a very minor surgery.


This past October I had a cyst about the size of an olive pit removed from my throat. I had spent most of 2023 getting a few medical workups and was prepared that after receiving the expected benign results I would have the peace of mind that a life of healthy eating and regular exercise brought. But I didn’t get those results. I got something called ALK Positive histiocytosis. Don’t Google it. Even my oncologist surgeon had never heard of it before. The specimen had to be sent to the National Cancer Institute for diagnosis, and they only wrote, “an NGS study will be attempted at NIH and the results will be reported separately.”  With the additional note, “ALK positive histiocytosis in adults more often presents with localized disease.”


My surgeon recommended a PET scan and a referral to a treating oncologist. I preferred leaving his office and keeping my surgically incised neck and head in the sand.

The growth had been visible in photos for over ten years. Prior doctors had seen it and said nothing. So, I thought why not say and do nothing? That is, I thought this for a short period of time, until I remembered that was probably what my mom thought and did when she got dizzy and felt like sitting down. She had a failing heart valve, easily correctable with surgery, but she feared doctors and like me feared knowing. Since I would still give anything for a few more years with her, I decided I could not deny the same to Abbie and went down the path of finding out what was next.


It was not so easy a path. The hospital laboratory was behind and could not book my appointment for a few weeks. Then I had to travel for work for another. Then the oncologist had other appointments and then came my hope not to ruin Christmas if the results of the PET scan were awful. Between November 7 and December 28, I waited uncertain of what had grown and still might be growing inside of me. I waited, but decided not to wait alone.


One good thing about being Catholic. We have prayers for everything and we can make those prayers last a long time by repeating them in sequences of nine in what we call novenas (nine in Latin). The nine can be anything -- nine hours, days, weeks, or months – but I chose days particularly after I heard Jonathon Roumie of The Chosen speak of the nine-day surrender novena. Father Don Donlindo Ruotolo, who died in 1970, said the prayer was revealed to him from Jesus himself.


The surrender novena is simple to say – Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything – but nearly impossible to live until you are ready to live it. And I was ready. I was confronted with illness and potential death, from which there is no victor, and my only choice was to surrender.


I won’t say I did not pray the results were wrong or that the PET scan would come back clean. I did, and in so doing broke the requirements of the novena. From Jesus, Day Two.


Surrender to me does not mean to fret, to be upset, or to lose hope, nor does it mean offering to me a worried prayer asking me to follow you and change your worry into prayer. It is against this surrender, deeply against it to worry, to be nervous, and to desire to think about the consequences of anything. ..Surrender means to placidly close the eyes of the soul, to turn away from the thoughts of tribulation, and to put yourself in my care, so that only I act. Saying, "you take care of it.'"



But I mainly got it right. I prayed to surrender to the results no matter what they might be. And I prayed for gratitude. There were lessons to learn when living in a period of unknowing – for me, the eight or so weeks between initial diagnosis and PET scan results. Smiles mattered more. Kindness mattered. Work struggles were just that, minor upsets.  Getting meaningful Christmas gifts for Abbie felt love affirming. The snow was more beautiful. So were Richard’s assurances all would be well when he had no rational reason to believe it so. God mattered more.


On December 28th, 2023, Jesus let me know the results of surrendering. Richard and I sat with the oncologist who laughed saying, "I don't know what to do with you." The PET scan was clear. The in situ olive pit tumor was gone. Since it had been in my body for over 10 years the likelihood of future spread was extremely negligible. God gave me my health and a little more certitude I would be here to see Abbie grow into the woman God also intends for her to be. There is time to breathe now.


And with 87 weeks between my last time with my soul and my pen or keyboard, there is time to write.


So it is fitting my first weekly message (that is my intent, to opine weekly) is one that glorifies God by the act of surrender. It is no easy task giving up on control, but one most worthy of taking.


Wishing you a happy and healthy 2024 and perhaps your own path of surrender.


Sláinte

Joan

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