I want to try and update you and let you know what has been going on with me physically and spiritually. I have been on an amazing spiritual and physical expedition that I could not have anticipated and am glad I did not know what was coming. I could not have made it this far without the medical, spiritual, familial and communal support of so many. St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians (II, 12-9) have become incredibly important to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For years I have been praying these words every morning when I listened to the music of the St. Louis Jesuits sing the prayer of St. Ignatius. Now these words have more meaning than ever before. I want to share my faith with you that has brought me comfort and strength beyond measure, but before that let me tell you some of the medical details of what has actually happened.
A year ago this coming May I had my first brain surgery to remove a mass and begin treatment for the Metastatic Melanoma I was diagnosed with. Two weeks later I had my second surgery. Since then I have been under observation as well as getting treated for the melanoma found in my lungs. In October they began to treat me with Immunotherapy. This treatment is a relative of Chemotherapy. I was getting treated every 3 weeks and it seemed to be working quite well. The cancer in my lungs was decreasing, but the time spent going to and from doctors was taking me away from my pastoral duties. In January after another MRI, the doctors saw another growth in the brain they felt needed to come out. They were also quite confident in performing this surgery. This surgery happened pretty quickly and I don’t think I prepared myself, the staffs or any of you very well. This recovery from surgery is taking much longer and requiring more patience than I could have imagined. I don’t remember much at all from that week after surgery on February 8th, but my sisters do and are trying to help me remember. My memory, ability to read, comprehension ability, and mental alertness has all diminished. Some family and friends argue there is no difference. I hope they are pulling my leg? I notice a big difference, but I also notice now that I am recovering day by day.
On Wednesday, February 24, I went to the doctor, again expecting doctor consultation, MRI and another Gamma Knife surgery. I got the MRI and it was then decided to postpone the Gamma Knife and put me on a heavy dose of steroids because of all the swelling in my brain. We did that and a couple of weeks later I had the Gamma Knife and we seem to be headed in the right direction now. It is still going slow.
It has been a difficult journey the last 2 months, mentally and physically. I have not been able to communicate that to you. I have had to face these mental and physical limitations which led me to St. Paul’s words (above) over and over again. Even though my desire has been to keep you informed I have not been quite capable. I still wanted to do it and had to come face to face with my limited abilities. As I am writing this, I am aware it is the first time I have written something in at least 5 weeks or perhaps more, I don’t remember!
The sadness I feel is because I have not been there for you. I have been incapable of doing so and that is why my heart has been heavy, I have been incapable or incompetent. I wanted to be there for you but my body and mind would not let me. In time, according to what the doctors are telling me, I will be able once again to be present to you physically, mentally and spiritually. I do believe though, while we have been apart physically I have been with you spiritually and I know you have been with me in that way also. I know that because of your notes (I was just able to read them a couple of days ago.) and the promise of prayers extended by so many of you towards me which humbles and enriches me. Thank you for your generosity.
Now I would like to share with you some of the mental, physical and social limits I am experiencing as I continue to heal;
– I had my third brain surgery in a year on Monday, February 8th.
– I remember very little about the rest of that week. My sisters are helping me fill in the events of that week. I don’t remember any pain or discomfort, their experience was different than my memory.
– My brain is not completely healed due to the surgery. A week ago the doctor said it is about 70% healed.
– Names, dates, people, events, details of my health and other things are very vague to me.
– The doctors have communicated well with me but I remember very little. My sisters remember everything. They are better to me than I deserve.
– I am unable to say Mass, this is most humbling. When I go to Mass and watch Fr. Dan say it, I am amazed. I wonder how he is able to put all that together. Something I have done for over 35 years I presently can’t do and now am in awe of. I am probably way overdue on being in awe of what we do and what happens when we gather in Christ?
– Discussions about the Church, politics, the future and abstract thoughts are beyond my ability to comprehend. I can enter into the conversation but get very confused and lost rather quickly.
– I am not watching much TV at all. The visual and audio stimulation is too much for me right now. I can watch only part of a ball game with the sound off.
– I have only slept 2 – 4 hours each night for the last 2 -3 weeks.
– I have been unable to nap during the day due to the medication. Sleep deprivation has been part of the process. It is now getting better.
– In early March I went back to the doctors for follow-up, to get another MRI and then another Gamma Knife. The decision after looking at the results of the MRI was to postpone the Gamma Knife until the swelling came down.
– Because I have not been sleeping at night I have been doing projects in my room cleaning drawers, closets, bookshelves, photo albums and other things. My room has NEVER been so clean and organized. I have taken on very simple one at a time tasks that I have been able but limited to do. I know I am healing though, earlier this week I could not type.
– I feel rather alert and energized early in the morning. That starts to fade about 10 am and I have to rest. At that time I lay down and I can literally, physically feel my body enter a “rest” mode. I have never had that awareness before. A new experience.
– I have to “rest” in the mid-afternoon as well. My body and mind can simply do no more.
– Social ineptness: I have been an extrovert all my life and I have been energized by social interaction, engaging people, getting to know people, partying, etc. Presently I choose to be with just 1, 2 or 3 people at a time or I get overwhelmed. This is very different from the way I have lived all my life. I am not crazy about it but I am hoping, that once again, I will be comfortable in the chaotic world I was comfortable in.
– I am presently living in the unknown, I have not been here before. It is uncomfortable but I find I am learning again. I am re-learning things I have known as well as learning new things I have not. This is difficult to explain, but something new is going on. It is rather exciting.
I hope this is gives you a sense of what has been happening for me. My intent is to communicate with you and give you some information about me and what has been going on. I view the above as the data. What I really want to share with you is what has been going on with me spiritually. Wow and thank you God! I promise I will do more of that but I wanted to get this out to you so you are better informed.
One last thing! At a doctor’s appointment about a week and a half ago I asked the doctor, “What about my job, what about my profession?” He looked at me and said, “Your job right now is to heal, that is your job.” That hit me hard. The truth is I can’t do my pastoral job right now. It is very difficult to admit that, but it is true. In light of that truth I will be on a medical leave for the next 2 months. That is what the doctors are recommending. They believe I will heal but it will take time.
With this information, Fr. Dan and I visited with Bishop Kane and shared it with him. He has been and continues to be very supportive. He is now looking to help us by finding an additional priest to help our 2 parishes for the next 2 months. We need help for your sake, Fr. Dan’s sake and both parish staffs’ sake. But remember this, we all share the responsibility of bringing Christ to the world. That is the responsibility and honor of all of us who are gifted with belief in Jesus. We can get through this and we will, with Gods help!
Finally, about a week and a half ago when I began to read again, I came upon this card from one of you. It was shortly after the conversation I had with the doctor about my job.
“There’s a time for helping and giving, and there’s a time for slowing down and pulling back…This is your time to take good care of yourself and to remind yourself how special you are.”
Reluctantly, it is what I have to do. I ask your patience and your continued prayers!