Saturday, October 27, 2012

Up in the air

One doesn't often have the change to blog from 30,000 feet, so how can I pass this up?

We are headed home from a brief vacation.  Sadly, not unlike a vacation taken about fourteen months ago, a potentially ugly storm is following us from Florida to Richmond.  I have the sick and ugly feeling we're going to be spending a few days without power if Sandy the Frankenstorm does what a lot of fairly intelligent people say it could do.  A week of lacking electricity, in mid-semester, with one more week of chemo/radiation to go...I can think of few things less pleasant.

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of difficulty coming up with fodder for unpleasant thoughts these days. Now that this first stage of treatment is winding down, the inevitable "what next" issues are crowding back into my consciousness.  After this week, it will be at least a month before another procedure to go in and look around can be done.  On the good side, that basically means I should get through the semester o.k. at least where health interruptions are concerned.  On the negative side, if that endoscopic ultrasound recommends surgery it could well mean I'm spending Christmas in the hospital.

Actually, my problem is that there are a lot more "on the negative side" possibilities than just that.  Treatment has gone incredibly smoothly so far, that much is true.  This doesn't change the fact that surgery is still a fairly likely outcome when all of this is done.  While I'm never super keen on having people cut me open, surgery itself is not the worst thing that could happen. However, because of where this cancer is located, there is still some possibility that surgery, even what doctors would call a "successful" surgery, could lead to outcomes for me that would be nothing short of cataclysmic.  Outcomes that could, for one minimal example, bring an end to this blog, because they would bring an end to the fool's errand that motivates the existence of this blog.  (No, I'm not talking about death.  No one with any kind of medical degree has yet used that language to describe my situation.)  A radically life-changing, career-inhibiting or -ending thing is still a possible result.  Needless to say, this is not a thing I can think about that easily.  I don't know that this is the likely outcome, but it is a possible outcome.

Other things come to mind, even provided I have successful, non-career-cataclysmic surgery, or even provided surgery isn't necessary after all.  (Either way, a second course of chemo/radiation is likely this winter/spring, for what it's worth.)  Obviously we're going to take a major financial hit from this.  The student insurance plan I've been living on since starting seminary has actually performed pretty decently so far (a plan that I will necessarily lose when/if I graduate or otherwise leave from here, of course), and a long-forgotten supplementary policy is going to help as well, but one doesn't have such an experience without taking a pretty severe hit, at least not most of us.  But that isn't even the most frightening part.

Cancer has a bad habit of not staying away.  It may be beaten back once, but people who have cancer once are generally pretty good candidates to have cancer again, and the particular cancer I have is no exception to that rule.  One might say that cancer is the mutha of all pre-existing conditions, if one were inclined to use such expressions.  I'm still pretty young, all things considered, and provided such treatment as I'm having is successful, I could have an awful lot of lifetime left to be largely uninsurable, depending on the outcome of this election (yes, you just read a political statement on my blog.  Screw it, this election has gotten a lot more personal for me since I got diagnosed with cancer.  You have a problem with it, shut up and go away, because I sure as heck will delete comments and ban you for no reason other than that I don't like them).  That's an awful heavy burden to lay on a wife that doesn't deserve it.  That's a long time to be playing roulette with my health and hoping the wrong number doesn't come up.

In the meantime, this has been a semester designed to remind me of all the reasons this errand is foolish.  Old Testament is kicking my butt, but it apparently kicks everybody's butt, so that doesn't concern me so highly.  Preaching & Worship is going reasonably well so far.  Intro to Pastoral Care ... ah, yes, my principal tormentor.  Not because anything has been particularly difficult or harsh about the class to this point but because it is the one part of this venture above all others that calls into play my greatest, most glaring flaws as a human being.  Being reminded of this on a biweekly basis hasn't been any fun, and I really don't have any idea how magically to transform those flaws into virtues or to cover over those weaknesses with strengths or any such thing.

Also part of my life right now is one of the larger future requirements to be met around here; internships.  Union requires at minimum one parish and one non-parish internship.  The parish internship is in a church, obviously, and the non-parish internship can be in anything from hospital chaplaincy to a social service organization to a retreat center to some other kind of denominational group.  Not knowing my future health vulnerabilities makes a hospital setting kind of risky, so I've been looking at other corners of the internship world for a summer internship.  The parish internship, which I hope to do over the course of next academic year, is a little more cut-and-dried, but finding a church where I can do an internship without doing some things I have theological problems with could still be a challenge.

So yeah, a lot to trouble me of late.  Probably appropriate to be blogging at 30,000 feet, with so much up in the air.

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