ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Sometimes even chemotherapy is funny and yields its share of jokes. Yesterday I was so tired from the over-exertion of the weekend, I knew that when the Benedryl was given, I'd be out like a light. And I was. But apparently I was sleeping more deeply than usual. (Normally I take a 30-min to 1-hour nap) Yesterday, I slept for nearly three hours. I roused just slightly a few times to squint one eye open and see someone standing there. Where we sit in the recliners, the nurses have full view of us at all times. If they are doing records, etc., they are behind the glass windows of the office. And the nurses typically come every hour or so and check the bags, switch from one med to another, etc. But yesterday it wasn't the nurses. The nursing supervisor came at least twice. She only checks patients if the nurses report a problem. And one time, it was the Physician's Assistant whom I have never seen attending patients for routine chemo infusions. But I was too sleepy to do anything but open one eye, kind of nod my head and go back to sleep.

Next week, I'll ask my nurse. (Yesterday even after they disconnected me, I was too sleepy to talk much, and certainly too groggy to think.) I'm sure they thought I had lapsed into coma or was dead and sent the supervisors to check on me!! I was way beyond the snoring phase.
When I sleep, I really sleep!!!

Today, I'm just the normal tired of the day after chemo. I think I caught up on rest from the weekend. I came home on Sunday, laid down and did nothing for the rest of the night. Tomorrow is the day that I feel the worst, when the side effects kick in. But, Thank God, next week is the week of rest. So I should be able to recuperate just a bit. Then the next and final series of 4 weeks!!!

Pastor Phylis

Monday, February 26, 2007

Chemotherapy today


My ride will be here in half an hour, so this will be short and sweet...or at least short. This is session three of the third set. Next week will then be a rest week and after that another set of four weeks. The end is in sight. Chemo effects are accumulating. Taste is less, dry mouth requires brushing out all of the dead skin from the roof of my mouth each morning. Yuck! I'm using enough chapstick to raise company stock -- although my favorite brand is L'Occitane. It's much more moist.

The weekend was terrific. My type A personality kicked in though and I really overdid it! I did my usual Sunday routine, which pushes my strength these the extra work for Tommy Tenney's arrival. In order for Sunday School staff to enjoy the service, I recruited teachers who are not members here to cover for them. And because it was different, I supervised, set up rooms and curriculum and then helped clean up. There was a myriad of other tasks on Saturday as well. So about 7 PM last night, after we took the granddaughters home, I collapsed. I slept nearly 11 hours! I'll probably be energy-less the rest of the week. I hope to gather enough strength to make a in-service day at school on Friday.

But it was all worth it. The service was marvelous. His presentation was low-key. He used a very soft voice the entire time, but was emphasized by a powerful visual. The entire congregation was moved to tears, yet he did not use emotionality, at least not in the normal sense of the word. Just a simple story from the Bible, told quietly I'll explain more when I have time. The central theme is also the theme in his new book:
The Ultimate Comeback. I plan to read the book during chemo today. What better place for reading about a comeback!

At least, I'll read it if I can stay awake longer. I'll get more sleep today as well...I always sleep for about an hour after the intravenous Benedryl. Capsules of Benedryl don't have that effect on me, but the intravenous stuff in instant sleepy-bye.

Enough for now. Chemo calls!!

Pastor Phylis

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chemo and its effects!

Chemotherapy Update

I have four more infusions with two weeks of resting...that's six more weeks until chemo is over. Whew!! Then about 4 weeks of recuperation before the last of the surgeries to remove the port and temporary implant. Then...I should be well.

The chemo effects are building. Food is less tasty. I'm get fatigued more easily. But overall doing the infusions in small amounts is much better. (Other than my impatience to just "GET IT OVER" and get on with things).

This week I had lunch with friends, then shopping in some lovely boutiques. A regular "girls day out." We ended up shopping so long, we had dinner too!! I had a wonderful time. But the next day, I was so exhausted I could barely drag out of bed! It was fun, none-the-less!!

Today I'm going in to school for an in-service. I want to stay in touch with what's happening for next year. And I really am looking forward to getting back to teaching!!

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Much better than Chemo

Much Better Than Chemo
Valentine's Day Dinner

Bob & I had a lovely dinner tonight for Valentine's Day (1 day early) at our favorite local cafe. I had the most marvelous Seabass and Chocolate Mousse for dessert. Decadent!! And it was complements of our friends, Pat and Tony, proprietors. Thanks Pat and Tony! It was lovely.

Better than yesterday. Yesterday I had Taxol: infusion number 1 of series 3. two more to go in this series. Then the last series of three. Last week they did a metabolic screen (blood tests). I'm okay on all systems. Nothing damaged beyond repair. So the poison is working without damaging other vital organs. Red blood cell count remains low...but other than that, I'm doing well. Even my taste buds are working again. I proved that tonight. AND....I have some hair growth. It's about 1/4 of an inch long...but hair is hair. A few more weeks and I can say goodbye to the wig!!


pictures: Adam, our excellent waiter. Bob and I after a delicious dinner.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!!

Pastor Phylis

Saturday, February 10, 2007


This was sent me by a friend. I found it uplifting and decided to share it here. I did find verification that the story is true at truth or fiction dot com:

I hope it touches you as much as it touched me. MAY YOU FIND PEACE!


Father John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:
Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith.
That was the day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long. I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head but what's in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange... Very strange.
Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.
When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?"
I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically.
"Why not," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."
I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out, "Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!" He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.
I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line -- He will find you! At least I thought it was clever
Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.
Then a sad report came. I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe. "Tommy, I've thought about you so often; I hear you are sick," I blurted out.
"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it, Tom?" I asked.
"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.
"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"
"Well, it could be worse."
"Like what?"
"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life.."
I began to look through my mental file cabinet under "S" where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)
"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class." (He remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time.
(My clever line. He thought about that a lot!)
"But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God.. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven. But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit
"Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn't really care about God, about an after life, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.'"
"So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him. "Dad."
"Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.
"Dad, I would like to talk with you."
"Well, talk."
"I mean. It's really important."
The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"
"Dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that." Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him. "The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me."
"It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years.
"I was only sorry about one thing --- that I had waited so long. Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.
"Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, 'C'mon, jump through. C'mon, I'll give you three days, three weeks.'"
"Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the important thing is that He was there. He found me! You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."
"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He said: 'God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.' Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as effective as if you were to tell it."
"Oooh.. I was ready or you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class."
"Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call."
In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date.
However, he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.
Before he died, we talked one last time.
"I'm not going to make it to your class," he said.
"I know, Tom."
"Will you tell them for me? Will you ... tell the whole world for me?"
"I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best."

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple story about God's love, thank you for listening. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven --- I told them, Tommy, as best I could.
If this story means anything to you, please pass it on to a friend or two. It is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.
With thanks, Rev. John Powell, Professor, Loyola University, Chicago
Peace Be Unto You. 

Pastor Phylis

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Surviving Chemotherapy

Surviving Chemotherapy
The effect of chemotherapy on affect.

How do I feel on chemotherapy, you ask? Since Chemotherapy works on a basis of systematic poisoning of the system, it feels like my body is being attacked cell by cell. More on the poison aspect later.

I've noticed that while affect* is not flattened, the range of affect* is restricted. Now, in everyday English. If how I feel or how I express emotion is represented by a line on a graph with the high points and low points plotted (the line would have peaks and valleys, like a heart monitor), then on chemotherapy the difference between the peaks is smaller. The line would look more like a piece of rickrack than a roller coaster. The highs are not as high, the lows are not as low. Ergo, the line has restricted range. However, my moods swing much more frequently than normal. Thus the rickrack is probably a good metaphor. One minute I feel pretty good, the next pretty lousy. So since I'm neither "wonderful" nor "awful," I'm "doing good" most of the time. :)

As far as the sense of physical well-being goes, that too operates in a new range. I don't ever feel as energetic and healthy as I did prior to this episode, but then I don't expect to. And as humans we live in the comparative. As long as I feel healthier and more energetic than on the worst days I've experienced recently, I feel "pretty good." This is relative to "very bad" days. Again represented by a line on a graph, it would look like a piece of rickrack with a really low dip now and again. What's that? Irregular or torn rickrack? I suppose.

The surprising part of this for me is an apparent ennui** that overcomes me from time to time. I was concerned because that lack of will is uncharacteristic of me. I've become aware over time that it is directly related to low red blood cells. Which would mean it's due to simple weariness and lack of physical strength with its associated emotional low. So that the low affect is due to lack of strength rather than the classic depressive symptom of the emotional low resulting in lack of strength. So I cope by resting more and working at telling myself that it is part of the process of recovering strength, not a step backward into the abyss of depression. Most of the time it works.

The whole idea of voluntarily allowing my body to be systematically poisoned has it's effect on affect. Some days my spirit is cooperative, and I realize that this is the best course of action for me and my future. There are other moments in which I'm positive that I'm out of my mind to consent to such measures and might as well allow the apothecary to attach leeches to my limbs to draw out the cancer.

And occasionally I wonder, if I just skipped chemotherapy, would it be an act of faith? Would I be wiser to simply place myself in God's hands? But then again I remember the analogy of the man on the roof during a flood. A canoe came by and he was offered a ride. He refused. A motorboat came by and offered him a ride. He refused. Then a helicopter came, let down a rope ladder and offered him a ride. He refused. When he go to Heaven, he asked God, "Why didn't you come rescue me? I was believing you would!"

God says, "I sent a canoe, a motorboat and a helicopter. You refused all three. What did you expect me to do?"

Some Hillbilly pragmatism rises up within me and says, "I must do what I can, what is within my power." And so, I continue.

At times, God allows me to see and understand that this episode, too, is for my good. Now that's a bit hard to explain. I'm not saying that God has afflicted me thusly, although I suppose that's a possibility. I'm saying that since, for whatever reason, I'm battling cancer, God will use it as a growth tool for me. And I know that. I sense his presence nearer and dearer than ever. Maybe it's like Paul said, "Oh that I may know him, not just in the power of the resurrection, but in the fellowship of his suffering." (Philippians 3:10)

And so, how do I feel? Pretty good. I'm doing pretty good. My body is being attacked cell by cell, but I'm fighting back and I feel pretty good.

Pastor Phylis

*(affect = a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion OR the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes)

ennui = a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Frog in Cold water

Rest from Chemotherapy

I Didn't realize just how tired I was feeling until yesterday, when I felt better!! I had the red blood cell booster on Monday, but did not have the Chemotherapy. Apparently it didn't really take effect until Tuesday morning, but yesterday I had a productive day. I had begun to feel so dragged out, that I decided I must just be getting lazy from all this time off.

Isn't it interesting how one gets used to current me feeling so low energy I don't want to do anything at all. It felt like a permanent condition. Kind of like the frog put in cold water and the water warms slowly. (Although some would dispute that as a myth...I won't try it. But it's an old truism) The water feels normal, so the frog stays.

Come to think of it, I haven't really felt at full energy since my liver donation more than a year ago. I had just begun to feel better when I was diagnosed with the breast cancer. And it's been slowly downhill (or the water getting warmer, pick your metaphor) since then.

But thank God for the reprieve. This week at least I believe I can join the human race. :) And since there's only two more months of chemo scheduled, soon I may become a permanent homo sapien again!!

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

God's Perfection

I went out to clean off my car this morning and by the time I had finished, the windows I'd cleared first were snow-covered again! That stuff is coming down fast--and is it cold. I keep thinking that it usually doesn't snow with the temp below 15-20, but today is sure the exception. Early this morning the snow was fast and furious when my thermometer said 1.9 degrees. (For international readers that's -17 degrees Celcius ) And that was after sunup! Brrrr!

It is beautiful, though. Each frosty flake can be seen individually, the uniqueness obvious. A billion billion little chips of water in a billion billion different patterns. I can't help but think about the amazing complexity of God's world. Then I come along and mess it all up with my rear window defroster, windshield wipers and long handled snow brush! Sort of a picture of the world: man messing with God's perfection.
Pastor Phylis

Monday, February 5, 2007

Chemotherapy Continues

Update on Chemotherapy

This is my week to rest from Chemotherapy. I'm grateful. I'm feeling a bit like a wrung-out washrag. I went this morning for the red blood cell booster. I'm still very, very low on red cells. Gratefully the white ones are within normal range.

Going more slowly seems to be working though. I haven't had the nausea or the headaches. Although the third week, (which completes a "normal" dosage of chemo) I really noticed the peripheral symptoms on Wednesday and Thursday. Only two more of these four-week cycles to go. Then it's back to the surgeon! :) A port to remove and a few more reconstruction procedures. But at least there seems to be an end almost in sight.


Pastor Phylis

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Thought this one was worth sharing. Author unknown.

Cup of coffee,
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.
When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds NO quality to the coffee.
In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups..... And then you began
eyeing each other's cups. Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."
God brews the coffee, not the cups....... Enjoy your coffee!

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything."
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.

Pastor Phylis