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

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


  1. Hi, Phylis....this is Kim (Smith)Lewis from Arnold. Jennifer told me last week that you had cancer. I didn't know that until then and she told me about your blog spot so I've been reading your stuff. I just want you to know that you're in my prayers! I've enjoyed your writing and admire your strength and honesty. My friend from church who just finished chemo a few months ago for breast cancer used to always sign her update emails with "Still Worshipping"! I know you're involved in your worship team and it means alot to you. So I just want to say....Keep Worshipping! I'll be reading your updates...Kim

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Kim. It's great to hear from you.


  3. Thanks for the encouragement, Kim. It's great to hear from you.



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