BK's Cancer-Free Corner: Hey, its the third day of Christmas - where are my three french hens?
Those of you who regularly read the blog know that I rarely post anything of substance anymore. I can hardly keep up. Let's just say that when I was sick I had much more time for blogging. Now that life is back in full swing, I really have to be faithful to my duties and obligations. But I had a unique experience last night which I feel compelled to share.
This past November 10th, we began the process of having a new roof put on our house. We were 25 years into a 30 year roof, but a couple of persistent leaks threatened our upstairs ceilings and we knew we'd have to get a new roof before winter. Today, as I type, it still isn't done. I can hear the pounding of the workmen right now. Believe it or not, there have not been two consecutive days of good weather since Nov. 10th. So for the past six weeks, we've had tarps covering parts of our roof. The workmen have done their best to work whenever then can, but between high winds, rain, snow, and ice, they just haven't been able to get it done. It didn't help that work was delayed by a guy falling off our roof. Miraculously, he was not killed, nor did he even require an ambulance! Anyone who has seen our house will know that this is quite remarkable.
Since work started oh so long ago, we've been hit with a series of annoyances that have really tested our mettle. We've had four or five middle of the night water containment sessions where Margy has had to catch water in the bedrooms and protect furniture while I try to catch it as it dripped or poured into our attic. Several of our children have been sick during this period of time, the worst being Meg whose fevers would spike as high as 105.7 and then drop to the 99 range a half hour later. She's also been battling a persistent bacterial infection in her urinary tract. Margy had to stay home with her on Christmas Eve due to her illness which was upsetting for everyone.
On top of these challenges, I had a month long respiratory issue which resulted in a late night trip to the emergency room and a later trip to the University of Chicago medical center. Since I operate on only about 70% of my original lung capacity, when I get a respiratory ailment, my lung capacity drops to about 50% or 60 %. Its hard to function at that level. I also had five or six painful days of inexplicable tendenitis in my left achilles tendon which made it difficult to sleep and even more difficult to walk. But that went away as strangely and abruptly as it came. In the background looms my continued Graft vs. Host Disease. This is actually good - it makes it less likely for the cancer to return. But its also another set of symptoms to deal with.
At work, its been a time of intense activity and dramatic change. For a four or five day period, I was the primary college contact for one of our best faculty members whose seventeen year old son was in a horrible car accident. Weeks later, I'm still shaken by it. He is not expected to awake from his coma. Its all very sad.
On another front, my life has changed in a bittersweet and somewhat emotional way. I'm now out of teaching and Campus Ministry at Holy Cross College. My new mission is to oversee our recruitment of students, our public relations / marketing efforts, and our fundraising efforts. I'm fine with this new job (technically its a promotion) but I'm sad to leave my first loves (teaching and ministry) and starting anew has taken quite a bit of psychological energy. I've spent over twenty-five hours in personal meetings with everyone who are in my area of responsibility. The meetings have been great, but totalled together, they've also been rather draining. But I consider them to be essential to the task at hand - to recruit students and raise money for our important mission. But what a time to take this job! I'm sure its not hard to imagine the tremendous challenge the faltering economy presents for a small, tuition-driven, Catholic college. Its a daunting task.
But my most important work - that of being a husband and a father - has not changed at all. Relationship management is certainly my most challenging work, but bailing water from the attic is part of my duty. Our attic doesn't have a floor - just beams, 90 year old knob and tube wiring, and blown insulation that makes it a mess. Its a rather difficult place to maneuver, mostly on my hands and knees. Today we have worked out a system for lighting it with a spotlight and extension cord, we have a higher tolerance for the mess created when I scatter insulation around the house, and our water bailing sessions are beginning to seem almost routine.
(Its taken about twenty containers to catch all the water falling - sometimes filling a couple buckets per hour.)
(Pictured above is my ingenious invention for stopping the water flowing down a beam and making it drip into my bucket! Yes, I am very proud of myself for this device. It most certainly saved our ceilings.)
Last night, I spent the hours of 11:15 p.m. until 7:15 a.m. up in the attic with a break from 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. for a little nap on the floor in the hallway upstairs. I think I bailed over ten buckets of water, but truthfully I lost count. Much of this time was spent waiting for the buckets to fill after I emptied them. It gave me an excellent opportunity to reflect and pray.
By the time I got in the shower at 7:30 this morning, I have to admit that I was feeling very grateful for the past six weeks. As we all know, Mom used to tell us that any sort of adversity or suffering may be offered to God as a prayer. All this water in our attic has given me to the opportunity to weather the storm together with Margy. Its a great feeling when we work together. Its also given me a memorable two hour session with Michael in the attic when the water was cascading like Niagra Falls. Last night, as I sat on a plastic box and prayed the rosary in between bailings, everything began to make sense. God places little demands on us sometimes in order to build our character and prepare us for the big challenges we might face in the future. As the Bible tells us, if we are faithful in our little responsibilities, then we shall be given bigger ones. All I've ever wanted out of life is for my life to count - for my life to make a difference in the world. Hopefully bailing water cheerfully in the middle of the night will earn me the chance to touch someone's life someday.
Our crosses are often really just blessings in disguise. So don't worry about us - we're doing just fine. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!