Rhetoric

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I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about religion. I am pretty sure of my beliefs, and I am happy to discuss them. I don’t feel the need, however, to try to force them on people.

I was thinking about that a little bit tonight. I have friends whose religious beliefs are very different from mine. I also have friends who don’t really believe in anything. And while this worries me, I know that I can only show them my faith through my actions. (We’ll save what a flawed example of faith I am for another day!)

I was thinking about why I feel that way, when so many churches would tell you a list of things you must do to “belong” to a certain religion. My immediate family is Christian. The denomination varies slightly, and in my youth, we didn’t necessarily attend church with great regularity. In spite of that, I grew up with wonderful examples of faith. My parents taught me to pray and that God is with you everywhere. I believed that with the imagination of a child, and I talked to God like some kids talk to an imaginary friend. He was always there. He IS always there.

When I was about 6 or 7, I asked my next door neighbor, Geraldine Mason, what it meant when people said they were “born again”. She told me that it meant those people had asked Jesus to live in their hearts and that from that point forward they were a new person. I think I must have asked her why you needed to ask Jesus to live in your heart, and she told me that He wants an invitation from us, and that even if we pray, we still have to specifically ask Him into our lives.

Then she did something that I thought was very odd. She left me alone in her nice living room to think about it. We kids weren’t generally allowed in that room, so it seemed like she must have really wanted to get my attention. I thought about it, and decided that I already felt like Jesus was in my heart, so I might as well make it official.

When I came out, she offered me a piece of her chocolate cake and she asked me if I’d asked Him in. I told her I did and she just nodded. I’m not sure if she ever told my parents about that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

Looking back now, it seems huge! What a gift to have had faith all around me at such a young age! But what really strikes me is that Mrs. Mason never pushed me to be baptized. Make no mistake. She was as Baptist as they come. Her son even became a minister. All that really mattered to her, though, was that I was free to choose and I had chosen Jesus.

I have some friends who suffered a tragedy today. Their church has a slightly different belief structure than I do, and that particular line of belief has given me some points of pain in the past. There has been a doctrine that has held that church separate from others. I guess that could be said of most churches.

Tonight, I’m just hoping that people of faith, including me, can see beyond the rhetoric to the heart of God. Love one another.

It’s A Perfect Day

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Yesterday I bought a shirt from a young man in Seattle who lost his father to cancer. Needless to say, we had a little bonding moment. He decided not to let cancer win, and he is making his mark on the world one shirt at a time.

The shirt I bought says, “it’s a perfect day”, in fact, that’s what all of his shirts say. That is his attitude and message for the world.

I have to tell you that it was not my attitude when I put it on this morning. I had to get up at 4:30am, so I could leave Seattle where we had been having a lovely time. While home is always good, there are a number of large projects waiting for me, and I was feeling quite run down. It’s not too hard for me to have pity parties for myself when I get that tired, and so I was dragging around most of the day. I had put on my optimistic t-shirt, but then promptly covered it with a hoodie.

It wasn’t until we arrived back in KS that I took off the hoodie and saw the message again. “It’s a perfect day. Every day is perfect for something.” Today was perfect. I got to be with Richard. We made it home safely. Our home was intact and our animals were happy to see us. And none of my projects truly needed tending until tomorrow, so I could rest.

I’m sure, if I wanted to, I could find some negative things about today, but it made me feel so happy to look at the shirt and know the positives. Every day IS perfect… For something.

Only Kindness Matters

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My last blog post title was “in the end” and it was more a reference to the Jewel song “Hands” than to the end of life. I chose that title because kindness is something denied to many people in the face of brain cancer.

The patient may become so agitated that the caregivers struggle with kindness. That sounds horrible to people who haven’t gone through it, but it is human nature. It is exceedingly difficult to be nice to someone who is being abusive to you. You can’t reason with them. You can’t make them happy. You just have to suffer the abuse and keep trying to be kind in return.

I will say that we did not have this issue with David. He was possibly the kindest soul I have ever encountered and not even brain cancer made him mean. I can’t tell you what a blessing it was to know that his sweet personality stayed with him to the end. So many people are denied that simple thing. They have to watch their loved ones transform into another person that they don’t even recognize. It’s so unfair that I can’t even put it to words, so I’ll leave you with the song that was on my mind as I wrote.

“Hands” by Jewel:
If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these

I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken

Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn’t ever after

We’ll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
I am never broken

In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray

My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken

My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
We are never broken

We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s mind
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s heart
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s eyes
We are God’s hands
We are God’s hands

In the end

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I am torn about how to write this, but I feel like I need to shed some light on this beast that is brain cancer and the horrific way it steals our loved ones.

Let me begin by saying that each journey is different and what I am going to share is not from any one particular person, but more a conglomeration of things that a person with brain cancer may suffer through. I want to share it not for the shock value but because I so often hear brain cancer compared to other cancers, and it is so unlike other cancers.

First the simple stuff. Brain cancer patients can lose the function of nearly any part of their body. They may lose bowel and bladder control, the ability to walk, the ability to see and hear. It is terrifying for them to slowly watch their level of function decrease – never knowing what might happen next.

They are usually told at the beginning that brain cancer doesn’t spread to other parts of your body. That isn’t entirely true because it can spread to the spine. Whether or not it spreads to the spine, you could still lose the ability to walk.

Most brain cancer patients suffer through seizures of varying intensity and length. This could be something that happens occasionally or constantly.

Then things get more complex. Where the tumor is growing can make a major difference on how the patient experiences life. Some become irrationally angry. They may not recognize loved ones – to the point of becoming violent toward those loved ones, even if they have been the daily care provider. They can be easily confused, questioning the most basic facts and reality.

When the tumor grows, it frequently causes hydrocephalus, which can be the cause of death. It can also press on the part of their brain that makes them throw up, so that they do so constantly and uncontrollably.

All of the things I’ve talked about here are strictly related to brain cancer itself. Most cancers are treated with some combination of chemo, radiation, and/or surgery, so I didn’t include the various and plentiful side effects and complications from those symptoms.

As I write this, I am mourning for the loss of a brain cancer warrior who was a son, a husband, and a father. He was in the prime of his life with young children who lived with the very harsh reality of brain cancer. As I write this I am praying for others I haven’t dared to count – among them many sweet, innocent children. I am not a doctor or a scientist. I can’t do their jobs, but I can do something to make their lives easier.

We have formed the Dragon Master Foundation to make research faster and more efficient. We are going to need a lot of help, but it can be done. We are eager to partner with other non-profits, hospitals and research institutions that are passionate about finding a cure.

If you are reading this, you CAN make a difference in the fight against brain cancer. Share this post. Like Dragon master Foundation on Facebook. Share it with your friends. Each voice makes the sound louder. Each person who knows about this grim reality puts us one us one step closer to the cure.