Sunday, May 15, 2016

Right in My Own Eyes: More Lessons from Cancer

I am an active person. I can bike for hours, kayak all day, walk miles on end...but when I sat down to do the post-mastectomy "simple" exercises, there was one I could not do AT ALL. The others I could do...barely. What a massive ego deflator.

The Exercise Manual given to me by Carolina Breast Friends was logically organized. The first set of exercises are done lying down, and we work our way up to the standing exercises. Presumably, the lying down ones are the easiest. (Clue to future manual writers: lying down itself is not even all that easy after a mastectomy.) With a little groaning, I managed. Then, I 'simply' had to put my hands behind my neck, elbows towards the sky, and gently let them wing out towards the floor.

There was NO winging out to be had. Not one inch. In fact, I may have screamed and alarmed my dog a bit.

I scoured the manual for advice: If you have difficulty with these exercises, you may need to consult a physical or occupational therapist.

Well, for fifteen years, I was an Occupational Therapist. So I consulted myself.
"Self, what do you think?"
"I think you have zero chance of doing that exercise in the next millenium."
"I agree."
"They probably threw that one in there to keep you from being prideful about how well you are otherwise recovering."
"That's exactly my thought. Shall we cross it out with permanent black marker?"
"I sure would, and that is my professional opinion."

Instead of exercising any more, I sat down and read the Bible.

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.Proverbs 21:2

Need I say more? I think the biblical lesson here is painfully clear.

Another little lesson of cancer. After surgery, my entire upper right side was extremely painful to touch. I have avoided church or crowds anywhere because if someone brushes up against my right side, I go through the roof. If someone tried to hug me (which is likely in church), I may have to commit a homicide.

Anyway, while reading my exercise manual, it said that the extreme touch sensitivity can be helped by gentle massage with a soft cloth.

Think about this. The problem: Oversensitivity to touch. The Solution: Touch.

Sometimes, because our pain (psychic, emotional, spiritual) is so great, we avoid anything that might make us more aware of the source of that pain. Yet as every good counselor knows, the way to deal with pain is NOT to bury it and avoid it, but to understand its source, and deal with it. Pain must be worked through, till the sensitivity begins to recede. Slowly, even in the worst of pain, most of us find we can eventually find the strength to breath again.

God is clear about this in the Bible. As long as we sin, we are prisoners to sin. Whatever is hidden, will be disclosed. The best way to deal with the human nature of rebellion and sin against God is to confront it. Opening wide our souls that are trying desperately to shelter our self-image  to the healing touch of God is the first step. Admit and understand the depth of the pain of sin -- to ourselves, to others, to God. And then, dare to confront it.

The hardest part of healing my extreme sensitivity was the first few times I forced myself to gently touch the entire right upper arm and chest. Strangely, shortly after I did, the pain began to subside.

There was an additional weirdness of the mastectomy. While the skin around the area was highly sensitive, the entire breast area felt like a numb lump. I have found that the numbness has been receding as I do the gentle massage. I can feel under my arm and my upper arm again, with something approaching normalcy. I can touch my utter chest and gently massage and I don't feel like ripping the sun out of the sky.

The Problem: sin leaves two catastrophic results: unbearable pain, and numbness to the purpose and call of God. The Solution: Admit, repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus. Let His atoning redemption touch every part of you, and be healed.

Who knew a mastectomy would have so many good lessons?

Artwork by Vicky Kaseorg (moi!) at top of blog. Other works also available for sale to help fund this journey Here.

1 John 1:8-10

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

John 3:16-17 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


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