Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mary, Do You Know?


"Terry, do you know that lady who just walked by?" I asked as I stared at the petite figure of an Asian woman as she walked to the back row of the sanctuary. Her delicate features were diminished by her pale complexion.

"No, I've never seen her." Terry returned to her conversation.

I sat in my regular spot against the back wall of the church with the ushers. It was necessary for me to stay far away from contact with germs, being a transplant patient, and that meant far away from the congregation.

"Terry, I'm going to sit with her. She looks new and she looks lonely. I'm going to take a chance today." I continued to stare at the woman now seated in a row by herself.

"Don't do it," Terry chided. "It's too soon after your pancreas transplant."

I grabbed my purse and Bible and mumbled how the Lord would protect me as I made my way to her row. I never do thisact foolishly about my immune compromised state and say the Lord told me to. But I knew he wanted me to.

Already into the worship service, I placed my stuff on the chair next to the woman and began to sing. It was hard to participate with my usual gusto. I could sing and sing loud and well, but the prior week had blown the wind from my joy. After worship, there were a few minutes for meet and greet.

I turned to the woman next to me. "Hi, I'm Cindy. Are you new here?" Most of the time people thought I was new from all the Sunday's I lost to hospitals and travel.

"I'm Mary. This is my third time here." She smiled at me and her pallid tone brightened. "Do you come here often?"

"Actually I've been at this church for years, but lately I've been gone a lot because of health problems. I had a pancreas transplant three months ago in Chicago." Mary perked up.

"Oh, I have pancreatitis and if I eat fatty foods I get real sick. I'm an alcoholic you know. Tried all the programs but keep falling back into temptation." She continued to tell me how she had a fiance who was a diabetic and also an alcoholic and they both were Christians but hadn't been in church for years. I could see their failing health had her concerned and she indicated she needed to find God's will for her life and to seek his help with drinking.

Pastor came up and the teaching began. The scripture was based out of James chapter 1, the entire chapter, and was centered around temptationso relevant for Mary and me. She was seeking help with her addiction and I with a recent conflict. During the final comments, Pastor Steve shared about resisting temptation by weighing everything; is it Jesus or Satan offering the desire placed before us? He admonished us to "assign a name and a face to our choices."

The Lord spoke to me and I looked down at my hand. "Write the name Satan on your pointer finger so when you go to pick up the temptation you will be forced to examine whether it is I, or the enemy offering it to you." His example was clear in my thoughts. I showed my finger, after I wrote Satan on it, to Mary and told her what I heard from the Lord.

I also shared what he wanted me to tell her. I took her by her shoulders, her small frame trembling. "Mary, this is for you too today. Please don't get angry, and I know you don't even know me, but I have to share what Jesus wants to convey to you. You must forgive yourself now, today. I'm not saying to stop attending the programs you have tried, but today, realize he loves you and forgave you a long time ago. Now go from here and simply stop drinking. I mean it, just stop." Oh, how I had that what-did-I-just-do feeling in my gut. But I also had the peace of being obedient when the Lord has me share something personal and impacting—something I would never do on my own.

Mary grabbed her pen. She took my hand and fixed it by adding "NO Satan. YES Jesus." Then she looked deeply into my teary eyes and said, "You are right. And I needed to hear that today." I gave her my phone number to call me if she needed someone to talk to.
You never know. You never know what a conversation with a stranger will bring. Talk to people. That's what National Back to Church Sunday is all about. I can certainly talk and I'm not shybut I'm also a good listener. And Mary knew I was interested in her. Reveal your heart to someone new in your church. Invite a neighbor or someone you don't think will respond. You never know.

And if you live in the greater Spokane and Coeur d'Alene area, check out New Life Church's Back to Church Sunday concert on Saturday, September 17th:
Beatles Tribute Band Coming to Spokane - The Beatles’ music, reinvigorated by the Kirkland-based tribute band Creme Tangerine, will be presented in a free concert at New Life Church in the Spokane Valley.

Creme Tangerine doesn't try to dress or do their hair like the Beatles. Instead, the group seeks to be “a really good rock band with Beatles material”. The point here is to deliver nonstop favorite songs so the people can forget their worries for a night.

The Concert is Free!
Bring a Lawn Chair, kick off your shoes, and
have a great time!

With a special Back to Church Sunday service on Sunday, September 18th at 10:00 AM and another Creme Tangerine concert at 1:00 PM. Click HERE for directions to New Life Church.

You Never Know.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011



I'm jittery, talkative, shaky, and nervous. And I found out yesterday that the levels of Prograf, an anti-rejection medicine I take, are dangerously high, causing my hyper state. High enough to be poisoning me and damaging my kidneys. I've been healthy since my pancreas transplant three months ago, but as they say in the transplant world, "You trade one set of problems for another--but you're alive. "The one anti-rejection medicine that can add five years to your life can also be very volatile and poisonous. It has to be checked often. The doctor will make adjustments and things will settle down.

But when this happens and I don't realize it, I can be more hyper and talkative than usual. And I am already ... hyper and talkative. But I'm happy. I love life. I'm interested in everything and I love to discuss matters and make people laugh. That's who I am.
"By the grace of God, I am what I am." (1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV1984)
Paul the apostle said it plainly; I am what I am. And I love that man!

In second grade, I was reprimanded for talking in class and made to face the corner with a dunce cap on. It was art period--my absolutely favorite period. And I was devastated. I'll never forget the shame, but more painful was the first sting of "you're not good enough" treatment. And many other people would add to my life-long ostracization from being too talkative.

Why do we pick on people so badly about who and what they are? Would we wield insults at a quiet person as easily as a loud, talkative one? When we do this, none of us really know what that person lives with or whether they, too, deal with medicine issues. Or, maybe their simply happy.

One of my memories was a train ride into New York City with my sisters. We lived on Long Island and were going to a show in the city. I was thrilled--so exited, and talkative. Once again the ticket taker on the train named me, CHATTERBOX and the fun of it convinced everyone I was bound to always be a nuisance.

I sometimes laugh and tell people I have a motor-mouth. But inside it hurts bad. I don't talk a lot to get attention and I don't need to be the star of life, I'm just who I am. The hurt from constant pickings at my persona will never go away. Even after my pancreas transplant three months ago I was targeted. My after-surgery psych eval noted, "Patient is in a good mood. Happy to be off insulin. Still very hyper."

I was happy. And blessed. Shoot me.

So from here on in, stop making fun of my hyper-happy self. And stop making fun of anyone and who they may be--period.

I am what I am. And I don't want to change. And God wants me to be who I am, too.

If you're a transplant patient, learn more about Prograf by clicking the logo to the left.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

A Promise Is A Promise!


Okay, I'm back. I brought my previous blog to critique group last night and there were great suggestions for me to take and correct. I will when I add these stories to book three, ( but for now, a blog is a blog...

And a promise is a promise. Right? Not in Chicago last week.

I'm really trying to look happy ... really, I am.
After I got dried up and changed and had some lunch, I headed back out to go to my 1:15 PM appointment. I dressed in cooler clothes, had water with me, and stuffed my food logs for the dietician in my purse. I was glad to have time to see everyone and get some questions answered. Better diet to lose more weight? What over the counter meds should I avoid? Can I proceed with different exercise now? What other precautions should I take? Who do I contact to send a letter to my donor family? (Very important and sensitive question.)

I stuck with the bus and arrived at the clinic early. I had my mini laptop with me so I could go over changes for book two while I waited. Once I checked in, I sat in the lobby and was ready for a long delay.

But a nurse called me within five minutes. Wow, that's like, really fast. Oh well, more time to ask questions. I made my way to the hallway leading to the exam rooms. The nurse checking me in weighed me and took my blood pressure and temperature. All was well and I told her I was feeling great. I don't even know who she was. She may have been a post transplant nurse, but she was non-expressive.

I entered the exam room and instead of the surgeon who made me PROMISE to be back in six weeks, another doctor came in. She was tired looking and seemed preoccupied with other issues.

"Where's Dr. Olsen?" I asked.

"He's out of town for another three weeks." She answered as she glanced over my lab results. I sat there shocked.

"But Dr. Olsen made me promise to be here today to see him in particular. I guess seeing you is fine. As long as I was doing good, I don't have to come back for another three or six months." I hardly cared about seeing her, but I was disappointed as I did have some very specific questions for the surgeon.

"Oh, you will have to come back here in three weeks when Dr. Olsen is here. After all, you made a deal with him and you have to hold up to your end of the bargain." She was not interested in how far I traveled and how much money it cost me to be there.

"I'm not coming back in three weeks. I'm here today. I saw you. That has to be good enough."

"Oh no it's not," she reiterated. You made a promise to see the doctor.

"I know, and I'm here now." This became a debate and competition to see who would get the last word in. There was no longer any concern about the issue I had with sharp pain weeks before, my anti-rejection levels, lab work, questions I had for some of the staff. This was a test of wills.

We went back and forth a few times. I gave up on seeing any after-care nurses. There were none around and no one even asked me if I had any concerns. I eventually got into a tug-of-war with the doctor about how long before I came back and she finally agreed to let me schedule September 21. I wanted to wait until October even if I agreed to return. She tried for the beginning of September.

"Well this wasn't a fair deal," I complained.

"I met you half way," she insisted. And after all, you promised to come back.

When I confirmed the appointment with the scheduler, she said, "I'll make the appointment for September 21, but we don't really know if the doctor will be here on that day."

I grabbed my paperwork and walked out of the office, defeated. I'm not coming back in September. This is out of control. I walked to the back of the hospital campus to catch the bus to the apartment. An older, foreign speaking man tried to peddle some gold jewelry on me.

"I ain't got no money for you. And I don't want no jewelry. Do you think I'd be waiting for the bus if I had money to give you?" He walked to the next person with his hand open. I was foul. I was not in the mood. The disorganized mess from the transplant clinic staff, the doctor insisting I simply return in three weeks, the oppressive heat and humidity, and the constant harassment of city peddlers, caused me to disdain anything in my path.

I had some salad for dinner, called my husband and vented, and tried to sleep so I could be ready for the trip home in the morning. Even that was a disaster. Storms delayed flights and the roof at the airport was leaking badly so that there were basins everywhere you walked. It was a zoo.

Yes, I made it home safely. No, the trip was not productive. Yes, I was aggravated. But I had to let it go. I will not allow the frustration to fester. I will cancel my appointment until this mess gets straightened out. I hope it does.

Author's note: This post is a bummer. A good sign to get off the Chicago topic. 8^) I am doing great and will put this saga to bed.

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