Sunday, June 17, 2012

Going To Pot

Pardon my French, but this oral chemo medication is kicking my derriere. Lucky for me, I have enough derriere to be kicked and still plenty left for cushioning when I sit down.
The hot flashes, the nausea, the occasional panic attack, the joint pain in places that I didn't even know were joints, the sleeplessness, the weight gain...all of it has become much worse.
I live in Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal. Not to get on a soap box or anything, but this whole justification for legalizing pot for everyone because of medical needs is a crock.
Does that make it a pot crock?
Sorry, that was a mommy joke.
Most of the thousands of medical marijuana permits that were issued in the months following legalization were for young people, nearly all of the permits coming from only a couple of doctors, many of them having the reason of "being stressed out". One said "I get stressed out when I can't get pot". If marijuana is going to be legalized, at least tell the truth about why. If it is going to be easy for anyone to get it, then treat it as a controlled substance and put the same restrictions on it that apply to liquor and narcotics, and second hand smoke.
Okay, I am off my soapbox.
I met several people at the cancer center who used medical marijuana to deal with side effects. One was a young man who was dealing with brain cancer. He said he regretted smoking for 20 years before he was diagnosed, that he mostly liked the marijuana because he missed smoking, and that there were other medications that would be more consistent in treating the pain and nausea, but he liked smoking. Another patient was battling a second recurrence of breast cancer, had lost an eye to surgery during the first recurrence, was learning how to walk again after surgery for the second recurrence, and was using marijuana in pill form to deal with side effects. She had also been a long time smoker, and did not want to return to any kind of habit like it.
I appreciated them honestly sharing with me. The smell of pot makes me nauseous, and since there are few restrictions on where people can smoke it, I run into those fumes in many public places. I let them know how hard it has been for me to deal with that, and they assured me they were aware of how pot impacted them and those around them, and used it in private. I think we each need to find our way to safely deal with our burdens, and try not to add to the burdens of others while doing so.
My wonderful niece asked me, if it would really help me with the side effects of chemo, wouldn't I be willing to give medical marijuana a try? I told her that all my efforts right now are to try and extend my life. I don't want to do anything that dulls my thoughts or feelings, or checks me out of life.
One of the ways I see gifts of grace in my life is the reminders that what I am dealing with is not more than I can handle, that things could be much worse and I would still choose my own challenges, that when I need strength or help, it is there if I am open to it.
So I am glad for ceiling fans and air conditioning, for yoga breathing, communication and stress relief tools, for massage therapists, for really good shoes, for Vernors ginger ale and nutritional supplements, and especially for the ways I feel the kindness, prayers and support from others. My heroes are those who have been through this, even while I have known them, and done so with grace and courage.
And Michael, bless him, is right there through it all. Here it is, Father's Day, and he did more work on today's dinner than I did. On Mother's Day I didn't have to lift a finger.
I look in the mirror and see the full physical impact of all this. He wraps his arms around me and loves me no matter what kind of day it has been. Not always an easy thing to do.
And I get messages from friends at unexpected times. Here is a recent one from Melanie that gave me some laugh out loud therapy. I'm not sure I could enjoy it as much if I were stoned.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Firming the Foundation

There is something wonderful about being in a room with women of all ages and backgrounds who share a common desire to honor each other, wherever we are on our journey of faith, and share our stories that could make a difference in that journey.
I got to do that in two places last weekend.
Last weekend I was able to go to the Rocky Mountain Retreat with other Mormon women. We were able to share writings, ideas, experiences, music, and, most of all, faith.
Faith in our gifts, our heritage, our strength, our knowledge, our loved ones, our connection, our church, our God.
Then I got to have a similar experience in Relief Society at church on Sunday.
Yes, I know. That does not happen for everyone, every Sunday.
I mentioned in my last blog that LDS wards are determined by geographical boundaries. You might be in a ward with others who are similar to you, or very different.
Some people like being around others who are different. They enjoy hearing various ideas, and learn from other points of view. Others prefer to be with those they agree with, and might feel nervous or even a bit afraid around those they perceive as different.
I think the Gospel of Christ asks us to see how we are all connected, coming from loving Heavenly Parents, and will find our greatest joy embracing each other with all our differences and sameness.
But that is not always easy. So we are all on a journey together. Sometimes we are helping each other, sharing the burden. Sometimes we listen to our fears, and throw up obstacles to those we think we need to fear.
It would be wonderful if every moment spent in church is one where all feel honored, acknowledged, loved, strengthened, fed, their burdens lightened.
But church isn’t for those who have already completed the journey back to God.
It is a place we can go to renew our promise to turn to God, to study together and find out that we each have our own way of interpreting scripture, to repent and forgive each other even when we don’t feel like it, to serve people we would usually not choose to be around, to struggle together, to learn to love each other in the face of our failure, and to do this while respecting the organization and structure created so this can happen worldwide.
It is human nature to connect religion to politics, to cultural and ethnic traditions, and to justify divisiveness, even war, by claiming to know who is loved and not loved by God. It is human nature to even connect religion to taste in art, books, hairstyle, clothes and choice of movies and television.
All this can make for an unpredictable experience at Sunday meetings.
But in the lifetime of my church attendance, I have learned that I usually find what I look for at church. I find harsh judgement and intolerance when I look for it, I find acceptance, compassion and love when I look for it, and sometimes that shows up in the midst of the intolerance.
Again, it is all part of the journey.
We all want to be honored and heard and included. While it frequently does, that might not always happen at church. It doesn’t mean we don’t belong there. Each of us can learn to honor others there.
And we can express what is not expressed at church in other places. I have book groups, discussion groups, political meetings, forums, conferences, classes, blogs, facebook….each gives opportunity for discussion and conversation. I find myself drawn to all ways that strengthen how I can live the Gospel in every aspect of my life.
The Rocky Mountain Retreat did that for me. Friday evening I got to hear readings from Joanna Brooks, Phyllis Barber, Dani Dubrasky, and was honored to be asked to read from my essay “A Pope Story”. On Saturday there were wonderful presentations from Joanna Brooks and Sheila Taylor (thank you thank you thank you to them), a long walk with my daughter Charlotte where we talked about the Relief Society lesson I would be teaching, and she helped me find a good direction for it, then a fascinating question and answer/discussion session in the evening with Joanna and Sheila leading. Such generous sharing of so many different faith experiences. In between the presentations, the fabulous food, the small group discussions, we made music. There is no way to describe the experience of singing hymns after learning to make a drum circle, so I will just let you see it for yourself. That's my Charlotte at the keyboard.

Every gathering needs music and food.
Then on Sunday morning in my ward I taught the Relief Society lesson, and was overwhelmed again with the generous way sisters there shared their experiences of faith and love for each other.
One of the discussions at the retreat was about what we saw as the greatest concern for Mormon women worldwide. I think it is learning to see that we are all connected, no matter where or when we live, what our culture, religion, gender or country, we are all a part of each other through a God who knows and loves all, that we are loved and accepted more than we can comprehend. It would be a good foundation for making a difference in the world.
Thank you, dear sisters, for making a difference this weekend.
We are given and give much, our foundation is firm, and the gifts of grace are amazing.