Tuesday, September 4, 2018

On Learning Curves and Other Things

The learning curve that I have been experiencing during the past six weeks since my surgery has been beyond my wildest imagination. The trip from surgery to colosotomy to chemo has been a long and arduous road, and the path has been steep. I am a person who values getting organized, having a plan, figuring out what needs to be done, and then moving forward. Unfortunately, life does not always move according to my plans, and now I am learning to adapt to my new normal. I am learning to deal with the frustration and indignities of realizing that I am not in charge of much of anything, much less my life or my bodily functions.

Even though I have never been a fan of sophomoric bathroom humor, I can now give my middle school grandsons a run for their money with poop and fart jokes. While most of us never even think about the number of times we pass gas during the day, it is a completely different reality for me now. I can often feel my shirt start to move on its own as a result of gas, feeling as though someone is popping bubble wrap on my stomach. Yes, this is my new normal.

While all of this is somewhat funny now, I will spare you some of the realities of the poop bag leaks, the raw skin under my colostomy bag, the anxiety of trying not to get too far from home for fear of accidents, and the list goes on and on. I realize that one of these days, I will adapt to all of this, but for now, I am still learning, which has given me the time to think about a lot of important stuff.

Interestingly enough, our young minister came over to visit last week. Being a cradle Episcopalian, I am uncomfortable with lots of “churchy” stuff, so I was not sure what to make of his visit. I told him that I hoped he hadn’t come to perform Last Rites. He assured me that that was not the case. After that, we talked about everything from politics to theology, but he caught us both up short when he asked us the question that everyone asks, but which sounded different coming from a rector: How ARE you doing?

Donna and I are both pretty practical, and neither of us spends much time feeling sorry for ourselves or wallowing about our lot in life. We figure out a plan and then deal with stuff as it comes our way. However, his question (How ARE you doing?) caused us to have a serious discussion about the issues and the potential dark spaces that lie ahead. While such conversations are never easy, they are conversations that need to be had, and we will have more of them.

Needless to say, this chapter of my life has been challenging, and I do not pretend to know what lies ahead, nor do I know how my story will end, but I will try to live the rest of my life with as much dignity, humor, and grace as I can.


  1. You have always carried the torch for so many of us to see the way through darkness. You continue to do so as we all grapple with aging parents, our own mortality and illnesses. Thank you, Phyliss, for engaging in the difficult discussions and for taking the high road. We are (literally) all behind you.

  2. Courage isn't the lack of fear, it's the ability to keep going while being afraid. You do it with humor, and a positive attitude (at least outwardly) that is shared with everyone (politicians excepted!). And you still have time to fight for public education!

    As far as those deep discussions and difficult topics...it's important to learn acceptance. We don't have to like it...we just have to find a way to live with it. And that, you have done with grace (there's that award again) and strength.

    Next time we meet remind me to share a quote from Mark Twain...