Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Here are some of my daily thoughts as of late:

1. I am turning into my mother. I used to be embarrassed when my family would be at a sporting event or watching a game on tv and my mom would yell out either encouragement or criticism to the players, as if she and Pudge Rodriguez were best friends. Watching the NCAA men's basketball national championship game on Monday night, I turned into my mother. I was telling Joey Dorsey to keep his feet planted to get the charge. I was telling CDR, "sweetheart, you've got to make those three's!!" I was telling Antonio Anderson that he did a great job, and he should be getting more of the lime light. Of course, my pleadings to the television set did not help my Tigers, but I sure did feel like I was part of the game.

2. I have moments when I am very pretentious. This is definitely a character flaw, and I'm trying to work on it. There is a de-motivator poster that reads, "The problem with being the best is that everyone else thinks you're pretentious." I say this because when I was at the Y on Tuesday morning doing my cross-training (part of my 10k training plan), the man who was on duty came over and said, "Now, Miss Megan, you're supposed to keep your back straight on that machine." That machine was an ergometer, a rowing machine, a machine that I had spent many, many, many, many hours on in college while on the rowing team. I smiled and said, "Oh, I rowed in college, and I know what I'm doing." He looked taken aback, and I thought I probably sounded rude, so I went on to explain over the next five minutes how you are supposed to erg, (legs, abs, back, shoulders, arms) and how during a lay-back (the point at which he said my back should have been straight) you need to have leverage to get the oar out of the water. He kept looking at me strangely, so I demonstrated how the lady before me had been erging and why that was wrong, and she probably could have injured herself. Needless to say, I was telling the person who worked at the Y how to use the equipment at the Y. I spent the next 25 minutes of my workout thinking how I should have just smiled and said "thank you" when he came over at first. When I came home and told my husband that story, he remarked how I have only been a member at the Y for a month, and I am already telling people how to do their jobs.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


I am posting a journal entry of a friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. I spent a summer with Debbie and Karl Dortzbach in Nairobi, Kenya when I was in college. They are wonderful, beautiful people, and I long to be like them someday. You can keep up with Debbie and Karl at their blog.


It’s three o’clock in the morning. In Papua, eastern Indonesia, where I was just two weeks days ago, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon. I guess perspective and location make a difference in life.

Six days ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer—an extremely rare form—Paget’s disease of the breast. Like a good professional nurse, I have listened carefully to doctor and nurse’s explanations and peppered them with questions, researched the web about Paget’s, and gave careful and thorough explanations to my family, concerned coworkers at World Relief, my friends at Faith Community Fellowship and Mission to the World. Disclosure, openness, honesty, transparency are what we promote in the HIV and AIDS ministries that I lead. It can be no less with this, I tell people. I have nothing to hide. Inside, I wonder what other parallels there are with the disease of AIDS that I have embraced for thirty years.

But inside, I am hiding something. I cry and wrestle with sleepless nights. After work, I sit down to the piano to practice for the lessons I resumed a year ago after a forty year hiatus. My fingers curl through the A flat and E flat scales with a vengeance. Somehow, the minor scales seem major to me now.

I agonize over why I have to go through this. As a young nursing student many years ago at Columbia University in New York, I watched from the surgery galleys as the blob of breasts of women undergoing mastectomies were scooped from their chest walls and bagged for pathology. I was often the first face the same women looked up at as I hovered over their beds in my crisp pin-stripped student’s uniform when the bliss of anesthesia gave way to the stark reality that it was gone. “Yes. It’s gone.” I would say, as they pushed their free hand all over their grossly uneven chest wall. “We had to take your breast because of cancer. I am so sorry.”

Perhaps every nursing student imagines sometime, somewhere in the stacks of medical libraries or the surgery bleachers, “What if it were me?” I pressed the question to my fiancĂ©e at the time—Karl. “What if it were me? If I have a mastectomy someday, will you still love me? Will you still want me?” Perhaps few men know how to answer that question weeks before their debut to the wonder and beauty of sexual love in marriage.

Tonight, I have more questions.

God, isn’t it enough that I survived the trauma of Anna Strikwerda’s murder in Eritrea and my own kidnapping of twenty-six days along with my unborn child?

God, isn’t it enough that I and two of my three children and one of my grandchildren have a life-threatening, congenital heart condition that prompts the reminder that even a simple heart flutter can mean a sudden and complete heart failure?

God, how is it that the marvelous mechanisms you designed to pull a husband and wife together in the ecstasy of love, poignantly described in the Song of Songs in the Bible and the very vehicle you created to nurture newborns and first year infants somehow become a death trap? I just learned this week, that not just one or two milk ducts but ten to fifteen different ones all converge to ensure life for a new life. How did it suddenly happen that they are now pathways of destruction?

So God, do you love me? What Song of Songs applies to me today?

Karl did have an answer for me thirty-seven years ago when I questioned his yet-to-be-quickened love for me. “Of course, of course, I will love you—always.” He has strengthened those words with years of deep bonding and constant reassurance these last weeks that nothing, nothing has changed in his love to me. When he learned the biopsy results, he took the next plane home from Manila, leaving only several days ahead of schedule. Yes, he meant what he said thirty-seven years ago.

Today, while banging piano keys and fruitlessly tumbling around in bed seeking sleep, another question surfaces. This one I’m learning to answer in a deeper, major/minor sort of way. Perhaps a bit like scale practices—keeping on until the fingering is right, the discipline routine, the finger-memory secure, the sound pure, the application for the Performance ready.

God has already told me multiple ways in his Word and in my life, that He does love me. That He will always be with me. Just now, I think he is telling me I have the question backwards. It’s not about whether or not he loves me. It’s a question about how much I love him.

Lord, you are my Song of Songs. And Lord, I have some scale practicing I need to do.

March 28, 2008