Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways

     I have some really great news both for myself as well as for a very good friend and fellow cancer warrior. I also have a story to share with you, but first I need to set that story up with the news. Earlier last month a friend and I went to Fort Bragg, CA and stayed at MacKerricher State Park. It's an extremely beautiful place to stay right on the Pacific Coast and we spent most of our time there hiking along the coast where we saw seals, cormorants, pelicans, oyster catchers, terns, a great blue heron (unless you believe the guy who tried to convince me that despite being new to watching wildlife as well as photography he was certain that it was a sandhill crane, on a huge rock, in the OCEAN!) and I even got to see some gray whales! Our camp was surrounded by small birds of many varied species, and a family of raccoons. We also had a skunk visit our camp almost every night. The skunk had me more than a little worried as it was late at night and their senses aren't the keenest in the animal world. It would wander right into camp while we were still up and it was hard to convince it to leave, it knew we were there but not our exact location... The raccoons were easy to persuade to leave but this little skunk was determined that it had a path to travel and we just needed to acquiesce and allow him the run of the place. Fortunately no one and nothing was sprayed... THAT would have ruined the trip. It was a peaceful and much needed decompression time for both my friend and I.

      Part way through the trip, while looking at a display of whale bones at the park headquarters, I received a text from Sarah. As I read the text message my eyes welled up with tears and the wind left my lungs... suddenly I couldn't stand and hit my knees weeping. She had received my latest lab reports and way relaying them to me. That text read as follows: “Hemoglobin 14.3 – that is so AMAZING!” At this point I need to give you a frame of reference, at my lowest that count was 4.8 and for a healthy male my age it should be 12-16... Reread that and think about that for a moment, it's pretty huge. What this means is that my hemoglobin count is well within “normal parameters,” unassisted by transfusion, for the first time in almost five years. I hesitate to utter the word “cured” yet, as I have no official word from the doctors, and quite frankly this IS my first rodeo as regards stem-cell transplants, BUT... things sure are looking good, eh?

      So, with that out of the way, I can now tell you the story. About twenty years ago my mother in law was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time her neighbor Marilyn, a very devout Presbyterian, gave her a very small gift. It was a white bear fetish. As Marilyn gave it to her she said, "I don't know if this will help (with her cancer)...but it can't hurt." Marilyn had carried the small gift in the palm of her hand so it felt warm, smooth and somehow very comforting in my mother in law's hand. Marilyn gave her a hug and left. My mother in law held that fetish all day, feeling it's smoothness, admiring the tiny little fish carving that was tied to its back. She knew nothing of fetishes, or the meaning of the white bear, she only knew that it comforted her. She carried the small bear in her pocket, often touching it for the next two years. And she lived. She carried it for three more years. And she lived. The day that her oncologist told her that she would live to be an old lady, she wrapped the white bear in tissue and put him away. She was no longer afraid of dying.

      Many, many years passed and she forgot about the bear. I was diagnosed and fighting for my life and still, she didn't remember the bear until one morning several buzzards came and visited her back yard, at least a dozen huge buzzards sitting in her redwood trees. While they are common to this region they're not that common in cities like Modesto. Why were they there? While she was watching them she suddenly remembered the white bear, walked into the house to the old secretary desk where she had placed it all those years ago, packaged it up and mailed it to me with the message "it can't hurt, carry it until you are no longer frightened". So the bear came to me and I carried it. It went with me everywhere and I didn't know if it would help or not, but I knew it couldn't hurt. Over the years I began to believe, slowly with each passing day grew a certain familiarity and it was always with me. As the years passed, the little fish came loose from its bindings and was lost, but the bear stayed. Eventually the bear's work was done, at least with regards to me, and it had done all it could for me. I can't explain how but I knew it was time and I passed it on.

      Now the bear accompanies my friend and fellow transplant patient Danny. He and his caregiver wife just passed through California as they moved from Phoenix to Seattle to be closer to the Puget Sound VA hospital where Danny and I received our stem cell transplants. Along the way they stopped to spend a few days with us. As nice as it is to have family come for a visit there's something to be said for friends stopping by, especially those who have walked the dark and lonely road that traverses the fight against cancer. There's a certain camaraderie with others who have shared similar experiences. They know first hand the troubles each other faces and can lend a kind of sympathy that others just don't have to give.

      Danny's story is one of those that just tears at your heart. He and his wife Nicole have been fighting Hodgkins for ten years and his story alone spans eight binders of test results, doctors' recommendations, instructions and plans of action. Until the bear came to him to lend its power to the fight, the best they had managed was a small victory that was short lived. The best the doctors could offer him, much the same as me, was a procedure that was just as likely to end his life (if not more so) than to save it. It was by no means an easy or comforting decision to make, and much like Sarah and I they chose to wait. Say what you will, but after a battery of tests to reestablish where Danny stands in his own personal battle, the doctors in Seattle recently revealed that, contrary to what Danny had been told in Arizona, his cancer is GONE! I can't tell you with certainty that the bear had anything to do with that, or with my recovery, or even my mother in law's. That's up to you to decide. I can tell you that Patricia, my mother in law, is a devout Christian as am I. Danny, perhaps not so much. In my heart I don't think that has much to do with the bear's power, I think it comes from a vastly different... “place” and that God set things into motion by sending Marilyn, Pat's neighbor, all those years ago to the southwest where she bought the bear at a store in Tucson that was owned/operated by a local tribe. The man (a shaman perhaps) working that day, explained the significance of the fetishes and the power each had. She bought the most powerful white bear and brought it to my mother in law. She and her family are devout Presbyterians, she worked as the ministers secretary and her husband Bill is/was one of the church deacons. It was so out of character for Marilyn to buy something so contrary to her personal beliefs that in retrospect, I wonder what 'power' moved her to buy the bear? God does move in mysterious ways. I was given the bear about four years ago and it has now comforted three cancer victims. I wonder how many more pockets it is meant to be carried in? I wonder what Marilyn think of the bear's story since her first generous giving... perhaps that will be another story for you all to read here in the future.

      Until then, please keep an open mind when it comes to things that you can't explain and don't be so quick to dismiss such things as weird or coincidental. You never know how God will send you what you need and if you dismiss it it may not come back to you again...


  1. As the current owner of the bear know it resides in a leather pouch bought in Sedona. A tribal medicine bag that DK has carried with him since his second bought of cancer. It contained items of love and meaning but never as effective as it is now with the bear inside. It hangs in our new home next to a dream catcher so as the sun comes in it can aid his fight.

  2. As the current owner's wife know this bear is tucked securely inside a medicine bag we bought in Sedona from a tribal shop. They said to fill it with items of love and meaning to protect him. We did just that from the time he had a second diagnosis. Although never as effective as with the bear. I hangs in the window next to a dream catcher so the morning sun can wash the healing properties over him. It will remain there will the next person needs the bear.

  3. Beautiful story. There is a Higher Power indeed, and it manifests in ways great -and- small.


  4. Tears welled up in my eyes when I read your facebook posting on the hemoglobin results and your reaction to the news, and tears are in my eyes once again. I believe that the bear holds a special power, indeed. It seems to be on a journey of it's own.
    Thank you for sharing this very personal journey with us, Tracy, and thank you, God, for your amazing ways.