I have an update on Pamela, and it wasn’t the news I wanted to hear, although it could certainly be much worse and we’re all thankful it’s not.
The tumor in her vertebra was cancer. A re-occurrence of the breast cancer she beat almost ten years ago. She has a tumor on her chest, which spread to her spine, causing the vertebra to break down and necessitating last week’s surgery. (When I visited her and Victor in the hospital earlier this week, she told me that the breakdown of the bone could have caused paralysis if it had gone unchecked much longer, so I’m thankful she listened to her body when she did.)
Victor told our Prayer and Share group in an email that because the cancer has spread to bone rather than to an organ, the prognosis is “quite good.” It is a type of cancer that can be treated with medication, so Pamela will not have to go through chemo or radiation this time.
She will be able to rehab from the back surgery (and last year’s hip replacement) without her body being weakened by the cancer treatment. She is already gaining a lot of strength back. When I visited on Monday, she was having to lie down all the time to keep her spinal cord from leaking fluid. By yesterday, she was sitting up and walking short distances. And she will have the opportunity to do in-patient rehab at the hospital and focus completely on her healing.
And of course I would like to ask you all, again, to focus on her healing as well, in whatever way is most powerful to you. This may be a bad confession for an internet-age journalist to make, but I believe the message matters far more than the medium in which it’s delivered.
Last night, a few of us from Prayer and Share went to a Messianic Seder meal. Pamela had planned to be there with us, but had to call it off when she went into the hospital. After hearing the diagnosis yesterday, we all had her and Victor on our minds all evening, and it was strengthening to me to be reminded of the hardships the Israelites went through and were delivered from. This was not my first Seder, but dipping the karpas and eating the bitter herbs took on a different meaning after an afternoon of praying that my loved one would be delivered from her trials.
The most meaningful part, to me, was the last part of the ritual before we shared the Passover supper, in which we recounted the blessings God gave the Israelites as he led them out of Egypt to the promised land. After each deed of kindness the Seder leader read out, we all responded, “Dayenu” – “It would have been sufficient.”
If the Lord had merely rescued us,
but had not judged the Egyptians,
If he had only destroyed their gods,
but had not parted the Red Sea,
If he had only drowned our enemies,
but had not fed us with manna,
If he had only led us through the desert,
but had not given us the Sabbath,
If he had only given us the Torah,
but not the land of Israel,
But the Holy One, blessed be he, provided all of these blessings for our ancestors. And not only these, but so many more. Blessed are you, O God, for you have, in mercy, supplied all our needs.
Dayenu – it would have been sufficient. But God has made it a habit to go beyond sufficiency. And although I have never been one who could explain away suffering with platitudes – “It was God’s will” has never seemed to me an acceptable or appropriate explanation for our struggles and pain – it is quieting to me to recognize that we have all been given blessings far beyond what would have been sufficient.
If I had had the chance to receive Pamela’s teaching every week, but had not also been blessed to have her as a mentor, dayenu. If only she and I had gotten to know each other, and Lance and Victor had never gotten in on the relationship, dayenu. And if I had had all these things, but not been allowed the privilege of being there for them in a time of need, dayenu. But I have been given all of these and more, and I am determined to see the abundance of gifts in my life, to be thankful for them and not to waste the opportunities they present.
We are all so, so blessed.