Write In Between

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mom goes to college (in between other things!)

Where have I been?? Going, going, well, let's see...

a confirmation, a sports banquest, a first communion, oh yeah, #1 son's senior banquet, prom, and graduation. Not to mention, my infrequent postings are due to an increase of study time needed for the final I am studying for, and for my preparations for my drive west out to Franciscan University of Steubenville as I continue my quest for a Masters in Theology.

Hope to be back in blogdom soon!

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Poetic Inspiration

This post continues my look back on my cancer story that began with this post.

Somewhere along the cancer struggle, I saw an ad in a magazine for a poster with the following poem. I couldn't afford the poster, but I clipped the ad, using it as a bookmark, since it spoke so powerfully to me.

Please note that I want to promote the author's work and you can purchase a book that contains this poem, among others here.

From the book:MY FIRST REAL TREE

by Jayne Relaford Brown
I am becoming
the woman I’ve wanted,
grey at the temples,
soft body, delighted,
cracked up by life
with a laugh that’s known bitter,
but, past it, got better,
knows she’s a survivor—
that whatever comes,
she can outlast it.
I am becoming a deep
weathered basket.
I am becoming
the woman I’ve longed for,
the motherly lover
with arms strong and tender,
the growing-up daughter
who blushes surprises.
I am becoming full moons
and sunrises.
I find her becoming,
this woman I’ve wanted,
who knows she’ll encompass,
who knows she’s sufficient,
knows where she’s going
and travels with passion.
Who remembers she’s precious,
yet not at all scarce—
who knows she is plenty,
plenty to share.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

BTW, the flood waters have receded

The flood waters in our home and our yard receded this past week. And we are grateful. Thanks to all who prayed for families like ourselves in the Merrimack Valley regions in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We suffered water in our basement and garage, but it was not as serious as for hundreds of people who lived along the Merrimack, Shawsheen and Spicket rivers--all of which overflowed their banks into local towns and residential areas.

Numerous families in our town are in serious need, many being flooded out of house and home with whatever they could carry away at the time of evacuation. If you wish to donate to assist families in need, kindly send a check payable to:

St. Michael Church
196 Main Street
North Andover, MA 01845

Mark your donation "FLOOD RELIEF."

The staff of this large church is well-suited to working in a coordinated effort to provide help to those in need. Your donation will directly help victims of this flooding crisis.

Thank you.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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The diagnosis

This post continues my look back on my cancer story that began with this post.

The next day, a Monday morning, I remember getting the call from my surgeon regarding my breast biopsy. Prior to this, my doctor had been very calm, optimistic even. He had actually assured me on the day of the surgery that everything had "looked good." However, his tone on this day was quite different.

The doctor told me that the pathology report "blew his mind" and it would surprise me. Nope. No surprise here--remember, I already "knew" intuitively... this report just confirmed it.

I took his call upstairs in my bedroom where I could speak privately--out of earshot from the kids. I remember sitting down on the chair in my room, reaching for a pen and paper as his said the words intraductal carcinoma. I remember thinking that this guy had been pretty cavalier about my worries--but now...well, what could he say, other than to sheepishly report the news.

The hours that passed after that were a blur. I had to get my daughter onto the kindergarten bus. Somehow I managed it. I remember trying to occupy my three-year-old so I could try to talk on the phone, but honestly, I could not muster the courage to speak to Bob right away--who was at work. He was often unreachable by phone as meetings and conferences took him out of his office--this was before the luxury of cell phones! So I just couldn't leave a message like that. If he didn't pick up the phone directly, I would hang up.

I called my mother and my sisters, and my dear friend A. who, fortunately, was able to come right over and pray with me. The Lord, in his wisdom, also sent J., a mutual friend. I say that J. was "sent" because J. just showed up on my doorstep. Somehow, she was "just in the neighborhood." Her presence was a gift to A., because I'm sure it was not a pleasant moment to be with me in. The Lord gave each of them to each other, and both of them to me.

I remember we prayed, and I was so glad we did. While they were there I found the courage to call Bob. It went better than I thought it would, even though it was on the phone.

Following this news, I was nauseous for two days. I've never had bad news make me physically ill before or since.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A holy reunion: The night before the cancer news

This post continues my look back on my cancer story that began with this post. (I'd rate this one PG-13.)

The Sunday night I returned from the conference, the house was still empty as my husband and children were also away for the weekend visiting family. In a way, it was a small blessing to come home to the quiet, as I had a few hours to reflect on all I had learned and experienced. I knew I was in a deep state of grace. I also knew that sooner or later I'd hear the news regarding my biopsy. It was a kind of pause, a time to inhale the blessings of the moment and exhale the lingering cares...

Bob and the children came home in bustling fashion and it was good to be in their company once again. Three kids finally got tucked into bed and Bob and I had time to visit with each other.

Our reunion as husband and wife later that night was truly passionate, and yet, emotional since it was the first time we made love since the breast surgery. I don't think I'll ever forget, nor did I ever feel more loved by my husband than when he bent his head down to kiss my scar. All those wonderful years together celebrating countless intimacies, boiled down to this moment, this moment of truth: one of us is wounded, and the other is cover and protection. And love for the wounded one allows the other to somehow enter into the woundedness, thereby freeing both to transcend it.

What a gift that moment was. A moment of mercy, dripping with grace, that only a sacramental union can bear. That was to be the last time we made love before the "official" diagnosis of my cancer.

It was a demonstration of a soul's lifetime vow that transcended the physical body... a renewal of love that was to become the foundation of restoration and recovery for both of us in the years ahead.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We interrupt this blog... due to weather...

See the rain fall down in Massachusetts. For a solid week, and 12 inches over the weekend...

See the lake form in my backyard. (No, that's not a natural pond. Usually, its a field of grass...)

Notice how the water is creeping toward the house (from where this picture was taken.)

You can guess the rest. Our garage and basement and office have flooded. We are part of the record rainfall and flooding taking place in the Merrimack Valley in MA. My children have had two "flood days." (Like snow days, only the liquid variety.)

I've been busy tending things at home, and praying for the rain to let up so we can celebrate my son's graduation this weekend.

Please pray for those in local cities and towns along the Merrimack River that have experienced much worse than we have. We'll have a lot to clean up, but we did NOT lose anything of value as so many others have.

Back to blogging when we're done sogging...

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Free Fall into a Blanket of Mercy

This post continues a look back at my cancer story.

While I was in Steubenville, I understood more and more about the great mercy of God. And what it meant to have a living hope, and more importantly, WHO the Living Hope is.

During Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Eucharistic Adoration the mercy of God forgave me, reconciled me, and drew me into the intimacy of the Sacred Heart. I was suspended there while God prepared and repaired my heart. He chose me, and reminded me of the true grace and faith of the earlier call he gave me in my life. Having believed, I was marked and sealed in the Holy Spirit. The "eyes of my heart were enlightened that I might know the HOPE TO WHICH HE HAS CALLED ME, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." (Ephesians 1: 18-19 NIV)

His great mercy enveloped me in a very deep, deep state of grace...deeper than any phase of my adult life thus far. I just wanted to embrace Jesus, and sought out anything that he gave to me. I submitted to him, committed to him, renewing my life with him in a profound way.

I always knew and believed in the mercy, and I had flexed some of those spiritual muscles at other difficult times in my life. But none of those things had the power, or potential, to kill me (like cancer could.) I never had to stake my life, my life's very breath, on it. It was spiritual "free fall", with nothing between death and me but a blanket of mercy.

That weekend the Lord gave me a scriptural anchor to base the rest of my life on. (The Red highlights are my own--to remember the power of that Word.) It's listed here:

1 Peter 1: 3-25 (NIV)

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

17Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Waiting for the lab report...(or meanwhile, at the Conference)

This post continues to chronicle my breast cancer story as I approach 10 years cancer-free.

In the summer of 1995, my husband visited Franciscan University in Steubenville for a Men's Conference. After his return, we decided that the following summer, I would have a turn to go to Steubenville for a summer conference. When the next summer's conferences were posted, I eagerly signed up to at one entitled "Mary, Mercy, and the Eucharist." There was an extraordinary listing of speakers and I couldn't wait to go.

As I waited for the conference, months away, I began to discuss it with my friend A. She considered the possibility of her going along, too. I knew I was already scheduled to go, but having a friend along would be a bonus, not to mention, raising the fun quotient of the whole trip.

I'm so glad the Lord saw to it that we could attend together, right down to the details of sitting next to each other on a crowded flight.

Please note the timing of this (just in case you believe in coincidences instead of the Lord's providence): the Lord had plans for me to go to that Conference on that weekend--exactly at the time that I was waiting for my pathology results from the breast biopsy... The Lord had me planning that trip almost a year in advance! He alone could see into the future--and He used that weekend away to pour in His Grace and Mercy into me, in preparation for the battle ahead and beyond.

It was interesting that I was not able to get the lab results before I left for the trip. As it turns out, it was for the best. I was able to give my fullest attention to the Spirit and the talks of the weekend. God had my attention, and He used it in a powerful way.

My first prayer time in the chapel yielded two important scriptures for my meditation that weekend:

Matthew 10: 24-25: "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.

It is enough for a disciple to be like his teacher. I knew that Jesus was preparing to teach me something truly valuable that weekend, and I was longing to receive it. How much would I imitate Him? I could hardly know, but I had an inkling.

The next scripture spelled it out: Matthew 10: 38: and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Not being worthy to be a disciple? Ouch! That hurt more than my stitches. So, I envisioned my cross. Little did I know that very afternoon, as I sat contemplating God's Word, the biopsy report was being prepared.

And so, while the pathologist's prepared the paperwork, the Lord prepared me with Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Some deep inner healing was taking place. Both in my prayer times, and through the sacraments. A moment of grace was encountering Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I won't bore you with the details, but following reconciliation I was drawn to my knees for a very long time. The Lord's presence was palpable; I could touch it, and I know He was pulling my heart deeper into His Sacred Heart. Tears of fear, sorrow, joy and peace flowed out of me like I'd not experienced in years. It is enough to say that I knew that Jesus knew everything about my cancer concerns, my life, and my future. I had every confidence in that. I felt--no, it was beyond a feeling--I had deep knowledge that I was in a deep state of grace.

There was something else too--I was light-hearted, joyful even.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

From Lump to Ha-rumph

This post continues to chronicle my breast cancer story as I approach 10 years cancer-free.

Discovering the lump in my breast on a Sunday pushed any serious doctor's appointment to at least Monday. Monday did not seem soon enough. I was seen right away by my gynecologist--who had just reviewed a negative (clean) mammogram 5 months earlier. A day later I met my general practitioner. Both breast exams gave me the same result: go see a surgeon.

After receiving the same recommendation of a local surgeon from my two docs, that decision was easily made. I met with Dr. Local Surgeon a few days later.

Dr. LS said, "Your 36? I doubt very much there's anything really serious going on... that slight breast discharge you have besides the lump? Most likely, it's a breast infection. Let's take a slide sample. Let's treat you with some antibiotics and I want to see you in four weeks."

Whew! My family thought I had dodged a bullet. I should be grateful, right?

A breast infection? Why didn't that sit right with me? I'm sure it was more serious than that. Maybe my worry hormone was in overdrive. But I had such a clear encounter in prayer following the lump's discovery.

It was very hard to calm my nerves over the four remaining weeks of May. I called on my prayer group and my family to send up some prayers with my name attached. People would ask how I was, and I really wanted to cry, but keep giving them the good news that its most likely an infection.

I faithfully took my antibiotics. I repeatedly gave myself breast exams. (Yeah, that's a bit excessive probably, but I kept wanting to "check"on things.) After two weeks on the antibiotics, still no change... I called the surgeon who then prescribed "something stronger."

I got to that follow-up exam four weeks later with no reduction in my symptoms and a pretty nervous psyche. Dr. Local Surgeon, not skipping a beat after my breast exam, "Well, if you're going to keep worrying about this nodule, I'll just take it out." Just take it out. Just like that. No, he still doesn't think its anything. "You're much too young to have cancer."

I had a conference I planned to attend in two weeks at Franciscan University of Steubenville--a much anticipated time away "on retreat" with a friend so I asked, "Could you do it before then, so I can still go on my mini-vacation?" He assured me, "Next Wednesday is open, and you'll be on the plane Friday, no problem!"

And so I was scheduled for a surgical breast biopsy. I asked my pastor if I "qualified" for the Anointing of the Sick. He made an appointment to pray with me the next day.

The morning of the biopsy, I asked the surgeon if I could be awake for the procedure, as I had a rough time with anesthesia medicines. He said the procedure was only about 20 minutes long and that wouldn't present a problem--using a local anesthetic-- as long as I was cooperative and held "still." I guess they had some people who were quite squeamish in the past who preferred to be asleep, or perhaps got too jumpy or something. Not me, I wanted to learn everything. I'm a mother after all, blood and guts don't scare me.

So I was gowned, prepped, and wheeled on a gurney while the nurse in charge of me kept reminding all her colleagues "the patient is awake." Even a big sign hung on the OR wall: PATIENT IS AWAKE. I guess they like to discuss stuff that they might not otherwise want the patient to hear, for as soon as I was wheeled in, I felt like I had trespassed. The nursing staff was kind, but there was not much talking, save the exchange of instruments and my blood pressure readings. I think by being awake I spoiled the mood.

As things finished up-- and yes, I could feel the tugging of the final stitching--not pain, just pressure--I ask "How does it look?" Dr. LS assured me he saw nothing but healthy tissue and it looks good. He said, "Go have a nice vacation!"

I came home with some pain medication--which I needed right away--and for which I thanked God in Heaven for. By Friday I no longer needed the Vicodin and felt good enough to travel on the plane. But the biopsy report was still not in. I wanted to travel with the "good news" that all was well, but, alas, I'd just have to wait. In the words of the kindly receptionist who took my call from the airport, "you want your pathologists to take all the time they need and to get it right." You bet I did.

HA-RUMPH! I had no more lump. Instead, I had a four inch incision and the sensation of stitches pulling, and still no answers.

I kissed my hubby and kids good-bye, and boarded the plane for my weekend away to be refreshed and renewed by our Lord at the conference in the company of a good friend. (Whom I secretly felt sorry for, that she would have to put up with the likes of me after the week I had.)

And I tried to put it all out of my mind. On the plane, my friend whispered the following scripture to me from 1 John 4: 18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Okay, Lord, I'm about ready for some of your perfect love... and my plane touched down but my heart had yet to land.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Friday, May 05, 2006


There are days that we meet our destiny straight on, and it's not a pretty sight. Just as some of us can remember exactly where we were when Kennedy was shot, or when the Challenger blew up, or when the planes struck the first tower on 9/11... I'll never forget the day I found the lump. May 5, 1996.

Yes, I'm talking about the kind of lump that a women finds in her breast.

Ten years ago today, I found one in my right breast upon waking. It was a bright, cool, spring morning. And I thought I felt something odd, a kind of ridge-like protrusion near my arieola. I thought it was just my imagination. I moved into the bathroom, leaving my still snoozing husband in bed on that Sunday morning. I took off my night shirt and looked in the mirror. At first, I thought I had maybe slept on my breast in a funny way, causing this malformation. I turned on the water for the shower. I recall standing by the bathroom window while I waited for the hot water to come up. I glanced out into the back yard. Our Lady's statue stood guard over the moment from her pedestal in the garden. Like a comforting mother, she was with me in that awkward instance as I performed a breast self-exam.

Nope. There was no mistaking this. This was a bonafide lump. My first words out loud were Lord, have mercy as I sank down in the shower stall and began to cry.

I remember crawling back into bed, hair still damp, and burrowing my head in my husband's shoulder. I quietly announced my news and told him of my finding and my drenching prayer. I told him that I thought the Lord was telling me to prepare for a long haul. He was. (Even though my loving, consoling husband didn't want me to jump to any conclusions.) In between the drops of water beating down on my body in that shower, I had truly sensed the Lord's warning, and assurance, and presence. Now my husband's fingers traced the reality I already understood.

How could I have had such clarity, like a word of knowledge, at a moment like that? Because my Easter season had been preceded by a Lent I will never forget... one that called me "to be" rather that "to do." A Lent that somehow instructed my heart that my then-3-year-old would be my last child. My Lenten journey had called me deeper into union with Jesus, the Suffering One. And so, I was ready for whatever was coming next, with a curious resolve, and yet, normal dread.

From May until October of that year I realized my deepest fears, grappled with my own spiritual poverty, and slowly made decisions that changed my life as I knew it. Yet, as I suffered with this lump, and all it brought me, I can look back years later and see the gift of that lump. It caused me to see that I was *Living Under Mercy's Protection.

The next few posts over the coming week will unfold this story. I can only write a bit at a time. I pray that I can write it from the perspective of someone who is now alive and well and living to tell of the blessings and redemption I found in weakness, surrender, and yes, suffering.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Life between the blogs

So when I'm not here, I can be found studying, or driving a child somewhere. Now and again, housework and laundry get done too. Some days I check out other people's blogs, and so I thought I'd share a few of my bookmarked blogs for you to check out yourself.

Since I contribute to Catholic Mom, I always check out what Lisa has to say over at Catholic Mom Moments.

I recommend Lisa's Catholic.Mom.com site for a host of reasons, but you should find that out for yourself.

Other well respected writers who also happen to be blogging Catholic moms:
  1. Amy Welborn's Open Book. Kinda newsy, kinda topical, fiercely Catholic.
  2. Danielle Bean's Danielle Daily. A perfect blog for Catholic stay-at-home moms.

Happy Catholic is worth a look. Always refreshing, a bit newsy.

I'm a former broadcaster from another life and so I revel in Barbara Nicolosi's take on the media over at Church of the Masses.

A new blog that came online a few months ago is from the Fr. Guy Sylvester, who, if you can believe it, was the altar server at my wedding back in '82, and one of my favorite kids at youth group. He's now a parish priest in New Jersey and a Vatican watcher, so I like to see what he has to say over at Shouts in the Piazza. He and I share a great love for our pontiff.

There are many directories for more Catholic Blogs, but one I can recommend is here.

Finally, just for laughs go to Savage Chickens. This guy fits more commentary on a post-it note than I can fit in a post, even a well-written one. Note: not necessarily Catholic content, but you'll enjoy the giggle. Thanks to Happy Catholic for promoting it this week!

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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