I’m Back!

Hello everyone!

It’s been a few months since I last wrote. Since my hip surgery in November, the last eight months have been hectic and painful. It felt like every two weeks there was a new challenge, such as C. difficile, the Covid outbreak, confusion as to where the source of my pain was, and the discovery of more cancer in my knee and femur. Halfway through April, the femur in my right leg broke, and it took three weeks before the hospital was able to admit me and preform a femur replacement. Because of the pandemic, I spent 18 days in a room all alone in the hospital. One of the films I watched repeatedly is called the Dawn Wall. The Dawn Wall is the biggest outcropping in Yosemite Park and is considered to be an impossible climb. The film is based on two men who climb it an have to focus with all they have to make incredible moves up the wall. I love to watch their focus and determination. In a way, I feel as though I’m climbing my own Dawn Wall.

I would like to thank my friends and family for waiting patiently for news from me. Healing is my primary focus and is taking up all of my concentration.

Today was fantastic; I’m back on chemo as of Thursday of this past week and am recovering very well from surgery. Today, I was able to walk from my room to the kitchen and back three times (I’m training for the Schomberg Country Run, always the last Saturday of September:) ). My sister Genny and her husband Mike have been incredible in their dedication to me. Gen cares for me full time and always graciously, without complaint – she’s a saint. Sarah and Madeleine are struggling through it,  with more witness than I would ever wish. I don’t know which is worse, being the one suffering, or watching the ones you love watch you suffer. For me, this is about our faith, love, and hope. Spirituality has been incredibly enlightening; there’s so much support, and love, and healing just waiting for us. There have been some very cool spiritual experiences for me in this time, and I can’t wait to write about them and share them with you here.

My vanity has taken a bit of a hit, but that’s good. I’ll send pictures when I’m stronger; I’ve got some new muscles growing that I’ll flex for ya later. I miss going to church and I miss my people, the people of my parish are amazing, and it’s been nothing but love and graciousness from you all. Thank you for not getting bored in your prayers for me, I need them lots everyday – we must carry hope together.

Love,

Sheilagh +

Update on Sheilagh

Greetings, friends of Sheilagh. Christi Dye here, long time friend. I first met Sheilagh in 1995, in the kitchen of the New House at Daybreak. I fell in love with her right there, and we have been dear friends ever since, through many phases of life. As part of Sheilagh’s circle of support, one of my jobs is to update her webpage, which I am glad to do.

Sheilagh continues to move forward profoundly strong in her spirit, deep in her insight and spiritual journey, and, as she says “in a river of love.” Thank you for being part of that river

At the end of November, Sheilagh officially became a bionic woman! She had a hip replacement, and my own favorite part of that story is that when she met the orthopedic surgeon, awed at his methodology, she said “You mean to tell me that you put a saw into people’s bodies??!! That’s amazing! That deserves a high five! So HIGH FIVE!” And high five-d the guy! In the midst of all she is going through, she continues to find delight and connection and humor.
She has recovered from the replacement and has had radiation on the hip and her knees for metastases in those places, though the hip replacement removed most of the affected hip. The great news is that during that process–several weeks–she had to discontinue chemo, and the tumors in her torso did not grow! So while there have been new challenges with further metastases, Sheilagh and all of us, continue to give thanks for each piece of good news. The plan now is to resume chemo mid-Jan, after the radiation gets out of her system.

Her siblings are providing immense support–thank you, large Catholic families!!–on every front. Each one (of the six) is doing the part that he/she can do best. Though each one is playing a special role, notable is her “womb-mate,” her twin, Genny, who stays with her after every chemo…and…and…and…. they are….simply….together…. Their personalities are quite the study in contrasts, which makes it all the more beautiful–and hilarious–to be around them.

It’s amazing how love calls us to rise to more than we could have known we were even capable of….

This is an arduous journey. Every day, Sheilagh endures much in body and spirit. And she continues to laugh, to engage her path with courage and strength and hope, to love those dearest to her, to mother two extraordinary young women with gentleness and grace, and to encounter the very real presence of God in ways that are tangible and transforming. While much of this is grace, it is also the very fruit of who she is—her strength, her openness, her persistence in choosing the path of life and love.

The Season of Thanksgiving

Some good news to start with – the CT scan revealed that the chemo regime is working.

There are no new masses and each mass is smaller. Good news indeed!

I do believe that this progress is due to the rich combination of chemotherapy, prayer in a myriad of forms, friendship, spiritual healing, energy work, lymphatic work, familial love, psychological healing, a strong body, a powerful determination to live and most especially the grace and mercy of The Creator.

People often ask how many more chemo sessions are left and the answer to that is unknown. The plan is to continue with chemo until we are done. My cancer is an aggressive form and requires constant vigilance. This is an ironman triathlon, not a sprint and requires that level of commitment and concentration. Every day is game day for me.

My understanding of what faith is has expanded a great deal since diagnosis. I remember talking with Clayton deVries about his constancy in caring for Christ Church, Kettleby. I was new to the parish and I noticed that he and his beloved wife Theresa were there all the time – managing the grounds, fixing the buildings, visiting elders of the parish and generally making sure the church was functioning well and serving its mission. Sometimes it was clear what needed to be done and other times not so but always it was a practice of faith. Mopping the floors was an act of faith, same as taking a risk and trusting that God would provide enough people, enough money and rich enough worship to keep the people grounded in the love of God. We practice faith when we have everything going for us so that when we are challenged we have the spiritual muscle memory to carry us through the dark times. I have had so many teachers who have showed me how to practice faith in God, in our Maker, in Life, in Goodness and I am deeply grateful.

There are some things you can only learn by acting courageously. It would be going too far to say I am grateful for cancer, but I have learned and grown in ways that I would never have otherwise. For more life, for deeper compassion, for a broader understanding of the spiritual life, for more time with my siblings, for time to reflect and pray; for these things that have come because of my diagnosis, I am grateful. The gratitude helps me deal with the frustrations of being very limited physically, with being threatened every day, with the fear and anger at missing out on life. I love life and living it to the fullest.  My favourite verse in the Scriptures is in the Gospel of John where Jesus says that “I have come to give you life and life in the fullest.” (You get a prize if you can quote the chapter and verse without looking it up) Getting the most out of a day makes me so happy and laying on the couch “behaving” is very difficult. Perhaps I am blind to how that is full life. I ask for the grace to see it differently and to accept my limitations.

Thank you for your care, your prayers and your acts of love and kindness.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Peace and light be with you.

Love Sheilagh

 

A day in the life

I’m thinking of getting a button that says, “Closed for renovations”.

I can’t take care of anyone else right now but old patterns die-hard.

You know when you wake up in the summer and you can smell that beautiful clean smell of ozone and you guess that you must have slept through a thunderstorm. When you get up and see that you were right you kinda feel like a wise person in tune with nature. Madeleine woke up with that kind of feeling yesterday but it was not as pleasant as a thunderstorm. It was a feelings storm.

(I know, gross)

Madeleine woke up yesterday, gave a sniff and thought, “uh oh, Mom’s mad”. I was crashing around the house like a baby who didn’t get her way. I was mad and mad to be mad. (this is the song that never ends….sing along, now!)

For the most part I have been able to stay focused on healing and getting better but doubt crept in when my guard was down and got a foothold.

When the storm blew itself out Madeleine and I made a plan to take this storm show on the road.

We packed up old plates, trinkets, vases and my trusty slingshot.

And because we are not hooligans we also packed a box, broom and safety glasses. We took a drive, found a beautiful spot then spent a couple of hours breaking things – just the right medicine. Madeleine has a great shot, we could eat off her aim.

I’ve made some adjustments to my expectations (lowered them, of course) and tried to create more space for patience. Chemo number 5 is next week, so I’ll need to make sure my foundations are well set.

As always, I am grateful for your love and prayers. I love you too.

Here is the full version of the Emily Dickinson poem Mrs. Cober referenced – thank you for the reminder.

‘HOPE’ IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS
Emily Dickinson

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

The Bees

The thing people say to me after they assure me of their love and prayers is “How are the bees?”  So here is a brief update:

The bees are very well.

They had a rough spring but have enjoyed the summer quite a bit.  The apiary has been a haven for me.  I go there to rest and to be tended to by the bees and to be in nature.  My buddies Eddie and Mannie have helped with the grass and the shelter (this is a before picture).  My brother Bernie has been helping in the yard regularly.  I am amazed by how strong he is and how easily he manages the equipment.  I could work out every day and not be able to move a colony of bees the way he does (am I a wee bit jealous? why, yes, I am) (everywhere I turn there is more spiritual work to be done!)

In as many ways as possible I let the bees lead.  This means attentive listening and observing.  They prefer not to be disturbed, especially when there is a honey flow on.  Each time you open a hive they have work to do to rebuild comb.  A hands off approach has been good.

The kind of listening you do in an apiary is like the kind of listening you do in L’Arche.  You know how when you start a friendship with someone who does not communicate in the same way you do.  Especially at the beginning, you put forward what is best about you and in turn you open yourself to receive what is best about them and allowing them the space to communicate in their way.  That is how you approach bees.

In beekeeping there is only one date that you follow without fail and that is September 14.   On September 14, no matter the weather or how great the honey flow is you’ve got to get the supers full of honey off.  The rest of the honey is for them for the winter.

(Who got Holy Cross Day, when I mentioned September 14? Let me know if you got it without being told and I’ll send you a prize.) (Everyone likes a treat once in a while.)

In the meantime, I’ve got a bit of work to do in the honey room to get ready and I’ll be tapping some friends on the shoulder to help with the heavy lifting and labour of extracting honey.

We’ll be putting honey out at the end of the driveway soon!

4th Chemo

How’s Sheilagh?

I am tired.

The chemo is cumulative and it is harder to bounce back, but that is okay because I don’t need to bounce back right now. One thing we say a lot around the house these days is “Its just going to be like this for a while.” (it’s what my brother and I used to say when we climbed hills on our road bikes). So I’ll be tired for a while. I can do that.

I am also bald.

It didn’t take long to get used to having no hair and I kind of like it. I’ve got a nice scalp and a finely shaped head. I have been cutting my own hair for years and Sarah often helps with the finishing touches so she helped me shave it off. It was an emotional time but also very funny. Do you remember the vultures from the 70’s Disney film The Jungle Book? One of the vultures likes to bop up and down and ask the other vultures, “What do you want to do? I don’t know what do you want to do?” My kids think I am much like this vulture, always wanting to get up and do something. Years ago Madeleine changed my profile picture in her phone to this vulture. We were crying with laughter when she pulled it up – a fine likeness now in personality as well as in looks.

You can hear it now, can’t you? “What do you want to do? I don’t know what do you want to do?”

I’d like to make a prayer request.

You know how sometimes when you pray it’s actually just worrying and you end up in little ruts. I can end up doing gymnastics wondering if I’ve prayed well enough, thoroughly enough and I get all caught up in things that don’t matter. So, instead of that, what I am hoping for is that when you pray for me (I know you are praying. It’s awesome. I’m super grateful.) I’d like you to do a simple thing and that is to be hopeful. Either say the word or write it down or ring a bell or light a candle or simply turn your heart in that direction. I’d love it if this trouble resulted in more hope for the world. I know for me it is changing me in profound ways and so far as it is up to me my intention is that it will be a blessing of hope for the world.

Thank you for your prayers and love.

It is carrying me every day.

It’s just going to be like this for a while.

So keep praying and spreading hope.

Here are a couple of pictures from our trip to Awenda

It says “Go Live” I’ve got lots of living to do!

2nd Chemo

How’s Sheilagh?

Sheilagh is sleepy.

The events around the second round were less dramatic than the first go, thankfully! I’ll give you a more fulsome post soon, but for now, know that I am as well as can be given the circumstances and I thank you for your love, prayers and support.  The feasting week begins tomorrow.

First Day of Chemo – A Wild Ride

The first picture on the website of me, with the juice box in my hands and the piece of grass between my teeth, is from my first day of chemo. The first day of chemo was a wild day. I want to tell you the story but first let me ask you a question. Have you ever had days where you felt like you were blind folded and Jesus (or some other holy benevolent being who loves you and wants good things for you but is also a little crazy and not afraid of anything) had you by the hand and started running through a maze, while you did your best just to keep up and not let go, listen with all your being? I know that is a bit specific but that was how my first day of chemo felt. Anyone else ever feel that way?

So…
It was a gorgeous day. I was up early to pray and meditate. (You know how you have a certain way of dribbling the ball before you shoot from the top of the key or before you serve in volleyball? Or tap the goal posts of the net? Or the way you wrap the rope for wakeboarding or waterskiing? Prayer and meditation does that for me. It grounds and focuses me. It makes me ready for whatever is coming and I’ve got to do it every day.)

Firstly, my brother Brian came over early to put new spring tires on the car, wash, and detail it. It feels so good to have things in order and a tool well tuned at the ready.

Soon after, my longtime friend, Kimberly, came over with treats and medicine. The day had hardly begun and I was surrounded by love in action.

Then, Bernie and James came to take me to Southlake. We had a great time. We listened to one of my favourite books – Lamb by Christopher Moore. It is one of the funniest books I have ever read and it made me love Jesus even more. The time in the clinic was exhausting, but was made lighter by easy company and a good book.

They sent me home with a chemo treatment box, to slowly drip for a couple of days. Someone, perhaps many people, lovingly knit little bags for “juice box” of chemo. A simple, sweet thing that made me feel like someone had been through this before and they were willing to share their tricks. Somehow the little box of poison that is going to be a part of healing me did not feel so threatening in its little knitted bag.

Part way through the day, I mentioned to Bernie that we should stop by my favourite place to hike on the way home. From the top you can see all the way to Bond Head to the North and the rolling hills of Caledon to the West.

We stopped on our way home to run a couple of errands. I was tired and I didn’t actually feel like a hike but as we approached the turn I said to Bernie “We’ve got to turn here”. As we entered the parking lot there was a car that caught my attention. Something was odd about it. When I got out of the car, I could see what the issue was. It was running and someone had attached a hose to the tail pipe. I ran as fast and as low to the ground as I could and opened the front door of the car. Thank God it wasn’t locked. Then I booked it out of there. If she had just started the process of trying to kill herself, then I did not want her to come after us. Bernie ran to the top of the hill to get a signal and called 911. He crept to the car and could see that she wasn’t moving. As Bernie talked with the dispatcher I put myself at the ready to run and turned off the car. At his signal I crab-ran to the car, turned it off then ran back again (my little chemo box in my hand like a relay runners baton). Again, I urgently called to Bernie that I wanted to make sure she didn’t see us. It was clear to me that she had put a tremendous effort into her task and I did not want that energy to be transferred to us.

(If you are one of the kids in my church who comes up for the kids talk you will remember me teaching you how to cross yourself. (three fingers, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, put them together etc.) There are many times that you can use that spiritual tool and this was the perfect time for me to cross myself for divine protection.)

When the police arrived they opened the back door and she woke up immediately. She was angry and started filming the police officer with her phone. Clearly, there was still a lot of fight left in her.

As we stood on the road directing the rest of the emergency crew to the site a neighbour came strolling up, curious about the situation. I just said, “Someone’s sick”. She wanted to be alone in her pain and I didn’t think she would appreciate an audience. The neighbour then said to me “Aren’t you the priest from Schomberg?” I said, yes, and he proceeded to remind me of a time 5 years ago when I visited him and his family during a crisis and helped them through it. He said it changed their life. I had forgotten all about it. He hadn’t.

Then, my friends Sarah and Natasha came up the road with their beautiful dog. Sarah has been helping me heal and meditate and doing amazing energy work with me. I laughed when I saw that it was her coming up the road. Of course it would be Sarah! Perfect!

After the woman was taken to Southlake, Bernie and I had our hike and took in the view with renewed gratitude for the simple gift of breath and life in this day.

This Jesus dude seems to know what he’s up to, so I’m just gonna hold tight and try to stop screaming. Wish me luck!