This guest post by Bev Thompson combines the best of travel, family and faith in a most unexpected set of circumstances, in a retreat at a Benedictine Monastery.
Faith Has A Voice: Serendipity – Stillness – Strength
by Bev Thompson
The idea of ‘living forever’ no longer lives in the darker recesses of my mind, it’s now a bright light, perhaps the same light that haunts us with stories of those about to cross over.
Cancer has changed my perspective and my life.
As has a new puppy .
Pip appeared at a most opportune time, just a year after my beloved Mollie had died. A phone call from a breeder:
“I have just the Sealyham Terrier puppy for you; small; perfect conformation; can have babies; can be a champion, if you would like.”
I half listened, none of what she said mattered, except the word – puppy. My heart was pumping again. The day I held that pup in the palms of my hands was my most joyous moment in a very long time. Time stood still that day as I held her close – just as it did a few months later.
Pip, Cancer, and a Benedictine Retreat
I had turned upon waking to catch Pip from falling off the bed. She was only 7-months old and growing. As I reached for her, that’s when I felt it. A lump, a cyst – no, a lump! No it can’t be, it will go away. Far away – but it didn’t.
Two weeks after diagnosis, I had surgery to remove a healthy portion, or perhaps not so healthy portion, of my left breast. I was alone. I had no close family or support system.
After the surgery, I felt pressured to say yes to everything the white coats ‘in the know’ hurriedly prescribed. But their lineup of statistics by way of line graphs and percentages, longevity and recurrence wasn’t resonating with me.
I was in denial but not so far gone that I couldn’t advocate for myself.
My surgeon gave me all the options and supported my decisions but felt (yes, a surgeon with feelings) obligated to give me the statistics about my lump.
My general physician wouldn’t let me go under the knife until I got my A1C down and a prick to 90 for my diabetes.
My radiologist had me sign on the line with a witness so many times; my hand went into spasms. Inter-operative radiation was an option I wanted.
Yes, you can cut me; yes you can burn me, but poison me? I balked and bucked, and whinnied – Noooo! My oncologist didn’t take the news well, but he documented The ‘No’ in silent disagreement. Then left me alone – nothing more to say.
She came after the facts. All my decisions had been made. No regrets. She agreed.
Cancer changes your life.
Your trajectory – Your friends – Your plans – EVERYTHING!
There is no going back to the way you were.
The revelation is that time is of the essence.
Where do I go from here?
The clarity that does come with the “C” word is . . . NOW!
Staying in today – is what I am left with. Today takes priority. Tomorrow can wait and Yesterday holds no ceremony over me any longer.
After declining chemo, my faith kept coming up. Will prayer take over where medicine has no guarantees? Will my faith prolong my life’s journey? My calling?
Needing solitude and a quiet place to reflect I started looking for a place I could take myself, and of course, Pip, my pup.
What type of retreat did I want? It had to include Pip.
By sheer coincidence, which some say is God’s way of remaining anonymous, a pet-friendly place popped up online. I put on my reading classes to make sure I wasn’t having an out-of-body experience.
The Monastery: A Benedictine Retreat
Cancer brought up a need to reckoncile with my faith; a faith that called to me. A spiritual adventure was called for and a Benedictine Monastery I stumbled upon on the web seemed like the perfect place.
Pip and I were the only guests at the hermitage. We had the whole house to ourselves. Except of course for three Benedictine sisters and one yellow lab named Monk.
A basket of fresh food appeared on my kitchen table each morning and evening and chapel was only a path’s walk away. The hospitality was like none other I had experienced. I am Protestant, yet the Benedictine Order welcomed me as a sister-in-faith.
When I asked the sisters what I should pack, Sister Sheila replied, “floating fetch toys that Monk can retrieve from our pond.”
“And we so look forward to meeting your, Pip,” she added.
My heart melted.
What a week it was. Contemplation, prayer, community, hospitality, generosity and – my faith restored; a community that was new to me, yet not, growing up amongst the faithful from birth.
We laughed, we played, we shopped, went sightseeing.
The sisters never asked why I had come. Never questioned my faith or the basis of my beliefs. Through the serendipity of an internet search, I reached out and asked for a week of sheltering and they took me in.
As the week came to a close, I asked to gather with the sisters to tell them my story and ask for their prayers.
“Bev, we have been praying for you all week long and will continue with prayer – ‘healing prayers’ each day to sustain you as you continue your life’s journey.”
Our stories, as we look back on our lives, bring up the miracle of randomness, God’s anonymous moments. It made little sense miraculously Pip entered my life when she did.
It made no sense that a faith outside my own would embrace me.
It made no sense that Transfiguration Monastery would enter my life through an Internet search.
No one gets through life alone. God promises us that the ending is worth waiting for – in life – in death – through the magical power of faith.
Serendipity – Stillness – Strength – a perfect threesome. The Father, The Son, The Holy Ghost; And Three Sisters. Incredible Revelations Come in 3’s – and a dog named Monk.
“Seek and you shall find. Ask and it shall be given to you.”
The Power of Faith – God’s Medicine.
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More Guest Posts
Traveling To Heal: 83 Days On TheRoad
One Cancer Patient’s Ultimate Travel Bucket List
Seven Ways To Survive The Holidays While Grieving
An Artist’s View of Luxor, Egypt
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Good morning from Sunny California. Just a note to say I loved your post today and the keyhole photo is fabulous. I am also a cancer blogger & I think you and I corresponded a few years ago, but in all honesty, maybe my memory is wrong. Everything was quite foggy there for a while. I’ve just started putting my cancer pieces together into a book and wonder if you’ve ever thought of doing the same? I thought the process would be easier since the majority of my content has already been written… Wishing you a happy day.
When you get your book together, please let me know! My other website http://www.AntiCancerClub.com runs a monthly CancerBookClub where we explore the cancer experience through literature and film. And sometimes art too! You can see the replays here: https://anticancerclub.com/club-activities/cancerbookclub/replays/
People do say I should write a book (and goodness knows, the blog is almost a book!) but right now I’m just too busy with CancerRoadTrip. Getting all the behind the scenes pieces put together is somewhat monumental…and I’m grateful for every moment.
If you’re not already, I hope you’ll follow @CancerRoadTrip on Twitter. And let’s connect one day! Here’s my phone calendar:https://calendly.com/pat-13/cancerroadtrip-1 I’d love to chat and catch up.
Thank you, Nancy. I took so many photos while at the monastery and the framed photo was in an art show in NYC. Best with your book and wishing you a happy day! ~ Bev
Great post! Where’s the retreat? Would love to check it out for myself. I could use the respite. Thanks so much for sharing!
I think it was in upstate New York. Let me see if I can get some more specific info.