The CLC communications team has decided to have some of the staff other than the pastors join the blog team. I drew the short straw this week and it’s my turn to blog. I’m not a blogger so I asked for help! They told me to write about something current. Politics seems like a no-winner of a topic and I needed an alternative. The staff then suggested I tell you what is going on with me. So, here’s what’s going on with me: I have cancer.
That’s a big word. It seems harsh. Scary, to be sure. And it’s serious. As in stage 4. When I check into my “Patient Portal” on the medical website and sign in, it says “Mark Glaeser, cancer patient. Stage 4, advanced prostatic cancer.” That can’t be me! We are about to enter the golden years! My wife, Gwen, just retired! My daughter, Kristin, is about to have a baby! I’m about to be a grandfather! It’s time to travel and relax! Not cancer. Not now. Not yet!
Dr. Sensenbrenner and I have been on top of my blood tests for years because of my strong family history of prostate cancer. My dad died of prostate cancer, as did his two brothers. My two older brothers have pre-cancerous prostates. Dr. Sensenbrenner called me on a Friday morning last June and told me the news that has changed the trajectory of my life. I was devastated.
Next came follow up appointments with more doctors and specialists. Each visit was met with even more bad news. We would be sitting there, talking to the doctor, trying to absorb this new reality being thrust upon us, looking for words of hope, and not hearing any. The worse part was looking over at Gwen. She would listen to the doctor and silently weep. She did that at the next appointment too. My heart broke. For her. And for me. We were scared and so very disappointed. Gwen had just announced her retirement in June, and the very next week we got bad news. What the heck? This happens to other people. Not us! (\ And, yes, I know how terrible that sounds).
Since my cancer didn’t go away after they removed my prostate, the plan is to starve the cancer. It has spread too far and too quickly for radiation to be effective. The starvation is done by an injection and a pill that shuts down my body’s production of testosterone. You see, testosterone feeds prostate cancer. Therefore the plan is to starve the cancer, hold it at bay, and hope we get 2 to 3, maybe even 3 to 5 years of status quo. Eventually the cancer will learn to feed itself and then begin its work again.
Kristin told me to buck it up, change my attitude, think of the positive things, hear the positive things, talk about the positive things, find some hope in this situation. I was depressed. It was showing around the edges, and she needed hope and she was convinced I needed hope.
Hope. We talk about it all the time. We hear sermons about hope. We sing about it at church even more of the time. Greeting cards are filled with messages of hope. But how do you get hope? (And, couldn’t we all do with more hope?)
Hope has been hard for me to find at first. Every time I woke up in the night, I would lay awake, worry about Gwen, worry about treatments, worry about our shortened future, worry about a grandchild I may not see grow up, worry about an awful death (after all, I’ve seen several loved ones die of this disease). Then, when I couldn’t fall back to sleep, I would grab my phone and search the internet for information about my disease. Boy, that doesn’t work let me tell you! Everything I read about my disease left me feeling hopeless.
Yes, Kristin, annoyingly so, was right. I needed hope!
Slowly, I’m beginning to see hope. This community is showing me hope. I’m being prayed for every week in worship, almost to the point of embarrassment. I feel like hearing my name every week puts so much focus on me, but I want those prayers! I need those prayers! There are even other churches across the ELCA praying for me. For me. Slowly, I’m beginning to feel hope. Many of you have sent the nicest cards which thoughtful and gracious sentiments, filled with hope. Many of you text, call, drop in and check in with me regularly, filled with words of hope. I’ve been surrounded by hope.My family, my church, my small groups, my friends, my choirs, my neighbors-all tell me they are praying for me. More prayer is good, right? Well I’m not sure anybody has ever had a stronger community of support and hope than I have! I’m not sure it’s even possible.
And, talk about a supportive family: Gwen, Kristin and Caleb have been amazing in their support. No one has a stronger support family, plain and simple.
Slowly but surely, hope is creeping in around the edges. Prayers are working. The hormone starvation treatment is working. People all around me and those afar are encouraging me and filling me with hope. The cancer is being held at bay for now-that’s real hope. I’m still working, leading and singing songs of hope. Gwen is thriving in retirement and our grand baby is still on the way! There is much to be grateful for. Hope is happening, despite my efforts to be feel hopeless or sad or scared.
May hope become a reality for all of us. May it fill my heart and chase out the fear. And, while we’re at it, may hope fill your hearts. May it fill your homes. May it fill our church and even our everyday world. May we all “buck it up” and find the hope in our situations, despite our efforts to hold hope at bay.
Easter is right around the corner. If that’s not real hope, then I don’t know hope.
“Praise 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 though the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3-4a NIV)
Dare I say, hopefully yours?
Minister of Music, Staff Blogger by Default