Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: cancer (page 1 of 2)

When There Are No Words

I started writing this while sitting in a hospital waiting area. Thankfully, there was a Starbucks in the building, so a very tall coffee sat next to me.

My one-year-old nephew went into the ER this past weekend. Once he was in a room, and I was able to see him, I was slightly taken aback. He was hooked up to so many things. And meds were being pumped into his little body. All to help him be more comfortable as they ran various tests.

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

It was hard looking at my little Buddy lying in a huge hospital bed. I couldn’t help but find myself thinking about my dad. Some eighteen years ago he was in and out of the hospital due to prostate cancer.

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Book Review: Maxwell the Monkey Barber

Maxwell the MonkeyMaxwell the Monkey Barber, Cale Atkinson, Owlkids Press, 2016.

Maxwell the monkey is the jungle’s barber. All the animals with out of control hair come to Maxwell. He is the best at what he does. He is able to tame Baboon’s curls, style Lion’s mane, and trim Bear’s beard.

Each time he declares to his customer: “Your hair’s the best I’ve seen today!”

Maxwell’s only challenge arrives with Elephant. He has no hair. Can Maxwell help him?  After some careful pondering, Maxwell comes up with a plan to help the hairless Elephant.

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Resurrection Hope

Read John 20:1-18.

crosses_3805cEaster will forever be a deeply personal day for me. Thirteen years ago on Easter Sunday, I was congregated in the choir loft of the small United Methodist Church I grew up in. I had promised my Aunt Polly that though I was starting a new job that week at another church, I would sing Easter Sunday in the choir.

It was in that choir loft that had an encounter with Jesus that gave me new eyes.

For the previous seven months my Dad was fighting prostate cancer. After being misdiagnosed with a pinched nerve, a new doctor found the tumor. It was a large and fast moving tumor. After rounds of chemo and radiation, surgery, and pints and pints of morphine, Dad was getting weaker and weaker.

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Guest Post: Lent is Waiting

by Rachel Mastin

Read Psalm 130.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comI have always loved the psalms. No matter where you are in life, you can find yourself in the psalms. And when you find yourself, look next to you, or behind you, or in front of you and you can find God, right there with you. Psalm 130 is part of a small group of psalms (120-134) that are sung by pilgrims who are on the road to Zion. And as we know, Zion is on a hill. They are literally, and figuratively, going up, out of the depths as they work through this psalm. We do not have a pure lament, nor are we completely in celebration. Rather these verses move us through different moods and feelings as the pilgrims walk. There are moments of lament, there are moments of celebration, and there moments of many things in between.

Though we could rest anywhere in these eight verses, I think the place that hits the closest for me is in the waiting. Lent is a time of waiting, of reflection, of repentance. The Psalmist is in the depths, cries out to the Lord and then, faithfully and with hope- he waits. The beauty and comfort of verses 5-6 is that you are not waiting alone.

Years ago my father had a liver transplant. It was supposed to be a fairly quick procedure, just five or six hours of surgery. By the time we got to this point we had been waiting for months. Waiting to see if other treatments worked, waiting to see if his cancer had spread, waiting for him to be moved to the top of the transplant list, waiting for the right donor liver to become available. And on this day, a sunny but cool Thursday in November, we sat at that hospital waiting. His surgery didn’t go as planned, and we waited. For twelve hours to talk to his surgeons and another three until we could put our eyes on him and know he had made it through.

I would be lying if I said that we spent that entire time praying, but it was certainly a large part of it for me. My entire family was gathered in the hospital and as we walked the hallways, tried to get information, made small talk with others who were also waiting, and turned to each other to ask what could possibly be taking so long, God was with us. In the frustration, concern, and confusion; in the small talk and the pacing and then, finally, in the relief, God was with us.

As we go about the rest of this lenten season we may linger in the depths, we may be steadily climbing up, not looking back, singing songs of forgiveness and joy on the way. We may bounce back and forth, climbing to the top and falling back down. Wherever we are, may we always know that God is with us, and may we look at our situation with the hope of Jesus Christ.

Rachel Mastin serves as the Christian Formation and Mission Coordinator at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Richmond,VA. 

Why I Am Not Shaving

It is rare that I don’t think about my father. When we sing a certain song in church, I remember singing it with him. When a song comes on the radio or iPod shuffle, I remember sitting the wooden pew listening to him sing that song in church. When the car makes a funny sound, I think about in what seemed like no time at all, he would be able to identify the sound. When I watch the CBS Evening News, I remember how that was a part of his evening ritual when coming home from work.

And I miss him.

I miss that he would always be there. I miss that he always seemed to have a fix, no matter the problem. I miss how he deeply listened to people, hearing them to speech. I miss how helping and serving others was important to him.

There is a glimmer of a memory watching my dad shave. The sink full of warm water, the shaving cream spread across his face, and razor in hand. A skill I would need to master. My parents gave me shaving cream and razors for Easter one year while I was in middle school. Shaving would become a ritual for me just it had for my dad.

But not this month.

This month I have not been shaving.  No razor or shaving cream has touched my face.  I have decided not to shave in observance of No Shave November. According the No Shave November website, this is “a unique way to raise cancer awareness.” The monies donated support the American Cancer Society. But a quick Google search will show that there are other organizations that encourage men to participate in some form of No Shave November to raise funds and awareness for their causes.

I have decided to do in memory of my father, Bruce C. Stanley. Dad had prostate cancer and died from it April 15, 2001. Easter Sunday.  That previous September Dad had started experiencing unbearable back pain. It was treated for a pinched nerve. After a month of the pain continuing, Dad went to get a second opinion and that is when he learned that he actually had prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the leading diseases in men. It is the second cause of cancer death in men, only to lung cancer. According to cancer.org, the American Cancer Society estimated that in 2013 about 238,590 men will be newly diagnosed with the disease and that the disease will be the cause of death for about 29,720 men. Roughly about 1 in 36 men will die from prostate cancer.

Dad just happened to be one of the 1s.

Dad always had facial hair. For the longest time, it was full fledge beard.

But, not always. When he and Mom got married in 1975, he had a simple, conservative mustache.

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After I was born, he sported his awesomeness, circa 1979-1980.

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As the ’80s continued, the mustache became the beard.

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Over time, it returned to a simple mustache. The switch came after much debate in our house as to whether Dad should shave his beard or not. I don’t remember what the deciding factor was, but it was a compromise to keep the mustache. And he held on to the mustache for as long as he could.

In the first few months after learning he had prostate cancer, there wasn’t too much change. But eventually, Dad would have to limit himself to the amount of physical labor he could do. The pain was just too great. While we worked in the yard, he would sit on the back deck watching, and wishing he could be out there with us.

As the cancer got stronger, Dad got weaker. He would eventually not have the strength to support himself to get up or to sit down. Family members would come by and, in a day, build a wheelchair ramp on the front of the house. Dad would be wheeled out in a wheelchair on the new ramp, lifted up out the car, and sat into the car.

To see my father – the essence of manhood – so weak and unable to do “manly” things, was heartbreaking. He was the one who worked on all kinds of automobiles. He was the one who chopped wood so we had firewood for the winter. He was the one who built a doghouse for our dog. He was Dad.

He was the one who carried us when we were not able to make it on our own. Yet, here he was in a hospital bed barely able to raise himself up. The more the cancer grew, and the more medicine ravaged through his body, the less hair he had. Including the facial hair that was a part of his identity as much as it was a part of his face.

The loosing of hair marked the lost of strength.

And so, I’m not shaving to remember, to honor, to raise awareness, and most of all, to be strong for all the times my father wasn’t able to be.

For more information about No Shave November, visit their website here, and consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society.

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