By Debra Brubaker 79
On Aug. 13, 1999, I received a phone call from my doctor,
who said that my recent mammogram showed two areas highly suspicious of
malignancy. My family had moved to Goshen a month before. Having just
spent two stressful years working on a doctoral degree at Kansas University
in Lawrence, Kan., and having always been very healthy with no risk factors
for cancer, this news was a terrible blow. I had no medical support system in
place, but many frantic phone calls later was led to Dr. Rick Hostetter at the
three-month-old Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Goshen Health System
(a breast cancer specialist, and an EMU alumnus, he practices state-of-the-art
oncology). To make a long story short, over the course of the next 10 months,
I was to undergo three surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks
of radiation. Through it all, Dr. Hostetter and staff gave me reason to hope
that my condition was curable. My family my husband, Jim, a builder/remodeler,
and sons Andy and Martin, both middle school students has seen me through
all of this. Today, I am still undergoing blood tests every three months as
a routine checkup, and I am operating under the belief that I am cured. (I refuse
to use the term remission.)
I feel great and as I write, it is exactly 18 months since the diagnosis.
It was never a question for me whether science and spirit
worked hand in hand during my journey through cancerland.
I knew instinctively
that I was fighting for my spiritual life as well as my physical one.
The darkness and depression and hopelessness that settles over you during the
initial weeks following the diagnosis is staggering. Doctors, good friends,
fellow overcomers I despise the term survivor
as well as hymns, Scripture, cards and letters all pointed the way, but
only quiet time spent with God got me through.
I would go to my journal daily and dive into it like never before referencing
meaningful passages from the stack of books I acquired, which quickly filled
three shelves in my home, then reflecting and reacting as I wrote and wrote.
I filled two notebooks in six months.
The enforced rest and solitude were at first frightening, then calming, then
something I craved. It was freeing to realize that I was expected to do nothing
and go nowhere, and thus was allowed to spend as much quiet time
alone as necessary. I spoke to God, yelled at God, cried with God, heard Gods
voice, felt God hovering over me and affirming, waiting, holding, guiding.
Intense visual images would present themselves. The frequent, strong references
to water that I encountered while reading the Bible led me to imagining, for
example, the chemo fluid in the I.V. bags as a green, healing liquid (Hildegards
viriditas) that would only heal and never harm. The 23rd Psalm,
with its still waters and anointing oil images, was a passage I repeated over
and over on the nights when I could not sleep. After a shape-altering surgery,
the most difficult part of the journey, the water turned to angry waves in a
stormy sea. But the image of God as a rock came to mind; I clung to it as the
waves battered my body and spirit, but the turbulence did not overwhelm me.
Eventually, the water images turned to desert images: I saw myself journeying
through a land of dust and heat and sun. I never felt threatened by these images,
which represented the harsh realities of cancer and its cure. I knew that Gods
hands were upon me: the hands of the doctors and nurses ministering to me physically,
the heavenly hands giving me daily manna through song, Scripture and people
reaching out to me. At the end of this journey, I envisioned myself in a little
white tent, the sun gently lighting its white roof as I curled in a blanket
and waited for healing, knowing that God was right outside.
One of the friendships I developed at the Cancer Treatment Center was an Orthodox
priest and lay psychologist, as well as a fellow cancer overcomer. He and I
had frequent long discussions about spirituality, God, the reality of our physical
beings. He brought a knowledge of the desert fathers to the discussions. I remember
distinctly a conversation where Carl leaned toward me and said, You know,
at the end of the desert, God presents the Promised Land.
At the time, I could barely grasp the truth of that statement, but I am here
to tell you that indeed, Gods promises do not fail.
On Feb. 8, I stood in front of a crowd of witnesses who had gathered for the
dedication of the new Cancer Treatment Centers of America building in Goshen.
My choir stood behind me, ready to sing and express the power of music. As I
prepared to tell my story, I realized where I truly was. I stood in a huge tent
that had been erected for a celebration. The tent roof was white, and I was
standing in the very spot where I had visualized myself curled up for so many
months: waiting, like a bulb, to begin my greening my growth into healing.
I believe in miracles. They are the miracles of prayer, of science, of risk,
of courage. They are the miracles of Gods people in the form of doctors,
nurses and friends laying hands upon the sick and bringing hope, life and healing.
It was my privilege to receive this laying on of hands, and it is my prayer
that I will be allowed time to do the same for others.
Associate professor of music at Goshen, Debra Brubaker
teaches voice and directs the Goshen College Chorale as well as opera-theatre
productions. The chorale recently toured Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa
and Ohio during the spring semester midterm break. The groups programs
included several songs about light.
Said Brubaker, The Chorales theme centered on God being our light
in the darkness, Christ bringing that light into the world and us, as believers,
finding ways to reflect and become that light, which shines on our lives and
Return to April Bulletin
Science and simplicity by
President Shirley H. Showalter
Traces of Gods handiwork in the universe
by Rachel Lapp
of God: The search for truth and beauty by Carl Helrich
community: General education guides discussion by Ryan Miller with Beth
Martin Birky 83
The best of times, the worst
of times by Owen Gingerich 51
Marrying science and religion,
in classroom and home interview with Elizabeth (Miller) 51 and Marlin
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