Reflections From Europe – Part I

I wrote this post on the train yesterday.  I should have been back home today but after spending nearly 12 hours at the Milan airport my flight was canceled and now I’m spending another night at an airport hotel.  Sigh… Fingers crossed our flight tomorrow goes off without a hitch.  Despite the insanity I never got stressed or anxious.  I just went with the flow.  And I’m crediting all the calming meditation and prayer I did this week for keeping me sane.  It’s a beautiful thing.  And tomorrow is a new day!


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The view from the train to Milan.

My last day in Europe, and I’m spending it on a 7 hour train ride from Foggia to Milan.  At least the scenery is beautiful – the charming little towns with the sea stretching out on one side and rolling hills and farms on the other.  Even though I’m not out there exploring I still get a glimpse of Italian life.

My spiritual journey through Portugal and Italy was just what the doctor ordered.  I am leaving with a renewed sense of strength.  An increased sense of inner peace.  A quieter mind.  A lot less fear.  And many steps closer to surrendering control and trusting the Universe.

The journey has also opened me up to the Christian faith.  Most of my life I’ve had an aversion to the word “God”.  My parents were raised in catholic families, went to catholic schools, attended mass regularly (heck, my dad even entered the seminary for a brief period in his teens).  But they grew into adults who openly detested the catholic church and as their child, their dislike somehow became a part of me.  So even though my mom was an extremely spiritual person (and even an ordained Soto Zen Buddhist monk) the word “God” was never used in our house and organized Christianity was shunned.  I was never baptized.  We never went to church.  Our spirituality involved walking in the forest or sitting by the ocean in silence.

On this trip I found myself admiring the conviction of the faithful Catholic folks around me.  Their deep sense of devotion.  Their ability to trust in God and surrender.  Now I find myself using the word “God” for the first time in my life and being ok with it.  I also feel compelled to find a church when I get back home and start going every week with Hubby and Miss M.

The healing energy I felt at Fatima, Padre Pio’s church, and the grotto of Saint Michael the Archangel was undeniable.  I spent hours in prayer and meditation…  on my knees shedding endless tears…  asking for guidance…  releasing my sadness, fear, worries, and attachments…  basking in the silence…  soaking up the beautiful energy of unconditional love.

While a part of me had hoped for spontaneous healing.  A miracle of some sort.  An apparition.  Or divine intervention….  It hasn’t happened – yet.  But I did experience many smaller acts of God.

Just this morning I was waiting for the bus from San Giovanni Rotundo to Foggia where I was scheduled to catch the 10:30am train to Milan, and the bus driver told me no, there was no 9am bus today to Foggia.  The next bus wasn’t until 1pm because apparently today is a special holiday and the buses run on a different schedule.  Oh ok.  I’m screwed.  But before I had time to get stressed a young lady started talking to me (luckily she spoke some English) and before I knew it she was calling her brother to come pick us up and drive us into Foggia.  Thank you Universe!  I made my train with time to spare!  I tried to slip them some cash but they wouldn’t take it.  Turns out her father is in Padre Pio’s hospital in a coma.  She, her brother, and mother all take turns traveling from another town where the live to visit with him.  I told her about my cancer and my spiritual pilgrimage.  We promised to pray for each other.  What a beautiful gift.

My whole trip was like that.  Full of gifts.  And kindness.  And beauty.

One of the biggest gifts was the lack of pain I’ve had this week.  Aside from the first day I arrived in Lisbon, when I was seriously jet-lagged, I haven’t had to take any pain meds.  Nothing.  I’ve felt pretty damn good.  This, despite the fact that the cancer doesn’t seem to be shrinking any, the hair on my head is falling out by the fistful, and the swelling in my arm is still pretty bad.  And despite the fact that I’ve totally ditched my healthy diet and had plenty of pasta, sweets, and wine.  Also very interesting, is that any pain or discomfort I did have disappeared entirely when I was at a religious site praying or meditating.

As I prepare to head home I hope to continue to nurture my newfound sense of spirit and faith.  That’s always the real challenge, right?  Maintaining serenity back in the “real world”.

I have some serious decisions to make about my treatment.  One thing I do know is that I’ll be requesting a biopsy when I get back.  In a dream I had this week I received the message that the cancer is different this time.  So I want to get it tested.  Then armed with biopsy results and the next set of scans I plan to seek a second (and probably third) opinion about my options.  One of those opinions will likely be Dr. K back in Ohio.  So all you Ohio folks prepare yourself for a visit from me and Miss M sometime in the new year!!!

There is so much more to tell about my time here in Europe.  Guess I’ll have to spread it out over a few blog posts.  Will do specific posts about my time at each site and each town.

In the meantime I’m excited to go home.  To hold my daughter and listen to her sweet voice.  To cuddle and make out with my husband.  To eat a great big salad!!

As I set off on this journey I thought, “Who does this?  Going on a solo international trip to 4 cities in 2 different countries in the middle of chemo treatment?”  Oh yeah, that would be me!  By doing this I feel I have reclaimed a piece of who I am – the nonconformist, the warrior, the adventure seeker.  I see just how strong I am.  And every time the cancer tries to push me back down I will remember this trip and fight on.

I am still a graceful woman warrior!

Love and blessings to all,  – T

Outside the Belem castle in Lisbon

Outside the Belem castle in Lisbon

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Offering a candle for blessings at the Padre Pio statue.

The stunning tile mosaics at Padre Pio's new church.

The stunning tile mosaics at Padre Pio’s new church.

19 Responses

  1. Loving thoughts and prayers with you and your family as you journey on. I am one of your dad’s few remaining practicing Catholic friends – though I too have lots of reservations about the institutional church. I am constantly amazed by your spirit and strength through all you’ve been through, and do pray for you very often , as well as for your family.

  2. I love reading about your adventures and your strength. It’s truly inspiring. I may need to take a spiritual pilgrimage shortly myself. It’s funny that you mention embracing the church for the first time. I was baptized Catholic and that was about it. I never went to church regularly in my life until last year. A year before my diagnosis I felt a strong pull to the Catholic Church and started attending weekly. I even had my two youngest children baptized at Easter. It’s as if God led me in that direction knowing that I was about to have a serious fall. I find the Church very comforting and I hope you will too.

  3. So happy that your experience in Europe was so wonderful. Can’t wait to hear all about it face to face. Keep the faith! :)

  4. Luv your blog….glad to read you will be seeking a church…not for religious reasons but b/c you bring God the glory with your attendance…looking forward to hearing every detail about your trip. I’ve been stalking your site ever since my sister teri was diagnosed stage IV…I love “Terry’s”!!!

  5. This trip sounds just what the doctor ordered! Thanks for letting us peek into
    It. Look forward to more & wish you contined serenity as you head back to ‘real life’.

  6. You sound so centered and whole :-). Whatever brings you closer to your Source is important; pick up the gold and leave the dross. And that may well be different for every human. It cheers me to hear about your journeys and adventures, and I think you’re returning to your heart and soul. <3 Elizabeth

  7. You go girl! Oh what a spiritual warrior you are-what a tremendously inspiring post! So grateful your trip was amazing-praise God from whom all blessings flow. Come to church in New Haven Dec. 29-I’m preaching and would welcome you and your family! My love and prayers are with you.

  8. Hello Graceful Woman Warrior,
    So enjoy all your blogs and found this one very inspiring. We so admire your sense of adventure and glad that you enjoyed the journey. We send you blessings and continued good health.

  9. Dear Terri,
    As you and I have discovered, quieting the mind is work we are given that is even more challenging than the meds, the side effects, the symptoms, the diet. . . . and there are many roads to working with our thoughts and emotions. I wish you well as you explore the rich prayer and contemplative traditions of the Catholic Church. And when you are next in BC, check out the Bethlehem Retreat Centre in Nanaimo, a well-spring of faith and lovingkindness.

  10. I’ve long felt that Christianity can be a powerful tool to help evoke love and compassion in people; the cynic in me has no pretense that this happens due to some inherent virtue in Christianity (i.e., it’s not magic), but that’s why I call it a tool. A knife can be used to save a life or take it, to help build something, or destroy something. Christianity touches on some powerful themes.

    I once asked myself what I would imagine a great teacher would teach, and it would be to love what is good, and to love people – even, and especially, when loving is hard. That can be well within the view of many Christian teachings – it’s the essence of the teachings that I still remember and try to follow.

    I think it’s good to recognize the beauty of the tool, even if you find yourself shuddering at some of its uses.

    • Welcome back Terri : that trip sounded fantastic! . You had your own miracle in Fatima. Keep strong ! . Hugs from Maryland,

  11. Coming to terms with my own new metastatic road….and found your blog, filled with honesty and a blazing white light- extraordinary. You have unknowingly managed to quell my tears, and start accessing that place of hope, and that guttural hunger to live best, true and whole. Thank you for posting this public blog, and sharing your journey with strangers.

    • Hi Jane! Your comment truly touched me. Thank you for reaching out. Sorry you are on the metastatic road too. It’s not an easy road to be on. But it’s not ALL bad either. Sending supportive hugs and strength to you.

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