With so much to grieve or be anxious about in our world, I want to offer a very real, encouraging story from my dear friend Fred Sieger. It looked for a while like he would lose the battle and many of us prayed like crazy for him. When the tide turned, or as he says, when the steps went up, his voice weak, Fred went to the front of the church to share his story. He was still so gaunt we could hardly recognize him and we all leaned in to hear.
(All of the photos on this post are from Fred Sieger.)
The Step Down to the Step Up
The Step Down:
In October of 2014, I noticed a swollen gland on the left side of my neck, very small and no big deal. In November I woke up one night with what I thought was a toothache. I thought, oh yea, that’s what has been hurting a little. I went to the dentist and she said it wasn’t a tooth.
I went to a throat specialist. He took a biopsy and said, “Throat cancer. We can operate or do radiation and chemo, which is what I recommend.”
December 1st, I started radiation five times a week and chemo one time a week, for two months. The day after it began, the plumbing started to back up; one of the side effects of the treatment. They gave me a catheter bag to wear for the two months, at the end of which they would operate.
Two weeks into the treatments I could not eat any solid food. All that would go down was Ensure, only strawberry, vanilla, strawberry and vanilla, strawberry and vanilla, every day for two months. Towards the end, I was not getting anything down for days. By the time I finished the treatments I could not eat at all and had lost 50 lbs.
That’s when they put me in the hospital to operate on the plumbing. The doc called it the Roto-Reuter, up the front to clean out things. That was on Tuesday. Wednesday they brought me a pill and cut it up in small pieces, but I gagged on it. Nothing was going down.
The Step Up
That was Ash Wednesday. Father Rick, my favorite priest, stopped by after church that evening. He anointed my head with oil and prayed for healing, and also put ashes on my forehead, saying, “Oh man you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That gets your attention in a place like this. Then we prayed and had communion. Fr Rick took a small piece of the host (wafer) about the size of a baby aspirin and I put it under my tongue so it would dissolve.
The next day they woke me at 7 A.M. and I had breakfast, later lunch, then dinner and an evening snack. Just like that, it turned around and I could eat!
That night, after everyone left and the nurses were done poking around and taking blood, I was lying in bed, around 11 pm. I was wondering what in the world had happened. I was overcome by emotions and started to cry uncontrollably, for maybe fifteen minutes, knowing that I could eat and was slowly getting better.
A true miracle and healing.
The three things I learned from this are:
1. Enjoy your job. You spend many hours at it. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re in the wrong field.
2. Take time with friends. Don’t say, “Someday let’s do this or that.” Do it now. Take time with special people.
3. Help others. Make a difference in other people’s lives. Volunteer your time. Help neighbors.
Leave this place a better place.
Be blessed and be a blessing.
When you have a set back in life, look for what God is setting up for you to bless others. — Fred Sieger
We knew Fred was truly “back” when his sunrise and sunset pictures from bicycle rides started appearing again on Facebook
Though Fred still struggles to swallow and makes regular use of his blender, he has regained weight and looks like himself again, and never complains. Happy to be alive, Fred isn’t asking for perfection. His license plate really is the way he lives, giving thanks. Fred quietly goes about his days doing all he can to make a difference.
And he does.
Do you have a story to share?