Easter Saturday/Sunday reflection by Carla Cummins (who is living with cancer)

I came out of my personal Easter Saturday not too long after sharing it with you. Tombs are not places I can stay for very long. Same goes with valleys of the shadow. I do go there, because I know through lived experience that no matter how hard you might try to go around them or pretend they’re not there, one day or another, they’re gonna find ya, and they’ll be all the worse and all the harder because you delayed them or denied them. The best way out is through. Ain’t fun. Ain’t pretty. But better now than later.
What we know, of course, is that Easter Saturday isn’t the end of the story. There’s also Easter Sunday. I’m well aware that the motley crew of you represent a mixed range of faiths, beliefs and even no beliefs at all, and that’s okay. Even the natural world shows us that for every end, there is the seed of a beginning. But … bear with me here because I did have some thoughts on Easter Sunday as I sat in circle with my church community. And my main thought was, “Of course no one recognises you when you’re resurrected.”
We were reading from the gospel passage in which Mary has visited the tomb early in the morning, searching for where Jesus has been buried. She asks someone whom she mistakes for the gardener where he is. He responds, but she doesn’t recognise him as her beloved. And then he says her name.
I could talk for a long while about the name bit, but the bit I was fixated on on Easter Sunday morning was the question I’ve had my whole life: Why don’t people recognise Jesus? Like, seriously, is he really so changed? What is even happening?
And it struck me, as I sat there, in circle, pondering this vexing question, that there’s lots of evidence in the natural world for why this is so. The frog looks nothing like the tadpole. The butterfly looks nothing like the caterpillar. Crabs, ants, insects, jellyfish … they all start life in one state and leave it in another, with little to no resemblance between the beginning and the end.
I think sometimes when we think of resurrection, we think of it in terms of rebirth. That something that has died will come back … very much like it was, kind of like our perennial flowers, plants and shrubs. But what resurrection really is is a metamorphosis, a literal change in form. What was is not what is now … and yet, this is still the same creature. Just equipped for something else.
When this hit me, I understood then why Jesus was unrecognisable, even to his closest and dearest.
But what does that mean to me? For me?
Well, I think about my life and all of its various stages. There have been many. In the tech world I work in, we use the term “iterations.” My life has had many iterations. My hope is that, actually, YEAH, I do not want to be left in the same form or fashion as I entered this place. I want to be metamorphosed into something that is unrecognisable, and thoroughly differentiable, from the way I began. For the better. And yet … I was, am, and will be … still me.
I’m aware that the change I speak of is change for the better but that life can also change us and alter us in ways that do not have such a result. It’s too big for my head at the moment to really take that on except to say, Maybe it comes down to how we greet what meets us.
If the caterpillar never became a pile of mush, there would be no butterfly. The caterpillar basically has to die for the butterfly to come into being. And so we come back to what I said in the beginning of this email: We can try to avoid the tomb, the valley of the shadow, the dark night of the soul … but we probably do so to our detriment. But if we lean into them … maybe that’s all the difference.
Cancer and chemo update
This coming Tuesday the 16th is meant to be my last chemo treatment, but as with so many things at this hospital, I don’t feel confident to say that with 100% certainty. I wish I could, but I always harbour some form of doubt where they’re concerned about how things will go. Boo. Hiss.
I’ve made the decision not to take the steroid this round and have asked for alternative anti-emetic (non-nausea) medication. This is me taking some control over what’s in my control. I have no desire to push my body into early diabetes when there are alternatives out there that don’t pose such a risk. As it stands, the chemotherapy treatment is already pushing me into early menopause which will, no doubt, be made permanent by the hormone treatment I’ll be placed on later this year.
So where are we now in this Cancer Chapter? After this chemo round, I will have a break of about a month and then they will want to perform re-excision surgery where they go back into my breast to remove additional tissue surrounding the original tumour site to ensure they’ve got a clear margin and there is no trace of cancer. Assuming all goes well, a month after that I will commence radiotherapy, a regimen of 15 treatments over a period of three weeks (one per day each weekday, or 5/week). After that, there will be discussion about the best course for hormone therapy and if I will have either regular injections + tablets, or if I will have an oophorectomy (removal of my ovaries) and tablets.
So … yeah, the Cancer Chapter is a bit of a long one. If I think of it too much, it gets overwhelming, and I feel very sad and weary, I am learning to take things day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

Leave a Comment