I hope this post finds you well. Kim and I continue to be covered in support and love, both physically and spiritually. Thank you to all those who provide meals, treat our kids as your own, visit us, and pray for us. We continue to thank God for all of you and pray that He fills you with the love and peace of the Spirit of his Son.
Kim and I leave today for Houston for a 1 day visit. We’ll spend the night at the Rotary House, a hotel which adjoins MD Anderson. Thursday morning from 7:30-8:30, the newest member of our medical team will meet with a group of other doctors and present my case. As I’ve said, our new doctor’s plan is to perform the HIPEC surgery on May 9, but he wants medical oncologists and others to weigh in on what they think is the best strategy. Most likely, the options are to perform the HIPEC surgery immediately or for me to start back on systemic chemotherapy and hope to perform the necessary surgical procedures down the road.
This is the first time in our battle where I honestly don’t know what I think is best for me in terms of treatment. In the past, I’ve been asked for very specific prayer requests. I certainly appreciate this because people want to know how to pray for others. I want to know how best to pray for others. But in this case, I don’t know if its best for me to have HIPEC surgery on Monday and then spend 3-4 weeks in the hospital. Don’t get me wrong, this sounds like a great plan and really is the only option now to attempt to kill metastatic cancer cells in my gut. The scary thing is knowing that I will need to be off chemo for a longer time, thus giving cancer cells in my lymphatic system the chance to grow into solid tumors. And then there is the disease of the “sewer system” that we had attempted to remove 3 weeks ago that would also be given the opportunity to grow.
So, I think it best to pray that the doctors have the wisdom to decide the best course of action for me and that I will have peace with whatever decision they make. And please pray for our kids as they get shuttled around to different families while we are in Houston. If HIPEC is the next step, our little kiddies are going to have their lives quite disrupted right at the end of the school year.
I should tell you that I feel peace. I’m not dreading this trip and I don’t feel fear about what the doctors are going to say. I hope this is the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and not a worldly sort of resignation. It feels like the former. I’ve felt resignation and this seems different.
Looking back, visits with doctors seem to reveal which life my heart is clinging to: the life I want and the life God has given me. I often think of the interaction between stuttering Billy Bibbit and indifferent but controlling Nurse Ratched in the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”. Towards the end, Billy finally experiences a moment of confidence and a spirit of freedom, only to have that spirit shoved back into its prison by Nurse Ratched to see the return of the stuttering Billy that belongs under her control (if you are an adult, you can YouTube “Billy Bibbit Scene”). For me, freedom is in trusting God with my life — there is real peace there. But I want to find security in science and medicine. There are promises there, but prognoses are clinical and capricious. And negative ones can feel like a prison sentence. One moment you may feel alive, in the moment, assured, and the next minute the blood drains from your face, anxiety overtakes you, and no words about hope provide comfort. Nurse Ratched glares at you in cold victory. This has happened so many times.
When I had my first surgery back in 2013, I wrote on a bit of stationary and taped to my hospital gurney the following verse (Psalm 112:6-8, NIV): “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. 7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. 8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” I want so much for this to be true, that I will have no fear and that ultimately we will triumph over our foe, which to me is cancer. Honestly, I have to admit that I have always feared bad news. But I do NOT fear that I won’t see triumph; I know I will see triumph in the gift of eternal fellowship with God. It’s just that I fear that the foe that must be defeated is not really the cancer but my sin of wanting absolute control over my life.
So as I am asked for and then provide ever-simplifying prayer requests, I sense my grip on this life weakening. Not in a defeated way but actually in a victorious way. As I let go of the life that I want and feel I deserve, I am energized by the eternal life I have been given. It is ever-present. Available to all. Visible with eyes to see. Attainable to vulnerable hearts.
If I see you, don’t be surprised if I hug you firmly. I will cling to the eternal bond between us. With all of this support, I am filled with a peace that will fear no bad news.