Happy new year, all.
It has been an interesting couple of weeks. In my last post, I reported the great news that the latest CT scan showed that my disease was responding to the experimental treatment that I’m undergoing at Tennessee Oncology up in Nashville. It certainly is nice to report good news. Well, what I’ve not wanted to share has been the side effects that I’ve been dealing with. Far be it for me to complain when I want to focus on being thankful that the drugs are working!
To be honest, though, I also want to shy away from saying much about any difficulties for fear that it might undermine the openness to believe, for those reading this blog, that God is at work in my very public battle against cancer and faith journey. I confess that I fear deceiving myself too. But that I have the audacity to believe I can act as purveyor of God’s will and purposes certainly reveals my pride and desire for control.
This was made all the more evident Sunday morning when our pastor posed the question: “my life would be better in 2017 if ________”. To this question I had 2 answers, one from the head, the other from the heart. The head knows the “Christian” answer, that I would trust God with my life and live by faith. But the heart wants what the heart wants and mine wants to be free of the burden of this disease, of all the difficulty it is causing me and my family. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be cancer-free, of course, but if this desire defines my happiness, then the disease has control over me. Thus enslaved, I’ll never experience true joy. A recent warning sign: I apparently haven’t been a whole lot of fun to be around lately. So, all the while knowing that true freedom lies in embracing what I espouse, even as Christ beckons, I waver at the narrow gate, afraid the pasture is an illusion (Mat 7:13). The brokenness of my body is a constant reminder that this life is slipping away, and I cling tightly to it, even though I only feel free when I let go.
So here they are, the most recent side effects: elevated liver enzymes indicative of hepatitis. Swollen legs, aching joints, rash, conjunctivitis, blurring of vision. The doctors and nurses are working with me to help alleviate the issues while maintaining drug efficacy. Right now I’m walking around like an old man.
But it has been the elevated liver enzymes that have been of greatest concern the past few weeks. Though not terribly high, the values have been increasing to the point that I might potentially miss a treatment until the issue resolves. Even after a week of being on steroids, the enzymes were elevated when measured last week, and I needed to get blood work performed on Monday to check again–apparently immunostimulated hepatitis can get out of hand quickly. I’ve been waiting for the results.
This morning I woke up a bit early and even rose before Kim. I made our coffee, built a fire, and then sat on the hearth and prayed. While praying, I realized it had been some time since I thanked the Lord for all the people praying for us. So that was my prayer, to say thank you to all the people who love on us in thought, word, and deed.
When finished, I moved to my chair and wondered to myself if my buddy Todd might be interested in breakfast at Waffle House, so I reached for my cell phone, only to receive a text at that very moment from Todd inviting me to “Casa de Waffle”. I immediately jumped in the shower to meet him.
Some of you may know Ms V from the Waffle House on 441 in Oconee County. She is a sweet waitress there, and she always writes a scripture reference on the back of your ticket. She gives you the book and verse; it’s up to you to look it up. This morning, as Todd and I were finishing breakfast, Ms V, though she wasn’t our waitress, walked up to our table, paused a moment as she stared off into the distance, and then said, “Matthew 17:20”. I grabbed my phone, opened BibleGateway and read, “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (NLT translation).
Let’s be clear here. I don’t believe Jesus is suggesting that his disciples, or us for that matter, need to somehow drum up more faith in order to earn God’s favor, let alone perform miracles, but rather we need to live by the faith given us so that we might experience the work of redemption that God is performing. We are both witnesses and participants. So it was a timely reminder that I need to continue to step out in faith fearlessly in a world of good news and bad. And that includes writing these blog posts. Kim reminds me that our friends and family want updates because they care. Some use the information in order pray specifically. I struggle with being a burden, or worse, a bore and sometimes want to stop altogether.
Frequently, at lunch, I’ll bring my little Surface Pro with me to do some work or other task, but today I really had no need for it. I brought it anyway, thinking I’d find some use as I ate. On my drive over, I received a phone call from the research nurse at Tennessee Oncology, who informed me that my liver enzymes were perfectly fine, right in the middle of the normal range. So just like that, one day my enzymes were 3 times the normal level and 5 days later they’re normal. Once again, as with the pancreatitis several weeks ago, the nurse had no medical explanation– I told her that I had a lot of people praying for me.
I immediately called Kim, and when I told her the good news, she laughed. “There are some crazy things going on inside your body,” she said. But I thought to myself, “particularly my heart.”
Trust, trust, trust. I don’t know God’s plans, but He promises that they’re good, regardless of how it appears at any given moment. Faith like a mustard seed or mature tree, I owe my life to Him and my purpose is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever*.
Thankful to have my tablet, I spent lunch eating sushi and writing this post. Ultimately, it seems the purposes of things, small and large, are revealed. I now wonder if Ms V was looking at a bottle of mustard when she gave us that verse.
I can’t say it enough: thank you to all who have loved on me and my family. Though I often feel it, to say I’m in debt would be to dishonor your service. I’m eternally humbled and grateful. God bless.
* Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.