Well, the phone call finally came. August 22. That is the date of the surgery. The call actually came on July 1, so I’ve had a few weeks to think about things. In truth, I have not been fixating too much on the surgery; overall I’ve tried to think eternally and enjoy time with my children. This has been a blessing. The biggest problem I’ve faced is increasing pain. Where a few months ago it was uncomfortable to sit on my bottom, today the pain is essentially constant, except that I try to tamp it down with painkillers.
For those keeping up, I have now been off treatment for five and a half months. So, when the nurse practitioner called on the 1st and informed me that the earliest date she could schedule was late August, my heart sank. At that point, all I could think was that the large, actively growing mass in my abdomen had almost two more months to release cells into my bloodstream and then settle in the typical sites of metastasis for colorectal cancer, the liver and lungs. The nurse spoke at length with the details about the many tests and medical consultations that are necessary the week prior to the surgery. She also offered some encouragement in response to my anxious questions about the long wait we face despite the urgency of my health condition. Honestly, I might as well have been listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher speaking, as I don’t remember much of what she was saying because my mind was busy imagining all of the possible negative outcomes of such a late surgery date.
But then it happened. A thought popped into my head that suddenly stopped my mind from racing. Now, I’m not suggesting that this thought is altogether comforting, but the realization was this: the tumor has had plenty of time to metastasize. As I wrote above, at the time of the call, it had been five and a half months since I had had any treatment whatsoever. But, if you include the time that I wasn’t receiving any effective treatment, it is clear that the tumor has had well over a year to spread its indifferent malignancy. So, if the metabolic monster were to metastasize in the weeks leading up to surgery, it would have likely been doing so at any time when not being controlled by therapy. Therefore, if anything, it is somewhat good that the surgery is not for another several weeks; if metastasis to vital organs has occurred, it is best to know before the doctors cut on me, so we can abort the surgery and pursue an appropriate clinical trial.
I realize that what I’ve described is difficult to take to heart as “good” news, but, nonetheless, it somehow relaxed me. In the moment of my near desperation, I believe I was blessed with what we Christians refer to as “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” And if that is true, then the genesis of the peace bestowing thought was not a random spark in the brain. Those who have seen the awesome movie Inception remember Leonardo DiCaprio descending 3 levels of dreams to implant an idea into a certain powerful man’s mind so he will think he conceived of the thought without being manipulated. I like to think of my sudden realization as an inception by the Holy Spirit–God’s use of ordinary means to accomplish his work by planting a thought in my mind to help me find (and maintain) peace as I wait for the big day. You skeptics may scoff, but I think we can agree that the phone call, like in the movie, brought me out of limbo waiting to find out when I’m going to have surgery!
Because of the late date, my family (including my mother, her beau, my brother, my sister and her small family) has time for a vacation. We will visit my brother’s house in Joseph, Oregon and then travel to Portland and finally Seattle at the first of August. After that, it is game on with tests, appointments, and complete pelvic exenteration at MD Anderson. I’ll be a resident of Houston for a while…
Thank you to all who are praying for us. We receive a lot of encouragement, even from people we don’t know. I offer particular thanks to those who have sent me letters; that is still a guaranteed way to make someone feel loved.
God bless, y’all