Chemo Round 8
Monday was chemo round 8 (if you are counting up) 4 (if you are counting down).
This routine that seemed so strange and unusual just a few months ago has somehow become normal and familiar.
Nancy and I talk about what I need to pack for the day. Rayann drives me to the oncologist’s office and with the usual banter and small talk treatments begin. A few hours later I am sent home with my “man purse”. Over the next forty-eight hours I am tethered to my pump as it slowly gives me the final dose of chemo. Wednesday morning dawns with great hope and possibility. My nurse arrives sometime before noon. She takes my vitals. As the two of us engage in the normal small talk she unhooks me from the pump and removes the needle from my port, setting me free for another week and a half. I rest all day Wednesday. Slowly I begin to regain strength and have the energy to take on the tasks of life. Thursday morning I am off to the oncologist for my Nulasta shot. Friday morning is a new day and I begin to feel like myself once again. It is strange how this pattern has become my “new normal”. It has become familiar. It is almost even comfortable.
As The Journey Continues
Physically I am doing just about as good as I could be. My body is responding to the chemo treatments in wonderful ways. My numbers are down and I am slowly learning how to manage my energy (or lack thereof) and invest in what is truly important and valuable to me. I have not missed a Sunday of worship because of my illness. I have been able to preach, teach and walk with the people of First Baptist just like I was before some doctor told me I had the C word. If the remaining days of my life were to look and feel like this I would count myself blessed.
Emotionally I am a not as strong these days. I have been watching the Olympics in Rio. As I watch these athletes run, jump, wrestle, play soccer, volleyball etc. there is one thing that I cannot escape. I will never run, jump, play sports like I used to. I shared this with a friend of mine and they chuckled. “Come on Dan, when did you really ever want to do what they do?” They are correct. I never had the inclination to be an Olympic athlete…but tell me I will never have the chance and all of a sudden that changes things. It is like something has been taken from me. For the longest time I have held onto this goal, dream, hope, prayer that at the age of 50 I would be in the best shape of my life. I was taking steps, albeit small steps, toward that goal. With my current reality the goal has changed. I now want to be in good enough shape at 50 that I can still be serving as pastor and working to help people encounter God in the midst of their everyday lives. I will be thrilled to have enough energy to get into the pulpit three Sundays a month, to provide leadership to a congregation as we seek to live out God’s vision for our lives. I am not at peace with the change in goals yet. I will get there…but for now I am not at peace with this new reality.
During my last oncologist appointment we talked about the upcoming twelfth chemo treatment and what that would mean for me. Previous conversations involved talk of “maintenance chemo”. When you talk about “maintenance chemo” as compared with “regular” chemo I heard or understood him to mean that there would be a noticeable difference between the two. Well, turns out that is not the case. The more I listened it became clear that my schedule would not change. Chemo every other week. I would still have the “man purse” for forty-eight hours each treatment. The only difference is that we would eliminate one of the drugs I am currently receiving. Now, that is a huge plus…it is the drug which prohibits me from drinking anything cold and has slowly been giving me neuropathy. For those of you who do not know neuropathy involves a tingling in the hands and feet. It is an odd feeling. Anytime I walk, pick things up it feels as if my hands or feet are asleep. Removing that one drug and eliminating all those side effects will be wonderful. However, my vision of “maintenance” chemo was maybe treatments once a month…or only receiving one drug instead of five. Treatments that run just like they are currently minus one drug hardly seems like it deserves a different name. 🙂 I have been wrestling to understand and accept this new reality for the past week.
People ask me, “When will your treatments end?” The short answer is, “they will not.” The longer, more complete and honest, answer is: “My treatments will continue to keep my Cancer at bay until someone finds a cure for the type of Cancer I have or the treatments are no longer effective and I experience the fullness of what Jesus talks about as ‘Life to the Full'”.
Hopeful for the Future
I am excited for the future, whatever it may be. I am hopeful for what could be. I am eager to see how God works in the midst of this season to redeem, restore, transform and build His Kingdom. Another good friend of mine recently said, “I would not wish this (Cancer) upon you but I believe God is using it to move us into a good place.” I could not agree more. God is working and moving in the midst of what is a difficult season to redeem and restore, to transform and bring new life into myself personally and into many whom I have had the chance to share with. I hope and pray that through this journey I will never lose sight of the Spirit’s ability to speak life where death abounds…to bring peace where anxiety and struggle live…to give strength in those moments when I do not feel I have the ability to move one step further.
GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME….ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD