HOW FAR WE HAVE COME
It was about nine months ago that I first heard the words, “You have Cancer.” We have come a long way since then. I have learned a lot about myself, illness and life. Most recently I have come to understand I am in a season of mourning what was.
I am still amazed at how far we have come from that first conversation with my Oncologist. As he left the hospital room I was left with the impression that he had just told me to go home and get my affairs in order. The treatments have not been easy. There are days I would love to sleep or just sit in a chair all day long. Yet through the struggle we have seen amazing results. My numbers are down and my Oncologist is happy with how things are progressing.
LIFE IS GOODOver Christmas and New Years our family got to spend some real quality time together. It was very nice to have just the four of us together. We got to laugh, explore and remember some of the great experiences we have had as a family. Nancy and I spend more time together these days then we have at any time during our marriage. We work together. I am actually her supervisor and I have an organizational chart to prove it. 🙂 When we started down this road of working so closely together we both wondered how well, or how long we would work together. It has turned out to be one the biggest blessings of the past few years. God is Good All the Time…All the Time God is Good.
Life at First Baptist is very exciting these days. We have adopted some new goals for 2017 that speak of life, hope and future. It is truly a blessing to be able to walk with the people of FBC as we journey together. I am excited to see how God works to redeem this most difficult of situations. There are times I question my ability to lead. In those moments God shows me that what is changing is HOW I lead. My style is changing. People are coming alongside with a desire to help and partner to see good things grow and develop. I am learning that when I start to question my ability I really need to be looking at how my leadership style is evolving to meet the reality of my battle with Cancer. God is Good All the Time…All the Time God is Good.
A STATE OF MOURNING
Over the past few days I have come to understand I am in a state of mourning. I mourn the loss of the person I once was.
We went to the church basketball game tonight and sat on the sidelines watching as our team played. Last year I would have been out there running, walking, wheezing my way up and down the court. I miss trying to relive my younger days playing basketball. I miss not being able to work all day without taking a nap. I miss fully functioning bowels. I miss talking with Nancy about the future and laughing about being 80 years old together. I miss my independence. I miss being able to work outside in the yard all day on a Saturday AND being able to preach on Sunday. I miss the feeling in my feet and hands. I miss my life before Cancer. That carefree time when we moved through life and did not have to strategize each day based upon my energy levels. There is more. I could go on. Suffice to say I mourn the loss of who I once was.
As I thought about this new understanding of my reality it sure explained a lot. A season of grief, or mourning made sense. I have lost much these past few months.
Mourning is normal. It is a natural part of life. We mourn many things throughout the course of our lifetimes. There are seasons of mourning when we lose someone whom we have loved dearly. Sometimes we are surprised by feelings of loss and mourning when we lose someone who we did not really care for, yet they played a significant role in our lives. We can mourn the loss of pets, jobs, friendships, homes, just about anything that plays an important and meaningful role in our lives. We may be excited about the new beginnings and opportunities of a new job while at the same time wrestling with feelings of loss and mourning over what we are leaving behind.
BEAUTY FROM ASHES
Too often in our world we do not embrace the season of mourning. We push it down, cover it over, or simply deny the feelings and move on with life. Ecclesiastes 3:4 declares there is a season for everything, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Embracing our seasons of mourning is a healthy thing. If we are willing, if we are open, it is within those seasons of mourning that Abba Father will speak most clearly. Speak words of healing, grace and mercy. Words of life that set captives free to experience life to the full. The prophet Isaiah spoke of such a time in Isaiah 61:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
I do not enjoy this season of mourning. Yet I will embrace it. I recognize that God is in the midst of it. It is a season and it too shall pass. I will be set free from darkness. The Spirit of Abba Father will comfort me as I mourn what was. I will one day be clothed with garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair. God is Good All the Time…All the Time God is Good!
SEASONS CHANGEWhen we began this Cancer journey last May I was receiving full strength chemotherapy treatments every other week. Following my twelfth full strength treatment I entered into the maintenance chemotherapy stage. The chemo was not as powerful but I was still receiving treatments every other week.
As time progressed my oncologist talked of the reality that there would come a time when my body would need a break from all chemo treatments. The decision to take a break is not an easy one. On one hand to spend time free of chemo treatments sounds exciting. I may regain some of the strength I have lost and begin to live more like the person I once was. On the other hand it is the chemo treatments which are keeping my cancer at bay. Stopping treatment provides the opportunity for the cancer to come back and begin growing once again. How does one make a decision like that? I had decided life in the “new normal” was functional and we were doing okay so I was going to keep on with these maintenance chemo treatments as long as possible. For the past few months my oncologist would bring up the idea of a break each time we met. I ensured him I was okay and we kept moving forward.
“TIME FOR A BREAK”Last Friday I had my normal bi-weekly oncologist appointment. As he walked in the room and asked how I was doing my response was not the normal energetic and full of life me. “Ok, I am feeling very tired. It is odd because this is my off chemo week.” “How would you rate this round of chemo?” “This was the hardest one yet. It surprised me, I had an extra week off in between treatments…I thought I would have handled it much better.” “Sounds like it is time for a break, here is how we are going to do this…”
There were no more questions, no debates, it was time for a break. I am awaiting the results from a blood test and a scan later this week. If those return consistent with previous tests and scans the break begins. No more chemo for a season.
I will be going in to the doctor on a regular basis for blood tests and scans to monitor things. Once we find the Cancer has returned I will go back on full force chemo treatments.
How long is the break going to be? It is a good question. A question I posed to my oncologist. He answered in his normal, clinical, honest, evasive way, “could be a few days, weeks. months or maybe a few years…depends on your body.” I laughed and told him to put me down in the two year category.
PRAYING FOR A LONG BREAK
I am not sure how I feel about the break. On one hand I am excited about a season free of chemotherapy. Today was supposed to be a chemo day. Instead I stayed at home and worked from my study. I read, wrote and spent time in quiet. Had I received chemo today I would be wearing a pump tonight and into Wednesday which would give me the rest of my treatment. I do not miss that pump. I do not miss the chemotherapy and yet it is scary to think about Cancer cells which were dormant coming to life and starting to destroy my body.
I am praying for a long break. A break long enough for those working in some lab to come up with a better solution than chemotherapy.
God is Good All the Time…All the Time God is Good!