Hello, my name is Dan. Sorry I have not been around lately. There are a number of reasons for my absence.
Before I share why I have not been posting as much here is an update on where I stand health wise. Today was my six week oncologist appointment. We reviewed blood work and the results from a scan. My CEA is still within normal range, 1.8! This is fantastic news. You may remember when I first started treatment that it was over 120. My scan results were “unremarkable”. If you talked about most any other area of my life as “unremarkable” I would probably take offense. This is one area where I am willing to let anyone speak of me as “unremarkable.” I was in and out of the Doctor’s room in less than ten minutes. Leaving the room he said, “Boring, simple and routine, these are the kind of appointments you want to have.” There was a smile on his face, very different than the look he shared when we first met. Our plan is to do blood work every six weeks and a scan every three months.
Nancy and I continue to be humbled and amazed at the blessing of time God has given us. We spent a week away, just the two of us, for the first time in a very long while. It was good to just be together. All the pictures here are from our week away. We planned events strategically to make the most of my limited energy but other than that we rarely thought or talked about my illness. Lest you think we simply abandoned Rayann at home, she was off in Roatan with Live Again Ministries serving the people of Roatan. I am hopeful that one day I will be able to return to Roatan, maybe next summer.
Update complete. So why have we not been plagued by notices of your posts for the past few months? As with much in life it is not a simple question to answer.
Why has the blog been silent?
First, I have always struggled to remain faithful to the “work” of blogging. You can ask Shaun who was the first one who told me, “Pastor, you need to do this, it would be good for you.” Shaun is a great friend and we had some long discussions about what I “needed” to do. Eventually he said, “Look, I will set it up for you. All you have to do is write.” Well, nothing is ever that simple. 🙂 Over time I found I am either posting things on a regular basis or totally ignoring my blog altogether. It is just how I roll.
Second, as I started to come off chemo and my body began to return to its “old” normal I found myself wanting to jump back into those things which give me life. I was spending time with people, hanging out, having conversations that spoke life. That was much more attractive to me than sitting in front of a computer screen. At the same time my energy level was low. I made the mistake, still do, of putting too much on my calendar. When it came time to write my mind was in a fog or I was asleep in my chair.
Third, there were things at church which needed my attention. God has been extremely gracious to me. I missed only one Sunday preaching due to my cancer or the chemo treatments. It was the Sunday before my official diagnosis and I was stuck in the hospital. They released me the following Wednesday. My port was put in on Thursday, outpatient surgery. Friday was my first oncologist appointment. Sunday I was in the pulpit and the next day started my first chemo treatment. God was good. No matter how I felt during the week there was enough energy and strength to be present and share the good news of God’s love for us each Sunday. I was eager to turn my attention to those things which had gone undone in order to have energy for Sunday. Investing time there meant that my blog suffered.
Finally, I am not sure I will be able to express this clearly. A part of me is hesitant to share for fear it will be misunderstood. I have had a hard time learning how to live “without Cancer”. [To be clear, I DO have cancer. My doctor tells me I always will. In fact just today one of the nurses told Nancy, “it will always be in him.” I know that. I realize it may come back with a vengeance without any warning.]
Here is what I mean. In the early stages of my cancer journey I was told that I did not have long to live. The decades I was planning on were reduced to two years at the best. I struggled with that. My life changed. What was important changed. How I looked at everything around me changed. Nancy and I had recently bought a home and it was our plan to make it ours. We had a list of projects to do over the coming years. Pre-diagnosis I walked around looking at those projects and thought of how we would do them together. Post-diagnosis I walked around looking at all the things I wanted to fix so that when Nancy was living in this house alone she would be comfortable and safe. Pre-diagnosis I viewed my time at First Baptist Church as a great place to spend years of ministry. Post-diagnosis I was focused on helping them make a smooth transition to their next pastor. My view of everything changed. It was not easy. It hurt, and I fought it. Eventually I embraced my reality and rejoiced in the truth that I was not alone and that God was walking alongside me.
My body responded well to treatment. My body responded extremely well to my treatment. For some reason I cannot understand God allowed me to experience healing in the midst of darkness. I remember the doctor’s appointment when it became clear that something special was happening. Leaving the office I was excited, hopeful, confused and a bit dazed. I remember spending time over the next weeks trying to figure out how to move, what to focus on, how to think about life. My world was being turned upside down again. I had made peace with living as “sick, cancer patient Dan”. I had embraced that reality and now it was being taken from me.
Finding the New Me
I was not sure who I was. It was clear from my lack of energy and “chemo brain” that I was not pre-diagnosis Dan.
At the same time I was no longer post-diagnosis Dan who was living with a “death sentence” over him. To say I was confused is to put it mildly. I was not sure how to move in relationship with Nancy or the rest of my family. At church I waffled between planning for years of ministry and working to help the church transition to their next pastor. In a very real way I found it harder to adjust to the good news of healing. I know, it does not make sense. People were excited for me. They would offer congratulations or say they were glad I was doing better. I found myself wondering who I was.
January marked my last chemo treatment. It has taken six months for me to readjust to my new reality. During that time I wrestled with lots of things. To be honest I did not quite trust what would be posted if I was blogging. It was easier just to stay away and let it go dormant for a season.
I am alive. I am well. I am planning for the future. I am excited to see the journey God and I get to travel together here on earth. I am at peace working to figure out how to live and move as post-diagnosis Dan who has experienced God’s mercy and healing. This could be an exciting season.
God is Good All the Time…All the Time God is Good
btw…my tattoo artist has a rendition of that quote ready for me to review…