Posts Tagged ‘chemotherapy treatment’

Many of you may be wondering why, after finally finding a nice steady pace, I suddenly stopped posting…yeah, there’s been the  occasional re-blog, when I see something I find especially moving…but no writing. And isn’t that the whole reason I started this blog, to give myself a forum to practice my art? Well, that is an interesting question, so let’s examine this idea.

I must admit that I have let myself become pretty divided lately…after all, I am just a guy, and I have trouble doing more than one thing at a time very well; multi-tasking has never really been one of my spiritual gifts. Here lately, I have reached critical mass – taking care of Karen as she slogged through cancer treatment; handling an enormous level of responsibility trying to drive the design process on a complex construction project at work; helping to kick-start a prayer-and-share ministry at a halfway house; and “standing in the gap” at the church while we struggled through the transition period without a pastor, or much of a leadership team at all, for that matter. The Lord has been with me, and these things have prospered…I have been blessed to have been a part of it all. But even seasons of insanity come to an end…and strangely enough, that has been the problem!

Karen has finally reached the end of her regimen – only two more radiation treatments and one more follow-up, and she will be done, hallelujah! The project has been designed to a fare-thee-well, and actual construction begins next week. A new crop of volunteers has been trained for prayer-and-share, and a routine has been developed, duties spread around. The church has merged with another fellowship, so we have a pastor, and a staff, and budget, and a vision. Suddenly, I don’t have a gap to stand in, and it has left me off-balance and questioning  my role, and in fact my value, because that is just how I am wired.  I have a lot of trouble functioning well unless there is a crisis going on…smooth seas and clear skies leave me twitchy and anxious, and I have never really understood why; in truth I still don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I have to accept that as a healthy or right way to live, because I can recognize that it isn’t…it’s just a matter of learning a new way to behave; substituting better habits in the place of bad ones, and rediscovering passions from my past that I have allowed to wither under the weight of “busyness”.  I have been working on that very thing for a few months now, with success, and so I think I can expand this behavior into other realms of my life.

Back on New Year’s Eve, I made two  life-changing decisions: I stopped smoking cigarettes, and I started distance running…something I really enjoyed back in high school, but allowed to die out.  I also began blogging about the journey, at the suggestion of a friend, who reminded me that accountability and support from others in a similar situation are invaluable for making commitments stick. She was right, and I have so far succeeded: I have not smoked for nearly 12 weeks; I have run almost 80 miles this year; I have completed one 5k race, and and I’m signed up for a 10k in May; and my running blog is doing quite well. So, let’ s apply some of these principles to my current issue: how to spend less time in agonies of doubt, and more time pursuing my God-given art of writing (the reason I began blogging, remember?) Here’s what I came up with:

I have registered for the Blogging from A-to-Z in April Challenge, as a way to encourage myself to write something every day for a month. I will focus on themes relevant to Christianity (my own unique spin on the challenge) and in the process, try to recover some of my joy and wonder at the purpose God has placed in me – to express in writing how great He is, and yet how accessible He is to any who will seek after Him. THIS is my role, THIS is my value to the kingdom of heaven…and I am grateful that the Lord is patient, and continues to minister to me and encourage me. He has done this through many mediums – the sermon series our pastor is doing on how God’s plan for humanity has always been that we are blessed to serve Him and to serve others for His glory; the brothers at the halfway house and at the prison where I serve, who are constant examples of how God’s grace extends to “the least and the lost” of this world, and that our worth in His eyes is in no way dependent on how the world sees us; and by a book I finally picked up off the shelf and started reading: Quitter, by Jon Acuff, who tells how finding fulfillment of our dreams is more about recovering than about discovering…a message I really needed to hear! (Jon also recently reminded me that artists are specially blessed by God, and that writers are artists.)

I welcome your comments, and pray that God will lead me in finding 26 creative ways to write about Him in April. I have heard that once you do something 21 times it has become an ingrained habit…let’s put that to the test again, shall we? Stay tuned, spread the word, I believe some wonderful things are about to happen!

…will be back to try again later! That isn’t how that the old saw normally ends, but here lately that feels like the core truth – we may get stronger after a particular adventure, but we are not finished! Let me build that out a little.

Yesterday Karen went for her second chemo treatment, and so today we know the side effects will be on display.  (That interview I promised with her is in the works, hope to have it later today.) Her first round taught us much, and overall she came through like a trooper…but now she is facing it again, and she knows it will be back at least twice more in this stage, and then weekly starting in November. I am concerned, not so much about her body (the doctors are well qualified to maintain her physical health) but about her spirit.  I know from experience how frustrating it can be to want to do things and be too sick to do them; but when the treatment makes you sicker than the disease, it can really screw with your interior logic, and doubt finds a foothold. It can get hard to believe that the outcome is worth all the pain…that there is any purpose which justifies all that we are going through. Sometimes it can even appear that we’d be better off just letting the sickness run its course, and dealing with it later on, when we are “stronger”. That of course is dead-end logic, because problems almost never get better by themselves. In physics, the word “entropy” describes the idea that the universe cannot sustain itself, and that eventually decay and loss robs the system of energy, bringing it to a stop. William Butler Yeats expressed it perfectly:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

“The Second Coming”

The poet is inspired by the devastation of war, but cancer is a war too, fought on the most precious of home fronts – our very own bodies – and a survey of that battlefield can be even more disheartening. We ponder over what remains after destructive forces which are supposed to “save” us have spent their fury…and we despair, “Is it really worth all this?”

Beyond the body, there is an unseen battlefield: that of the spirit. As Christians we are told the spiritual battle is the most important, the one with eternal consequences, and therefore we are best prepared when we avail ourselves of the protections heaven offers…the armor of God.  There is a reason we need such mighty protection – it’s not a one-time fight! We will be assailed again and again, simply because we choose to remain faithful.  Jesus tells us many times that this is to be expected; one of my favorite instances occurs in Revelation, when Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that He knows about their sufferings, but relax – it’s going to get worse! And then He reminds them of the reason we endure…because the reward is worth the pain it costs to get there.

Cancer hurts, and it kills. Curing it appears to hurt worse, but Karen’s prognosis on the other side makes the cost worth bearing, we believe. In the same way, sin hurts, and it kills. Once we turn away from sin, seeking the cure of forgiveness in Christ, life can seem to hurt worse than the sin did. But we have a glorious prognosis on the other side of this life, and we believe that makes all we have to suffer to get there worth every step.

Following hard after Him,

Two days ago, my wife Karen did her first chemotherapy treatment, and now we have the joy of waiting for the side effects to kick in; we have read everything, which means we know probably less than we did before, but have so much to be anxious about now…I call it “the uncertainty cloud”. Nothing is for sure, the range of possibilities is vast and overwhelming, and sometimes it’s just easier not to think. We are both very typical Type A people, and being out of control in situations is so hard to deal with. This is where strong faith in God has been the lifeline, the only constant in a whirlwind of confusion and change. Being two different people, we each experience that differently. Today I want to talk a little about my own outlook; next week I will interview Karen and let her share her perspective.

Karen has taken to telling people that I have “cancer of the wife”, and I find that to be an oddly appropriate description. I love my wife, in the most desperate, urgent, all-encompassing sense of that word…second only to God, there is nothing and no one more vital to my existence.  The idea that she may go home to glory before me, leaves me torn and anxious: of course I would never want to hold her back form the joy of being in the presence of the Lord, but I’m not done with her yet! So to see her fighting this disease leaves me at wit’s end most of the time. I trust God, even when His plans don’t look like mine;  and I know that He is in control of everything; and He is not required to give an accounting to anyone, least of all me. But trusting God means that I have to get off His throne and let Him reign, and that goes against all human nature, and brother, I am neck-deep in my human nature!

 

So what does this mean to me? It means that I get to experience peace, the kind of peace promised in the bible. You may know the verse – Philippians 4:6-7:

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

This is a conditional promise, which many teachers do not point out: peace only comes when we give our worries to God, in expectation that He is willing and able to take care of them. God is such a gentleman, He will not force His grace upon us. We are free to hold on to ALL our trouble, if we want to…but that is surely NOT the path to peace. For myself, I have decided that grace is better than stress, and so I will gladly lay my stress at the foot of the cross, and accept His grace in its place. I would also strongly recommend this to you, Constant Reader, because He really does love you, and only awaits your acceptance of Him to make you complete. Won’t you?

 

Following hard after Him,

Nicky