I’m at home now. I give myself a shot in my leg or my belly every night before bed – after loading up on anti-nausea medications intended to ward off the nasty side effects of the poison. So far, so good.
I feel a bit nauseated from time to time, but with proper pills taken at the right time, the most I get of it is this strange sensation that I’m not entirely all there. Like the beaming-bay on old Star Trek episodes, somewhere in between “Beam me up, Scotty” and “Good to have you back, Captain.” Most of the chemo drugs I’m on right now target my DNA and mess them up pretty bad. Like going at one of those science fair models with a baseball bat. Colorful rods and spheres all over the floor. Looking more like an art exhibit than good, hard, science.
My last hospital visit (8/15-20) went relatively well. Probably my best spinal tap yet (not sure exactly how to throw a party for that sort of thing). I was pretty sick for a while, though. I began throwing up Wednesday or Thursday – headaches and all – and at the same time started a cocktail of medicines that pretty much put me out for the rest of the week. If I was awake, I was bent over a bucket. But for most of my stay, I was happily unaware of much.
Came home Saturday (8/20), and took a few days to really gain my strength back (I lost my hard earned 8Â½lbs there). It’s midweek, and I’m still prone to need a good two-hour nap every afternoon. That done, I don’t feel too bad. I have noticed, though, this dangling collage of obligation and responsibility swinging ever nearer my throbbing head. Or perhaps more significantly, my unruly gut.
It’s been a pretty decent summer at Emmaus – inasmuch as Student Ministries are concerned – I’ve mentioned before we’d come upon a good batch of volunteers with hearts to see the church be the church in this way. And so with much work on the part of many others besides myself, the kids enjoyed a week in Colorado, two canoe trips, a video-scavenger hunt, a week of helping with vacation Bible school, and weekly gatherings of worship and time in the Word.
With school starting again, things get busy with student ministries. We’ve been anticipating that, of course. But the time I intended to give to the preparation for the coming season was otherwise eclipsed by a rather miserable month of hospital stays and blank-faced days at home in bed. My concerns have been assuaged somewhat however by the good graces and liberated schedule of a good friend of mine. Veteran youth director Andy Britz has agreed to come alongside our ministry at Emmaus and provide some sense of gravity that may be lost in my absence.
I begin cranial radiation this fall, as well as a regime of weekly spinal taps, for what looks like could be a full three months. It might be that I’ll be even less available for this coming season than I was for the summer months. Andy will easily fill a central role of our already well-equipped team ready to do much more than merely maintain the ministry till I return. I anticipate a fun-filled, deeply rewarding, and even life-transforming couple of months for our students and the adults who work with them this fall. I share this here, because I believe it is likely a direct God-response to the prayers some of you reading here have prayed for our student ministry at Emmaus. So thank you. Thank you. And don’t stop.
Lest anyone wonder – or forget (myself, included) – in the midst of these hospital stays; scrawny, bald, snapshots; and lamentations from a sick man’s bedside, I am slated to fully recover (and be healthier than ever before) by sometime mid-winter. This assurance is not to be mistook for an easy recovery, however, but an expected emersion from a positively yucky experience (I’ve a better than 90% chance of complete remission – which is where I am tentatively already – only soon I get to ditch the “life enhancing chemotherapy” and live like all you non-cancer types!).
Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been as “devotional” in my writing as of late. I’d like to explain…
The first 40 days of this ordeal (beginning with my admission of May 9th) were glazed and made shiny by what I believe was genuine grace and a deep faith given by Father God through Christ, His Church, His indwelling Spirit, and His Word. In all the harsh reality of the Cancer, Jen and I felt that our hearts were literally suspended above whatever peril there’d be apart from His holding us.
July brought on the feel of a very different season. The suffering became more intense. My heart didn’t respond so automatically in ways that were right. It became more work to bring my broken heart to God, and in the process, a greater demand was made for honesty – not with men, but with God. I believe God has been silently asking some intensely revealing questions of me – about my heart, my desires, my take on who He is and how He does things – and the resulting conversation is so real, so raw, and so unspoken that there’s no way I could reproduce it here. I trust the result of it all will eventually be seen in the life I end up living on the other side of this thing.
So those of you who pray could keep praying for my heart – fickle and frail – and my flesh – wimpy, stubborn, and so prone to loving everything less than the good hand of God. I still believe this illness is less about my body and more about my heart, and that the promised fruits will somehow contribute to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. Yet as true as that is, it doesn’t make the suffering any less painful, or the sorrow any less real. Truth by itself just sits there and mocks, like the Law without the reality of Jesus and His suffering or the fulfillment and freedom that reality brings.
Truth must meet faith – faith given by God – and I need that faith given to me these days. There’s no doubt when the truth of God’s Promise is met by and bound to a faith that says, “Yes, I believe it,” there really is sustaining power. There really is tangible hope in the One who, more than any other, suffered unjustly…
“Who for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising its shame…”
So that’s where I’m at – still trusting that there is an Author to this story and One who makes faith perfect – though I’m not always altogether happy with Him or the way He does things. I’m nonetheless deeply and unspeakably grateful for the goodness so abundantly evident in my life: my family, my church, my friends, my little boy, my bride and the baby inside her… my health, when I have it, and all the care I’ve received when I don’t.
The sustained and sustaining buoy of hope, often lost in the waves, swept away by the storm, slippery with mire – yet found again and again – is ours in the promises of the Son of God.
I am still gratefully His,