So far, so good. I take 12 chemo pills every Monday. Last week went better than expected. This week’s going better than that. Thanksgiving was a blast. Jen’s sister served up a bird Martha Stewart style. And I managed TWO pieces of cheesecake for dessert. It snowed all day Friday. I took Aedan sledding Saturday afternoon. No baby yet. Jen did some vigorous Christmas shopping with subtle hopes the activity might induce labor. Nothing yet. Nevertheless, we’re savoring our remaining days as a manageable threesome. Looks like a December baby is likely.
I spoke some with my doctor Monday regarding the next phase of my treatment. It’s expected to be similar to the first. They put me in the hospital right after Christmas, load me up with all kinds of chemotherapy, some of it brand new to my body, then keep me there till I bottom out and get better again. Another one of those “anywhere from 2 to 6 week” deals. Once I’m through, they pull the tubes out of my chest (I’ve got two 12-inch plastic tubes dangling from my chest on my right side that go directly into my aorta for IVs and such. I tend them every day. Will be nice to be able to roll over in bed without getting all tangled up) and send me home.
There I’ll finish the remaining days of Round 4. They call Round 4 “Late Intensification Period.” Isn’t that great? I guess it’s good they’re honest. Better that than “Feels Like You’re On Vacation Period,” or “Just Another Walk In The Park Period.” Other than the fact that it should be the last hard-core chemo Crash I have to endure, I’m really not looking forward to it. We’ll have a brand new baby at home. Jen will need my help. Aedan will need my company. And there’s some concern my lethargic white-blood cell makers may make my recovery a lengthy ordeal. We’ve taken some consolation in their recent rebound from my October/November crash. Guess that’d be a good thing to start praying about right now. Prior to starting this last half of Phase 3, we’d been praying like crazy that I wouldn’t experience any terrible side effects, and I haven’t. There’s something to Dr. Luke’s account of the persistent widow. Jesus knew what He was talking about: Ask often. And don’t quit.
In the meantime, there are still things to keep life a hair less than normal. I’m still very bald. Much more noticeable for me here in the winter. Anybody think wearing two hats looks funny? While I’m gaining some weight back ever so slowly, I’m still 10-20 pounds underweight (I’m not sure I remember what’s “normal”). The loss of mass, and the 3-4 months spent in bed this last year have effectively atrophied most of my major muscle groups. Add that to a goofed-up back (3 mildly compressed, bulging discs) and you get why I’m on pain meds every day. And it goes without saying that I’m not as strong as I once was. That’s tougher and tougher as Aedan gets bigger. I can still take him, though. I wrestled in seventh grade.
Crohn’s hasn’t bothered me too much. I do have to take extra care each time I’m on chemo, though. Side effect warnings like “may constipate” or “can cause diarrhea,” mean I have to bust out another 5 or 6 bottles of pre-meds and counter-meds (and dried apricots). My gut’s as prone to extremes as my whims. In spite of that, the therapy I’ve been on for cancer has really been effective at treating my Crohn’s as well. Something I was just thinking about though, is that when I’m through with all this, all the treatments I’ve previously been on for Crohn’s potentially put me at risk for a lymphoma relapse. And there are few treatment options left.
So, one could pray that I achieve permanent remission in them both. No more Crohn’s. No more Cancer. For the rest of my life, period. When it’s time for me to go, I’d rather go out like Elijah. Fatal illness is the ticket for guys much tougher in the physical and in faith than I’ll ever be. Beyond that, I’d really like to be well again. I pray that wellness wouldn’t lead me to apathy, and that I’d use whatever strength God gives me for the best things. In spite of all the good that I’ve come to experience in these dark times (like finding in the lowest possible place that God is still beneath me, holding me up), I’d really prefer being well, and learn how to meet and serve God there.
I’m intending to write another mass email – like the one I sent out and posted in May when this all begin. Please pray with me as I do this. That I’d be brief. That I’d say the things that should be said. The last one ended up in front of more people than I could’ve anticipated. Entire congregations I had never visited. Radio stations in Minneapolis and Duluth. Newspapers and online newsletters. There may’ve simply been an anointing on that letter that shouldn’t be expected again. Nevertheless, I had only two weeks behind me then. It’s a considerably more complicated testimony (and much more information) half a year later. I hardly have a clue where to start.
Thank you, each and all who are praying. Forgive me for not being as grateful as I ought to be. And for being so unable to personally express gratitude to each of you. In time, perhaps, God will ordain a way for me to return the favor.
Indebted and grateful still,