Monthly Archives: September 2006

Apologies & Gratitude

Apologies & Gratitude… a necessary addendum to my most recent post:

tiger.jpgFirst, my gratitude. Every now and then I’m surprised by the audacity of my assumption that what I write is worth being read. You may be able to understand then how I’m occasionally popped silly when I discover that so many of you assume the same. The concern some of you have expressed and the prayers you’ve prayed after reading my last post have come as great encouragement to me. And for that and much else I’m truly grateful. So I write so soon after posting to say thanks.

Yet I must also apologize for painting a picture that is not wholly representative of our reality. This was made clear to me in the manner of several emails I’ve received since posting what I wrote last week. While the actuality of both the pain and the complications of ongoing treatment is none less weighty than I implied earlier, it is not constant, and it is not the only reality. There is much good, too. I hope that this also was evident, and if not, I seek to make it so today.

eligrin.jpgAnd I want to explain again why I wrote the way I did, less because I feel I must validate my perspective and more because I think it will serve to punctuate the point. When I write for this forum (blogging is such a new and peculiar format), I do not know who is going to be reading what I write. To be sure, I know there will be some family, some friends, people who see me weekly, others who haven’t seen me in months or years, and others still whom I’ve never known at all, and this spectrum causes some hesitation for me as I feel I have things I would like to say to each that the others may not understand without explanation. Yet neither you nor I have the time for me to explain or even say it all, so I compromise for a priority, and often at the risk of being misunderstood.

My priority in my most recent post was to expose the contrast that often exists between appearances and reality, and to bring attention to the fact that our desire for things to be well in this world often nurtures a blissful but misleading ignorance of the pains that others regularly endure.

dad&eli.jpgFor instance, there are those who see me from week to week at church, or month to month at the clinic, or on occasion at a social event somewhere… it is most likely at those moments that I “look good,” as is so often said. And the truth in such a case is that I probably feel good, too. Yet because I would typically not “be out” if I did not feel good (and would go home if I began to feel ill), most do not see a reality other than the moments in which I am doing well, or at worst, bearably well.

The overriding or perpetual reality in my life may be that I am feeling well all the time, or it may be that every moment other than the ones in which I am seen are unbearable, or it may be something in between. In any case, what I am trying to address in myself (and so inviting others to do the same) is our preference to assume the best, rather than the effort to understand and address the actuality of the past and present sufferings of those in our spheres of influence and the world at large.

Rarely in our culture or our world do those suffering come to our doors (or to our minds) of their own accord. They are either brought by God or by someone who went out to get them. Or we are the ones who go out to get them. I believe followers of Christ, even (if not especially) those who suffer, are to be the latter. We are to find those who hurt, to know and understand their suffering, and to do what we can to help them. I am among those who must be convicted of this. I want to live this. And I am praying for that.

headrub.jpgNow my actuality is what I wrote recently. And it is also that our oldest, Aedan, has had a wicked fever since Sunday morning, throwing up in our bed two nights ago, on Tylenol and Ibuprofen constantly, with mouth sores that have nixed his appetite… and it is that I am unemployed and we have financial needs we are looking to God to provide through the state and through His people… and it is that my chemo crash came earlier this week and hit harder than usual and as a result I am remarkably fatigued… but it is not just this.

familyonfarm.jpgThere is also the fact that the primary emotion in our household in recent weeks has been happiness, in spite of occasional and intense detours from this notable good thing. This past weekend was one of the better weekends I’ve had in awhile. Truthfully, there’ve been two in a row of utilized strength and gratifying activity. While problems with my jaw have caused me much pain these past months, I have an appointment this week to see one of the more respected specialists in this area, and I’m hopeful for improvement. I’ve been offered several opportunities to speak in the coming month. And better still, I actually have the sense that God has given me something good to say.

lakemeadow.jpgThen of course there is an abiding awareness that God has given us such a good marriage, guarding us from many perils and pitfalls so common to couples our age. We actually love each other. More now than we ever have. We feel blessed by this daily, and by the presence of two little people flying planes and choo-chooing trains around our house.

With that I’ll mention I hoped to scribe a second part to this post, as there’s more on my mind, but weariness and the present needs of those two little people necessitate a break in the action. Or better said, an end to the break in the action. So once again, thank you for reading what I write, and for communicating the concern and encouragement that some of you do. May my efforts to keep writing (learning as I go) be down payment on the more personal expressions of gratitude that I hope to communicate to many of you in due time.

Sometimes feebly, but nonetheless securely…


Categories: Cancer | 9 Comments

I was sick once.

(I started this last week… finished it today…)

lifevest.jpgMy body hurts. I ache tonight to the point of distraction. Either I take some painkillers now and go to sleep, or I don’t and try to grind out a couple paragraphs before I do. That’d be good – assuming I can write about more than just how much I hurt. I say it’s distracting. But it’s really more like the pain’s the main thing, and everything else is just an effort to distract me from it.

I was sick once. And one glance would’ve told you so. My hair had fallen out. I had sunken eyes and a pallid, sickly glow about my skin. Some days you might’ve seen me like this lying in a hospital bed. Some days it may’ve been on my couch at home. Most of the time you wouldn’t have seen me at all. I’d shut the door. But you knew I was sick even then. People don’t forget you have cancer.

toothbrush.jpgPeople prayed for us then. And brought us meals. And wrote us cards. There were names lined up on a list in our kitchen of people who’d volunteered to watch our boys. We had help mowing our lawn, painting our house, and replacing our windows. People were nearby, or checking my website. People prayed for us then. People don’t forget you have cancer.

Or do they? No doubt I’ve got some good things going for me now. One glance these days and you’d be led to believe I’m the healthiest I’ve been in years. I’ve got the coolest haircut I’ve had since seventh grade. I walk the block with two boys and a beautiful wife. And I wear clothes that match (most of the time). Hard to believe there’s still so much wrong with my body. Especially hard to imagine there’s anything awry with my heart.

cheerio.jpgBut there is. There’s more actually than I have the strength to tell. In some ways, this is a harder season than the first twelve months. If the night is cold and dark, but not long, it’s over before it gets into your heart. On the other hand, if the night is mild, but it lasts and lasts, it gets to you. I’ve sometimes wondered how I’d do in the more northern climes of our planet. Specifically in the winter months when there’s just a few hours of daylight per day. I feel the gloom here with our five months of brown-gray winter, but we still have daylight – not much, but we do have it. Or what’s it like in Seattle: with so much beauty to see, if you can’t see it 90% of the time because of the rain and fog, does the beauty being there still have it’s full effect on you?

This year has been like those gray weeks here in March or September – the season between seasons… the one without a name: the gray, nameless transition – a necessary evil.

The truth is, I don’t have cancer right now. The cancer’s been gone for a long time. What I do have still, is ongoing treatment, and a host of peripheral problems that are either caused or complicated by the treatment, none of them obvious to the naked eye. Because of that, I occasionally (and wrongly) lament the fact that I don’t have a cast, crutches, or a boil growing on my forehead.

bunyan.jpgSensational needs call forth heroes – as they should – but when the sacrifice is worth the sentiment of the saving (when there’s an even-up payoff), and the rewards are expected and immediate, is it still a real sacrifice? I asked this question a long time ago – before all this – in the context of everyday ministry. I realized that most anyone wouldn’t mind being the next Mother Teresa if the recognition and accolades came hand in hand with the work – and right away, too. But in such a hero-bent culture, the sound of the everyday grind gets lost in the noise of the spectacular and sensational, and people who need a little help everyday get lost in the shuffle.

I imagine a cruise ship coming upon a child struggling to stay afloat at sea. A man on the rail notices (as does everyone else), and he jumps in to rescue the child. Once he’s returned to the boat and safely on deck with the child, he bows to the crowd’s applause, and as he does so, no one notices the child in a seizure, slipping off the deck and once more into the water. The ship sails on with her hero and an air of good feelings, celebrating their goodwill, but without the one they’ve claimed to save. I’ve been the guy on the ship, and I’ve been the kid in the water. And it’s likely even now I’m a little of both.

If I sound at all ungrateful for the help we do receive (and have received by way of many gifts and much time), I assure you it is primarily a trick of writing I’ve employed to direct your attention to the following plea: If you know someone who has been in some way suffering – obviously or otherwise – for a long time, and you know about it, but have conveniently or unintentionally forgotten, or assumed in hopeful ignorance that things are all better for them now because they’ve either healed or adjusted, please take a moment soon to check in – to ask, to listen – to offer some assistance in whatever way you can. And if you’re one who needs this kind of attention – this kind of help – perhaps you, like me, need to give it first to someone else. We are a broken people. It’s not just you or just me. It’s us.

eliscuter.jpgNow if you’re still able to bear the shrill whine of my troubles, I’ll provide a few more details: the first week of every month is a week of steroids. And the steroids mess me up. My body hurts so badly. Any trouble spots (my wrists, jaw, back, hips, etc…) flare up with an intensity of pain utterly disabling. I’m strangely fatigued and unable to sleep. The week following, my mood goes south and stays there. Every week, I take chemo pills on Friday, and sometime on Sunday or Monday my body slows to a standstill. I flirt with despair for a day or two, and spend a good part of the week with a remarkable propensity for crankiness. I begin to feel better Thursday or Friday, upon which I take some more chemo pills, and begin the cycle all over again.

I have mouth sores and spinal stenosis. My jaw is deteriorating. I grind at night. Singing causes throbbing headaches before the choruses of most songs. I can play guitar for a little while, but will end up nursing my wrists for days following the repetition of a few chords. Writing at the keyboard of a computer is almost as bad – I smear numbing cream on my wrists every night, and twice a day on days I do a lot of writing.

beached.jpgJen and I both are fairly stressed out by our day-to-day paradigm. Some days are much better. Some days are worse. For the most part, we’re happy. But the not so happy moments are significant and debilitating. We’re short half the childcare we need for her to do her work and for me to heal. We’ve applied for disability benefits through Social Security and will know in several months whether I qualify or not. If I do, it will replace half my previous income. We are still insured through Emmaus -as I mentioned previously (they transferred my former benefits to her employment) – but it seems that right now, anyway, we’ve got to pay our deductible again: $3,000 twice in one year. The sum of which is about as much as our new furnace and air conditioner will cost to be replaced next week. We’ve been warming our house this early autumn with a log or two in our fireplace each day.

jenonrock.jpgNow, in an effort to gratefully acknowledge the cup is half-full, and not scattered broken on the floor (as I seem to be suggesting)… we do have a fireplace, and we have logs to fill it. We have friends and family who provide help in many ways. We have two healthy boys with fairly pleasant dispositions. We’ve got two working cars and a place to live. I’ve got an instrument I can still play. And I play it. And I love it. I can read. I can walk. I can kiss my bride. We went on vacation a few weeks back. Hiked a rocky cliff. We ran out of gas on a lake and got stranded on an island for an afternoon – and loved it (once I stopped pulling the cord, we stopped rowing, and beached the boat)! We still laugh. We eat everyday. We eat well. Gas is cheap. Watermelon’s in season, and Eugene Peterson is still writing books. So is Donny Miller. (And Derek Webb’s giving away his best album “Mockingbird” for free online – enough to make any Webb fan smile and nod).

yellowairplane.jpgI’ve been taking anti-depressants for three months, and they seem to be working. A basket of mums showed up on our doorstep a while back, and we still get an occasional card in the mail with a surprise check to cover our groceries that week. Or more. Aedan can tell the difference between a Chevy Impala and a Pontiac Grand Prix (Grandma Joy’s and Grandma Deb’s car, respectively). He laughs at my jokes and calls me funny. So I took him to an airshow at Flying Cloud. Eli’s instantly happy whenever I so much as look at him. And I have the coolest haircut I’ve had since seventh grade.

And of course there’s the fact that I’m in remission. And while I don’t know exactly what it is that God is doing in our lives right now, I know He’s still at work. And I have faith yet that His intent is good, and the result will somehow be worth it all. It’s just that I (we) don’t feel all that healthy in the moment. In our hearts or our heads, not to mention my body. While I don’t feel the liberty to be as honest or as open about all that here on this website, I can be as sincere in my request that, whoever you are, if you’ve read this and you pray to Jesus, please ask Him to help me out the way only He can. And that He’d do the same for my bride and my boys.

jjrocks&water.jpgAnd I can remind you one last time to send off that note, or make that phone call, or swing by that hospital and encourage that someone who hasn’t heard from you in awhile. They may be somehow crippled in their cry for help or their expression of gratitude once you arrive – swallowed too much water, as it were – and may appreciate that gesture of compassion more than they did last time, whether you’ll know it or not.

And thank you for your gesture of concern in checking this website. I apologize for not offering more edifying content these days. I trust there’ll be fruit from this suffering soon. Then we’ll share in the bounty…

Ah, such poetic imagery.

A bit sarcastic, but…

Still His,

morning.jpgPS. Perry and Carol Anniuk in Ontario have a beautiful wilderness resort in Stevens Bay on Lake of the Woods. Perhaps as beautiful as their hospitality. And the food’s incredible. Thanks to them (and Carol’s parents) for making our getaway truly memorable. Ever want a good go north getaway, visit

Categories: Cancer | 8 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: