To be diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma is hardly a “hallelujah” moment…but it is transformational!
The calendar becomes a place to insert doctor’s appointments, lab visits, and chemo infusion schedules. Even my hair started falling out…right on schedule…so I now am officially a “chrome dome.” You learn quickly that you need to avoid crowds, not eat at buffets and refrain from shaking hands. You also learn that someone has drilled holes in your energy bucket and that an hour of light activity creates a lot of perspiration and feels like a full days work.
But, the good news so far is that I have had absolutely no nausea, just a few blah days, and an amazing white blood cell count. The average WBC for males ranges from 4.4 – 11. Because aggressive lymphoma calls for aggressive treatment, when the CHOP chemo protocol I am on is administered every 21 days, the drugs that kill the cancer cells are non-discriminatory. Because chemo destroys good cells also, my white blood cell count is carefully monitored and scheduled chemo infusions depend on safe level of WBC’s. It is not unusual for treatment to be delayed, sometimes for weeks awaiting a safe WBC count. Amazingly, my WBC prior to my infusion on Tuesday was a whopping 12.4. We give God praise!
Two words come to the forefront when you are fighting aggressive lymphoma: Cure & Remission.
Before all the biopsies return, you live in that state of suspended animation while awaiting the reports of whether your cancer is Stage One, Two, Three or Four. From a statistical perspective the larger the number, the less likely the cure. For example, with stage four cancer, even with successful treatment physicians prefer to speak of it as being “in remission”. By it’s very definition “remission” is considered “the state of absence of disease activity in patients with a chronic illness, with the possibility of return of disease activity.” Because, I have been diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer, my oncologist assures me that there is an 80% cure rate, which again by definition means “a restoration of health; recovery from disease.”
That is, of course, what my wife Judy and I are trusting for, and are grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers that have been extended to us from literally around the world.
One of our great blessings, is the incredible network of friends, woven together by the Holy Spirit through 50 years of ministry, who know how to pray. To be linked with people who have discernment as to how to intercede on your behalf is priceless. There is indeed, a significant distinction between people who pray and people who know how to pray! Indeed, when missionary friends dropped in to see us this week, they lamented on how few people in churches where they have visited, really know how to pray.
We have discovered that surprises are a part of this journey, not the least of which are the responses of friends, neighbors and family.
About two weeks ago, when I arose in the morning, I went to the window to see the ground covered with snow. Normally, I get up and clean out my driveway immediately, even if there is only and inch or two of snow, for because our home faces north, in the winter only half of our driveway ever sees the sun…so without cleaning, once you drive over it, the surface becomes icy. I remarked to my wife that I didn’t know what I was going to do as cleaning the driveway is on my Dr.’s do not do list. I then walked to our front bedroom, looked out the window and saw a man shoveling our driveway. I couldn’t immediately see his face, but was overcome by gratitude. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or shout! We soon discovered it was our neighbor John Speicher. When I endeavored to thank him for being an answer to our prayers, he let me know that he felt that the Lord wanted him to care for our driveway this winter.
Ah, what a surprise!
Last week, when right on schedule my hair started falling out, we made a call to our hairdresser. On our way home from the extreme makeover session, my wife suggested she would need to make something to cover my head as I dealt with the adjustment.
We had just returned home from the Bristol O’Hair Port where my hair had taken flight, and Judy’s sister Sharon who lives just across the state line in Niles, Michigan not knowing where we had just been, called and asked if she could come down because she had just knitted an alpaca yarn chemo hat for me. God is so previous!
Ah, what a surprise!
After five decades in ministry nothing should surprise us, but being part of being human is that it does.
Once word began to spread by via personal contact, email, snail-mail and other social media such as Facebook, I have been surprised both by whom I have heard from as well as those from whom I haven’t heard. It has been an amazing delight to have received notes and expressions of love from friends and extended family, some of whom we have not had contact with for many years, who just want us to know we still have a place in their hearts and prayers. From some with whom our lives have been entwined by birth or ministry their silence knocks on the door of past memories and provides an opportunity to prayerfully ask the Lord to remove the impediments I may have sown that may now be contributing to their silence.
A couple of notes have broken the silence, one from many decades ago, that still reverberate with anger and I am reminded that there is no such thing as a perfect pastor!
Ah, what a s………………..ilent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
May you have a Merry Christmas.