VIEW FROM THE RIDGE
Back in May of 2010 I wrote about what I had learned from going through cancer treatment for the 2nd time. Now going through the whole wretched process again, God again has taught me some things, reminded me of things He had taught me the first two times and has laid it upon my heart to share these thoughts with you.
(2Co 6:4) Our work as God's servants gets validated--or not--in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times;
Or it just might not have anything to do with us but be for the benefit of those who are watching us – family, friends and neighbors – and how we react and respond to trials and hardship. Or it might be preparing us for ministry to someone who will be going through similar trials in the future that the Lord will bring into our lives.
(Prov. 31:29-31) He says, “Many women are good wives, but you are the best of them all.” Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors the Lord should be praised. Give her credit for all she does. She deserves the respect of everyone.
Through over 54 years of marriage, Jeri has been the living example of Proverbs 31. In the last two years she has been uprooted from her home on the ranch, moved 3,000 miles to the middle of the ocean away from family, church and friends without complaint, at least to me. She has ministered, served, waited on me, cleaned up after me, helped me get dressed and undressed when I wasn’t able, walked with me when my balance was off, gone to all my appointments, sat in the hospital for boring hours on end watching me sleep or withering in pain, all without complaint. God has so richly blessed me, I’m not sure how I would have made it through this without her.
She has done all of this despite her own health issues with Parkinson’s disease. Stress accentuates the symptoms of Parkinson’s and all I have done is added stress to her life over the last 8 years. At a time that I should be caring for her, she is having to be my caretaker.
(1st Peter 4:1) Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.
I have learned that radiation treatment is a piece of cake compared to chemotherapy. It also depends on the individual because the chemotherapy affects each person differently. For me it has been an ordeal. Never in my anticipation of these treatments did I think it would be like it has. The first five infusions I ended up in the hospital after each treatment with zero white blood cells and having picked up a stray germ that caused a rise in my temperature. The only treatment is IV anti-biotics. Each stay was 4 to 7 days. Each resulted in a setback of everything I had gained from the last time. Nausea has not been as big an issue as I had anticipated but more of a nagging issue. The jury is still out if I am able to avoid the hospital on this 6th partial infusion as it has been only 5 days. So far, so good.
I have also learned that despite my wanting to be home, it ain’t happening. When this all started and they laid out the plan of attack, I figured we would be back in Hawaii late August. So much for that thought. Unexpected Gastrointestinal surgery to clear a blockage caused by a tumor resulted in 16 days in the hospital and a 6 week set back. Add in a few more delay of infusions because I was too weak to endure them and we are now into October. I have booked our flight back to Hawaii for the 21st of October come hell or high water. I also realize that I just may have to pay a re-booking if God has other plans.
I have also made the decision that any further treatment will be done on the Big Island in Kona. I have confidence in the Oncologist there and like him very much. I may have slightly over exaggerated my previous assessment of Hawaii health care. Not so much on the hospital care, but the infusion center was very professional and caring.
(Job 33:19-20) "Or, God might get their attention through pain, by throwing them on a bed of suffering, So they can't stand the sight of food, have no appetite for their favorite treats.
I have learned, again, to eat something even when the thought of food turns my stomach. It is part of not having my own way. As with radiation, chemotherapy tends to kill off your taste buds and few things taste like they should. Add in nausea and meal time becomes an ordeal. I have given up on trying to gain weight because I just cannot force enough food past my tongue into my stomach. Add in walking and exercising and there is no surplus calories available for weight gain. I am drinking two or three Ensures a day to help with the nutrition. My thought is that once all this chemotherapy poison is flushed out, my taste will return and I can start enjoying eating again. The challenge then will be moderation and not balloon into fat boy.
(Psalm 37:8) Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble.
Job was angry with God but he never cursed His name. Through my first two bouts of cancer I avoided being angry with God, realizing that He was in control and there were reasons for what he was subjecting me to. Yet the further I traveled down this latest road, the more I questioned God – and yes, occasionally with some anger - as to what he was trying to accomplish by torturing me with this latest cancer. I don’t think God minds that we occasionally vent our anger about our situations, just don’t curse His name or reject Him. You can question Him all you want, just don’t expect an answer.
(Psalm 23:4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
I have learned what it is to feel your life draining from you. After the surgery to clear the blockage in my intestines, it was 10 days before they became active again. Then began over 30 hours of hourly diarrhea that felt like my life was being removed from me. I began to question God if this was the beginning of the end, if I would ever make it out of the hospital, if this was His way of taking me home to Heaven. I explained to Him that I wasn’t ready to go, but I would submit to His will, not mine. As it turned out, it wasn’t my time yet.
(Matthew 4:2) And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
I have learned that you can fast a lot longer than a day or two and still survive, barely. When they admitted me into the hospital to clear the blockage, it was four days before they could do the surgery. During that time there was nothing allowed by mouth; no water, no food, nada, nothing but saline and anti-biotics, not even IV nutrition. After the surgery, it was the same as they waited for the bowels to wake up, which took 10 days. A 14 day forced fast, which is 13.5 days longer than I have lasted before.
(Job 7:13) I lie down and try to rest; I look for relief from my pain.
I have learned what a 9.5 pain is on a scale of 1-10 (10 being “Somebody please shoot me”). There were times during the blockage that it felt like someone was trying to remove an organ with a knife and no anesthesia. Not a fun time.
(1st Th. 3:2) and sent Timothy to get you up and about, cheering you on so you wouldn't be discouraged by these hard times. He's a brother and companion in the faith, God's man in spreading the Message, preaching Christ.
(1Th 3:7) In the middle of our trouble and hard times here, just knowing how you're doing keeps us going.
I have learned the value of phone calls, cards and e-mail and how much those small gestures lift up and encourage someone when they are not feeling well. People have sent me books and articles of encouragement and they are so appreciated. I have been one of those that wanted to call but didn’t know what to say. Well, I have learned that it doesn’t matter what you say, just hearing your friendly voice will usually start the conversation. It is always good to hear what is going on in your life, because right now I am tired of mine. Who knows, maybe sharing your troubles will cheer me up!
(Rom 12:10-12) Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
(2Th 1:4) We're so proud of you; you're so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches all about you.
I have learned just how many friends I have, and they are many! I am again blessed beyond measure. I am astounded by the number of friends, friends of friends, churches, care groups, Sunday school classes, you name it, all across this country from coast to coast that are praying for good results from this treatment. I have no idea how God will answer, but I know He hears, and He will answer, and I will accept with thanks what ever that answer is. I expect y’all to hold me to that and remind me if the answer is not what we want.
I have also learned that I do NOT have any friends like Job’s and for that I am extremely grateful. Thank you for all the encouraging notes and e-mails.
(1Pe 5:9) Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith.
(I wrote the following in 2010, not knowing how prophetic it might become.)
I have – AGAIN – been taught that no matter how bad things are there is always someone else who is worse off. I see that every day in the waiting room as young, old and in-between shuffle off into one of the machines waiting to have their various and sundry cancers hopefully radiated into oblivion. Some go in wheelchairs; some come with IV’s attached because they are also undergoing chemo therapy. I can not imagine what that must be like. Today I am truly thankful for the cancer I have because it could be so much uglier. I may not be as thankful down the road, but today I am.
And uglier it did! I have sat in the infusion room with as many as 18 other patients, all going through some sort of chemotherapy. Some bebop in there all smiles with no loss of hair, apparently tolerating the treatments well. Others, like me, shuffle in, weak, loss of hair and weight, looking like death warmed over, dreading another round of treatment, thinking “Will it ever end”. We all know it will, but it is coming about annoyingly slow.
(2Th 1:11-12) Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time--pray that our God will make you fit for what he's called you to be, pray that he'll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.
I have learned that my goal had better be the above scripture. I have tried to live honorably with integrity before God and man. How successful I’ve been will be however I am judged by you and God. Rick Warren was interviewed by Paul Bradshaw and discussed this very subject. He said:
We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.
People have already accused me of being a character so I am not sure what this third round of molding and shaping is all about. But again, God is in control and I am but his foot soldier.
(Luke 16:9) I want you to be smart in the same way--but for what is right--using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you'll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior."
I have learned not to expect to get my own way. I am still pampered and watched over by wife and family, but I am also told in no uncertain terms that some things are going to be done a certain way, whether I like it or not. I have accepted that, sort of.
I have learned what the future holds for me and it isn’t pretty. After being released from the hospital following surgery, I took a shower at the house. As I got undressed, I saw in the mirror my dad the way he was when he was in his mid and late 80’s. I look exactly like he did and it is not a pretty sight. I just may have lost 10 years of my life going through all this treatment.
Jeri and I are so thankful and appreciative of all the Randy and Lani have done for us. They have allowed us to have the spare bedroom and family room downstairs for our living quarters. They took a small office space and remodeled it into a kitchenette, complete with a stove, refrigerator and micro wave. We could not ask for a nicer situation.
I have written all of this not to brag about what tough times I have been through, but to give you some insight what some cancer patients go through. Few are open to sharing what is going on in their lives so you are unaware. Some suffer worst than I have. You at First Baptist have three members currently fighting cancer, all going through similar or more debilitating side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. Hopefully my sharing will give you insight into how you might best minister to them in their hour of need.