Tuesday, October 16, 2012


In the world of cancer treatment things never seem to stop. There's always another appointment to get to. Another doctor to see. Another lab to run. Another something. In my little corner of the universe, I have kind of hit a bit of a flat spot in that repetitive routine. I have been able to step off of the medical treadmill onto the hospice one. I was pretty scared about that at first, but, actually hospice has been pretty good for me. We found a medical support team that can help me get what I need without a lot of fuss. Since I'm not actually doing any chemo, it consists of labs, transfusions, and, follow up doctor's visits. Compared to my past, this is pretty tame. It used to be much more volatile, lots more ups and downs. In a way, things are simpler, and, for that, I am thankful.

The flip side of this is that I am not in a place where I am looking for a cure. When you go on hospice the basic understanding is that you are no longer trying to find a fix for your problem. You are admitting defeat in a way. Yet, in my situation, I don't really have any other options. The truth is, my original cancer, DSRCT, is under control. I am pretty thankful for this. But, we are dealing with a completely unforeseen demon now: bone marrow and its failure. It is not uncommon for DSRCT patients to run into issues with secondary cancers. We don't know if it was caused by my broken leg. We can speculate, but, regardless of the cause, I am fighting something we never figured we would take into account. We went through a lot to get DSRCT under control. We did that. Then, out of nowhere, comes this unnamed cancer. Great. Thanks for that one Lord.

Yet, I have to stop and be honest. In all the wondering I have been doing, all the fuming I have been doing at God, at all the frustration and disappointment I have come from a bad premise. We in America live with this myth in our minds: we should expect to live an old age with every right to wealth, health and happiness. No where in the Bible does God promise this. To be honest, I was insulted by God when I got diagnosed. Who am I, a perfectly healthy, law-abiding man who loves his family, to be inflicted with disease? God? You think it's okay to screw with my life? Now, let's stop for a second. If you look at the Bible, I want you to find a single verse that gives me the right to believe this myth. As far as I know, there is none. God does not promise us a long, healthy, problem free life.

In fact, if you look at scripture most of the men and women we look up to spiritually, their lives were hard, broken, pain-filled, confused, difficult and hard to explain. How would we in America sell Christianity if you told people this truth? We wouldn't. Christianity would dwindle. So, are we honest with our faith? Are we willing to talk about death? Cancer? Pain? Doubt? Maybe. But, it takes a certain spin. We have to struggle to balance our reality with our hopes. I mean, really, I hope to be healed. I hope for this long life. I hope for the things this myth throws out there. Yet, where does this hope come from? Does it come from God? I don't know, to be honest, I am just figuring this out as I go along.

Part of me hates talking about this stuff. It's ugly. It's confusing and hard to make sense of. Yet, I look at it and take a single stance, one, I hope, will help me find truth and hope. I basically assume God is good and He loves me. What does this have to do with our misleading myth? It creates a tension. I look at my life, with its disease and the threat of death. And I look on the other hand of the promise of eternal life Jesus put forth. Eternal life and life here on earth are, as far as I can tell night any day. We want life to be easy here, to be simple and straightforward. It's anything but...at this moment. I have to stop and look back, however, over my life and recollect the blessings He has given me. I can rail and lament about where my life is NOW, but, the almost thirty six years prior to this were charmed.

I live in one of the most blessed countries on earth. I have had amazing health, far greater than I knew, my whole life. Money was never really a concern. I never went hungry. I never suffered, not truly suffered, and, I never experienced true fear. I'm not talking about fear of being liked at school or fear of not being accepted. I'm talking about fear of being killed by robbers. Fear of being unjustly treated. No, I stand, for a short period of time, in a difficult spot, but, my life has been blessed. That is the truth of my life. Cancer has obscured this. I seem to have gotten a very short memory since it has struck. How many people have short memories like this when the goodness of God is eclipsed by difficult, most of the time, or, true evil, on those rare occasions. Either way, there is a tension between my ideal life and my real life.

Right now, although I have been through some really rough things in the past two years, I am able to breathe a bit. We look forward and cannot say for sure if I will live or die. The truth is, I will probably die. But, I don't know for sure. Technically, I am losing health. Yet, we are still looking at some other things. MD Anderson might have further options with regards to my secondary cancer. I am not sure about this, but, we are at least looking at it. For now, I am in a little bit of a holding pattern. I look over the past few months and see my health is declining, yet, I am not on my deathbed. I am not at a complete loss. So, I have to stop and reconcile today with the tension I feel. How do I take today and tomorrow and walk them out? One day at a time. That is, right now, the only way I can do this.

Ironically, it's really scary. Jesus talked about not worrying about the future or what it brings. Living in the moment, that is, not projecting into the future or drawing from the past, no, living here and now, is really, really hard. Honestly, it's a lot easier to buy into the myth of a golden tomorrow than it is to be present. Having our attention somewhere else all the time, as the of a golden tomorrow lends us to, numbs us to what is happening now and robs us of our power, of our ability to really be where God wants us. When we are building a scaffolding of hopes, crafting plans, coping with the stress of how to pull it all off, it's a really nice mouse trap. And, we spend a lot of time tweaking this, keeping it going and living void of an awareness of what's really going on here and now. It's a trade off. We can be present, and, live here now, but, it means we have to stop thinking about the future. Lots of people are afraid to do this. I know I was. Heck, I still am.

My present, living here and now means I have to admit I am possibly, if not, probably dying. Who wants to think about that? Who wants to be fully present in that reality? Certainly not me. No one wants to go there, much less set up shop and hang out a while. It makes for hard holding onto hope. And, yet, again, I come back to that fact that my hope is not on today, but, on an eternal reality, a tomorrow not yet come. So, I have to stop myself, ask, wonder, God, how am I, a mere human, supposed to stare death in the face and hold onto the electrical socket of hope and eternal life. When the reality of this hits me, it jolts me back to my senses. Yet, I can't hold onto it for more than a short time. It's too powerful, too raw, too amazing. I mean, really, God, your love is too amazing to live in for more than a moment.

Maybe it's my sinful nature. Maybe it's my weakness. I don't know what it is, but, staying "on", that is, living in hope, staying in the present, shrugging off the myth and its comforting promises proves virtually impossible. So, I sit in my plateau, and, it's humdrum routine of predictable patterns and rhythms, thankful I can just sit back and not have to worry about what's next. Being constantly on is draining. It's exhausting honestly. Living in an adrenal rush all the time tears one down. It makes for poor living. The hope is to one day get out of it. But, for right now, my only way out is death. That's a horrifying thought. Unless a miracle walks through the door, this is my reality. And, yet, it is one that seems to be standing at arms length. So, I stand here, weary, staring into the distance, waiting for the next attack, but, thankful I can see a little in front of me.

I wish I could say something more spiritually momentous. This, the realization that my "reality" was a myth is momentous enough if you ask me. God has, as Jesus outlined in his statement, "I am the way, the truth and the life", shown me the truth about my life. I cannot stand on a false premise any longer. In a way, being stripped of the lies gives me a chance to build a real, deeper relationship with God. It is pretty? No. Not really. But, it is real. In way, it is a question of substance versus appearance. Trying to reconcile the differences between what I see (the appearance of God and his holiness) and what is (the reality of God) ultimately is the root cause of my struggles and the life I have before me. A plateau, a resting point, in this reconciliation process allows me to stop and look around.

I don't necessarily like what I see, but, God is at least giving me the chance to see what's really going on. That's the truth. God is letting me know him, as he really is, and, I should, for that, be thankful. Am I thankful for cancer? For the disease? No. For the greater relationship with God as a byproduct? Yes. It is a mixed blessing and I have a hard time seeing God in all that is happening. Nonetheless, I cannot help but look for him. It is just part of my make up. Hopefully, this plateau will give me a chance to find the most real relationship I can with God. I know reality is more of a Greek virtue than a Hebraic one, but, in the end, I am thankful I can at least stop long enough to look around see what's going on. I could view right now in whatever light I choose. So, I am choosing to try and find how God wants to use this flat spot for his glory. Let's see where you want us to go.

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