Thursday, December 21, 2017

The “ABC’s” of 2017 #2 (G-K)

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This post continues our “end of the year” newsletter. God has taken me back to school to learn the basics, the ABC’s of life, faith, and work for the kingdom in this world. You will see a focus on relationships in this post. This is what is most important to God. Theology, doctrine, ministry, work, knowledge etc. are not ends in themselves, but means or tools to get us to what is important: Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and Loving our neighbor as ourselves and Worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. I hope this post blesses you.

G: Gasoline: I know "gasoline" seems like an odd word for this post. But 2017 was a year for a lot of driving (Joyce did the driving, I could not drive all year, and still can't, because of edema swelling) as we had almost daily trips to the local doctors and several trips to Palo Alto for our appointments at Stanford. So transportation became very important. We have two cars, but they are both on Guam (I'll sell either one for a deeply discounted price if you are interested!). When the word went out about our need for a car one family at church offered their 2004 Toyota Sienna van for $20. What a gift from the LORD! We were able to take the seats out in the back and Joyce set up futons so that I could lay down for the trip to Stanford, which can take anywhere from 2 1/2 to 5 hours depending on traffic. People, over and over, helped us with gas money and other funds we needed for hotel and Stanford apartment stays while we were there. We started the year wondering how we'd pay for all this. We ended the year praising God for how He provided. Why did we ever worry?

H: Hospitals: I have been to two hospitals and several medical facilities the last twelve months. The care, and by that I mean professional, physical, emotional and even spiritual care, has been amazing in all these facilities. Things have really changed since Joyce spent so much time in medical facilities back in 1988-95. I am thankful for how I was treated by many amazing people this year. But, what really stood out to me as I spent so much time there were the so many other patients and caregivers that I met in these facilities. First, my heart was broken to see SO MANY people suffering from various cancers and other devastating diseases. I was driven to prayer for them (something that I confess I have not done enough of before this year) and for the "kingdom of God to come fully" to set these things right and restore His creation to the wholeness it was meant to have. Secondly, I was amazed to see the faith, hope and loving desire to reach out to one another in that whole hospital community. There is something about cancer that drives people to God. Nobody there ever refused my greeting of blessing or my offer to pray for them. I wish we always had that perspective of the immediacy of God.

20170712_132527 (960x1280)I: Infusion, Infusion Treatment Area: I spent time in the infusion centers in the Marshall Oncology center and Hospital in El Dorado County and the ones in the Stanford Cancer Center and Hospital. These were also amazing, caring, positive communities. I felt like the nurses in infusion center in Cameron Park were our friends. They called me at home to make sure I was OK (Stanford people did the same) and we shared our lives with each other as the chemo came through the tubes and my port and entered my veins. I was also amazed with the port I had in the left side of my chest and the Hickman catheter I had in the right side of my chest. Through them the chemo could be sent right through a major artery, through my heart and out to all my body. This was all done through a tiny incision in my chest. Amazing! It reminded me how close the external, the skin, is to the heart. All the little things we do quickly affect the core, the heart. This is true in both the physical and spiritual realms.

J: Joyce is my official caretaker, lifeline, chauffeur and angel. After my kidney surgery in February when I was wheeled back into my hospital room she was sitting by the window waiting for me. When I saw her the sun was shining behind her and it looked like light was radiating out from her and I felt comforted that things were going to be OK. (True I was high as a kite from the anesthetic, but God can speak through that I am sure.) She has certainly kept her vow about marriage commitment "in sickness," and, to me, Joyce is the epitome of what Christian love and service looks like. I know I have the advanced degree in Biblical Studies, but I have seen and learned biblical love from her in a more and better way than I ever learned it in a classroom.

K: Kidneys and Killers: When we got to California on December 16, 2016 I knew something was really wrong because of the swelling that had happened during the flight. But we still did not have a specific diagnosis in February. Foolishly, I wanted things to move faster. And boy did they in February when the internal swelling of my lymph nodes cut off my right kidney and caused everything in there to back up. My kidney began to fail. Later, the doctors told me I was in danger of losing one or both kidneys and close to death when I went to the emergency room then. I had emergency surgery to drain the kidney the next day and, thank God, after a few months my right kidney fully recovered. Ironically, this episode prompted my medical team to move forward faster and, the day after the kidney surgery, I had a lymph node biopsy surgery. This surgery enabled the specific diagnosis of T Cell Lymphoma and I started treatment in March. Other cancer veterans had told me that it took many months to get treatment moving. The kidney that was almost my killer might have ended up saving my life because my chemo treatment began less than three months after our arrival in California and only a couple weeks after diagnosis. Many people have told me, and I agree, that all of this was a great miracle of God’s perfect timing.

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