Saturday, December 23, 2017

The “ABC’s” of 2017 #3 (L-P)

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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. Here I focus on some of the “adventures” that having lymphoma brought into my life and how God ministered to Joyce and I in a very concrete way through them. The picture above was taken in July at our family get-together. The picture below was taken in September as we were preparing for the Stem Cell Transplant procedure.

L: Lymphoma: When I got my diagnosis of T-Cell Lymphoma I felt like I now knew who the enemy was. As several people told me, this was not just a physical battle. It has spiritual dimensions and should also be handled as spiritual warfare. So I imagined and prayed against the cancer cells as invaders that needed to be eliminated. As the chemo went into my body I prayed that each drop would be an "arrow of God" killing a lymphoma cell. I could see my body eliminating the dead cells (in my nephrostomy bag) and kept praying that all of it would be gone. After the transplant my body should be free of the lymphoma cancer. My prayer is that it remain free. I  believe God is going to do that and extend my life and ministry, but I know that even in my death, which has to come some day anyway, unless I make it to the 2nd coming, I have the victory over cancer and every other result of sin in Christ.

M: Matthew, Michael and Melissa: One highlight of 2017 for me was our get together with our kids and grandchildren in July. Matt and family drove up from San Diego and Mike and family (thanks to a gracious gift from their church) flew out from Cincinnati to join Missy, Leila, Joyce and I for several days at a cabin we rented up in Pollock Pines. This happened between my 1st and 2nd chemo sessions before the cancer recurred after the 1st and the subsequent 2nd chemo treatment. So this happened while I was feeling pretty good. We had a wonderful week together just being with each other enjoying and celebrating barbecue, swimming, hiking, fishing (sort of) and each other's general silliness. After so long where the only place I got out to was a doctor's office, it was encouraging to be with people, especially family. It helped give me the strength and purpose to face what was coming in the second half of the year. I do have to say that I do have eight very cute and smart grandkids. :)

20170913_151713 (960x1280)N: Neutropenic: A couple times in my treatment process I have become neutropenic. This means that my blood counts (red, white and platelets) dropped so low that basically I had no immune system. This is why at certain points I had to wear the HEPA mask whenever I was outside or in the proximity of anyone who could possibly be sick. I also had to avoid dust and smoke. Try to do that in California in the Fall! It is a little scary to be so defenseless. I had to spend 3 weeks in the hospital at Stanford at the lowest point of the blood counts. One day when I took a shower I  accidently cut myself with my fingernail (I wasn't allowed to cut my nails while I was neutropenic because of infection danger). It was a surface scrape which didn't even really penetrate all the layers of skin but it bled a lot. The shower looked like I had reprised the scene from Psycho (a slight hyperbole) and we had to watch the cut carefully for a while. The amazing thing though was how fast my body was able to recover from the neutropenic state (the stem cell transplant did speed up the process tremendously). The more I learn about the body the more I realize that we are certainly fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you LORD!

O: One Day at a Time: "One day at a time" has been our theme for the whole recovery process. I am a guy who likes to make plans but the events of 2017 shot all my plans to pieces. I had no control over where I would be in the near or far future because I had no control over my own body. Tomorrow was no longer a guarantee. I do think the biggest lesson of the year for me is that the control I thought I had over my own life was basically an illusion. We can't even guarantee our next breath. So we had to learn just to deal with today and not worry about tomorrow, because as Jesus said, "Today’s trouble is enough for today." What I have found in this is freedom. Now one of my daily prayers is Psalm 31.5, "Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God." So now, though we still plan, we realize all our plans are tentative. I am excited about the future no matter how many days here on earth it will be.

P: Prednisone: There was no doubt in my mind that P would be represented by Prednisone. Cytoxan was the most devastating chemical I received in chemo, but Prednisone was by far my least favorite. During the sessions of the first round of chemo I had to take it for five days after each of six sessions. It caused me to blow up like a balloon. One time I gained over 20 pounds of water weight in two days of taking it. I felt bad for my mom and dad because Prednisone made me voraciously hungry and I was out of control eating everything in the kitchen including my dad's hidden stash of cookies. It also made me crazy. I saw giant spiders spinning webs above my bed and heard "people" in the house at night. It gave me several sleepless nights with wild and crazy things running through my head. Of course, it did give me some of my most creative ideas and helped me write poetry, songs and a few blog posts. During that time I also had God speak and minister to me in ways that I cherish to get me through some of the darkest nights. I hope I don't have to take it again, but I am blessed, in an odd sort of way, to have had the experience.

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