So I pulled up my CancerCare website and honestly expected to see that it has been a few months since writing anything. To my surprise, it’s only been a month. But still, I know that’s much too long a gap in communication.
I have two excuses for the delay (well, three).
- Believe it or not, it’s been five weeks and I’m still waiting on the results to see if I qualify for immunotherapy. Yes, someone obviously dropped the ball somewhere in getting this processed in a timely manor. But I have no conclusive idea where that blame falls. All I know is the lead oncologist has been quite absent from the office this summer, and from what I hear, has further plans to be gone through July and August. Things just don’t get done with the same urgency and persistence without her there. Lord, I pray they get that worked out. I’ll call on Tuesday and hopefully have some news. Taking longer than a month to run a life critical test is most certainly not acceptable.
- The second excuse I have is that for the past few weeks, I’ve been facing increasing discomfort. My last chemotherapy cycle was on May 17th, so it’s been almost seven weeks without it and my body certainly feels the effects of cancer without treatment. I’ve been trying to find a positive and encouraging way to spin this for my blog, but there simply is no way, so I might as well be honest about it. Each day is faced with chest and abdominal pain. Add to that a higher level of fatigue and regular use of opioid pain medications, and you have all the building blocks of wanting to live in exile. Yup, I know, not the best choice… but fighting cancer isn’t always about fighting the disease. Much of the time it’s about fighting the mind as it struggles to stay friendly with your body!
- The third reason for not writing is simply the withdrawal part. I’m working on a year of dealing with this now, and a good ten months of being out of work and disconnected from my old life and work associates. Disability is plain and simple a lonely experience. When that gets the best of you, it seems so much easier to give up and pull further back, rather than reach out to stay connected. And frequently, reaching out is met with questions like, “How are you feeling…?” or statements like, “You look great…!” Neither conversation can be completed with a short and simple answer, and long replies are just tiring to give. Are you beginning to see why withdrawal appears as the easiest option?
So I’ll use this blog as the long answer.
Medically speaking, my clinical tests and scans show that the cancer is not improving, my primary tumor is larger than when I was first diagnosed, and the blood clots in my leg, chest and lung are persisting. The good news in all of this, is what the doctor in Boston said when he pointed out that nearly every organ in my body has been affected by this disease, but none had failed… which is why everyone remarks on how great I appear for someone with terminal cancer. And yes, it is a blessing looking better than I should instead of worse than I should! I’ll take it.
Emotionally speaking, I won’t try and cover it up. This has been an extremely fatiguing experience. It is a struggle to not give up in the mind. Months ago, I’d head into a treatment, procedure or test and say, “Lord, I know You can get me through this…” Lately I find myself saying instead, “Lord, it’s really okay if you take me now.”
Spiritually speaking, I tell people all the time that recovering is no longer my chief goal. Being at peace with God is. If He wants to heal this body, awesome! If He wants to take me to heaven, awesome! As long as the path is His, I’m good with that, which means I no longer have to plead, bargain, or pretend. I can accept and rest in faith instead of struggle with the outcome.
A lot of people want me to fight on. I remind them again that I do what is reasonable to stay healthy and equip my body for the best it can do. I still pursue everything from herbs, supplements, oils, teas, to organic foods and “cancer fighting” diets. I still get tested for new medical therapies to see if I qualify for anything that looks promising. What I don’t do is fight the reality that pharmaceutical trials are closed to people like me with poor blood counts. (It’s more important to the pharmaceutical companies to prove their drug works, than to prove it works on really sick people.) I don’t fight the reality that there is no chemotherapy (yet) for pancreatic cancer that can cure the disease. I don’t respond to every claim on the internet about a secret cure for cancer that dates back to the pharos of Egypt.
Instead, I am quite comfortable with the truth that 100% of the current population will die someday. I am quite content that I have had a full life as a professional musician, then another full life as a pastor of a dynamic and meaningful church, then another full life working as a support professional for one of the most innovative tech companies in the history of America. I am also totally blessed to have had nearly 30 years with my wife Christy, to see my children make it to adulthood, to welcome my first two grandchildren into the world, and to be at peace with my brother and sister, able to look back on our lives with joy and satisfaction. My life is already quite full and many folks have passed away without coming close to receiving all that God’s given me. Yes, I’d gladly take another 15 years… but I am also quite content if it is God’s will that this year be my last. No complaints.
So that leaves me waiting on that elusive test result to see if I can try immunotherapy, and holding the hand of my Savior. Oh yes, and getting small glimpses of the Appalachian Trail here in PA with Josh and Nicole; and visiting with Anna, Tristan & Madelyn in August; and seeing Sarah later this summer; and being nearby for Aaron; and cleaning up cat throw-up from Banjo (because that’s how he likes to get attention); and resting in our amazing home; and being close to my wife. Honestly, I think I’m in quite good shape here, despite what all my medical records say!