Weakness & Chemo #7

I had chemo #7 (third Taxol treatment) Thursday, and have the next one this week. That marked the halfway mark for the 20 total weeks of chemo.

I’m doing better with the fears and other issues, because for the most part I avoid thinking about them. God helps when I do. I’m not going to talk much about them because that makes me think, and so on.
Psalm 34:4 reminds me, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

I’m going through an interesting time of life. I’m officially the weakest I’ve ever been–I’m completely exhausted because of all-things cancer/chemo, have some sort of ailment all the time, and am constantly struggling just to get through the day. Obviously I have the ongoing vulnerability aspect from having made the cancer journey so public, but to top it off, I have stopped covering my head which ends up being a public proclamation that I am a weak cancer patient.

The interesting part comes in because despite the resounding weakness, I feel absolutely empowered in every way. It is an entirely novel feeling for me so I struggle with attempts to describe it. However, it affects everything. For one, I have absolutely no shame about being bald. I feel unattractive when I look in a mirror, but when I interact with people I don’t shrink back or hide because of it. I apparently am very approachable now because I am frequently stopped by strangers who want to tell me their own stories of healing. Something about choosing to be an ear for those people makes me feel strong. I’m entirely confident in how I look, feel, what I do and what I say. Not because there’s anything about me to be confident in, but because my faith is stronger and standards have changed. “When I called, you answered me; you ade me bold and stouthearted.” Ps 138:3. It’s SO cool!

Paul discussed some version of this phenomenon in 2 Cor 12:10, but I couldn’t understand it until now. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” It is so true.

Humility

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

According to Beth Moore’s daughter, the Greek word for humility in the NIV means, “the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance”. That’s beautiful to me for a few reasons. First, it pinpoints exactly why I’m uncomfortable when people act like there’s something special about me that caused God to heal me. I do think He chose me for this adventure for specific reasons, but it’s not because I’m special. Or at least no more special than anyone else who seeks His face. The other reason is because I’ve had a big problem throughout the past few weeks with wanting to put myself above others. On some level I started feeling like I deserved the things I wanted, even though those things interfered with what other people wanted.  I was getting a really bad attitude and harboring a grudge when I wasn’t getting my way. So, if anyone sees me getting frustrated by a change of plans or something, please ask me just how impressed I am with myself…but maybe do it while standing out of arm’s reach in case you catch me on a bad day!


Becoming Fluent in God…and Chemo #6

I had my second Taxol treatment yesterday and it went better than the first. I didn’t get sick or fall asleep. I was so prepared to pass out that I barely brought anything to do, so it was really boring. Fortunately, there were big things on my mind so there was plenty to pray about.

After posting about love the other day, it became abundantly clear that I am worse at it than I had realized while blogging. Several things came up that required my being loving toward other people. I actually did do some good things, but was slightly missing the mark. For example, I barely slowed down while passing a broken-down car. Afterward I did realize what I’d done and turned around, but barely and with hesitation. I am so glad I did, but I know it would please God much more if it had been immediate. I should have put my hazard lights on the second I noticed it, not debated the pros and cons for a quarter mile before stopping. Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”

I’m slowly coming to realize that my head is a pretty good Christian. When given a scenario to contemplate I can give relatively good advice about how to proceed. And in the midst of something huge like “terminal cancer” I can at least follow the basic tenets of my faith. However, that stuff isn’t typical life. In day-to-day, minute-by-minute life I struggle. ALWAYS! I backslide more than grow, take the wimpy way out more than not, and “forget” the lessons I’ve been taught. My goal is to be fluent in all things God from now on. I was reminded in a Bible study the other day that Paul talks about living life on earth as a race. I need to pick up the pace. Not because other people are passing me–too often we think of where we’re at in reference to others. But because that’s what I’m called to do. If I say I am a follower of Christ I can’t pick and choose when to apply the principles of the Bible. I can’t make up my own rules because they make me fit in better with other people or help me get more done in a day. He says show love, so I will show love to the nice people as well as that really annoying person holding up the grocery store checkout line. He says be patient so I will not give Abigail a guilt trip because she is making us late. He says “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Mth 5:48), so that’s what I’ll strive for. No excuses. No vacations.

2 Cor 4:6-7, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Love

I can’t believe God is teaching me so much about love on Valentine’s Day! It started yesterday when I went to a cancer support group that teaches patients how to look better. The woman I sat by was really nice and proud of herself for how well she’d been dealing with the cancer. I have no idea why, but instead of building her up, my heart was hard to her and I engaged in a verbal competition to make sure she knew that she wasn’t any more special than the rest of us. The details aren’t important, besides that I was completely wrong. It seemed like I was being really nice, but my intentions were way off.

I am a firm believer that everyone wants to feel special, it’s just the things that make them feel that way differ. This woman wanted–needed–to be bolstered for the bravery she displayed through the course of her illness, and I didn’t give it to her. It might be that she was arrogant and self-dependent and God doesn’t like that. But it’s not my business to put her in her place. 1 Cor 5:12 says, “What business it is of mine to judge those outside the church?”.

Instead of subtly putting people down, we shoulld be building them up. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34

Not only did God put me in my place by the shame of what I did, He also used it to answer other prayers. I have been extremely concerned lately about “losing” my healing. It was on my mind constantly and I had been pushing a lot of fears away that were succesfully stealing my joy. I knew satan was ruining everything but I couldn’t figure out exactly what to do. I was afraid that if I made a wrong move He would punish me and the cancer would return. I was feeling like I’d be looking over my shoulder forevermore, which effectively made me fear cancer (and thus, satan), more than God. I knew that wasn’t the way to go but didn’t know what was. Then the spirit showed me the answer!

John 15:9-12, “As the Father loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (I was healed because He LOVES me! Now, how do I “keep” my healing?) It continues, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: LOVE EACH OTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”

Following Christ isn’t about treading lightly as not to stir up the wrath of God. It’s not about doing good things to stay on the “nice” list. It’s about love. The love He showed by His sacrifice. By the abundance of love He gives us, our hearts should overflow with peace, love, joy, and gratitude. If they don’t, we’re doing something wrong. I was.

I hope and pray that everyone who reads this will be consumed by love today and always. You’ve all made a difference in my life so let’s see how loving more can make a big impact on even more people, and ourselves!

Chemo Treatment #5 (Taxol 1/12)

I’m a little late on this one. Had my first Taxol treatment yesterday. There were a lot of upsides–Rassam felt my lump again and reported, “there’s nothing there”. I think he meant “virtually nothing” though. There’s still fibrous tissue there that needs to be removed, regardless of the number of cancer cells that might have been hiding in there (I believe 0). More good news was that I feel find today, no side effects at all from the treatment. I did get sick from the pre-drugs yesterday, which turned out to just be Benadryl pumped into y IV. That was miserable but short-lived.

Much more importantly, I’m learning a lot more about prayer and faith through all of this. I guess beforehand I really thought of faith as believing in God and Jesus, that the Bible is true, and that God can do anything. Now I think of real faith as deeper than that. It’s the literal trust that certain verses in the Bible are intended for us. Right now. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2b). We can’t keep running around praying with question marks at the end…”God, will you please heal me?”. NO! We should pray for wisdom (unless our sinless hearts are already lined up perfectly with God’s). Then pray with full belief that He will do it. “God, you alone can heal me, please do this for me!”.  It sounds so stupid and obvious as I write it, but it reflects a huge change in my thinking and faith.

Early on in this journey I told you about how several members of my church came and prayed and anointed me with oil. They did this because of the passage in James 4:14-15, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” Before they came over I felt like I should request that only those who believed I would be healed would actually do the praying. But I chickened out because I thought it was better to get prayer from people who wanted me healed than no one. Right before they prayed, an elder announced that he did believe I would be healed, and that meant so much to me. I want to be like that. I can’t say for sure if he was the only one who believed it, but he was definitely living out the command. It is the prayer offered in faith. Not faith in God. Faith that God would listen and heal me.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” I think an example of this in the Bible is also when Peter walked on the water. He was up there and doing alright until he noticed what was going on. Then he seemed to doubt and started sinking. He was literaly being blown and tossed by the wind!

I am going to continue to pray boldly. I’ve seen tons of answered prayers already this week. My current MO is to pray for wisdom first, and if it seems like something I should pray for, I pray it with the full expectation that God will answer.

For the Naysayers

I don’t believe there are any true miracles without naysayers. In Exodus 4:8-9 God told Moses how to convince His own people that He had spoken and it took 3 supernatural signs.  “Then the LORD said, ‘If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.” So, far be it for me to expect everyone to believe God did a miracle here.

However, I don’t hear a lot from naysayers myself. Of course there are a few who anonymously comment on here, but for the most part people are asking my friends about it instead. So I thought I’d address it in case there’s anyone out there who just doesn’t have someone to ask about it, or doesn’t have the nerve.

The way I see it, there are a few specific ideas the naysayers may have about the events I’ve blogged about. First, maybe I made it up. Second, maybe I am not really healed. Third, maybe something other than God healed me. I’ll talk about each of these below, but if you know of another argument I’ll be happy to address it.

Argument 1: Maybe I made this all up. I think I’ll scan the two PET scans in (not tonight but soon) to show some evidence, but that wouldn’t appease everyone because they could be forged or different people. Nothing will satisfy people like that, so let’s move on. So, if I made it up my goal would have been to convince people to become Christians. If that’s the case I either a) think more people should follow Christ, or b) am an atheist and think it’s hilarious to get people to believe in anything. There are problems with both of these ideas. If I am a real Christian (which I am!), to have true faith I don’t lie because it’s a sin, and trust God to make His own miracles without my help. I hope those who know me recognize my honesty and if you don’t know me you can tell that my faith is deep. So I do trust God to show Himself as needed. If I’m a huge liar and just watching to see how many people I can get off course, I’m really messed up because making people believe in different things than I do would actually hurt my cause. So, hopefully that suffices to demonstrate that I don’t have any reason/s to lie about all this.

Argument 2: People may believe I’m not really healed. They could say the cancer is coming back. Time will tell, so stay tuned I suppose. Although there’s “no cure” for Stage 4 cancer, 5 years of remission is when people tend to be convinced cancer is permanently gone.

Argument 3: People may say the chemo cocktail or combination of drugs healed me. To be clear, I received 4 doses of A/C chemo, an extremely common type. For 10 days before the PET scan I followed  a diet that many other people follow. The author of the diet book studied the evidence and purported that, at best, the diet slows or stops growth of cancer. Doesn’t remove it. Time will tell with this argument also, because if somehow the common chemo + 10 days of eating more vegetables can now cure an incurable disease it will be the best news to hit the medical community in a long time.

By the way, if that’s the case, I will still give God the glory. He created man, He made our world turn with very specific laws and rules that man is able to use to help us survive. He is the one who gets to break those rules when He sees fit. And for me, He broke them last week. For you, He might break them tomorrow.

One last thing that’s been on my mind–God performs miracles all the time. ALL the time. For us on earth we only recognize them when they are impossible for us to define in other ways. However, every answered prayer or move from God is an equal “challenge” or effort for Him. But whether He answers your prayer for help with finances by having your bills add up to a lower amount this month or by having you find the winning lottery ticket in the pocket of your brand-new jeans, they’re all miracles. You ask, you believe, you receive. James 1:6-7, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Silly Pics

Abi and me posing after the news

                        Family photo: All of us, including Buddy Bear wearing silly mustaches

The girls and me in our matching hats
I have a lot more pictures from the celebration, but we need to figure out how to post them all. I’ll post a link if we put them on a website instead.