Ahhh, summer! How happy we were to see you! Endless days of no obligations, no to-do lists, no stress.
Well, that was the plan, anyway. But then June came raging in.
My father has been battling cancer off and on for the past three years. Cancer was found. A few rounds of chemo and radiation later, the cancer was gone. A few months later, more cancer was found. This cycle repeated itself a few times. Fortunately, the treatments were always successful at getting the cancer down to undetectable levels. That is until this year.
Nothing they tried seemed to do any good. At the beginning of the summer, his doctor told us there was nothing more he could do.
So we found a new doctor.
The new doctor was a blessing from Above! He immediately started my dad on a type of chemo that had been successful in the past. We had to attack this cancer quickly because within one month of no treatment what-so-ever, my dad's tumor had tripled in size. Had he continued to go without treatment, we were told it would be a matter of weeks.
So we waited and prayed. We worried and cried and prayed some more.
We had to wait six weeks for his next CAT-scan to see if the chemo was doing anything at all. That was a difficult six weeks. If the chemo wasn't working, he might not even live long enough to get the scan.
Thank God, he made it. And the scan showed that not only was the tumor not growing anymore, it was actually shrinking! A bright light in the midst of foggy darkness.
He has continued with the same treatment for the past couple months. Unfortunately, it seems more and more difficult for his body to rebound after each treatment. We are now back to waiting for the next CAT-scan, which will be this coming Monday. Again the questions and doubts and hopes and fears come flooding in.
Is the treatment still working? Has the cancer gotten more aggressive? Or has the chemo significantly reduced it? Will his body tolerate another couple months of this treatment? Will the new, highly anticipated, promising cancer drug be released for use soon?
Not knowing what the future brings is difficult.
Not knowing what the day will bring is excruciating.
So we wait and pray. We worry and cry and pray some more.
June also brought with it some more unexpected events. I have had Lupus for over a decade and have managed to control it naturally for the past five years or so, with great success. Apparently this summer, my time was up. After a week of unbearable, unshakable pain, I finally made a doctor's appointment. He ran some tests, and immediately sent me to a rheumatologist (arthritis doctor), who ran some more tests, and immediately sent me to a nephrologist (kidney doctor). It seems that not only has my Lupus flared up significantly, but it has progressed into my kidneys. After more tests and a kidney biopsy, the diagnosis is officially Level 3 Lupus Nephritis, meaning my Lupus is beginning to cause damage to my kidneys. Luckily, the damage is minimal at this point. If left untreated, however, it would eventually cause kidney failure.
So we are attacking it aggressively to keep it from getting to that point. I now have a bag full of medications I must take all through-out each day. (Thankfully, Walgreen's has a great app for my phone that keeps track of all my meds and reminds me when to take them! I would be lost with that!) The goal is to have the Lupus Nephritis "in remission" after six months of taking a dozen or so pills a day. If that is successful, I will be down to only two maintenance medications for the rest of my life.
I don't like medications. I have worked diligently over the past five years, completely changing my lifestyle, in an attempt to avoid the meds. Don't get me wrong...I am very grateful for the technology and the amazing "healing" power of medicines. I very much understand and appreciate the fact that were I living in another time or another place, I would not have a good prognosis. That makes dealing with the horrendous side effects a little easier to do. But the reality is, my body is not working like it used to. I cannot do the things everyone around me can. There are times, sometimes days on end now, that I can do little more than make it to my recliner. And now we get to add on to that the unknown factor of how my body will tolerate all these new chemicals I am pumping into it.
So I wait and pray. I worry and cry and pray some more.
After giving me the results of my biopsy and going over the plan of attack, my nephrologist told me that I was handling this exceptionally well. I don't know that I agree with that. All I know for sure is that none of this is a surprise to my Father in Heaven, and He will not let me go through it alone.
In the midst of the craziness that was June, God dropped a little life-line to me. He knew what was coming, and He provided me with a perspective-changing blessing before it all began. I have a Kindle Fire and I tend to check the list of free Kindle books every few weeks or so. In June, there happened to be a book entitled "A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty" by Joni Eareckson Tada.
Amazing, incredible, divinely timely book! I have read it through once and am starting it again. The message of her book can be summed up in these quotes:
"What a waste of an illness or injury if we read--or go on talking--day and night about that illness, that injury, and not about the God who allowed it for His own sovereign reasons."
"Don't waste your suffering by retreating into yourself."
God has a plan and a purpose. We need to trust that. It is not always pleasant walking this path, following Him with abandon. It can be emotionally and physically painful. But we need to trust in His wisdom and His plan, and not let go of our faith when times get tough. Trust that He is doing a mighty work in our lives.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."
~2 Corinthians 4:16
Whether we are watching someone we love fight for their life, or we are fighting our own battle daily, we are being refined by fire. I kinda like how Joni puts it. She compares our trials to the process of turning coal into diamonds:
"The only difference is how time and pressure (a lot of pressure) will change this earthly garment into something so bright, so precious, so perfect, so multifaceted, that it will shine like a star in the night sky."
I want to shine. I want to trust Him and rest in Him during the times of extreme pressure. Some days that is easier than others.
"Any such crisis is meant to awaken us to the reality of God, His nearness, His care, His presence, and His ever-present help."
"Affliction has a way of jackhammering our character, shaking us up and loosening our grip on everything we hold tightly."
Please Lord, open my eyes and heart to see what truly matters. Help me to let go of the insignificant and focus my life on the eternal. Help me to hold on to You with all my strength in those times when everything is crumbling around me. And when my strength is gone, fill me with Yours.
Summer came roaring in this year. So far, it shows no signs of easing up. But I know He has me in His hands, and there is no other place I would rather be.
"Yes, I pray that my pain might be removed, that it might cease; but more so, I pray for the strength to bear it, the grace to benefit from it, and the devotion to offer it up to God as a sacrifice of praise."