I know it’s been a long time since my last post, so I apologize for making you go through the withdrawal. By now, you’ve kicked the habit, and have moved on. I’m here to get you hooked again, though. A lot has happened in the last year or so. I’ve chronicled the journey through my battle with cancer here, and you’ve been very supportive throughout that process. With God’s help and healing power, the Lymphoma that once took up residence in my body has been eradicated. I praise God for that. What came out of that (and this blog) was a prompting by God to write a book, which should be coming out within the next 6 months. Here’s where you come in. I need your help. There are people everywhere that have needs in some form, and we are called upon to come along side to help with the needs of others. Many are suffering through physical and emotional challenges that they face every day. How do we help them? What are the practical steps we can take to make their life bearable and more positive? I’d like you to share your ideas with me here. How would you help someone who is suffering with cancer? How would you help a shut-in who can’t get out? How would you help someone who feels discouraged? It could be something simple. It could be something creative. Share your ideas with me. We will all benefit from it, and we’ll all be better prepared to step up when it’s our turn to help someone in need. Thanks.
The voice on the other end of the phone was the nurse from my oncologists office. She said, “Doug, let me assure you, it’s good to get a call from the nurse”. I was wondering earlier in the morning whether it would be a phone call from the nurse, or from my oncologist, Dr. Veeder. I knew that if it was the Dr., the explanation would be a bit more complicated. But what I heard from Niki, the nurse, was….”your biopsy came back clear”. Sweet words, indeed. This was the final piece of the puzzle. The news that I needed to hear to erase any question as to whether my cancer was gone. I thank God for bringing me through this whole process, and I want to thank everyone who has been praying for me, and providing support all along the way.
I have learned a lot, and in the coming months, I will be sharing those lessons, hopefully with many people who need to hear that there is not only hope, but that we need more awareness of the people around us who need us to respond to their needs, and be part of their journey. I’ll keep you posted on what my plans are.
But thanks for riding on my journey with me. Don’t stop praying, though. If the road ahead was completely smooth, we wouldn’t need a loving and faithful God to depend on. We need Him at all times….on smooth and bumpy roads.
What words are those? Well, since my last entry, I had my last chemo treatment, and a very important test; a PET scan. When the nurse called to give me the results, I was walking into a Bible study class at church. Her words were……”NO…RESIDUAL…EVIDENCE…OF…LYMPHOMA”. Clear. Zero. Zippo. Nada. Nothing. Gone. Yeah, we were pretty happy with that news, I’d say. Obviously, we have much to be thankful for. I’m not naive, though, to think that this journey is completely over. I still have a bone marrow biopsy coming up, but we are very hopeful, since the cancer cells were very sparse in the bone marrow to begin with. And I’ll need follow up scans in the months to come to monitor my progress, and make sure that the cancer cells don’t come back. And, of course, I’ll need to make sure that I eat the right things, so I’ll need to change my diet as well (darn it).
I’ve learned a lot of lessons throughout this ordeal, and I have a feeling there’s more to learn, and possibly something to teach others. And there’s a lot of thank yous to hand out to those who have supported me, prayed for me, and helped me when I could not help myself. More to come…
I just finished my 5th chemo treatment, and I am very excited to be on the home stretch. I have one more treatment to go, and my body seems to be responding well, according to my oncologist. My bloodwork has always looked very good over the course of treatment. I will be having a PET scan in about two weeks to see how effective the treatments have been. Then after the 6th and final treatment, I’ll have a bone marrow biopsy.
But this blog entry is not about just an update on my progress, it’s a follow up on my last entry (“I Am Aware”) where I encouraged focusing on being aware of the needs of those that are around us, and responding with action. But one of the things I did not anticipate is the emotional feeling I would have when someone actually wanted to do something to help ME. I’ve always been a person, like most of us I suspect, who is accustomed to doing things my own way, and not likely to ask for help. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I feel like we should make it a point to be self sustaining, and have a good work ethic. I mean, I can change my own light bulbs, and change out a leaky faucet, right? Now, when it comes to things I absolutely cannot do, like major electrical work around the house, I call someone who is less likely to get electrocuted, namely a professional electrician. But there are still times when I’m a little stubborn about doing a task that I feel like I can handle, even when I should probably call for backup. For instance, there was the time recently that my wife and I were looking at antiques, and we spotted a small dresser that she absolutely loved. Well, we debated about buying it, and decided to wait awhile, and not buy on an impulse. A little later though, I decided to surprise her with it, and I bought it without her knowledge. My plan was to sneak it in the house when she was gone, and be a real hero. Finally, the opportunity came, and she was going to be out of the house all morning on a Saturday. The unfortunate part is, that it happened to be about a week after my second chemo treatment, when I was feeling my weakest. But I remembered that the dresser was small, and of course, I thought I could just put it in the trunk of my car without much effort, and it would be no problem…….WRONG! Oh, I got the dresser home alright, but the strain of that half hour of time put me down the rest of the day, and I was no good to anyone. Was I a hero to my wife? Of course. Was I stupid? Absolutely. The next day at church I mentioned the brilliant event to one of my best friends, who, by the way, has a truck. They only live about a quarter of a mile away. What do you think his response was? Right. Why didn’t you call? Well, why didn’t I? Pride, of course. Why do we do that?
Fast forward to this past weekend, when I had just finished my 5th chemo treatment. I was feeling pretty weak, and I remembered that a group from my church was coming over to clean up all the yard waste in my yard. I can remember my Pastor telling me that I needed to let them do it. Evidently he knows me pretty well. Even after the hard lesson I learned about the dresser, you need to know that it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, watching a group of people doing something for me that I know I should be doing myself. I had to really take a step back and realize that what they were doing was out of genuine love and servanthood. I didn’t have the strength to do this on my own, and they were responding to a genuine need……They were aware of that need, and provided it. They didn’t wear a ribbon to represent my cause, or put a magnet on their car in the shape of a ribbon to let people know about my need. They fulfilled it themselves with sweat equity and willing hearts. It drove me to tears of gratitude that people would do something like that for me. Should that be such a big surprise? I guess my point is this…..If awareness is commendable, and it is…..Acting on it is priceless…..and receiving help from those who are aware of your need is, well, humbling and encouraging. Isn’t that what we need sometimes? Accept it and be glad.
Now, can someone please mow my lawn? (I think I’m catching on, here)
As I prepare to have my 4th chemo treatment, I do so with a heightened sense of awareness of all those who have had to stare cancer in the face. Since I’ve never had to face anything like this before, I guess it makes sense that I had never made a great effort to notice those around me who were struggling with the physical and emotional strain of this disease until it hit me personally. Oh, I knew people with cancer, and I prayed for them when a request for prayer was made. But I never really understood what they were going through, and never had a genuine compassion or empathy for them. I guess that’s one of the tragedies of our society today. We’re so wrapped up in our own lives, and our own desires, that we don’t take time to stop and consider someone else’s challenges, much less stop to help or get involved in their lives. Maybe it’s because we don’t understand what they’re going through, and don’t really know how to help them. I think that’s valid in many cases. Many times it’s just because we’re too busy with our own lives. But in my case, I’m so grateful for those who have reached out and made a point to intentionally find out how they could help, or reached out to ask how they could pray for me. It has taught me some valuable lessons about my own life, and how I view others, as they face various challenges and hurts, regardless of whether they have cancer.
In my occupation, ironically I have the opportunity to talk to people every day about their medical needs. I get a chance to encourage them, pray with them, and be that voice of comfort and compassion that they need so much right at that moment. Before I had Lymphoma, I never noticed people who had it, much less understood what it was. But now that I have Lymphoma, I talk to people every week who have it. The best example I can think of, is that when you buy that new car you’ve always wanted. You’re sure that no one has a car that looks as cool as yours. But when you start driving it, you notice something. The car that you thought was so unique, is everywhere! Why didn’t you notice it before? Well, it wasn’t “yours” before. Your senses have been awakened. That’s what it feels like to walk in someone else’s shoes. You begin to understand the challenges that they are facing in a tangible way. And then you begin to understand how you can help them.
My cancer is not unique. But the people that God has awakened my senses to…..are. Especially the people who are young. Young men like Collin. A 15 year old young man who has a more aggressive form of Lymphoma than I have. He just finished his chemo treatments, and is waiting for the results of his follow up PET scan to find out if the cancer is gone. Or like Jonathan, another 15 year old, who has testicular cancer, and is in Mexico right now with his mother getting treatment. He’s been away from home for several months. Imagine the challenges of that family. The dad, who is not only away from his son, but away from his wife, and left at home to work, and pay the bills, run the household, and take care of the other 3 siblings. There are so many others that God has made me aware of in the last few months. These are the people that are around us every day, as we live out our own lives. My prayer is that God makes you aware of those around you in your life that need encouragement, or require some form of more tangible help, like running an errand for them, mowing their lawn, or simply to be a listening ear. I’m so thankful for those around me who have cared enough to look me straight in the eye and ask, “what can I do for you to help this week”.
Hebrews 12:12&13. “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet, so that those who are weak and lame will not fall, but become strong.”
OK. For those of you that have been perusing my blog, and have been frustrated that it hasn’t been updated, take a deep breath, count to ten, and here we go. I had my second chemo a week ago, and it went very smooth. I was in and out in about 3 hours, as opposed to 8 hours on my first one. The biggest difference I noticed was that I was not in near as much pain after the second treatment. I don’t know much about how the body should respond, but believe me, it was a welcome change. Now….when I hit the seventh day, the fatigue and weakness kicked in big time, and I was hurtin’, but I’ll still take a couple of bad days out of seven for sure.
The week of my second treatment, my hair started to fall out in bunches. While this may be a shock to some, I thought it was quite humorous to be able to grab a clump of hair, and gently pull it out with no problem. I don’t know, it’s just kind of the way my mind works, I guess. It was novel, it was different, and somehow entertaining. It made me think of where I used to work. It was so stressful there, lots of people were pulling their hair out, and without any help from chemotherapy! Anyway, the fun didn’t last for long, because a few days later, enough of it had fallen out to where I was at the point of making the decision to buzz my head. Now, I understand that this can be a life altering thing for people, but the more I looked at it, the more I got used to it, and I realized something. I looked better without hair, than what little I had to begin with. The second thing I found out was that my head gets very cold, even indoors.
Then it hit me. I was shaving my head one morning, and this phrase jumped out of my brain…..”who loves ya baby”. You old timers remember what TV show that’s from? Right! Kojak! So I’ve included a couple of pictures below, one of which I had some fun with and posed with a lollypop. Don’t worry, I’m not channeling Telly Savalas or anything like that. Having a bald head doesn’t mean I have an alter ego. It’s just me having a little fun with this thing, and trying to keep things upbeat. Check it out…
Well, it has begun. Either my brain has increased so much that my head can’t contain my hair anymore, or the chemo is doing its thing. Me thinks the latter. I woke up this morning to go through my normal routine, and when I combed my hair……tada!! A nice grouping fell out. I felt like the Scarecrow in the Wizard Of Oz, when Dorothy let him off the pole, and he fell to the ground and some of his hay fell out…….”well, there goes some of ME again!” The difference, of course, is that while the scarecrow was able to just stuff it back in again, my “hay” will continue to fall out. But a couple of weeks ago, I contacted a guy at work who loves playing with PhotoShop, and I asked him if he would PhotoShop the hair off of my head, just so I could get used to it, and ya know what? After the initial shock, I thought, it’s not a bad look, really. So next time you see me, I’ll look a little different, and if you would, join me in a chorus of “If I only had a brain”.