Present.

Posted: January 14, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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As I wait for the next part of the fight to start…

I take a deep breath…

and I wonder and I wander.

I have gripped my wife’s hand and prayed in the night.

I’m surrounded by so many incredible people who are praying hard for me. 

We all cry out for healing. 

It hasn’t come yet.

I don’t know why. 

We don’t give up. 

We keep raising our voices and hands to heaven. 

But, I wonder…

As I approach Him, I realize that I’m a little like a kid approaching my dad after a business trip. 

I run up to my father, without greeting or gratitude and I shout out…

“What did you bring me Daddy?!?”

I become more interested in presents than presence. 

And once again I miss the point.

I believe He can heal me.

I believe that He will.

BUT, that can not be why I follow Him.

“What did you bring me Daddy?” must become “Just hold me Daddy.”

I desperately want and need healing, but I can’t follow Him for the stuff He does. 

I should desperately want and need HIM…that should be enough. 

Just being with the infinite One is infinitely more than I ever deserve. 

It is enough just to be with Him and being His.

Everything else is just gravy on the biscuit. 

I have the attention and affection of the Eternal One. 

That’s a BIG deal. 

A few days ago, when we got the latest news and plan, I also got a text from a friend. He didn’t know what was going on, he had woken up with me on his mind and and a Bible verse on his heart. He shared this sweet message from God with me…

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you.

I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

(Isaiah 41:10 NLT) 

The promise that God is present.

He is holding us up.

It will be alright.

I totally believe that healing is coming.

But…

While I wait, I’m holding His strong right hand and basking in His presence.

He has already been so good to me. 

Healing will come, it will be pure gift.

It will come from the hand of God.

I honestly can’t wait. 

But, the ultimate gift is the pure presence of the Eternal One. 

In that presence I find peace and joy. 

As I wait for the next part of the fight to start…

I take a deep breath…

and I am consumed by wonder. 

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Two “cutting” observations:
One of the incisions from my surgery last week is right over my belly button, I hope that doesn’t hurt my promising future career as a swimwear model.

Speaking of incisions, I discovered this week that maybe while Diana is eating a bagel isn’t THE best time to show her my cuts and ask “how do they look to you?”
As I have healed from the operation and as we have waited for some results, something fun happened. I suddenly have eyebrows again! I didn’t realize what a difference they make!
They make me look a LITTLE less freaky.
But, it turns out that they are going to be temporary.
things are about to get freaky again.
We went to the oncologist this morning and we found out that our fight is not over.
The belly bully is still hanging around.
So we are going to fight him some different ways.
things are about to get nasty.
I start “salvage therapy” on Monday morning.
I will have two cycles of really intense chemo where I will be introduced to some very gnarly drugs. One super intense drug has the possible side effect of a coma…
I’m not a fan of that.
things are about to get really hard.
My lymphoma has to respond in order to move on to the next step, which would be to talk to a transplant team, get a bone marrow test and stem cell transplant.
If that doesn’t happen, my oncologist, who is a Cowboy/astronaut/rockstar, already has another plan in place.
We WILL beat the belly bully.
It’s just not going to be pretty.
At this point, It’s going to be a long fight.
I will be out of commission for another six months.
I’m not a fan of that…
But I’m willing to do it if it means I will get to hold my wife’s hand for another thirty years and dance with our granddaughter at her wedding.
I WILL continue to fight with joy, it is my strength and superpower.

Simple?

Posted: January 6, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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Not too long after the discovery of my belly bully, a announcement came out that another man had been diagnosed with cancer. He is a very successful man in some shared circles, so it was a big deal. No details were shared, no type or treatment were made public. Then a few weeks later it was announced that the man had been declared cancer free, again no additional info.

Pretty simple story.
It made me wonder why can’t my story be that short, sweet, and simple?
It seems that nothing has been simple on this journey.
Maybe you feel the same way…your life is anything but simple.
You have a thousand moving pieces.
Life has sharp, jagged edges.
Why can’t things be simpler?
Why can’t things be easier?
I’ve thought about that…
My simple answer is this: I don’t know!
As far as I can see…
Complicated creates a bigger classroom.
You learn more from complicated than simple.
You learn more from hard than easy.
You learn from pain than pleasure.
It kinda sucks, but it seems to be true.
Complicated creates more stories if you are willing to share them.
Simplicity can diminish discovery.
Complicated creates a circle of friends who carry their own complications.
Sometimes life is simple…
Thank God for that.
Sometimes life is anything but simple…
Thank God for that.

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It was a rainy day in Charlotte.

We had to be at the hospital entirely too early.
It was the day for my BIG lymphadenopathy!
That’s a multi-syllable word for a biopsy to find out what is next on my cancer adventure.
We were surrounded by stories in a surgical waiting room.
There was some weird family drama going on next to us. There was an elderly mother yelling at a middle aged daughter. The daughter was still wearing Christmas pajamas…
They must have been comfortable.
We got to see our amazing friend, Sheryl, she had come downtown to pray for us. The hospital is a crazy place on a Thursday morning, but she is a friend who is willing to venture the unfamiliar. She has done that for us often during this adventure and we appreciate her so much.
After about an hour, we were led to a smaller waiting room, and then taken to small sanitary smelling room where I was asked seven hundred and thirty two questions and handed a lovely green gown and purple fuzzy skid proof socks. I was told to strip down to nothing else. The next few minutes a team of well scrubbed strangers came into my room lifted up my gown and looked at my privates (many of which have looked quite odd during this whole process).
that is unsettling.
I was given a “mild” drug to relax me before the big anesthesia, but that was seriously the last thing that I remember until they woke me up in the recovery room with some new initials carved in my gut.
At that point, the plan was to put on my clothes and go home…
But…
My blood pressure and hemoglobin were down after the surgery, and so my outpatient surgery turned into an over night stay.
yeah!!!
We were escorted to a lovely redecorated room on the sixth floor.
Hospitals never sleep.
Neither do the patients.
There is constant activity.
The lady across the hall from us was quite upset that her IV machine kept beeping, rather than using the nurse call button she started screaming at the top of her lungs: “GET DOWN HERE NOW!! TURN THIS THING OFF!!” all night long…seriously…all night long!
The same lady was yelling more and making some strange yakking noises that resembled a constipated goat the next morning.
I pray that she is okay…and that no constipated goats were harmed.
The nurses woke me up to check my stats every seven minutes, took blood a few times and then I had a blood transfusion at 4:00 am…
that was a first, I usually like to have coffee first.
Diana got to “sleep” on a crunchy vinyl couch. This journey has been so very hard on her, but she is the bravest and strongest person I know.
My rockstar sister, Hope, flew into town to help Diana and make sure that I take my meds without falling down. She is my “little” sister but she has been watching out for me for as long as I can remember. She is one of my best friends. My silly words cannot express the appreciation I have for her.
Our friends, the Landmans brought me a big incredible stack of comic book art signed by legendary artist, Joe Rubinstein. What a great gift and reminder to keep fighting.
We got to come home last night! I broke out of that joint in a blazing wheelchair driven by a sweet young lady with beautiful dreadlocks. I was clutching my lovely souvenir pink barf bucket.
I’m currently pretty sore, loopy, and nauseous, which is an average Saturday morning for some people. But, I’m not crazy about it.
Now, we have been told that we will find out results this Friday. That’s when we should know the next step on this ugly, beautiful road.
Giddy Up!

Houseguest.

Posted: January 1, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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Sometimes you have houseguests.

They come and eventually go.
I’ve been a houseguest, I’ve had houseguests.
Sometimes, houseguests leave their mark.
Sometimes, you don’t discover that mark for days, weeks, or months…
Then you find mysterious stains in the carpet, broken furniture, toothpaste in odd places, and ripped shower curtains.
Chemo is the worst house guest ever.
You invite it in so it can take care of business.
It comes, goes, and leaves it’s mark.
It has been a while since I’ve had the killer cure staying with me, but each day I discover what it has left behind.
I have the energy level of a drunken sloth, my stomach feels like an out of control angry blender that makes the strangest noises at the most inconvenient times, and sometimes it feels like Panthers linebacker, Thomas Davis, is standing on my hands.
But, the rudest thing that my houseguest has done is that it has left unfinished business.
I had a PET scan a while back and there are two masses still showing up.
They are smaller but they are still there.
One started out grapefruit size, it’s smaller now.
But, it’s still there.
This is a big concern.
So, we go in for the biopsy surgery in two days (January 3rd).
Then, we will find out in the follow up appointment next Monday (January 7th) with our oncologist what the next step is.
So, we are looking at the possibility of inviting our rude house guest back.
There will be more hospital time, more pain, more challenges.
Or…
A miracle.
That’s what we REALLY want.
It can happen, because my house doesn’t actually belong to me.
The Holy Spirit isn’t a houseguest.
He owns the joint.
I am the houseguest.

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As I look back on 2018 (as we are all prone to do this time of year) I realize that this has been the hardest, yet most beautiful year of my life.
Let me explain…
This year has been so incredibly hard, this year hurt, this year beat the crap out of me.
Diana and I have walked the darkest, scariest road of our lives.
But, we haven’t been alone.
THAT is what makes 2018 so ridiculously beautiful at the same time.
I have discovered new depths of love and friendship this year.
During the weakest time of my life, I have fallen into the arms of my Heavenly Father.
He holds me and sings songs of hope.
I have grabbed the hem of the robe of my King and Healer, Jesus, I’m not letting go.
I have gotten to know the Holy Spirit like never before. He is my companion and comforter.
I have experienced a breathtaking new intimacy and tenderness with my wife. She is the most amazing human I know. I’ve realized the power of the word “stay”.
I have hugged, held, and high fived my granddaughter. I have watched her play, laugh, color, and exclaim “WOW!” as she discovers new things. I’m reminded of the power of wonder.
I have realized that we have the most amazing family and friends EVER.
There has been an outpouring of love that has flooded our hearts.
The generosity of so many has carried us.
We have realized that friendship is the greatest treasure that life has to offer.
We have learned what a useless thing pride is. It often stands in the way of receiving love.
2018, you were hard and beautiful.
We were beaten and blessed.
2019, I don’t know what you hold, the road is still dark and scary.
but I do know that we are not alone.
And that makes ALL the difference.
I feel a gentle breeze, I believe this road is leading to a wide open place.
It smells like fresh cut hope.
I squeeze the hand of my wife, I lift my head to the heavens and I shout so loud that it leaves me winded…
“HALLELUJAH”.

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Sometimes you find a long, hard fight.

You think that it’s over…
surely it’s over…
But, it turns out that your enemy hasn’t gone away.
He is smaller, and weaker, but he is still there.
The fight isn’t over.
You got to size your bully up.
So you can take him out for good.
That is what we have to do.

It’s time to size up the belly bully.

We met with the oncology surgeon today.
He is a no nonsense dude.
I appreciate that trait in someone who is going to be cutting into my body.
We went in thinking we were going to talk about removing a fistula.
It turns out that the big concern is that there are two masses still showing up.
They are smaller but they are still there.
One started out grapefruit size, it’s smaller now.
But, it’s still there.
This is a bigger concern than the fistula.
They want to do an exploratory surgery ASAP to get a sample of the nastiness and see what we are dealing with.
They want to see if the tumors are persistent or if they have mutated. This will help them decide on the next step, more aggressive chemo or stem cell transplant.
The exploratory surgery should be microscopic so it MIGHT be a quick process.
We are sizing up the belly bully.
I really want to take him out for good.
We are so ready for this to be over.
In the meantime, I’m taking antibiotics with funny names that sound like places in Dr Seuss books…”all the Yaknidazoles in Metronidazole”
In the meantime, I continue to choose and cling to joy.
I’m reminded that happiness and joy are often confused.
Happiness happens when I get what I want.
It is temporary and can slip from your grip like sand.
Joy is grounded in the eternal and unchanging stuff of life.
It gives you something strong and real to grab ahold of.
I’m able to choose joy as we size up my bully because I have already sized up my Helper.
He is HUGE.
In fact He is immeasurable.
He is immeasurably BIGGER than anything I am facing.
He is immeasurably BIGGER than anything you are facing.

“Now…

to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, IMMEASURABLE things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.”

(Ephesians 3:20-21 The Voice)