The road goes on…

Posted: December 21, 2018 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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Well friends, our journey continues!
Or in the immortal words of Robert Earl Keen: “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.”
That’s kind of how we are feeling right now.

We went into the Oncology office this morning to get the results for the PET scan.
It’s been several weeks and it was really good to see people who have become dear friends. We hugged and said our howdys.

Then we found ourselves waiting in a familiar office.
The doctor came in.
There was more hugging and we looked at creepy looking pictures of my insides.

And we found out that for now, the road goes on.

But, the good news is that it’s a very well lit road.

Here’s the road map: every area has been resolved EXCEPT for one spot that is keeping the good Doctor from declaring remission.

I have a “fistula” that is attached to my small intestine.
It’s kind of like a little dump truck driving in circles trying to dump off a load of nastiness.
Right now it is doubled parked on my intestine.
It has to be surgically towed away.
We talk to the surgeon next Thursday and surgery will be probably right away. Then there will be a three week recovery time. The surgeon will do a biopsy while they have me open to determine if what is left is infection, inflammation or lymphoma.

Spoiler alert: if it is still lymphoma that will require another 3 week round of very intensive chemo, but that is worst case scenario.
The Doctor really thinks once we deal with the fistula we will be looking at remission.

In the in between…
We continue to kick hard against the darkness and put our hope in the Maker and Mender of my crazy, beautiful body.
We put our hands in his hands and we continue to walk down this road.
It’s not an easy road, there are twists and turns.
But, it leads to a good, happy place.
I grew up on a red dirt road so it seems familiar.
It’s a rocky road…
But, it’s really well lit.

NASCAR Brain.

Posted: December 17, 2018 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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I finished chemo a few weeks ago.
It was good to be done.
Chemo is designed to kill the cancer, but in the process it makes every other part of your body sick, weak, and ugly.
Weeks later, I’m still feeling the aftershocks.
I’m feeling pretty wobbly and there is an undeniable rumbly in my tumbly.
I’m ready to be able to frolic, dance, and eat loaded chili dogs again.
I’m ready to feel human again…
or maybe, not quite so human?
So…
It’s time to get some answers…
Did the killer cure do it’s job?
Am I healed?
Am I free?
And so…
I went in for a PET scan this morning.
We showed up early at the hospital to fill out the necessary paperwork. Then I was ushered to the back of a semi trailer parked behind the hospital.
We walked through a hallway where some men were painting. One of them pointed at me and said something to his friend in Spanish and then they both cracked up.
Maybe they had never seen a five foot tall, bald man in droopy cargo shorts?
Oh well.
The nurse injected me with a magic drug that makes bad things show up if they are there.
Then I was let out of the truck and left in a small room with a big TV to wait for an hour while the magic drug kicked in.
There was a fight outside my room at one point.
Security was called.
I wasn’t scared.
I was armed with a styrofoam cup full of shaved ice.
After about an hour, I was taken back to the tractor trailer for the PET scan.
It’s a big sterile machine that looks like an ironing board attached to a big plastic and metal donut.
I was told to pull down my pants and lie still for twenty minutes…that seemed a little sketchy.
The ironing board moved back and forward through the donut, the good thing was that I got to listen to some really good music, Elton John and ELO, while I tried to lay still.
Then it was over, I hiked up my shorts and they sent us home.
Right now, we are scheduled to go into get the results on Friday.
THAT IS FIVE FREAKING DAYS FROM NOW!
So suddenly I have NASCAR brain.
My mind is racing!
To be honest, I’m contemplating so many twists and turns. My mind can’t help but to go into overdrive as we wait.
It could cause me to spin out, that wouldn’t be good.
I’ve suddenly traded chemo brain (which is a real thing, people!) for NASCAR brain.
I really need to take a breath and listen to my spotter.
If you are not a NASCAR fan, (I realize that there might be a FEW non-race fans out there) a spotter in NASCAR is a trained team member whose job is to relay information to their driver, keeping them alert of what is occurring on the track. They are typically positioned higher, atop one of the grandstands or other support buildings, to see the entire track.
I have a spotter, it’s the Holy Spirit. He has been with me every mile.
My spotter can see the entire track, he knows what is right around the curve.
He can help me navigate the course no matter what the results are.
I need to ease up on the steering wheel.
I need to take a breath.
I need to listen and trust.
At this point, that is all I can do.

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My friend Brad has created a simply beautiful image with a beautifully simple message: “I’m just a human being who wants to be loved”.

He has captured the unseen caption that hangs over each one of us.
His words speak to the most basic of basics.
It also speaks to how we should respond to each other.
The image has found it’s way onto shirts and pins and stickers…I think that is beautiful!
“I’m just a human being who wants to be loved”.
We need to remember this, EVERY single other human we encounter just wants to be loved.
That’s helpful information because we humans are notorious for saying stuff when we don’t have stuff to say.
We encounter other humans who are going through hard stuff and we feel like we just have to say stuff.
It’s tempting to spout out answers and absolutes.
We routinely recite cliches.
We give advice.
It’s easy to make the pain of others all about ourselves.
It would serve us well to stop and remember the most basic of basics.
“I’m just a human being who wants to be loved”.
We have dear friends who have just been dealt a brutal sucker punch.
They are hurting.
They don’t need cliches or slogans.
They need love.
Sometimes we don’t know what to say.
As someone who has been walking through a valley let me offer some advice. Other humans who are hurting need to hear some simply beautiful words…
I hear you.
I see you.
I love you.
You are not alone.
We will also encounter other humans whose need for love has caused them to become quite unlovable.
It’s tempting to hurl hurt and fling condemnation.
We need to remember the most basic of basics.
They too desperately need to hear…
I hear you.
I see you.
I love you.
You are not alone.
It’s not going to be easy.
It helps if you see EVERYone you see with an imaginary caption over their head.
One that reads “I’m just a human being who wants to be loved”.
That’s the simply beautiful basic of basics that we need to remember before saying stuff when we don’t have stuff to say.

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Diana made a new friend at Walmart a few days ago. 

My amazing wife is working a second part time/weekend job there to help pay some bills.

(BTW…even if you don’t work there, Walmart is a really good place to make new friends and that is one of our goals every time we are there. We are proud to be Walmart people.) 

She was being trained by a lady with an amazing assortment of tattoos, including a breast cancer ribbon engraved on her neck. 

Diana doesn’t have any tattoos…yet.

But as the spouse of a heavily tatted dude, she appreciates the art and story behind the ink. 

Diana and her hardworking coworker were in the meat freezer. 

Di asked her about her tattoos.

The lady didn’t skip a beat while loading heavy boxes of beef into a cart. 

She cleared her throat and said “I had Non-Hodgkins lymphoma eighteen years ago.”

She doesn’t have it anymore.

Right there in a chilly meat freezer, a new friend dropped a bomb on my wife…

A big hope bomb.

Possibility exploded in her spirit right next to some salami. 

BOOM!

In the last few months we have been bombed countless times. 

Hope bombs…

Prayers…

Kindness…

Encouragement…

Words of life…

Acts of love…

Protein shakes…

Socks…

Laughs…

Amazing creative gifts…

Texts and instant messages…

Songs and stories.

We have been the incredibly grateful targets of so many Hope bombs.

In the last few days we have received envelopes stuffed full of hope. 

We are unbelievably thankful. 

Hope bombs seem to ignite at just the right time,  they release positivity and possibilities. 

They have showered strong love all over our souls. 

We have learned that God drops hope bombs. 

He does it in unlikely places and unlikely ways.

He will use whoever he wants to do it. 

God drops hope bombs to remind us that we are not alone. 

God uses people as friendly fighter pilots to drop hope bombs. 

Most of the time, it seems that they don’t even realize the power behind their words and actions. 

It is so ridiculously beautiful. 

It’s also contagious!

As the incredibly grateful targets of so many Hope bombs, we can not wait to drop some bombs on other people. 

You dropped a bomb on me, baby. 

Thank you!

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Image  —  Posted: December 6, 2018 in Postcards from Cancerland.

Live Naked.

Posted: December 5, 2018 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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“It’s a jungle out there, it used to be a garden.” – Tonio K.
You are probably familiar with the story.
It’s a tale as old as time.
The Maker created the happiest place on earth for His kids.
They came along and threw away the FastPass.
They broke the small world after all.
In the beginning…
Adam and Eve chose to nibble on the forbidden fruit.
That changed EVERYTHING!
They broke the ONE rule and broke EVERYTHING else.
The change was immediate for them…
They looked down at their suddenly public privates…
GASP!!!
They realized that they were NAKED.
 
Genesis 3:7  “Suddenly their eyes were opened to a reality previously unknown. For the first time, they sensed their vulnerability and rushed to hide their naked bodies, stitching fig leaves into crude loincloths.” (The VOICE)
It was a shock!
For the first time they had something to hide!
They created their own crude loincloths.
Suddenly vulnerability was a shameful thing.
It makes you wonder, who were they hiding their nakedness from? It was just the two of them and God (and the lying, thieving snake).
But, in the beginning, they were created naked.
Nothing to hide…
Here I am.
Vulnerable…
Honest…
Real.
Since then every single human being has been born naked.
But, live naked?
What if living naked is the original ideal idea?
Relax! I’m fully clothed as I write this.
I’m not talking about losing your shirt.
I’m talking about losing your shame and secrets.
I’m not suggesting a nudist colony, I’m talking about symbolically dropping the fig leaves and living with nothing to hide.
Living naked is simply being honest about the fact that we are imperfect and broken.
But, that’s really hard.
It’s not like us to like us.
So…
We still make our own crude loincloths to cover up our true selves.
We find new fig leaves…
Performance,
Appearance,
Possessions.
We cover up our shame, secrets, and shortcomings.
When I first found out that I had cancer, a few people asked me how I was going to handle it. Was I going to keep it private?
Was I going to let people know about what was happening?
My answer was easy, I wanted to live wide open.
I wanted to share the story with anyone who cared to listen.
The whole story…
The beauty and the beat down,
The process and the pain,
The wonky side effects,
The weakness,
The chemo farts,
All of it.
In the course of tests and treatments, I have dropped my pants and lifted my shirt for a whole lot of people.
At first, it was embarrassing, but I eventually got to the point where it just didn’t matter.
I suddenly felt no shame in symbolically doing that for anyone else.
In doing that I connected with people on levels that I could have never imagined.
I connected with my Maker on levels that I could have never imagined.
We all hurt, we all screw up.
We might as well be honest about it.
When we live raw and wide open it opens the door wide for real connection.
It creates the opportunity to hear two raw, powerful words…
“ME TOO.”
The key to being your “best self” is actually being yourself!
Life is much less complicated when you live naked.
It’s harder NOT to live naked.
You have to have a better memory. You have to remember where you put all of your fig leaves. You have to remember all the lies you told.
It’s easier just to live honest (or naked).
Get real, get raw.
The crazy twist of fate and fashion is that when we live naked the Maker clothes us in HIS garments of grace…
Righteousness,
Peace,
Joy!
Drop the fig leaves…
Let’s get naked.

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As I write this the season of Advent has just begun.
Advent is the time leading up to Christmas.
It is time to anticipate the celebration of the inconceivable idea that God was conceived as a human.
Jesus came as a baby to rescue humanity and he brought hope, love, joy, and peace.
Advent is basically the season of waiting for God to show up.
I find myself in a season of waiting.
I find myself waiting for hair to grow back. I’ve been told that when my hair grows back it will be different. It could be curly or a different color.
I’ve been hoping that it would grow back red so that I can identify myself as transginger.
If that doesn’t happen I’m hoping for really thick black chest hair. The kind of chest hair that makes me look Italian, and gives me a place to hide my car keys.
I find myself waiting for some things to get flushed out of my body. There are still crazy things, like steroids and drugs, that are acting like that one person who is in no hurry to leave the party. They just keep hanging out, eating four hour old BBQ cocktail weenies and telling the same stories over and over.
I’m ready for my unwanted party guests to leave.
I find myself waiting for strength. I’m getting stronger every day, but I’m waiting for the day that I can salsa dance and roundhouse kick small shrubbery.
I find myself waiting for answers. What is next? What has happened? I go in for a test in a few weeks, then we wait for a few days for answers. This is the place where waiting is the toughest. As we wait, thoughts dance around in my mind. Loud time released thoughts of both probability and possibilities compete for my attention. As I wait, I find it’s better to focus on thoughts of impossibility.
AND THAT IS WHY…
I find myself waiting for a “let there be no doubt”.
let there be no doubt what happened here.
let there be no doubt who did this.
let there be no doubt that God showed up.
Advent is the season of waiting for God to show up.
That is where I find myself.
“But I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.”
—Micah 7:7