“But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!” Psalm 69:29
That shirt about sums up my thoughts on this disease and its treatment at this point. If you’re looking for any comic relief from this post, I’m afraid that you’re likely going to be disappointed.
I’ll try, though.
I have completed my 7 chemotherapy sessions, and I have to admit, it was not the struggle for me that it is for so many. My last session was a week ago, and aside from a little irregularity (don’t worry, I won’t go into any more detail than that) and losing the hair on my legs (yes, only my legs, not that I had a lot to lose on my head) I came through relatively unscathed.
That is not the case for countless others, and the list of potential side effects we have to sign before chemo begins is enough to make one break out in a cold sweat. One of my dear friends lost every hair on his body, went from about 165 down to 113 pounds, and turned yellow from jaundice.
Geesh. Talk about showing off, eh?
Seriously, chemo can have devastating effects and I am grateful to God for the fact that I was spared any significant physical discomfort or changes.
The radiation on the other hand……..
The second half of the 12th (after what would be my last radiation treatment) through the 16th were the most difficult days of treatment so far, and they actually came after it ended. Actually, my last radiation treatment was scheduled for Monday, June 15th, but I called the radiologist in the morning and told her I simply could not force myself back up on the table. If it hadn’t been for that 2 day break, I probably would have made it, but after lying on the couch and in bed for 2 days, totally unable to consume anything, liquid OR solid, I just couldn’t bring myself to voluntarily ‘cook’ anything inside of me any further.
The doctor was OK with that. In fact, she said, “That’s OK, I’m amazed you made it this far.”
An interesting statement, but one that makes sense. I think the protocol specifies the maximum amount of exposure that they are allowed to subject anyone to, and then they tell you that is the number of treatments you are set up for, knowing full well that you will “throw in the towel” before the end.
So why not just tell the patient that he or she is being set up for 34 sessions, but if they are experiencing too much discomfort, quitting anytime after, say, 27 is OK?
Because people, myself included, would probably quit at the low number, because by that time, things are beginning to get very uncomfortable. Now, the Doctor and staff are not sadists, deriving pleasure from their patients’ pain, but like the last 5 sit-ups that burn and cause intense discomfort, those final treatments probably do the most good of all of them.
Let’s face it, they have one objective, and that is to kill the cancer cells. Unfortunately, with radiation, there is a lot of collateral damage, albeit much of it only temporary (although ‘temporary’ can seem like forever.)
My inability to eat or drink last week found me at the Infusion Center (where I received my chemo and where I will go for my immunotherapy) on Monday and Tuesday receiving fluids my body desperately needed. Tuesday began there, but ended in Urgent Care after my heart rate was irregular. I received more fluids, but also got an EKG and all sorts of blood work done and after several hours and making the acquaintance of a whole bunch of new medical staff, I was sent on my way.
During those several days, any attempt to eat or drink even the tiniest amount created an intense pain in my chest that felt like someone lit a match inside me when I tried to swallow. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate that pain as a 12. I communicated that to my radiologist, who contacted my oncologist, who called me and said he was going to prescribe a strong liquid narcotic to help numb me so I could begin taking in much needed protein and fluids. I picked that up as I left Urgent Care Tuesday evening.
And I prayed.
I prayed for relief from the pain.
“You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’”
And of course God never closes His ears to our voices.
Even when we pray for death, which I did numerous times in the 1st couple of weeks following the last treatment. God didn’t close His ears to my voice, He simply chose another answer for me, and that was to give me what I needed to hang on and be grateful He chose to ignore my plea for permanent release.
So, here we are a full month down the road.
Why did I stop writing about the pain in the detail in which I started? Because I am grateful, and I realized just how grateful I am, leaving me a little bit ashamed (ok, maybe a lot?) of whining and complaining in the first place, and a tad embarrassed for actually praying for death, even though they were pretty fervent prayers in the heat of the moment.
I realized that God is still sovereign over all, and He had things under control, I simply needed to trust Him and, as we all know, trusting God can be a considerable challenge at times, but we must learn to hold on to that trust until our fingers bleed, and in the end we will remember the words God spoke:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
So, one month later am I pain free? Oh, were it only so, but, alas, that is most definitely not the case. However, I am healing inside, albeit ever so slowly, but today I can actually function more effectively at work and at home. I have a new student in Mission Muffins whose faith and joy in the Lord is so great and whose fervent prayers to start the day bring tears of joy and inspiration to my eyes, and I find that I am able to work through whatever discomfort I feel to help him work to glorify God.
The act of eating is still a challenge. Actually, the act of swallowing is where the challenge comes in. There is pain and discomfort with every swallow, but it diminishes and I am finally regaining strength.
Considering I wanted to die – literally – a month ago, I’d say God’s grace has proven, once again, to be so much more than sufficient.
Pain and suffering are a fact of life in this fallen world, and sometimes that pain can be quite severe. God will help us to take some of the focus off of ourselves. Try and imagine the suffering that Christ endured for US, and let us not ever forget the millions of people who suffer to the same degree, or greater, than we do, every single day.
I know that the prayers of many people have been heard by the Lord, and He has answered those prayers by propping me up thus far and seeing me through the worst. Is it over? Heck no. Is there more to come, perhaps even worse? Oh, goodness, I hate to think that’s true, but I don’t doubt it for a second.
But for now, I will just give prayers of thanks to the Father.
Thanks for Him, for all of you, for the card writers and the prayer warriors, and most of all for His gift of Jesus Christ.
And as I face each day and an uncertain future, I will remember that,
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV
And so can you. Thank you, and God bless you all.