I’m due for an update. As of this writing I’m four and a half weeks post treatment. Let me start with the good stuff. First, we had a great 25th anniversary week for our church followed by a wonderful family vacation followed. Then God allowed me and Dana to take Haylee on our Alaska cruise this past week. It was not exactly “restful” but it was an awesome time of fellowship and memory making. We were grateful to be a part.
This update comes to you exactly nine weeks out from chemo, and two weeks out from radiation. Honestly, I was pretty optimistic on how I would be feeling by now. It’s taking longer than I wish. I’m still having daily bouts with a mid-afternoon “wall” of energy loss and heavy chest. And for the past few days, nausea has still been a problem—surprisingly.
But, honestly, I have no complaints. Cancer is gone, treatments are done, we enjoyed a fabulous 25th anniversary week with our church family and friends, and now God is allowing our family to enjoy some vacation time.
There is much I wish to write and say about where I am presently with this battle, but in this post I just want to pause to say thank you! At this moment, I have completed treatment (7 months of chemo, 1 month of radiation), and have enjoyed a fantastic 25th anniversary week with our church family and friends from around the world (through the Spiritual Leadership Conference.) My heart is full, and the cancer battle, at least for now, is in the rear view mirror. I can’t believe it. It’s surreal. What a long year!
It’s amazing how the Lord allows the timing of events to unfold. Yesterday I left the hospital in Hollywood after my last radiation treatment! It was a moment I will never forget. Only minutes later I received a message from my secretary that the first copy of Off Script was sitting on my desk. You can read more about the book in this post from a few weeks ago.
I simply wanted to take a moment to let you know that the book is now available. You can order it directly from Striving Together Publications, or you can order from Amazon.
And the Kindle edition is also available beginning today, also through Amazon. I’m thankful that Pastor Chappell felt that it could be useful, and I’m thankful to a wonderful team of co-workers who helped make it happen. I really do pray that God will use it to encourage you or someone you know who is facing an “off script” time of life.
Today I made my last walk from the apartment to the hospital. A few moments later, it was a bit surreal to emerge from the treatment room for the last time. As I stepped out of the hospital onto Sunset Blvd., I snapped a quick photo of the building, and then it hit me. For the first time in 9 months, I can schedule my life without having to work around treatments for cancer. This is a brain reset that is still in process.
Radiation is going well and starting to take it’s toll. It’s a lot better than chemo, but I’m definitely starting to feel the fatigue/weakness combined with some aching and a sore throat. Every day when I lay down on the treatment table, the Holy Spirit brings 2 Corinthians 4-5 to mind (which I wrote more about in this post.)
God refers to our earthly body as a tabernacle—or a tent—a temporary dwelling place, not designed to last long (like the one in the photo above.) He explains in 2 Corinthians 5 that one day this “tent” will be taken down and we will receive a building of God, not made with hands, eternal. In contrast to a tent, our new bodies in Heaven are compared to a building—an eternal, incorruptible body waiting to be occupied. What an awesome promise!
Week one of radiation is coming to a close and WOW do I feel disoriented! The challenges of the week have been several—continue recovering from chemo while traveling back and forth to Hollywood for radiation, and remembering what day it is! One word comes to mind—RANDOM! That’s how life feels right now. This week has been strangely awesome, so I thought I’d share some of it with you.
Radiation is rather uneventful. Judging by the word, you would think I would have a long, energy-charged story of epic proportions. Energy-charged, yes, but not epic.
We arrived in Hollywood at about 1pm. The treatment rooms (about 8 of them) have different names. As I approached mine, it was the only room with a biblical name. It is called “The Ark.” As you well know, the ark was what God used to save Noah and his family from calamity. I thought it providential that this room would, in some sense, be my ark. The sign next to the door was encouraging as well.
Well, I officially went to Hollywood last Friday and got tattoos. Never in my life did I think I would utter those words, but that’s what happened. Now, relax. My arm doesn’t say “I Love Dana.” The tattoos were simply dots to help the radiation therapists line me up on the radiation table each day. The location sounds glamorous, but if you’ve ever been to Hollywood you know otherwise—it’s a pit, but it happens to be the location of Kaiser’s primary cancer hospital. No, I’m not launching an acting career, no matter how much I look like Uncle Fester.
Over the past eight months, people have asked me if I was going to write a book about this cancer experience. At first, my answer was to laugh and say, “probably not!” But the Lord overruled me. It’s been two and a half years since I’ve written a book personally. My writing time between then and now has primarily been invested into other projects for Striving Together. But yesterday, a book that I’ve worked on for the past five months went to press, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about it, if you can spare a moment.
Early in this trial I read several Christian books about hardship. They were helpful, but each one was lacking something. In one, I longed for the author to be more transparent about his own struggle. In one I felt that certain aspects of trials were completely overlooked. In all of them, they were written “after the trial.” In other words, the tough days were behind. I really wanted a book written by someone who didn’t know what the outcome would be—a book written from the middle of the trial. I couldn’t find that book.
Nineteen days out from my last chemo treatment, I’m discovering that seven months of treatments has set me back further than I expected. Here’s a quick update on what’s happening.
I found out this week that Hodgkins is most common in first-born children. Just a few thoughts on this.
1. I’m glad I could clear the immune-system way for my two younger brothers to live longer and healthier lives. I hope they enjoy the gift.
2. I’m wondering if Hodgkins is payback for the beatings I gave them during our childhood.
3. Perhaps Hodgkins is the result of exposing myself to so many dangers as I protected them in so many various situations as an older brother.
4. I’m thinking that perhaps Hodgkins is just the price I paid for total childhood dominance and power—and two words come to mind… WORTH IT!
5. I’m wondering how this fits into Mom and Dad’s secret plans to kill me and my brothers over the years. (That’s a long story that I can’t take time to explain right now.) They must have experimented on me in ways they didn’t with my brothers.
6. My two younger brothers can now rest assured that chemo nicely settled the score and carried out any vengeance, bitterness, or retribution they may still have stored up after all these years. (Almost)
7. Even with chemo-damaged heart and lungs, I could still take them both. :)
I love the way God shows up in ways we least expect. This morning is another McDonald’s morning. As my system is coming out of chemo effects, the stomach was asking for pancakes and my heart longed for some quiet time with the Lord. (Funny thing is, before cancer I was no fan of pancakes.) Both of my normal seats in McDonald’s were taken, so I was forced to sit in a booth behind a teenage boy. He was sitting across the table from middle-aged man, and the two seemed to be engaged in a very focused conversation.
My first thought was, this looks like me! I can’t count how many times I’ve sat in McDonald’s with a teenage boy trying to mentor, encourage, minister, or mend. As I sat down, I wasn’t exactly eves-dropping, but I couldn’t help but overhear parts of the conversation. The experience was surreal.
Today’s radiation appointment was a long awaited moment and a tremendous learning experience. I’ll cut to the chase and then go back and explain. Beginning June 13, I will have a daily radiation treatment for 17 days (Monday thru Friday) at the Kaiser hospital in Hollywood, with the last treatment being July 6th. These treatments will radiate the original five areas where Hodgkins was evident in my original scans, with the intent of reducing the potential of future recurrence.
I thought I had made it throught treatment #12 without losing my lunch. For five hours I did really well—smelling minty breath gum, listening to good music, doing anything to distract my mind.
Treatment was completed, we thanked the nurses, and stepped into the fresh outdoor air. Then, I lost my lunch. Strange. Sorry to gross you out. I just found it a comical way to end six months of treatments. There’s just something about all those fluids entering my body, that eventually my system rejects.
The doctor also indicated, after the recent CT scan, that he thought I would still have radiation. We won’t know for sure until Tuesday, but that’s what we’re expecting.
Chemo-cave is normal this round. And I do have to have one more round of neupogen shots. So, this week is sick week. Late next week I can start to celebrate! Thanks for the prayers and encouragement. Friends and family have been amazing in voicing support!