I haven’t written here in a while, and Amy’s been getting on me about putting up a post to give folks an update. So, this is that, plus a random thought or two.
For those who haven’t heard, my final bone marrow biopsy came back clean. I remain in remission with no sign of leukemia anywhere to be found. This is obviously the news we were hoping for, and although it was expected, it still brought us great joy. I’m done with treatment, and am now simply being monitored instead. I go in for check-ups every six weeks, which is a far better schedule than the twice-weekly trips to the clinic I had to maintain previously. With chemo behind us, my immune system has returned to normal, and we’ve been taken off all the restrictions that the disease placed us under for the last six months.
Since the clean biopsy came back, we’ve resumed lives that resemble what we were doing before the cancer showed up – working on the house, spending time with friends, trying new foods, and planning some travels around the country. It’s been fun to be “normal” again. In fact, part of the reason that I haven’t written here is that my life hasn’t been all that exciting the last few weeks. Not exciting is actually pretty great for us.
But, at the same time, our life hasn’t completely gone back to what it was pre-cancer. As much as we’re focused on living out the rest of our lives with the belief that the leukemia will not return, the specter of that possibility looms. I know that it can sound like a lack of faith to acknowledge the potential for the cancer to return, but I don’t equate faith with burying our heads in the sand. And so, for now, we struggle to reconcile our belief for healing with the understanding that this journey is not yet over, and it is possible that at some point in the next five years, the leukemia could return. We don’t believe it will, but we also know that faith is not a bulletproof vest. Faith in a loving, healing savior does not exclude us from mortality, nor does it ensure that we will never suffer hardship. Indeed, perhaps no two men in the Bible suffered more than Job and Jesus – the former was said to be “blameless” and “upright”, while the other was the sinless son of God. Both tasted pain, suffering, and death. Despite my faith in a God who is for me and hates cancer more than any of us, I cannot sit here and say that I know for a fact that it won’t return.
But I can say what Job said – “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.”
If the leukemia comes back, I will trust in his goodness. If it doesn’t, I will trust in his goodness. My belief in the love of my Father for me is simply not connected to my medical situation. Or any circumstance. There is nothing that can happen to me here on earth that will sway me from my conviction that He is undeniably and completely for me. My faith is not in his ability to heal, but in his never-ending love for me as his son.
I’ve struggled the last few weeks with the idea of promises, because I don’t feel like I have a concrete guarantee from the Lord that this battle is over. I have faith that it is, and I am living my life with the expectation of not dying any time soon, but I can’t say that I know that for a fact. In fact, what I’ve found in scripture is the suggestion that I not spend too much time trying to figure out what the future has.
Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.”
The last 10 verses of Matthew 6 are essentially an exhortation to believe in the Lord’s provision and a reminder that we simply are not in control of what the future brings. I’m not in control of whether or not the leukemia comes back. I’m not in control over how long I’m going to live. I am, however, in control of how I spend the days I do have, and I’ve chosen to live them in faith, believing in the goodness of my savior.
What does that look like practically? A lot like my life pre-cancer, but just with a bit more conviction. So, for 2012 (and hopefully beyond), Amy and I are going to live our lives to the fullest. We’re going skiing in Colorado in a few weeks, and then we’re traveling to Maryland to spend time with friends and family. In March, I’m going to spend 10 days in Arizona hanging out with my coworkers and watching a lot of baseball. And, during the times when we are home, we’ll be investing in people, building relationships, and making sure that we enjoy every day. Despite the seemingly ever-present shadow of leukemia’s potential return, we do not have to live under that shadow – we will simply live next to it, not letting it affect our faith or our decisions.
Psalm 23:5 – “You prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemy.”
This is our life now. We have a present enemy, and for the next few years, we know that he’s going to continually offer us the opportunity to be afraid, to worry, to have anxiety about the future. And yet, in his presence, we have the opportunity to dine with the creator. This is what we’re going to choose to do. The enemy can sit there and watch us enjoy the presence of our father. He can’t take that from us, even with his cloud of what-ifs hanging around.
The next verse, by the way:
Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I’m hoping my life has a lot more days. I’m planning on living a long time. But, no matter how many days I have, they will all be filled with goodness and lovingkindness. That’s a promise I am standing on.
So, onward we go to make the most of what we have, even if we don’t know exactly what that is. As part of our journey, Amy and I (joined by four of her co-workers and one of their husbands) have decided to join with Team in Training, a fundraising arm of the Leuekemia and Lymphoma Society. The seven of us have formed “Team Dave”, and will be participating in The Flying Pig marathon (or, in our case, half-marathon – I don’t even like driving 26 miles) in May. Our fundraising goal as a team is to raise just over $16,000 for blood cancer research. The advances in medicine over the last fifty years are staggering, and are directly responsible for me still being alive and able to write this post. But, there is more to be done and a cure to be found, and so the seven of us are running for the cause. If you would like to support us, you can follow the link to Team Dave and donate through the website – LLS will send you a receipt that you can use for a tax deduction, but more importantly, you may very well help save someone’s life. Those who have given to this research before us have a hand in keeping me alive, and I’m eternally grateful for everyone who has contributed to removing leukemia’s ability to act as a death sentence. I am proud to now be joined by six amazing people who will also sacrifice their time and energy to help ensure that the grip of blood cancer on future generations is weakened even further. I’m not interested in manipulating you out of your money, so I’ll just say this – your donations will save lives. There are few better ways to use our money than to help others in need, and money for research is a need. Consider giving and consider joining with the Team in Training in your area to help raise funds for a cure.
Thank you all for your tremendous support over the last six months. It has meant the world to Amy and I, and we can’t express our gratitude enough. We look forward to thanking many of you in person over the coming years.