As I hit “publish blog post” yesterday, I realized that I never did fully uncover day 56. There was so much good, so many treasures of grace that happened before chemo treatment day 56 that to continue on about and into day 56 was even forgotten by me in both fatigue as well as overwhelming gratitude.
yesterday, day 56.
It’s Monday, and my mother picks me up from my house north of OSU campus. This is our routine chemo day Monday. I’m packing away clothes, gathering toiletries as if I live a divorced life. My 2—oh no, 3—homes: my house filled with roommates, my parents’ house, and hospital home. I bounce back and forth, in angles of 30 degrees like a pinball.
I arrive to the hospital home, and together Mom and I walk up to the information desk to both receive sticker passes to get onto the 11th floor. Even though the 2 desk employees we see are always the same (they are so sweet, so caring), they are amazed and shocked that I walking up to their desk today and not being pushed in a wheelchair. Its day 1 of chemo week. My strength to walk to the elevators, walk to my room is still fully within me, my kinetic potential energy humming. They are the first 2 witnesses to my draining of energy throughout the week, and yet it still shocks them. (And oh yes, it shocks me too.)
We arrive to the floor, and I’m already alert with anxious energy before my treatment, pre-nausea meds and steroids are given to me. All because I see people, 2 girls who look close to me in age. And my anxious potential energy leaps into prayer.
Oh, I am my father’s daughter, in both the earthly sense and the spiritual sense.
My daddy here on earth is someone who thrives on meeting and introducing himself to strangers in the grocery store, at Panera, in the car shop. He looks and sees 1 think that connects him to that stranger, and it might not even be a strong braided rope of connection either: the stranger’s baseball cap reminds him of a fact, the other’s shirt supports a school he distantly knows, the person’s face brings back memories of someone else. These are loose connections, and yet my father sees these as moments to connect even deeper and further despite whatever the person might think of him. He longs for conversation, for human interaction.
I am my father’s daughter in this way: I see the one connection (we are both here, in this hospital, and you look close to my age) and I want to be social, ask more questions, share my story. And yet, here I am, in my room, and all of my socialite personality traits I feel are at war with my desires to stay put, and oh my god that is so rude to intrude, and these are all creating anxieties within me, this war.
I am My Father’s daughter in this way. That is why there are anxieties, I’m realizing.
My Father is an initiator, even when every human refused to initiate with Him.
1 john 4
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Oh yes, I am my Father’s daughter. His DNA of Holy Spirit encouraging me, has made me fundamentally like Him the same way my social personality comes from my dad here on earth. From both of them, I receive a giving spirit.
I finally recede and initiate despite all the thoughts (“I’m tired”—“What will she think of a random stranger coming into her room and introducing herself?”—“What will we talk about?”) and make a new friend. And then later 2 total on day 57. This is what I was ultimately designed for as a Christ-follower: a love-giver. And its affirmed to me again and again as I take these socialite/Christ-initiator steps of faith.
He brings fellow brother-survivor’s words to mind:
One of the greatest lessons I learned through my illness is that God will frequently call us to come alongside others who are facing the same circumstance we are. I call it ‘incarnational illness.’ God deliberately intersects our lives with the hurting at the very moment when we hurt. Why does he do this? Because he knows that weakness is the perfect soil for growing independence in him. Stripped of our own gifts and resources, we are perfectly positioned to trust in him.
The day before my first treatment I spent time walking and praying, and I distinctly sensed the Lord saying in my conscience, ‘This chemo is not about you I want you to get closer to other cancer patients I want you to meet.’ The next day, my chemo nurse turned out to be a wonderful believer. She introduced me to three other men who had the exact diagnosis as I did. Chemo treatment centers can be unusual places. Some people want to hide; others want to get it over with and get home. For me, the treatment centers became my new congregation. Rather than hide behind curtains, we circled our chairs and began to talk…In our weakest moments, God moves towards us and asks to extend ourselves to others.
Contrary to popular belief, God does not place us on the sidelines of life when we walk through hardship. Rather, he takes us to the center of the playing field, so that the world can watch and observe his faithfulness in our lives.
adapted from sermon “Finishing Well: A Sermon on Learning to Live Through Terminal Illness” by John Eaves as published in O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God edited by Nancy Guthrie
Oh, how I long to be like this fellow brother-survivor more and more, day by day, as I whisper and act on quiet “Yes, Lord” moments that strip me to bring me to experience and believe these truths deeper and deeper in the well of my heart and soul.
I wake up to immense pressure still that followed from the previous evening. Pressure around the eyes, behind my eyes too—I swear—that force my eyelids to close despite that I want them to desperately stay open, will them to open!
Yes, my body is physically tired and fatigued. I can feel it. But in this moment, this willful closing of the eyes is not because I am battling to keep awake and stay awake. It’s because the pressure is unreal and the only way to alleviate it is to shut my eyes. A submissive blindness that I do not want, that prevents me from looking at others while I’m talking to them, to watch tv, to observe surroundings on a drive, to read a book, to write in my prayer journal, to read the Word, to blog. All things that require sight as necessary.
Eventually, the pressure gets better and I can open my eyes more and more. Vision restored it seems. Pray for vision of another sort: to see people as they truly are in God’s sight (recall my brother-survivor friend from above, John Eaves.) This sight is just as necessary, even more necessary, oh yes.
Cara comes in and visits me today while Dad runs off to eat lunch, finish crossword puzzles, and I’m sure make a friend or two. To have visitors reminds me that yes, there are people outside of this hospital room, indeed life-long friends who long to support and be around me. Sometimes, the hospital walls block off and turn off those signal-reminders it seems.
This evening, I come home and blink I’m passed out for a good couple of hours (how on earth does that always happen? Always.) I am refreshed once again from fellow-brothers of past as I read and connect to Martin Lloyd-Jones in Spiritual Depression. I gather strength through mama’s cooking of cabbage, fried potatoes, baked chicken wings. My mind draws connections, listening to the Spirit himself, as I work on an upcoming teaching to give to high school students.
Oh yes, these are the small moments outside of the hospital that nourish and remind me too of life, that I do indeed live and have a purpose.
Oh yes, His purpose, indeed.