This happens often to me: my body wakes me up during chemo week at 3am, craving both water and writing.
Water and writing.
Ha, my body clearly knows what it is doing before I even do: physically flushing out the chemotherapy drugs from my body through water; mentally and emotionally flushing out chemotherapy thoughts and feelings through writing. Rushing rivers out, out from me.
Sip, sip. Gulp, gulp.
Let the cleansing begin.
If you had to describe a “perfect treatment day,” this day would be it.
Mom picks me up, and we arrive to—surprise—my old room at the hospital! Which now also seems weird because it is old to me, and I am now used to a different space, different set up. (Funny how quickly the human brain can rearrange itself and take hold of “new” things.) And yet, being back in my old room is a small gift of grace, of graditude for today. There are also other small gifts of graces today that craft today to be close to a “perfect treatment day” (if there ever was such a thing).
SMALL GIFTS OF GRACES:
1. I have one of my favorite nurses who takes care of me, who I have known for the past 5 years. She is hysterical, and I never feel once like I am here for chemotherapy when I am under her care. Pretty incredible magic trick to pull on someone who has experienced this for half of their life.
2. She gets an IV in me on the first try, yes! I am always praying in the inside, pleading to let my veins work for all sorts of things these days it seems. And yet what used to take maybe 20 seconds is now taking 20 minutes for me because my veins are tired, tired. Dear bloodstreams, it is only a little bit longer through this you must wait!
3. Brother-survivor Joel is here! And we visit and talk about entering back into the “real world” from cancer world. For him, this re-entering is sooner; his treatment is done in 1 week, praise God! And for me, a few more months. Which makes me nervous, in all honesty. I’ve always continued functional “life” while doing chemotherapy, and this is the 1st out of 3 diagnosises where I have rested from “life.” Talking to Joel, talking to Mary the day before have been indeed provisions of grace for me as I try to establish a timeline, a flowchart of going back to life, as well as I listen to God chuckling to my mental creations of flowcharts for this future or that future. Sigh. He is always right; why worry?
4. I run into the massage therapist and recreation therapist in the hallway, and I get to see them both at the same time. They too magically turn chemo rooms into rooms that are distantly away from the hospital through their conversation, their massaging touch with me.
5. Hanging out with Kendra (after crashing for a couple of hours, ha) after chemo is always wonderful. Indeed, it is the people, friends and family who help me forget that I am a cancer patient, that I undergoing chemotherapy. How can I remember these temporary facts about myself when God reminds me through them the greater, eternal, outlasting facts about me and them: that through Him we are no longer finite but infinite, our suffering and life is so, so short compared to the eternal life beyond this one, and the joy we experience with them can follow us in grace in the next life forever. Forever. I cannot imagine that, but I see glimpses through Kendra, through my parents’ warm hands holding mine, in conversations with friends…Yes, it is real through His free gift of grace, of the cross.
He recalls for me back to the Words He spoke to me earlier—
1 timothy 1 & 2
8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me [Paul], either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.
12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
¹Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.
3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
8 Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
Oh dear brother Paul, I hope to become more and more like that, and I am hopeful through Him changing me in His grace to endure suffering more so like you.
There is so much Hope in your example.
Later, at Central Teaching, while reveiwing the life of Joseph, I am struck again at the heavy, long-standing benefits of suffering behind-the-scenes for the Omniscient One. I love the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) because it exemplifies even more greater, minute detail the principles that Paul is affirming in 2 Timothy I am realizing more and more. And it reminds me, redeems me back to the principle I lean on most in my life, in all honesty—
WAITING ON THE LORD.
Oh yes, this is the key to unlocking depression during suffering, to endure it, to wait it. Patience, long-standing. As we go over Joseph’s life in Central Teaching, I am honestly amazed that this principle rock of Waiting on the Lord hasn’t been any clearer to me before. (And really, does that truly surprise me as a human, one who God is patiently giving and reassuring me with his Truth over and over, consistently over time?)
As God assures me, Joseph assures his brothers of his suffering from the past several years of his life (betrayal by his own brothers, became a slave, heartache, false accusation, imprisoned…) —
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. 2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.
3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.4 And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser[ to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.
For years Joseph was misplaced, became a slave, imprisoned in jail, separated from his family. Years! And yet there are a few highs: twice during this time, his situations enable him to become second in command to powerful men at the time—including Pharoh himself at this point of the narrative!
It is for certain for me that at this point of Joseph’s life, as he is weeping in front of his brothers, years upon years after suffering, God finally reveals to Joseph the bigger plan and the way God used his suffering to save. Save himself, save his family whom he loves. In that moment, after waiting for years for the “why?!” we all ask of God during difficult times, God in His grace and Omniscient timing personally reveals to Joseph the behind-the-scenes work that God was doing all along. Demonstrating how truly near He was to Joseph—not distant—that He was all of these years, watching, guiding, bringing him to this high place of employment to save.
Oh yes, here is the principle that you and I must remember as we read and re-read dear Joseph’s life: it wasn’t until after the period of suffering that God reveals the entire plan to Joseph, the answer to the “why?!” And I am confident of this principle, even in the midst of me still not knowing exacly why all of the time now. But as I do get older, as years pass from my first cancer diagnosis at 13 to my third now at 23, God personally reveals to me answers surrounding past whys (as well as current.)
I can tell you for sure, I wouldn’t be trying to live the life I am now for Him, experiencing the depth of relationships I have now, seeking actively who He is, or even sitting here at now 4am in the morning writing this blog if it wasn’t for God allowing and using my suffering of cancer.
I am so confident as I look at Joseph and my own life that God is such a personal and revealtory God, even though He doesn’t have to be.
Peronal and revealtory.
As Paul’s charge to Timothy:
“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”