Thursday, September 24, 2009

24 Hours...

At this point in the journey, as I look back over those emails, I begin to see a lot of words that would cause much anxiety over the next few years...some of them I had never even heard before, but would become acquainted with intimately.

PET scan...surgery...pathology report...lymph nodes...metastasize...immunotherapy...margins...

There were doctor's appointments after doctor's appointments and tests after tests. All of it fought my peace in the fiercest of battles time and again, and it seemed as soon as we got any bit of good or even "adequate" news, another battle was just around the next corner. There was no rest from the worry. I can recall sitting in front of my computer one day, playing the "what-if" game. You know that game. You play it all the time...

What if the bills don't get paid?
What if my kids get into trouble?
What if I lose my job?
What if my husband leaves me?
What if I never marry?
What if something goes wrong with the house?
What if I never have that baby?

Remember? You know that game as well as I do, and cancer will take it to a whole new level. Except, you jump quickly to the bottom line.

What if he dies?

There are no guarantees on life or death when it comes to an illness like cancer, much less the road to life or death. No one can tell you at diagnosis how many surgeries there will be, how many rounds of chemo or PET scans he will face, how many times he may or may not go into remission and how many times he will relapse. My mind headed down every one of these rabbit trails and many more time and again early in the diagnosis and I struggled with my helplessness. So...as I am sitting in front of my computer on that day, it occurred to me I had a choice. I could either focus on God and let Him lead me though this nightmare, or I could focus on the nightmare...and very literally lose my mind playing that wretched "what-if" game. I couldn't live like that, and I praise God continually for that moment of clarity. It saved me, and I believe chartered this course to be one of blessing rather than despondency...of beauty rather than bitterness. I was in no emotional state nor at a level of spiritual maturity at the time to be so wise and coherent all alone. Oh, no. That was the Lord, and the ministering of His beautiful Holy Spirit.

I learned so many precious lessons on this journey with my big brother. But this one...the necessity of taking life 24 hours at a time...was by far one of the most valuable. I practice it every day that I live and breathe. It's what He intended, you know...

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
-Matthew 6:33-34

Day by day, and moment by moment, seeking not our own gain but just seeking Him. He is the prize, after all. I praise God that I am finally beginning to truly understand that. He taught me to take each hurdle as it came, focused solely on Him. In this way, He made me stronger for the next hurdle...and the next...and the next...


March 1, 2004
10:03am

...Chad just went in a few moments ago to have the PET Scan. Please pray as hard as you can.

March 4, 2004
11:30am

Chad is going in for surgery in the morning at CMC, around 11am...pray for healing and that God will bless our family through this.

March 8, 2004
10:23 am

I wanted to give you all an update on Chad's surgery. Things didn't go as well as we had hoped...You think you have faith, and then something like this comes along and it's so hard to say, "Whatever you want, God."


Those hurdles continued of course, and they still do, but as I determined to take my fearful and anxious thoughts captive and redirect my focus to Him...His cross...His suffering...His sacrifice...the whole situation transformed before me. It began to glow with a beauty and a depth and an abundance such that I had never before seen...

Ephraim.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus...look full in His wonderful face...and the things of earth will grow strangely dim...in the light of His glory and grace...










Sunday, September 13, 2009

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

February 26, 2004
9:26am

Morning all. Well, we got a rush biopsy done last night and the tumor is malignant. Lymph nodes surrounded are somewhat affected as well. I'm not sure what from here. The surgeon is recommending surgery to remove the affected areas, but I think my parents are going to talk to a couple of specialists before making any decisions on where we will go from here. It remains to be seen how progressed the cancer is throughout the lymph nodes. There could still be good news here...we pray that the lymph node progression is limited. That would be unbelieveable. Chad's health insurance will not be paying for any of this, because the cancer was a pre-existing condition prior to his beginning his current job. We just need a lot of prayers. That's all I'm asking. Thanks for all the calls and emails as well...I am very blessed to have such wonderful family and friends.

Marti



One of my primary concerns at this point in the journey was finances. My family was never wealthy by any means, but we are certainly blessed and I never wanted for anything. However, I knew enough to understand that the medical bills that could arise from this illness would be staggering, and at the very least change our futures drastically. It is not my intention to make a statement or point about health care reform. I vote, but otherwise do my best to avoid politics. I've had to come to the conclusion that it's all in God's hands, and I trust Him...knowing He will never forsake His own.



I would like to testify to that today.



The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning;
great is Thy faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in Him." - Lamentations 3:22-24



Very quietly and miraculously, new legislation on pre-existing conditions was passed by Congress just months before Chad's diagnosis that made my financial concerns obsolete. Legislation was passed...seemingly just for us...before we ever even knew we needed it. He is faithful, and that's reason I am compelled to share. I want to simply testify of the lengths and depths that He will go to for His own. Chad's medical bills were nearly $2mm dollars by the time it was all over. It took an Act of Congress to save us...DONE. Nothing is too great for Him, the great I AM. HE IS...all I need....

"The Lord is my portion."

Literally. Stop and soak that up, because it's the absolute truth and the sincere knowledge of it will change your world in every way. Everyday, most often without my even knowing it, He is in the business of protecting me...you...His children. One of the greatest comforts I carry is the knowledge that nothing comes upon me without the Hand of God Almighty allowing it...and allowing it only because it can be used in some way to bring and honor and glory to Him. That knowledge...that'll change the way you look at your day.


Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father...morning by morning new mercies I see...all I hath needed, Thy hand hath provided...Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord...unto me...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eight Belles

Why am I doing this? Why relive it all now, just as life is beginning to show some signs of normalcy again? It's a fair question.



A couple of years ago I was at home on a Saturday afternoon alone with not much to do, a rare treat in my world. It was Kentucky Derby Day that particular Saturday, and I had settled into my spot on the couch to enjoy the event. I love to watch the specials on the horses before the race itself, and this year was no different. A filly would be running in the Derby that year, somewhat of an oddity, and before the day was over that little girl would have won it all. Tragedy quickly replaced celebration, however, when sweet Eight Belles had to be put down on the track because of a devastating injury she incurred after crossing the finish line. If you know me at all...you know I lost my mind over that horse. I sat on my couch and wept...and wept...and wept. Hours passed, and my sobs continued. Only...



It wasn't about Eight Belles.



By this time, Chad had been gone just under a year. I had taken a lot of time off of work while he was sick, and then another week off after he passed. After that, life had to continue whether I was ready or not. So, I did what I had to do. I put one foot in front of the other and I kept moving forward. When the waves of grief hit at work, in a meeting, out with friends, I became very deft at swallowing it, suppressing it, ignoring it. That practice quickly, and really without my being aware, became a habit. Even when I was in a place where I could be alone to cry and scream over it...the normal and healthy mourning things...I chose not to. Why? Because it hurt, and I was tired of hurt. Done. I chose to ignore it. Now, it unnerves me to realize how quickly that habit had begun to indwell me. And, what I hadn't been able to see at the time, was an angry and bitter spirit slowly festering and growing inside of me.



I sat on my bed that night, after losing my mind over Eight Belles, and talked with God about what had gone down on the couch that day. By the time my friend Sarah had come in the door around dinnertime, she found me sitting in the middle of a mountain of tissues and tears...all the tears I had chosen not to cry so many times over those last weeks and months. The screams and cries I had stifled time and time again hung thickly in the air around me. It was a sight to behold, I have no doubt. As I prayed on my bed that night, a very soft and gentle message landed on my heart. My sweet Lord...



"Baby girl, you have to feel it. I need for you to feel it."



You see, all those months that Chad was sick...some of you heard me....I had told God, begged God, to please use Chad's journey and suffering to bring glory unto Himself. I wanted that. When I saw the miracles He could perform to make the very darkest moment of my life something so beautiful and life changing to myself and others...those miracles healed me. They made Chad's suffering matter. They made his life matter. They made his death matter. Yet, how could I now testify to His faithfulness on a journey that I had shut myself down to, and numbed my heart over? The answer was simple. I could not. In the end, within the embittered and angered and resentful spirit that was slowly manifesting itself inside of me, I was surely headed for sin. But it was hard work to hurt, and I was weary...


What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He makes everything beautiful in its time. -Ecclesiastes 3:9-11


If I want God to use me and to minister through me, if I want to bring God glory in the journey...I have to feel it. If I want God to truly heal me...I have to feel it. We all have to feel it. Even...no, especially...when it hurts. Whatever it is...feel it. And then, lay it at His feet. Make the suffering, loneliness, failure, weeping, heartbreak, depravity, all off it, your personal offering to Him. Lay it down, and then watch Him work the miracles with it all that only He can. But first...feel it.


Ephraim. He makes everything beautiful...in its time...