Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reflecting: One Year With Cancer

(This is a post that I did on Facebook back on March 5th, the one year marker of my Dad's cancer diagnosis.  For those reading the blog who don't follow FB, I will give a brief synopsis.  Dad's cancer was found during a routine colonoscopy, that had been put off a few months due to a busy schedule.  He was 58 at the time, in reasonably good health, with no symptoms of this, so it was truly a shock.  In the early days, each test came back worse than the one before.  It had metastasized to the liver, and there were spots on the lungs and kidneys as well.  We are eternally grateful for a swift-acting medical team, who wasted no time in consulting together and drafting a VERY aggressive plan of treatment that began within days of diagnosis.  The oncologist is a Christian man, and at his first meeting with my parents he joined hands and prayed...he prayed that if it be God's will that God would heal Dad in such a way that his own services wouldn't be required. But that if God chose to use him, that He would grant wisdom for every decision made during treatment.  God's presence was so real in that room, and from that moment, my parents felt peace and trust.  They always felt safe with the care Dad received.  What was deemed inoperable took a turnaround, when Dad's body responded so MIRACULOUSLY to the treatment!! So 11 months later, they sent him to Vanderbilt University in Nashville for surgery.  Surgeons there successfully removed the remainder of the stubborn tumor in the liver. They removed 70% of his liver and 25% of his colon.  And today, while Dad is recovering from a difficult surgery....he is cancer free! Thanks be to God!! )

Today has certainly been a day of reflecting. My mind has gone back to March 5th of last year, and how one moment brought so much shock and change into our lives. Those first few hours and days after Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer (which was discovered during a routine colonoscopy), are seared into my memory: the overwhelming flood of emotion and question, the desperate prayers being thrown heavenward, the helplessness and fear, the concern of how to help my children grasp the news and not be too devastated.
The keen eye and ear you develop for anything that resembles Hope is amazing. all comes flooding back. I remember. I remember Peace that came in like a whisper, so quiet in the night. I remember knowing Jesus was in my room when fear threatened to choke me in the midnight hours. I remember fully understanding what other people had meant when they described being "carried on the prayers of others".

You learn so much about yourself during times like these. I surely have. Sometimes you completely surprise yourself with what you discover during a crisis. You start finding it easier to dissect what you value most and what kind of "energy" you want to surround yourself with. Wow...for sure in the beginning, anything that even smelled like negativity or just seemed inauthentic was met with a scalpel.
Your focus becomes laser sharp. You learn where you are weak and where you are strong. I learned more about prayer and trusting than I ever expected to learn in a lifetime. Not that I have in any way "arrived"at some super-spiritual destination as a result. Not at all..for one must continue to practice these disciplines in the days of joy and good news, or the lessons learned in the dark will grow dim. Still learning that too.

As much as you learn about yourself, you learn a lot about others, and relationships, too, during times of crisis or chronic illness. Don't be surprised if you look around you at some point along the road, and find that some fellow travelers have fallen back. Maybe the raw nature of the realities you're dealing with made them uncomfortable, maybe they didn't know how to "be" around you at that time, maybe it was just too much for them. Whatever the case, I think this happens more commonly than often discussed. Sure, that's painful...but you also quickly learn some other things as you survey the path you're journeying. You will have friends that stay close and hang in with you like glue. Lifelines. Prayer lines...when you're too weary to say another word. Friends who guard your heart and can be trusted with it; who don't need you to wear a face for them. What a blessing beyond the realm of my vocabulary to describe! You will find people willing to stand on your parents' lawn with you on a chilly spring night for 2 solid hours, just to PRAY. To lift up the feeble hands.

You learn there's nothing sweeter than the prayer of faith prayed by a child.

You will learn that your phone will ring, your email will ding, your mailbox will fill...with words and notes, gifts and assurances of prayers from friends that maybe you haven't seen in 20 years. Our family experienced that more than once these last twelve months. What a beautiful thing that has been. What an encouragement.

You learn to celebrate. You learn that "every good and perfect gift comes down from Above, from the Father of lights".

I may never know "why" this thing came to our doorstep exactly. As Sonya Isaac wrote, "cancer don't discriminate, or care if you're just *58". What I do know is that my Dad has always desired that God would use it...all of it...for His own Glory's sake. That He would somehow use it to bring Honor to His name. I believe that from that very first night one year ago (when the affects of the drugs were wearing off and the news was only beginning to sink in), and Dad had Mom drive him to the home of a man seeking God, that the tone was set for how this journey would be walked by God's grace. My Dad did in fact lead that man to Jesus that night, and he has continued to reach out in testimony to every Doctor and nurse, fellow chemo patients at the clinic, and others along the way. Eternity will show what God chose to do through these acts of love and faith.

I have attempted to share only my own personal feelings as I reflect on this last year. I can't fully speak for the whole family, for that's another thing I've learned: every single cancer diagnosis is different, every course of treatment is different, and everyone's way of processing and dealing with the enormity of it is different. And thank God, He's a personal God who can meet each one of us at our individual point of need.

To God be the Glory, great things HE has done!


Sonja Vernon said...

Beautifully said, my friend. Much love.

Making Memories 1999 said...

Very beautifully written, Tara! God has been so good, and I'm happy with you at the "good things He has done."

The Dickinsons said...

Oh, Tara, I can't imagine this journey. My heart wanted to "stop" while reading this beautiful post you wrote. I can only imagine the HORROR of receiving that first phone call with that AWFUL news. SO GLAD for What God has done, and How He has worked through your Daddy during this very difficult time!!

Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog, and for posting this so I could read about y'all's incredible journey!

Hugs all the way from Argentina! =)