Sunday, June 8, 2008

The myth of invincibility

No one ever really believes it will happen to them. Sure, almost everyone has had fleeting thoughts of being diagnosed with cancer, suffering a heart attack or becoming paralyzed. In those moments, some of us even sincerely try to imagine what it would be like, but we are simply incapable. It's like we have an invincibility chip in our brains constantly feeding us this line that we are above the fray. "There's no way that will ever happen to you." So, we have another fleeting thought of pity on those to whom these things have happened, and then we are on with our day, content living in the myth of invincibility.

Then, like a hurricane in a pond, you are told you have tongue cancer at the age of 33 even though your past medical history is as clean a 10-year-old's, you don't smoke, you don't dip, and you're not nursing the bottle. Suddenly, myth moves out and emotion moves in. Myth was a quiet, neat, and predictable roommate. Emotion is loud, messy, and has multiple personalities. Unwelcome are shock, denial, anger, sadness, loneliness, and fear. Welcome, however, are courage, determination, faith, hope, trust, and gratitude. Thank God for the welcome ones.

I'd like to share a little of my gratitude. I was diagnosed with cancer on April 18, almost 2 months ago now. Month to month, week to week, day to day, hour to hour, and sometimes even minute to minute, I am receiving encouragement from loads of people ranging from immediate family to many that I don't even know.

This is a photo of a luminary created in my honor for a relay for life vigil in Michigan by my friend Scott Moran's in-laws. Scott and I became really good friends at Vanderbilt. His wife, Kathy, is very special, too. She is now attending Vanderbilt herself - soon, they will be quite the medical team. Kathy's family, who lives in Michigan, created the luminary for me after hearing of my struggle, and I've never even met them! They still, however, took the time to make this for me and even personalized it with musical notes.

Below is a picture of a beautiful piece of art some of my dearest friends, Terrah, Randy, Lizzy, Brad, Rebecca and children (Connor, Davis, Griffin, Samantha, and Lee boy-to-be) bought me. It has a really cool story behind it. My church, Fellowship Bible in Brentwood, has a lot of artistic members. Every May, the church has a festival called Express, which seeks to glorify God by showcasing a variety of artistic talents, including music, dance, and visual arts. Terrah and I saw the original at the festival. I believe the artist, Meg Miller, called it Faith. I hope I'm not butchering her meaning, but I believe she commented that just like you have to have faith that a chair will hold you up when you sit, you have to have faith that God will hold you up during tumultuous times. Terrah and I were both struck by the chair and I commented that I needed one like it in my room to remind me that I have to sit still in faith and let God move.

Terrah didn't forget what I said, so when the gang wondered what to get me, she had the perfect idea. She tracked down Meg who agreed to make another one just for me. Meg commented that it was nice getting to pray specifically for me as she was working. That was very touching, of course. The gang gave this to me on Friday before my second chemotherapy session, and they all signed the back.

This is a photo of a prayer shawl made for me by more people that
I have never met. This was given to me by a friend of mine from my old job at Aspect Communications, Jennifer Gearhart McClure. This is a ministry of her mother's church. As they knit these shawls, they pray especially for the people who will be receiving them. It is meant to be worn while praying. The idea is that the prayers of those who made the shawl are covering you as you pray yourself. Jennifer wanted me to have this in the midst of making tough decisions about my treatment.

This gift was picked out especially for me by Terrah's little nephew Benjamin, who is about 2 years old. I've got a little Sprite in my Goofy cup right now!
This is a music box given to me by Debbie Cagle, Terrah's sister-in-law Brooke's mother. It plays How Great Thou Art. Debbie doesn't know this, but that is my favorite song to hear my brother sing. Now, I can hear it anytime I want.

Terrah gave me a book called Courage before my first chemotherapy session, and Brooke and Darren gave me Tony Dungy's autobiography.
This is a beautiful quilt made for me by Rebecca's mother Donna (who treats me like I'm one of her own), her friend Debbie (who lost her daughter to leukemia and has encouraged me like a long-time friend even though we just met), and Rebecca. The section with the heart has an inscription that tells me to wrap myself in the quilt and know that I am loved by many.

Of course, this isn't all the encouragement I have received. I couldn't begin to count the phone calls, texts, emails, cards, letters, prayer-grams, and well-wishes I have received. I have received many while typing this very post!

There's no way I could remember every kind gesture for mention in this post, but I hope all of you know the immense gratitude that I feel toward you.

I must not forget to give thanks to the Father, as well.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Join me in being joyful over salvation, praying for healing, and giving thanks for His perfect love.


The Cowans said...

I want you to know that I'm thinking about you all the time, that I'm praying every day that God will help you be strong and that things will happen so quickly that before you know it you'll be home, happy and healthy.
I also want you to know that we all love you so much, are cheering you on all the way and will be following your progress..." Your faith is truly an inspiration!

Love, Susan, Steve, & boys

Amy said...

Daniel, I am so thankful for the blessings that you are seeing in all of this. When you are not feeling well enough to pray, rest knowing that others are holding you up many times a day. Amy Creech

Randy Smith said...

As you can see, you are loved by so many!

Travis Dunlap said...

We are continually praying for healing, comfort and strength as you face this difficult time. Please let us know if there is anything we can do.
Travis and Beth Dunlap

Sandy said...

"The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles". Psalm 34:17- We are all calling to Him for you!
Jason and Sandy

Scott Fortenberry said...

Hey Dragonfly!

I know I'm supposed to be nice to you like everyone else, but what will you become if I do that. Someone has to keep you in check, and I have self appointed myself as that person. So here goes:

"Look you little soy milk drinkin, wheat pasta eatin, organic grass grazin, son of the south. If you don't kick this in the butt I'll kick yours!"

Glad I got that out of my system. I'm at work right now, and I don't want to be. I figure if you don't have to, then I shouldn't either. But on a more serious note, you are a true mentor to me. You have guided me through some serious rough patches in my life that I will never finish telling you "thank you" for. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one you've done that for, and it's our turn now. You can "let go" for a while and I promise you will always have a friend willing to jump in and drive for you, pray for you, talk for you and fight for you.

I know a little about miricals, cause I've been the recipient of a few. You've been there for a number of mine and I plan on being a part of yours. Keep doing what your doing.

I love you man, and I'm praying for you all the time.

trish said...

Daniel,I read your bog regularly and continue to be inspired by your faith. I am using your "Life happens in the little things" post as a topic for my Bible study group this week - hope you don't mind! I am praying!!!!

Char Ewers said...

You are loved and supported by so many dear friends and family members! While I am deeply saddened by the challenge that has been put before you, I know that your faith and their love will give you the strength you need to survive the toughest moments.
I am praying for you and send so many positive thoughts your way for recovery! Keep up the fighting spirit and your great sense of humor! On the days you don't feel strong enough to fight, know that others are standing by to fight for you and support you until you regain your strength.

Char Ewers