Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then, he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" Matthew 8:23-27
Imagine the sting of Jesus pointing out your lack of faith face to face? How many times have we read this passage and thought the disciples were dull for not trusting they would be okay with Jesus at their side? I know it has crossed my mind. I am often lacking in faith myself, though. How about you?
I've been absent from you for a week now. From your emails, texts, and posts, I know you were all overjoyed that my treatment had come to a close. Indeed, it was and is cause for much joy, and I greatly appreciate your celebration on my behalf. I will not miss chemotherapy infusions. Infinitely more, I will not miss having my head bolted, for lack of a better descriptor, underneath a wicked looking mask to a radiation table. Here, I should pause and praise the Father for being on that table with me every day. I'm not sure I've done that yet, but He deserves it. At first, it was quite overwhelming to lie down on that table, but He quickly revealed that He would be there every day. He was. One of my greatest fears was having a vomiting episode during a treatment as mucus collected in my mouth. I prayed for protection from that - He never allowed it to happen. He was always there just as He had promised He would be. May we never forget His promise in the first chapter of Joshua.
If you count today, it has been 5 days since I had a radiation treatment. Am I elated about that? Absolutely! Praise the Father in Heaven it has come to an end! You might have expected to hear this from me sooner, so let me try to explain where I am now and how it relates to the disciples and their boating incident. I have been warned from the start that the side effects of this treatment regimen would be grizzly. I have shared many of the possibilities with you - severely sore throat, mouth ulcerations, neck burn, neck stiffness, tooth decay, and thick, copious mucus among many other possibilities. So far, my neck has held up really well. I have mildly burned skin, which is looking better every day and never reached the painful point that many patients must endure. My neck is not overly stiff. I do have a severely sore throat when I attempt to swallow. I do have multiple ulcerations in my mouth. I have medication to numb those, and I am tolerating them. My teeth seem to have weathered the storm, as well. The constant mucus production has been my most challenging side effect by far. It is so hard to explain and not a very pleasant topic to read about I'm sure. The best I can do to help you understand is to imagine your mouth producing thick, odorous mucus 24/7. I imagine you must think, "Big deal - it's just a little mucus!" That's exactly the thing, though - it's not a little mucus at all. It is mucus, mucus, mucus everywhere in your mouth all day long. The thickness, the threat of vomiting, and the pain of the mouth sores make it hard to expectorate.
The mucus also delays my resumption of real food, so I remain on a feeding tube. Thankfully, I am maintaining my weight with the tube, so I just have to remind myself that this challenge will pass, as well. My hope is that by the time the mucus has subsided enough to try eating, my throat soreness will have diminished some, as well. I have high hopes of eating at least broths and soft foods by another week or so. Also, since the mucus is so thick and it is still hard to take in enough fluids, I am getting IV fluids every day for the next couple of weeks. We have gotten this set up at home, and it is going well.
Every transition in my treatment process brings major psychological adjustment. Yes, it was great to be home, great to be done with radiation, great that in just a few weeks I could be eating again ... BUT, it was so daunting to think about starting IV fluids at home every day (more tubes!), so daunting to think about never ending mucus that could last as much as 6 weeks, and so daunting to think that though I had made it through treatment a waiting period had begun. I quickly realized that I would have to wait weeks to see when the mucus would clear, when I could eat, when I could get rid of my feeding tube, when I could get rid of my anti-nausea pump, and when I might or might not have to have surgery on the nodes in my neck! Do you sense the anxiety? It was just overwhelming for a day or two, and I must admit, I did not do well. I have sent many of you pleas for fervent prayer over the last few days. I still covet those prayers.
When I opened my devotion today, however, I realized that I had not been exercising much faith over the last few days. Oh me of little faith! Yes, this mucus is the most mind-numbing thing I think I have ever had to endure, but have I forgotten that He is here? Have I forgotten the pain he endured? Have I forgotten that there are others suffering more than I could ever imagine? Have I forgotten that He calms storms?
As it turns out, I'm quite a bit like those frightened disciples. Perhaps I wasn't absolutely confident that He would be the God of this mucus. Oswald Chambers says, "What a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced downright joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead."
Let us believe Him from the beginning of our crisis so as to create downright joy in Him. I would so much rather offer Him downright joy than a lackluster faith. Father, forgive me for where I have had the slightest doubt that you would deliver from the beginning to the end!
With all that said, I do have several important requests for you:
1. Pray for rapid resolution of these side effects. Obviously, the mucus is at the top of my list. I am anxious to get back to eating, working, and seeing all of you.
2. My third grade teacher, a wonderful woman named Faye Franklin, passed away yesterday after battling cancer for many years. Please remember her family (husband Nick and daughters Lora and Holli) in your prayers. She was a very gifted teacher, and she will be remembered so fondly having touched countless lives.
3. Continue to pray for Mr. Carroll. His doctors have found that the cancer involves his chest, as well. He has an appointment tomorrow for next steps. Please remember him, his wife, and his son and family - my friends Brian and Elizabeth Carroll. They have two young daughters, Hannah and Emma. Navigating their questions during this time can be difficult.
Let us not forget to offer praise, as well.
1. Praise Him that radiation is over!
2. Praise Him that He is God of the side effects that remain!
3. Praise Him that He has promised to walk with us through any fire that is to come - from the beginning!
4. Praise Him because He is worthy of never ending gratitude!
5. My friend Bryan Larson continues to make progress. Check out his link if you have time.