Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Unexpected Blessing and a Few Lessons

I returned home this afternoon, after my first cycle of chemotherapy. I was expecting to be in through Christmas day, but was pleasantly surprised when the oncologist told me that they could expedite things and complete the cycle in two days. An unexpected blessing.

I am resting comfortably at home, but do have to return to Lehigh Valley tomorrow for an injection to stimulate my bone marrow to produce blood cells destroyed by the chemotherapy. I decided to include a chronology of my illness to date, in case anyone is curious how this all came to be (some have asked!). I also included some notes I recorded in the past few weeks. If even one person is encouraged through reading this blog, may God be glorified.

A Chronology of My Illness:

April - Easter weekend, I had pain in both shins and was unable to walk.
Throughout the summer, the pain came and went, limiting many physical activities.
In late July, the pain was constant and keeping me awake at night.
On August 1, I visited my primary care physician. An x-ray and blood work showed no abnormality.
In September, I visited a chiropractor several times and had some pain relief.
In late October, a small mass appeared on my right tibia.
On November 19, I had an appointment with an orthopedist. An x-ray showed no abnormality in the bone, so he ordered an MRI.
On November 20, I had an MRI of my lower right leg.
On November 26, the orthopedist called and was concerned about a spot on my tibia. He set up an appointment with an orthopedic oncologist in Lancaster.
On November 29, I met with the orthopedic oncologist and had a needle biopsy of the mass on my right tibia.
On December 7, I had a follow-up visit with the orthopedic oncologist and he confirmed that I had a malignant tumor on my tibia.
On Tuesday, December 11 the final pathology report confirmed that I had a Ewing’s tumor on my right tibia.
On Tuesday, December 18, I met with an oncologist at the Lehigh Valley Cancer Center to discuss my treatment plan. I also had a bone scan, CAT scan, and blood work.
On December 19, I had a heart scan and additional X-rays.On December 21, I had a vascular port surgically implanted in my chest.
On Dec 22-23, I had my first cycle of chemotherapy at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

Notes from December 3, a few days before my diagnosis:

All of our desires, aspirations and affections should be governed by a prior determination to please God. – Allister Begg

We have made a prior determination to please God – and that is our daily prayer –that He will give us the wisdom, grace, and strength to do that very thing. In difficult circumstances, we can turn our backs on God and wallow in self-pity, OR we can embrace God and allow Him to see us through. That is the only choice for one that desires to follow Jesus Christ and glorify God.

I am confident that He will use my circumstances for His glory and my refinement.

Notes from Sunday, December 16:

I had an interesting conversation with Isaac today. He was wondering why I had to keep my feet up so much and use crutches to walk. I basically avoided the question (!) and shared with him that am thankful that I can use my hands and arms to hug him and play with him; I am thankful that I have two eyes to see him and to be able read to him; I am thankful that I have two ears to be able to listen to him talk and sing to me; I am thankful for a voice to be able to tell him that I love him. How often have I taken these things for granted? We all need to be thankful for what we have and not spend so much time and energy complaining about what we do not have. Whatever God has given me is more than I need to glorify Him!

Notes from Monday, December 17:

Today is my 45th birthday! I received some great gifts from family and friends, but I already have everything I could ever want or need. I have a relationship with the God who created and sustains the universe. I have the promise of eternal life with God the Father because of the sacrifice of His Son. I have a great wife and three wonderful children – all of whom bring me more joy than I could ever ask for.

I spent an extended period of time this morning looking at some passages of scripture related to suffering. In the big picture, my suffering is minimal. I am not suffering persecution for serving the LORD. But I do know that, like in any instance of suffering, my suffering can have many positive outcomes – in bringing glory to God, in refining me, and in encouraging others who are observing.

Job 23:26. Job had lived his life, as far as he knew, in a right relationship with God. Yet he suffered. And he took his complaint to God. As is our tendency in difficult circumstances, he began to lose perspective, to lose sight of what really matters. Life is not really about me, my plans, or my success and happiness. It is about God – His glory and His honor. When everything else is stripped away, what is most important is God’s love for us, and our love for Him.

Job 12-14. Knowing what to believe is not enough to please God. God desires obedience. Suffering drives us beyond our doctrine and forces us to depend on the One who gives us truth, hope, and life.

Job 21-22. How we respond to suffering shows what we really believe about God. Is God in control? Is God good – all the time? Is God always right? Is God just? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Philippians 1:12-14. Paul did not view his present circumstances – imprisonment – as an obstacle. He did not see it as an interruption in his plans. He did not get bitter or resentful. He embraced it as an opportunity to serve and glorify God. I know what you have called me to do, Lord – I suppose I can do it right here. We can spend a lot of time asking why or complaining, OR we can be committed to serving God in any or every circumstance of life. God, how can you use me right here, right now? How can I glorify you in my present circumstances? If we make a prior determination to please God, then any situation will not be an obstacle, but an opportunity for our refinement and His glory.

We are to be lights shining in the darkness, reflecting God’s glory.

When we are faithful to God in the difficult circumstances of life, we serve as an encouragement to others.

Encourage others by the way you live.

Here are two (of many) promises we can cling to as we suffer:
1. God is always with us. Matthew 18:20. He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5.
2. God has promised us eternal life. Revelation 21:1-4.

2 Corinthians 12:9. It is during times of suffering that God demonstrates His greatness. As we admit our weakness, we affirm God’s strength.

It is amazing how suffering removes the distractions of earthly comforts. And things that were yesterday so urgent are patiently waiting in the background. The things that really matter really matter now. My relationship with God. My family. My friends. Relationships. Community. Sharing in God’s life and love.

Adversity strengthens our faith. It’s like a recent drive home (actually, six days before we were aware of the possibility that I might have cancer) from church on a snowy Sunday evening. We prayed as God allowed our little car to climb up one side of a hill and safely down the other side. One hill after another. One at a time. Each time, we recalled God’s faithfulness and prayed for His guidance, knowing that He was with us whether we stayed on the road or not. With each new hill, God brought us closer to home and closer to Him, as we recognized our dependence upon Him. That drive home was an object lesson of God’s guidance and faithfulness, a pattern for us to follow as we face this new journey with Him.


Ravonda said...

My 20 yr. old daughter was dx'd with osteosarcoma, another type of bone cancer, a few years ago. I have a google alert set up that brought me to your blog. Your thoughts have been edifying as I read with interest. I am a member of a Reformed Baptist church in Greenville, SC and share your perspective.

I wanted to make you aware, if you aren't already, of the list-serv group for Ewing's sarcoma at I am a member of the osteosarcoma group & have found the information and support there extremely helpful. Be aware that there are rules about discussing religious views, but you may post your blog address for the encouragement & testimony to others in the same situation.


Justin Edwards Covenant Marriage Seminars said...

Nice blog! I remember a blog about Covenant Marriage Seminars with a similar discussion. What a coincidence.