Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Decorated Office

I received a beautiful gift from my co-workers when I was able to return to work this week.  My office was decorated in "celebration mode" with stars, banners and checkered flags hanging from the rafters (as well as a small giraffe with a puzzled look on his face).  This has really been a shared journey and I'm thrilled to share my sense of accomplishment with everyone who has loved me and prayed me through this past year.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crossing the Finish Line

I realize that once started, the journey with cancer is a life-long proposition.  I've heard other cancer survivors talk about their ongoing relationship with cancer.  Somehow it's always a part of your life, there's a sense it which it may reoccur for nearly anyone, yet you must find a way to rise able the fear and dread of a reoccurance.

For today at least, I've put future fears behind me.  This is a day of celebration; a day I've anticipated for many months.  I crossed a finish line of sorts today, the final chemo treatment.  As far as I can tell right now, the treatment phase of my cancer is at an end.  Next comes five years of watching, waiting and testing.  I'm greatly encouraged to see that some of my personal physicians are the men who have created the national standards for ongoing testing.  Along with regular CAT scans, chief among these tests are Carcino Embryonic Antigen testing (CEA).  If cancer cells reappear, the CEA numbers in my blood work will indicate that further treatment is needed.  I've been told the test is highly sensitive; taking this test every three months for the next five years gives me some assurance that cancer won't sneak up on me again.

An even greater assurance that gives me even greater encouragement is the hope of Christ's sustaining presence through all of this.  I've come to the conclusion that while he is not the author of this evil, cancer has been his servant to disciple me into a closer fellowship with Christ.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces confident hope. And confidence in him will not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom 5:3)

In some cases, cancer is his servant to bring a person to an understanding of their need of a savior.  In others, cancer is tool of discipleship, pruning a plant for greater effectiveness.  For many, cancer is sent as a servant to usher a believer into the presence of Christ.  In any event, cancer (and the evil one behind it) can have no more influence that Christ allows.  

While describing the redemptive sufferings of Messiah, Isaiah makes the point that he was despised and rejected by men (Isa 53:3).  Not merely despised, but fully rejected to suffer alone.  His only companions at the cross were his mother, several other women and John.  Having suffered the injury as well as the insult, Christ attends our sufferings in a different manner.  The limitations of physical sight in this body lead us to believe that we are also "despised and rejected," but Christ truly enters into our suffering and invites us with eyes of faith to embrace his presence.  

Hebrew 2 relates the necessity of Christ's full participation in our humanity and suffering, so that he will be able to strengthen those who are suffering:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

For the past year, my body has been the subject of a constant onslaught of chemicals, drugs, surgeries, radiation and other painful procedures.  For a year or so before that, a growing colony of cancer cells were eating away at my insides.  But more importantly, more powerfully has been the onslaught of love, hope, encouragement and prayer aimed at my body, mind and spirit by hundreds of believers for the last year.  James says that the energetic prayers of righteous people are highly effective.  My gratitude is inexpressible. 

Second Sunday of Lent, 2011