112,000…27,000…Kathy and me
Studies show that 112,000 people annually are diagnosed with colon cancer. In 2009, my wife Kathy was one of those people. Not only were we unprepared physically, emotionally and spiritually but we had no idea how grueling the process would be on her body, her mind and spirit. Many of those who read here know all too well how chemotherapy drains the body and leaves its recipients susceptible to many varieties of other ailments, suffering and infection. Again, the chemo in best case scenario kills the cancer cells and also any good cells in the area. The result is a constant monitoring and concern for health and wholeness.
Every one of those 100,000+ strive to make it to the magical 5 year mark that doctors use to gauge survivability. At the time of this writing, Kathy is beginning her 21st month. To date, we are grateful and humble that God has graced us to make it this far. It has been difficult and the challenges have been many, not the least of which has been dealing with unexpected turns in the road–like last April when a kidney infection landed Kathy in the hospital for 8 days and quite honestly, her system has not fully recovered from all that went on. Her urologist has finally released her but we continue to monitor infections and other related factors–again because chemo demolishes the immune system, fighting off the normal infections is more difficult.
Family has been a huge part of our coping mechanism. We have two outstanding sons and two wonderful daugthers in law, with four (soon to be five) grandchildren. The boys and their wives work hard to keep the family before Kathy and allow the healing power of love to work in conjunction with the other treatments. Daily calls and times of interaction keep us connected at several levels. Nothing does as much for her spirits than to have Cooper call “mimi” after school and talk about the day he just had or for Branson to Ichat with her and do his funny antics. Sadie came to stay a week recently and the life in Kathy was renewed by the visit. I’m grateful for my sons and their families as well as our extended family of parents, siblings and others who have made our fight their own. Together, we plan to see this through.
Friends have been a valued piece of the journey. The many emails, calls, Facebook contacts and other means of communication have kept Kathy engaged socially. Her friends know how much she loves to shop and from time to time, they come by and get her for excursions that provide fun and experiences of release and diversion from the mental side of the battle for life. It is clear now that the diversions from the daily tedium are important to the journey.
Faith is key for us because we love God and we see our lives as extensions of His grace and mercy. “For His Glory!” has been a consistent mantra for Kathy during these years. What our lives can be, despite our circumstances that enable His kingdom to be advanced and shared. Kathy has sought to help others by phone who have been recently diagnosed to understand the experiences she has had and offer any advice that is asked for. We continue to be amazed at how God opens doors to new opportunities. Where this is going we don’t know but we anticipate at LAC (Life after cancer) ministry that will reach others. We continue to believe strongly that this is about Him, what He chooses to do despite the odds or issues and that in His Sovereign power, He directs our steps. The faithfulness of God is our testimony.
Medicine is a necessary component of the journey we have chosen. Again, our readers will remember that we had a horrible experience with a local doctor who gave us no hope or chance of making it this far. He’s in our rear view mirror as we move toward the future and God is teaching us that his words have no power. Our treatment is coming from Cancer Treatment Centers of America and we’ve been quite public about our feelings that this healing place is where God wanted us to be.
- Was it for the doctors and treatments available?
- Was it because of the relationships and potential witness of His glory to these persons who live in the cancer world every day and see others?
- Was it because in going here, we draw attention to Him?
We cannot be clear in our minds that it might be all of these. One thing we know, we love our doctors and support staff and believe they are fighting with us and for us to make this miracle a reality.
Most of all, we are learning new patience. Hardest of all, we wait and accept that we don’t often do it well. In His time and in ways that are beyond our grasp, God is at work and we accept that as best we can. In the first week after Kathy’s diagnosis, I spent an entire day in the bookstore reading and learning everything I could about colon cancer and about stage 4. In some medical journals I found the statistic that 27,000 people each year make it to year 5 of the journey to beat cancer. In that store, I bowed my head and simply ask God to let Kathy be one of that 27,000! I remain in faith to the reality of that prayer and choose to live today in the embrace of a God who loves me and my incredibly strong wife and that His plans for us are filled with hope and joy.
I’m sure Christmas will mean so more this year than in days past. So much has happened and there is so much to anticipate but in truth–we have today and we have grace from our God and as Kathy so often reminds me–that is enough!