It was a year ago today, October 3, that I first heard the words, "High-grade, B-cell Lymphoma." Let's call it B-Day.
We knew that I had cancer, we just didn't know what kind, how advanced, and whether it was curable. The tumor had eaten half a rib and was aggressively moving toward my spinal cord.
When the doctor explained the results of the biopsy with the words, "high-grade," I feared the worst. High-grade is good if you're mining for gold or making moonshine but I assumed that high-grade cancers are the worst kind. In the first of many lessons over the last year I learned that, when it comes to Lymphoma, high-grade is good. That means it's fast-growing which means it's susceptible to the most effective chemotherapy treatments that target fast-growing cells.
Some of the other lessons learned:
- If you're going to get cancer, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a good kind to get. I learned to use "good" and "cancer" in the same sentence.
- I learned that I can overcome a whole series of medical treatment anxieties. Needles? Go ahead and just plunge them into my chest over and over again to access the port that is inserted under my skin. It ain't no thing. Scanxiety? X-Ray, MRI, CT, PET-CT - bring it on. You can even strap my head under a vice-grip cage every day for a whole month and zap me with radiation. I got this. You want to take out an organ and torture me with an NG-tube for a couple days? No problem. You want me to live in the hospice suite at the hospital for a couple weeks. Gladly. You get your own microwave, a fridge, and a couch. They really know how to put the "sweet" in hospice suite.
- I learned the importance of having life insurance, which I got a couple years ago. If your family relies on your income, and you don't have life insurance, get some, today. I'll wait for you here while you go a make a phone call.
- I also learned to let go of a lot. I let go of those plans for a restful sabbatical, and that precious time for a grant-funded writing project, and my basic sense of security, that invisible armor we all wear that helps us get through the day, assuring us that everything will be OK. I always resisted the line in Ecclesiastes that reads, "There is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing," but now I get it. There are times when you just have to refrain from grasping and admit there is nothing that can be done.
Here we are, a year later, and the tide has turned. It's time for new lessons on reclaiming some of what was lost. The cancer is in remission and my head is clearing up from all the chemo and radiation. For the first time in a year I want to read books and write with consistency. My artistic instincts for photography are growing. I'm looking forward to a new season in pastoral ministry with the completion of a major building project.
It's time to embrace.
This website and new blog are part of that effort to grab ahold of life after cancer. I want to be intentional as a writer, photographer, and pastor. Those are the themes that I hope to integrate on this blog and site.
Please click around and let me know what you think of the new online digs. I'm officially putting the Year of Plenty blog to sleep.