Spend an hour and a half in one of these bad boys and you have time to think about the big questions of life (if you can put the incessant pounding out of your head – the earplugs help). Thursday, I used this time to contemplate some of the questions that my cancer has been asking me.
Here’s one of them:
Question: what would it take in this world to ruin your life?
Here’s a promise I can make to you: in this life, each of us is going to lose everyone and everything. Suffering and death are inevitable. Aren’t you glad you decided to read this post?
For me, the ground opened up with a diagnosis of terminal cancer at 55 years of age. No warning letter. No time to prepare. Just an explosion that has devastated my hopes and my plans.
In my anger, I think of the alternatives. God could have let me be hit by a bus and killed instantly. Or how about instantly healing me? I would be most grateful.
Instead, though, I have been left in this strange place of in-between. I am strengthened and delivered over and over again, but never completely. And now my bone pain is increasing again. How about we go one way or another, God?
What kind of a Supreme Being does this? Some of you would say, “Back up, Ed. I don’t even believe there is a God. There. Problem solved.” I understand and respect your unwillingness to believe. I am often an unbeliever myself.
I certainly can’t sprinkle some religion over my current trouble and say, “There. All better.” Creating a “fire alarm” God to prop up my life when everything goes wrong is a cowardly parlor trick that fools no one, in my opinion.
So, if I’m going to be a theist, and especially a Christian, I’m stuck with this God who refuses to subordinate Himself to me – a real God who makes the audacious claim that His purposes for me are good (so good they are beyond my comprehension) and that His heart towards me is always that of deep love.
This is all nice and good until your life falls apart. Then it is not comforting in the least. In fact, it often infuriates me. I want to say, “God has no right to do this to me. He gave me agency over my life; why would He then thwart my hopes and plans?” As Elizabeth Elliot said after her husband was killed serving as a missionary in South America,
“God, if He was merely my accomplice, has betrayed me.”
So here’s what it would take to ruin my life: two things – my hopes and plans for my life being blown to hell (ok, we can check that one off the list) and believing in a “god” who should have kept it from happening.
So where does this leave me? With an invitation – to turn from a self-made god whom existed to serve my plans and agendas to a new and strange place of no longer placing my hope in myself or my own plans for my life.
Instead, I am being invited to place my hope in a God who can overrule our agendas and even allow us to suffer if it’s necessary. And, yes, He decides.
Why should I trust a God like this?
I don’t really know. Only that I am compelled to do so. Oh, and this story – it resonates deeply in my heart:
As it is told, when the water was troubled by an angel, the first person who got into a pool in Jerusalem would be healed. A physician stood on the side, and when the water was stirred, he tried to get in. Strangely, the angel prevented him. The angel then explained, “Without your wound, where would your power be?
Bonus Question: why didn’t someone think of this sooner?
I live on creamy Jif peanut butter and cereal. Or I would, if Betsy didn’t force-feed me “real food.” But now, thanks to a breakthrough in food science that I’ll always be grateful for, my diet is now infinitely easier and congruous.
I bought this box (you were thinking Betsy did?) at about 7pm last night. This morning (before breakfast), it’s all but empty and there’s no milk in the frig. That’s all I know, officer.
I will only add that I was awakened at 4am this morning when a trio of raccoons tripped our security floodlight. This was probably right after they came in, ate my cereal, and left me without any milk to pour on my peanut butter for breakfast.
Medical update: The MRI showed no spinal column compression (yay!), but my cancer is progressing, nonetheless (boo!). The pain in my spine has returned with a vengeance, so I am now back on narcotic pain relievers. Doctor’s orders. Sigh.
For those of you who thought I did my best writing when I was high on drugs, your prayers have been answered. For those of you who weren’t readers in those days, brace yourself.
Tomorrow, I have my white blood cells removed for the final time in the morning. After lunch, a familiar drive to New Orleans with a kind friend. After hanging out with my docs at Tulane Cancer Center in the morning, home Tuesday night late.
Thursday, my white blood cells, after Provenge has given them a good spanking, will be put back into me. Friday, an infusion of Zometa (a bone-strengthening drug) for good measure. Afterwards, if God be merciful, I will have my heart catheter REMOVED. Forever and ever. Amen.
If need be, I will do this myself.
And yes, thanks to you all and the mercy of a benevolent God, I remain infection free. Not sure where God was last time. Probably the Middle East. At least I hope so.