I cough a lot. I cough to the point of throwing up the last thing I ate or drank. This is especially the case after I walk across the room. That’s right – barely walking can send me into a coughing fit that will make me lose my lunch. Maybe it’s because of the fluid in my left lung. Scans have shown a moderate to large amount of fluid for months. We thought that draining it would help improve my condition. Not only did the fluid quickly come back, the last PET scan showed absolutely no change in the amount of fluid even though it had already been drained. I went through the horrendous pain for nothing and don’t feel like it even helped me.
Then there’s my heart. Walking across the room really sends my heart racing and leaves me out of breath. Even just standing can cause the same reaction, and then I’m really left coughing and throwing up. I’m sure it’s my low hemoglobin counts again. Every round of chemo wreaks havoc on my bone marrow, making it impossible to have a normal amount of red blood cells. They’re not low enough for a transfusion but it sure keeps me from moving around too much. That means more days using my wheelchair instead of my walker when I get out of the house. It’s safer this way so my heart doesn’t run to 140 bpm with every little task but using a wheelchair makes me feel like I’m regressing instead of getting better.
These are just some of the things I deal with day in and day out. In some ways, I am doing pretty good despite all that I am going through but there are still some rough moments. There are still fears and doubts. It’s really scary not knowing if you’re going to die or not. Doing treatment after treatment, not knowing if it will be enough. My mom died just 4 months after being deemed cancer free. It had gone to her brain late in the game… and she quickly succumbed. We were told she had maybe a year when she went into hospice; she was gone within a day.
In my case, I’ve watched God allow the treatments to make improvements to my condition. I’ve celebrated small successes like favorable PET scans and shrinking lesions, all while knowing the battle is long from over. I really want to hear the words, “cancer free,” but I’m not naive enough to believe that it means the battle is won. Several of the cancer survivor volunteers I got close to at the American Cancer Society died within a few years of meeting them. Their cancers came back with a vengeance and no amount of treatment would help. Being a cancer survivor is a badge of honor, but it’s terribly heartbreaking when a survivor is a survivor no more.
So how do I handle my fears as I continue the fight? I wish I could say that I spend my days at the feet of Jesus; honestly, I still find myself spacing out and not really dealing. I’m still trying to find my purpose through all of this, how best to spend my days at home now that I can’t work. I don’t really know how long it will take for me to get on the boat instead of just treading water. I wish I could say it is an easy path to get there but in reality, there is still quite a bit of fog keeping me in my present state. The only thing I have going for me is the fact that I haven’t given up on getting out of this situation.
I still believe God can rescue me. I still believe that God heals and does miracles. I don’t know if that is His plan for me but I trust Him to take care of me as I go through this trial. Why do I say that? Because I may be treading water but I don’t feel like I’m in danger of drowning. I may be treading water but I know Jesus is there, close by, even if I can’t see Him. And there are the blessings that keep coming out of this situation that remind me that it’s not all gloom and doom.
One day, God will call me home and I’m sure it will be a glorious moment for me. In the meantime though, I pray that He uses my time on earth for something truly wonderful, something that truly brings joy to His kingdom. I pray that I find my purpose through all of this, and that I can continue to push forward despite my fears. Having cancer is no easy feat but it can be just what is needed to bring glory to Him.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31