Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sometimes I thank God (cue the music)

If I know one thing, it's that my audience will automatically hear Garth Brooks' voice drawling out 'Unanswered Prayers' when they read the title line. "Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs - just because He may not answer doesn't mean He don't care...." While I totally agree with Garth, this post is actually about answered prayers.

Tuesday marked four weeks since d-day (diagnosis day). Four weeks. 28 days. Really? Just 28 days? It seems like a lifetime ago in many respects. I have learned and felt and thought so many things in the last month that I have yet to share here. One of the main things that I am quite sure of, though, is that we are deeply loved and cared for by many, and especially, by God. Your expressions of love, encouragement, and prayers have been overwhelming (in a good way). [Also, please forgive my lack of response sometimes; a few days are emotionally overwhelming and other days are just busy]

Wednesday, July 29 as we headed north on I-17 out of Phoenix and toward Flagstaff, I spent the drive soaking in God's handiwork. Our 14-hour drive that day provided such a diverse landscape - one that I know I will not see for, Dan and I spent the drive just relishing the beauty of God's creativity. As we headed toward Flagstaff, I suggested that we pray the rosary.

Wednesday's mystery is the 'Glorious Mystery', which starts with meditating on Jesus' resurrection, then the ascension, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As we prayed through the mysteries, the Our Fathers, the Hail Mary's, I had a profound sense of Christ's peace. We were surrounded with unknowns - and, yet, I KNEW that whatever the outcome, we would be all right because we would be WITH God. It was an emotional prayer; in coming close to God, I was able to release tears and open myself up to His healing, providential mercy. I also had a very strong sense of our need to pray the rosary every day, and ask others to do the same.

Let's start with Thursday's events: Dan had been running fevers on-and-off and had a slight cough for days. The Mayo hematologist said he could write Dan a prescription for an antibiotic (but didn't); the doctor also gave us his personal cell number to call in case we were getting the run-around with doctors. Dan left a message on Wednesday to see if he could get that AB before we left; no response. Overall on Wednesday, Dan felt pretty good. On Thursday morning, he had a slight fever. I called UM that morning to see what the process was to get Dan taken on as a patient. First, UM needed his paperwork - and then, it might take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to be taken on as a doctor.

On Thursday, while praying the 'Luminous Mystery,' the first starts with meditating on the wedding at Cana, where Mary instructs the servants to 'do whatever Jesus tells them to do.' I asked Mary to move in the hearts of those who could act on our behalf. While praying that first decade (ten) of Hail Mary's, Dan received a call from Dr. Slack (the Mayo heme), who said he would call the prescription into Creston (so my mom could pick it up that day), and also fax a referral to UM. After finishing the rosary, Dan called UM (I think it was about faxing medical records?) - and whomever he talked to actually went through the whole process of setting him up as a patient - speeding up the chance of being seen.

That day we spent a couple hours with some of Dan's close friends from college (who happen to live in Oklahoma - right on the way home). That visit was so good for our souls, though I know it was hard for them. As we got back in the car, I received a call asking me to interview for the Academic Advising Coordinator position at MSU that I'd applied for 6 weeks prior. Getting back on the road, I felt so cared for and at peace, though the road ahead was unknown.

That day I asked our siblings and our facebook friends/family to join us in praying a special 54-day (nearly 8 week) rosary novena. The first 27 days are petitioning for a special favor/grace, and the next 27 days are in thanksgiving - whether the gift has been granted yet or not. While our ultimate petition is for Dan's complete healing from cancer and deliverance from this virus (and we are not quite there), there are so many things that we can be thankful for - and that we can thank God for in advance.

Here's a major one: we are already into Dan's treatment plan. Though we were told it could take 1-3 weeks to get appointed a doctor, we were meeting with Dr. McCoy just 8 days after we first called the UM Cancer Center. She is great; very personable, caring, and giving of her time. PLUS, she's from IOWA!

We were able to get Dan's insurance set up within 3 days of starting. I called MSU's HR department that Thursday we were on the road and let the woman know about Dan's situation. Though coverage was 'retroactive' (meaning it started for Dan on August 1), setting up insurance when working at a university tends to take awhile. Usually, you sign up for benefits after you have university orientation -which usually happens 2 weeks after you start. (Thankfully navigating university benefit systems is not my first rodeo) She said that as soon as Dan was in the employment system, he could sign up for coverage - and then she would expedite the process to get Dan his actual member ID, etc. In the meantime, she sent me the coverage plans, so I could figure out what would be best.

At our first appointment with Dr. McCoy, she said she was surprised that Dan was not sicker than he was given the biopsy results. However, his lab reports that day came back with very low white blood cell & platelet numbers. This is one of the reasons that she moved forward with treatment. That day she also ordered 2 biopsies - one of a 'bugbite' (that had blistered; there's a really rare form of EBV-related, T-cell lymphoma that causes skin to blister when it's exposed to sun), and a bone marrow biopsy. She also ordered a PET scan to show the areas where cancer is.

The results: it really was just a bugbite! Dan does not have any lymphoma in his bone marrow and there were just a few T-cells present. The PET scan revealed 'hot spots' in Dan's neck and in a few lymph nodes on the back side of his abdomen. Though his spleen has been enlarged (the doctor said she could feel it on the 7th), there was NO cancer there! (which is HUGE)

Last week, Dan had a port put in which will allow for easy blood draws and chemo dispersal. Dan had his first round of chemo last Thursday-Friday-Saturday, which went well. He had some slight nausea on Thursday night and Friday morning, but has been eating like a champ, so far. On Monday, he got a shot to stimulate the bone marrow, and is having some slight 'bone pain'. This first round has gone well. The doctor said to expect fatigue to set in on Days 7-10 (which would be today through Sunday) - so we'll see how that goes. The doctor also said that the chemo effects are cumulative, so the last rounds are typically harder than the first.

In other news, we are under contract (again) with our house. Here's praying that all goes well for the next 40 days. ;) I expect there will be some other good news to report, too...

And, honestly, the last 4 weeks have been some of the hardest, yes - but, honestly, some of the blessed days of my life. I don't quite know how to put it into words - and it seems so contradictory...but, the sense of calling, of purpose, of peace - it's extraordinary. I thank ALL OF YOU for keeping us in your heart and in your prayers...because I think we have literally been carried by them.

So, please, join me now, in giving thanks for the next 4 weeks. Honestly, I have noticed in my thoughts just this morning a 'laziness' - to not say the rosary because things look good. Isn't that so our nature?

I've often scoffed at the Gospel message about the 10 lepers Jesus cleansed. Only 1 came back to thank Jesus - and he asks, "Where are the other 9? Weren't ten of you healed?" How quick we are to move on; to stop; to forget. Please, join me in this disciplined exercising of gratitude.

"More than ever, I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life, from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God's hands."  (Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ)