While driving home from our chemo appointment today, I realized something. It's been three months (to the day) that Dan received the diagnosis of lymphoma. Three months. 90 days. It seems like a lifetime ago.
Where we are now I could not have fathomed three months ago. We are settled in our own apartment in the most adorable little town. We both have jobs...at the same university, in the same department, with offices in the same suite. Our beautiful little kitten is a giant 6-month old with a crazy ornery personality. We have been showered in love and prayers that have supported us through some dark days.
We are 2/3 of our way through chemo. Our doctor has been very pleased with Dan's progress and decided not to do a PET scan at this point to see if the chemo's working because she knows it is (based on the fact that Dan's spleen is no longer crazy swollen). He started a chemo spinal tap today, which he will get (one) for the last 3 rounds. He was a little nervous about it - because you have no idea what it will feel like. I think he was surprised it was so 'easy'. The doctor was great; explaining the process while she did. The nurse gave Dan a shoulder rub, so he was a pretty happy camper.
So. Three months. What are some things I've learned? I am continually amazed at how I've responded. Many of you have commented to me how impressed you are by my faith through this trial. Here's how my faith has been shaped in the last 3 months:
1) It's not circumstances that make you blessed. This was a hard lesson for me to learn; I really want people to look at my life and think, "Wow. She's blessed; God must really love her. I want God to love me like that."
Oh, such blasphemy in this crazy thought! (I've never spent much time analyzing this. Ugh. Such pride!) i)God doesn't love me more than he loves anyone else. We are loved with an infinite, never-ending love. ii) Our circumstances do not indicate our blessing. Think of the person we refer to as "Blessed" in her title. Mary had a very difficult life. She had to endure public shame, humiliation, the death of her husband and her son's execution, the trial of her innocent son as a criminal, and then (most likely) the threat of persecution/death because of her beliefs. [which brings me to...]
2) I love the rosary. In those early days when I had no idea what to pray or how to seek God, praying the rosary brought me right to Scripture - to the life and miracle of Jesus...to a deeper adoration, worship, and love for Jesus. I love the rosary. Each day, I get to meditate on the life of my Lord. I have learned to surrender my will to the loving will of my Father...to walk by faith.
3) I am blown away by just...the goodness of God - including the provision of such beautiful, faithful people (friends and family) - and the provision of my job. Michigan State is such a beautiful campus (and, honestly, even more beautiful than Iowa State *gasp*). I am excited for the opportunities to do some new things with my job to serve the ANS students. ...and, I am really surprised(?) that I got hired. Not because I'm not the best candidate candidate - but because I interviewed less than 2 weeks after Dan's diagnosis and I was a mess. I could barely think straight; I was exhausted mentally and physically; I couldn't hold a conversation - I could answer questions, but couldn't think of anything to ask back...and the only person who ever asked me interview questions was the department chair. I knew I really wanted that job after I interviewed, but based on my evaluation of myself - wasn't sure if I did a good job or not. All I can say in response (or explanation) is: by the grace of God go I.
4) You just have no idea what it's [going to be] like. This encompasses a lot of things. You can't imagine what it's like to live through an experience like this - and you shouldn't. When it comes, you just...live it. Cancer is just part of our life right now; now, we don't even really think about it, to be honest. I guess it's like becoming a parent - or adding another child to your family. You can't imagine what it's going to be like - and then, they're here, and you jsut do it.. It's nothing like you imagined - and probably (hopefully) better.
Yes, the beginning was scary because it was unknown. I cried a lot in the first 3 weeks. I don't cry as much now (very little). I learned very early on (i.e. the first day on the road) to be present in the moment - and when those scary "what if" thoughts come to just breathe deep and focus on the view in front of me.
5) I am so in love with Dan. This isn't a surprise, but I show my love (respect) for Dan much better than I did before. ...and I love bald Dan. That was one of those #4 things; one of the things that makes you cry/mourn over before it happens. ...and then it happens. ...and you (he) shave your (his) head, and you (me) stifle a few tears - and you (we) move on. Plus, the bald head is better than looking like a mangy cat. :) I'm so used to seeing and loving bald Dan, I can't really remember Dan with hair. So, to reiterate, I love Dan...the person - in sickness or health, for better or worse, for richer or poorer...circumstances be damned.
6) I love Jesus. How do you get through the toughest life circumstances? My Grandma Ellen often says, "I don't know how people make it without faith." Here's what I have to say about faith: it is not simply a notion, a hope, a wish for something better. That is not what brought me comfort in the darkness when I was so scared that I could lose Dan. Faith must have an object for it to be substantive. And the object of the Christian's faith is Jesus. Hebrews 12 says that he is not just the object of our faith, but the author and perfecter of our faith. He is writing the story of our lives and is perfecting us through our trials - revealing weaknesses and sins to be transformed through His power and grace of His love.
This has not been easy...and, yet, through the transforming grace of Jesus' presence, it has been so good for us. This has transformed us into more of the people that we were made to be.