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Friday, September 14, 2007

Just the Facts Please

This may be a difficult blog for some and I even thought about leaving it unwritten. I don't want this to come across as a loss of faith, it is anything but that. If you read this please take the time to read it in its entirety.

This week Andrea and I had a doctor appointment to have her voice fixed. This blog started to come to my mind after the doctor stated he would base his treatment decision on Andrea's life expectancy. If she was only going to live for six months he would do a temporary procedure vice the permanent solution.

The doctor's words were emotionless and I don't think he thought his words were any revelation, just an obvious statement of fact. I began to think about his words. Andrea was wearing a ball cap, her hair obviously falling out, we parked in handicap parking, we arrived in the clinic in a wheelchair, and Andrea was on oxygen. And it hit me, Andrea is dying.

Now this was not the first time I thought this but it was the first time I saw it from that point of view, just a medical fact. We believe Andrea will be healed, so when Andrea is sick I only saw it has a temporary set back, a delay to the inevitable healing we awaited. And I still feel this way, but when we left the doctor's office I saw Andrea from the doctor's view just a patient.

Percentages are a strange way to look at life and death, but it is the doctor's way of life. Percentage chance a medicine will help your condition, percentage chance you will have complications, and when needed a procedure whose percentage chance of complications out weight the percentage chance of complications without the procedure. Just the facts, based on every case before you and your particular doctors experience. Andrea's percentages are not good, those who die from cancer go through many stages and predictors that point to a conclusion. Like being on the water ride at an amusement park you are carried by the flow, unable to effect the outcome, realising the eventual end that you know is coming based on what you see. You know the big drop is coming and you are going to get wet when the conveyor belt begins to pull you up a steep climb. We know the path we are on leads to death. That is just the facts. Metastatic cancer puts you in that class. You start in a crowd of healthy people that is whittled down by cancer, even more to those whose cancer that has spread, and to those whose cancer does not respond to the first chemo, then the second and then the third, until weakness sets in, fatigue of treatment, weight loss compounds the problem of weakness, and soon life looses any quality. In the shadows, death stands ready to offer its own form of relief.

Doctors have seen this played out many times although there may have been a case here or there where someone survived when factually they should have died. But doctors live off odds and statistics, and they think in terms of what should happen, or what will most likely happen. That is what this doctor was doing with Andrea and I don't fault him, it is how he has been trained. Although I see Andrea as a person and not a statistic, she is my one data point in fighting cancer so I do not feel tied to "What should happen or what ought to happen."

This is what made Andrea doctor's office so unique in Goldsboro, no one from the lab to the chemo room to the staff to the doctors saw you as a statistic. At least they never let it show. You were a unique case as if Andrea was the first breast cancer patient for them. They never allowed what they have seen or experienced taint how they viewed you as a patient. That is what gave people hope, hope to fight, hope to be the one patient who beat the odds.

The simple factual approach Andrea's doctor took this week made this whole event seem nothing more then an forgone conclusion. It steals hope, it quickens the patients acceptance of death's relief.

This is what I hate about the medical field, this attitude of just being a statistic, it shows in their body language, and their words. It is how we train doctors and only the best can separate the statistics from a patient. I think Oncologist are probably the worst at this simply due to the nature of their work. These doctors believe they are the gatekeepers of life and death see their knowledge and man's drugs as the final answer and therefore a patient as a fact a statistic where life and death can be predicted with high accuracy.

Dr Atkins was never this way. He saw the drugs inabilities and limits. He focused on the exceptions to the rules. Dr Atkins always knew there was a chance, every patient was a chance to prove the past predictors wrong, to write a new course in cancer treatment. You never felt hopeless, there was always a chance because you were an individual. Statistics point to the past, you are the present and therefore you we not bound by the laws of what happened before. You had hope to write new statistics, based on new developments in treatment. Drugs that were not available one or two years ago. Drugs that void statistics based on old treatment options. Dr. Atkins never assumed he spoke for God. He knew the limits of the drugs. As an experienced Oncologist, Dr Atkins knew the predictable outcome,he knew the odds, but he never let that come across to the patients.

Andrea and I had a talk last night about this and we both know without a miracle from God Andrea's cancer is incurable. It is the obvious conclusion to her medical condition. And everything points that this is the path we are on. Her cancer although responsive to the chemo treatment, has never been totally removed. CT scans have never been perfect, just better. Blood work, liver function all point to a disease that has been slowed but never stopped. Breathing is labored, eating is difficult and strength is waining. All are predictable progressions of cancer and this path only points in one direction. Doctors expectations are fulfilled and become reality. Hence the mater of fact attitude of the last doctor. He has seen this before and his life's work his training are all based on percentages and odds. So he coldly states his recommendation will be based on how long Andrea had been given to live. In case you are wondering, we told him we are expecting to be healed.

But really what has changed for us. We knew this was the expected medical outcome since June 27th 2005 when we were told the cancer had spread to Andrea's bones. Sure we are further along the path and the things are clearer and events are more predictable the further we go.

Our hope and our faith is not is a drug, it is in God almighty. We placed little hope that chemo would heal Andrea, other then God could use it to heal, but it was never our hope nor the source of Andrea's healing. So as we talked last night about death. We know we are closer then before, we know the signs are pointing in that direction, but they always were. God can still heal Andrea, cancer will never get to the point where it has "gotten away" from God and His ability. His will will be done. We pray and we believe His will is to heal Andrea, and that has not diminished in any way. But, we see what you see, and we understand some of the fear, confusion and doubt you must feel. We hear some of you asking, "Why is this happening to Andrea?"

Here is how I look at it. Start from your worst fear, death. I know that is hard for some of you to even read or think I would even utter those words as if I have lost faith to even think them. I do not feel that way and I don't mean to offend or upset anyone. But try to let yourself go to your worst fear and then look at it from God's point of view. Or at least the best or minds can understand His point of view. But the Bible is a window into our creator, His love and His ways and it speaks about death. We are all dying, we just don't like to think about it until we have to. So most of us do all we can to not think about death. We do not have that luxury.

So what if it is God's will for Andrea to die. Then she will be with Him and without pain. She will be experiencing joy and peace we can not begin to imagine. Now stop and think about that. If that is our biggest fear, what are we afraid of?

Fear of death can be our humanness our desire to not live without someone so special as Andrea. That is a real emotion. One I strongly have for my wife. I do not mean to come across as someone without a desire. I desire Andrea to be healed more then anything in my physical life. But I would not want my desire to become a hindrance to my faith and trust in God. I can have all the desires I want until my desires cloud my faith and my trust in God. When my desires become greater then my willingness to trust God, they have become an idol to me, and a sin in my life.

Or this fear could be exposing doubt in our faith. Maybe God is not real. Maybe there is no heaven. If that be the case then Andrea's death is not about her but about our faith. Maybe her illness and possible death has just opened our spiritual eyes to something we need to face. Maybe it just exposes the limit to which we are willing to trust God.

God knows my desires, He knows my love for Andrea, He created it. He is not out to get me or punish me because of this trail or in Andrea's death. He has already shown a love for me I can not fully comprehend. He is only asking us to trust Him, to believe Him, to have faith when life does not go as we plan. Then we learn to lay our life at His feet, to pour our lives out as an offering, because we know by faith that His way is best. To live in His will is better then living comfortably in out own. Steel is only strengthened by fire. Tress grow deeper roots when blown by the wind. Our faith is stronger and our understanding of God is increased when life asks us to walk by faith and not by sight.

Most of you know I meet Andrea at a street light. I looked to the car next to me and I looked into those beautiful blue eyes. But that is not what drew me to her. Nor was not her warm smile. It was something in her eyes, it was her spirit. There was something about her, all I knew was this, she had what I needed in my life, the missing piece. At that moment I could not even tell you what it was but I quickly learned it was her faith. Andrea believed in God. I mean believed no matter what, like some of you have learned from knowing her. I needed that faith. God brought me to that place at that time for a reason.

Last night as we talked, I told her when, "I first saw you had a quality something I needed and I was drawn to you. I needed your faith."

She said, "You have it now."

Do I think it is a coincidence that later in our life God is requiring this very faith? No I think that was God's plan. God brought me to Andrea to learn and receive the very faith I would need to be her husband. I have been truly blessed beyond measure.

What more could I ask for in life?

I have a Godly wife.
I have the honor to be Andrea's husband, to be chosen to be the husband of a woman of such faith is humbling.
I married my best friend.
I can honestly say I would not change one thing about my marriage.
I have been blessed with the happiness of a 1000 lifetimes.
I witness daily up close, and behind closed doors a woman of such faith, and strength. It is not a mask it is who Andrea is.
I am a better person, and husband having known Andrea.
I know I will one day be with Andrea in heaven and this life is just a blur, a blink in time. I need not hold on so tightly.

You see when I think of this whole trial, not just bits and pieces of it but life, death, faith, and God in its entirety, my fear and worry melt away. And I do not worry that a doctor who speaks of Andrea as a fact, whose life's outcome is a forgone conclusion. His faith and life's work are grounded in his own ability and knowledge. He faces a far greater challenge then we do. Humbling himself and accepting salvation as a free gift.

We will not answer to a doctor but to our creator who has asked Andrea to be a witness for Him in a difficult time. Why does not matter. Faith when called upon will always involve acting without understanding. What matters is how we react. How we face the fiery furnace is how our faith is tested and proven of worth. If God calls us who are we to question. If we believe God is who He says He is then we really do not need to worry. Worry is just doubt creeping into our faith. We all battle with worry but in the end I fall back on the one statement that answers all my questions, worry, and fears.

God loves Andrea.

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