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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lessons Learned

Yesterday Andrea went in for chemo and what should have been a 6 hour day turned into a 15 hour day. There were so many things that went wrong, so much frustration I really don't want to focus on that part of the day. I would rather tell you about three parts that will remain with me, Dora a friend, Baily a nurse, and a lesson in love thy neighbor.

I saw my friend Dora, (see my previous blog, A Friend in Need") a woman who is regrettable caught up in the net of cancer. I have found a unique bond with her as both our spouses are fighting stage IV cancer. We were both frustrated by not being allowed to sit with our spouses during treatment. As Dora said, "I need to be there to comfort him and feed him his soup." You see a woman who is scared like I am, a woman in love with her spouse like I am, and a woman who just wants to be beside her best friend, like I do. We spent a good two hours trying to find someone who would listen to our complaint. Trying to express the difficulty of being forbidden to sit with our spouse. It is leaving them in their time of need, we feel that we have abandoned them to face this horror alone. Do they think our spouses are simply getting medicine in that room? Asking them to sit alone for hours with no magazines nothing at all to distract their minds from the chemo room with the beeping pumps and the other patients sitting in silence staring into space. It is the most insensitive thing to tell someone, there is no room for you to sit with your loved on during chemo. No room? Is that all this is we don't have the space to give someone comfort in such a time of need. Have we lost sight of what is going on here? God forbid who ever made this rule has to ever sit alone in that chair, weak, sick, exhausted, scared, and alone staring at the walls for 5 hours waiting to go home and be sick, all because there is no room for their spouse to sit and hold their hand.

Since I was told I could not be in the chemo room and there was no room for a chair, I told them I would stand. Next to Andrea was an open chemo chair. Never offered to me, in fact the nurse subtly left some things on the chair as if to say, "This space is needed." As the day went on I knelt on the floor next to Andrea. The nurse decided to sit in the empty chemo chair to fill out some paperwork, leaving their own stool and desk empty. No problem I was not leaving, there was no amount of pain in my knees that would make me get up. I was with my wife who has endured more pain then I will ever know and I was not leaving her side. She would not sit alone in the chemo room. I made that vow a long time ago, and never has Andrea been alone. Either myself or a girlfriend has always been with her. In the end I guess the nurse had enough and he slide me a stool to sit on.

I want to share was our meeting with Baily, a wonderful nurse who showed me how cancer changes who you are forever.

As I have said before, one of the harder more subtle things about cancer is how it can control your life, and as much as I hate it, cancer is part of me. It consumes our life, there is no part of our daily life that cancer does not impact. It controls what we do and when we do it. Nothing rises above its importance. All plans are subject to change. That is how I would say life is with cancer. It takes the number one priority in your life and demands your full attention. We would love to go see Nic and Kate at Thanksgiving, but the decision is not ours, we have to see if cancer will allow us to go.

Baily, a nurse in the bone marrow transplant was assigned to care for Andrea until the night shift came in. A fantastic nurse who kindness and love melted away all the tension from the events of the chemo room. During one of her checks on Andrea we began to talk about our families. Turns out Baily has a daughter, 20, studying to be a nurse. Baily said, "She will make a good nurse, everyone says, just like her mother." She went on to say, "I hope she goes into Oncology nursing." Baily said she had lost her husband to cancer when her daughter was 14. I watched as she began to relive the pain, tears began to roll down her cheeks, as she remembered the loss, and the sadness was in her every word. I realized cancer forever changes who you are. I realized no matter what the outcome is I am forever changed by cancer. My hope that one day we will leave this all behind is a false hope. This experience is not something you leave, it becomes a part of you. There is no time or distance that can separate myself from this. It may lessen but just like Baily, in a instant to comes back and reminds you, we are still together.

In the tears on Baily's face I realized cancer will be with me the rest of my life. I was a little sad.

The final event of the long day was a lesson in love. Andrea and I are doing a Bible study on the fruit of the spirit. It has been our prayer over the past several weeks that God would fill us and lead us by His spirit. The study is based on

Gal 5:22-25

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

We were sent to the bone marrow transplant unit so she could get a blood transfusion to help boost her red blood cells to and hopefully boost her energy level. It is nothing more than trying manage her symptoms and make life more comfortable. We were there from 4:00-9:30 and we were alone. It turned out to be a very relaxing evening on a very hectic day. I got in the chair next to Andrea and we reclined together, we napped, we had dinner, and we talked about the day. What we realized was we failed to reacted to the days events with the fruit of the spirit, particularly love. I don't mean it was wrong for us to speak up when the nurses left Andrea waiting for three hours for her chemo drugs, nor was it wrong to fight them when them would not allow me to sit with Andrea during treatment. But God asks us to love them, not tolerate them but love them as He loves us. It was a realization that what we have been saying with our words had not become a part of our life. It was a lesson for both of us that the Bible is full of life changing verses but it takes more then just reading them, they must become a part of us, to change how we think and act.

I was reminded how I failed to live as God as called me. It reminded me of

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love,
I gain nothing.

I also was reminded again that this trail, this journey is about people. People I share a common experience with, people who are hurting, people who frustrate me, but all people God loves. People God calls me to love.

I realized that as I pray for the fruit of the Spirit God is going to answer that prayer by giving me opportunities to demonstrate them. If I ask to be lead by the Spirit, God will give me the opportunity to live what I'm asking. Am I ready to live a life that reflects what my heart is asking for? Today, I learned it is easier to show love to those I like, and my human emotions fight against God's command to love thy enemy.

Today I learned as always, I have more work to do.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I need to get the "big picture" on life I come to your blog. A blog entry that starts off describing a 15 hour day at the hospital enduring uncaring nurses, harsh treatments, blood transfusions, pain, and sadness and ends finding the desire to "love thy enemies" is nothing short of miraculous! You two are amazing! The Holy Spirit shines in the two of you. I have no doubt you touched every person you came in contact with yesterday just as you have all along this journey. I believe that some day, the sadness you described in your entry will be filled with the most abundant undescribable joy. And just as cancer will never leave you, it will never possess you either. That place that is filled with a loving, merciful, powerful and gracious God.

    I pray blessings on you and your family daily. Thank you for blessing me with your lessons on love and humility.