Sunday, November 4, 2012

Everywhere I go, the first thing out of people's mouths is how much better I look. I feel much better too. Considering the fact that I greatly need a hair cut and a shave (as some would say and often point out), I wonder - exactly how bad DID I LOOK? I know I looked pretty bad. I've seen photos, and immediately upon returning home from Pittsburgh, people's initial reaction, one of complete shock at my appearance, was a dead giveaway as to how low any appearance of good health had gone. I am feeling better too; At least most days. Still, the past couple days have been a little rough. I'm still in some pain, and some days are worse than others. I know that it takes quite a while for your system to get back to "normal" after a colostomy reversal, and I am just going to have to endure it. I've had a stomachache, non-stop for a month. Still, the pain is nowhere near the magnitude of last summer. Comparatively, I wouldn't even call this pain. Some of my stamina, agility and strength are coming back. When out fossil hunting, I find myself looking up at rock shelves high up on a rock face, and I think, "I bet there's fossils up there". Before I can talk myself out of it, I’m clinging to the rock faces, pulling myself up to that unexplored/perhaps unexplorable place. Sometimes there are interesting things there to look at, pick up even. Sometimes there are even things to chip off the bedrock and take home with me. But usually not. Still, despite the work gone into achieving the place, I am never disappointed with its inventory. It seems, having gotten there in the first place was the true object of the hunt. It wasn't very long ago; navigating modern, well-lit staircases equipped with all the latest safety features (hand rails) was something of a challenge. Now I am scurrying along like… well, maybe not quite like a billy goat, but at least like a panda bear. I am about half way "back" to my norm. (I use quotation on the word "back" because, the way I used it implies a complete return, and I am just not sure that I am suppose to make it all the way back). All things considered, I am doing well. Which isn't to say that it always feels that way. My doctors and nurses here and in Pittsburgh are keeping a very close watch on me. CT scans every three months. At least one, usually two phone calls from and to Pittsburgh a week. Office visits here at home twice, usually three or four times a month… the medical attention is unending. And that is how I want it to be. That is how it is suppose to be. The reason for this aggressive postoperative attention is the same thing that causes my depression and anxiety even in spite of my obvious recoveries. Medically, there is no cure for the cancer I have/had in the way that I had it. There is no, nor will there ever be, "remission" for me. Yet, when I am skipping along the rocks surroundings the lake, under beautifully blue October and November sky's, or when I feel just on the verge of taking upward stairs two at a time again, I feel confident I will create remission for this cancer. Some patients who have had this cancer in the way that I had it, do survive. They are few, but they exist. On those days when things are firing on all two and a half cylinders, I am able to set aside this horrible illness in my heart and in my head and enjoy life at the moment. In fact, I am blessed, perhaps uniquely, in that I am able to believe that I will survive, and at the same time retain some of the acceptance I have gained, if I fall ill again. Those are the good days. On the not-so-good days, I usually find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. And when I do, I am in a lot of pain. On these days, I usually have to sit up for a while before I am manage to cook the coffee, or even get to the bathroom. On these days, I feel certain that I reside within the %92 whose disease will return. And every little pain that I have only confirms that it has probably already returned. When I do manage to get up for the day, I feel so depressed that I wish I could go back to sleep. On the worst days, which are few and far between, I don't want to be awake. When I am awake, the circumstances feel as it I am in a small room with an angry grisly bear with absolutely no way to escape the room (awake being the locked room, and the cancer being the grisly). I still have… I still have those harsh moments of disbelief. Sometimes, sitting quietly, the words enter my brain, "Wait a minute! I have cancer? How the hell did that happen?" On these days, I simply don't have the energy or the heart to go out, and I invariably go back to bed and find complete mercy and sanctuary in sleep. To those who criticize me for sleeping most of any given day, stating that it doesn't seem like the best way to handle the pain and depression, all I can say is, if they knew how much it hurt to be awake, they'd not ask me to remain that way. The good news is, even at my worst, I never loose all hope. There is always a spattering of it. In fact, there have been only two days that I had no hope at all. One was the day they told me I was sick, and the second was the day they told me I was sick again. Life with cancer is not easy. But honestly, I find it only slightly more difficult than the life I had before cancer. LIFE IS NOT EASY FOR ANYBODY, and those who are living normal lives; lives without cancer are not given the level of care, concern and prayer that I and my fellow cancer patients are given. It seems so obvious to me now, we should have compassion and offer blessings to EVERY PERSON regardless of their health. A life with or without cancer is a vast and unimaginable blessing, both full of joy and happiness. It is also, at times, indescribably difficult, wrought with disbelief and despair. Our compassion for the "human condition", and every person alive should fill our hearts. And the in-between times, when things are not great, but not poor either, I am, at times, left asking one question in a multitude of ways: Do my joys outweigh my sorrows? Is life a blessing or a curse? If I had a choice, would I have been born? No matter how bad things get, or seem to get… No matter how much pain I have, no matter how burdensome the depression, fear and anxiety, I would answer this question, yes, my joys do outweigh my sorrows and that life is a blessing despite it's occasional difficulties (no matter how desperate). I would be born again, given the choice. I would do this because there is a loving creator who cares about my life. There is a living God who insures that we will make it through to better times, and better places. [Revelations 21:4 "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away".] And until that comes to pass, He has even given us instructions for passing through the low times. [Psalms 23 "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; they rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. He said also, [Philippians 4 " Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."] I often feel unqualified to speak about God and what He does for me. I have, in the past, turned my back on Him. I do this even in these times now. Of course I have sinned. I have always prayed, even if not every day. But through this illness I have moved closer to God; and even that causes me to feel unworthy. That I had to become very sick before I would take the time to nurture the relationship I have with my God. Through my study of mathematics, physics and geology, my belief in God has only been strengthened. Still, along with my belief in God I also believe in many things that some biblical scholars would require that I remain unsaved by Jesus Christ. But for me, only Divinity is shown in the most elegant equations of the Universe, and because I have accepted Christ into my heart and allowed Him to save me from my sins, I am saved. To share "proof" of God's existence, complicated and complex mathematical derivations are not required for me to explain the evidence I see for the existence of God. That can be done with two simple FACTS… I live in a World with eyes and a heart and mind that can see and be profoundly affected by unimaginable beauty. I live in a world with a heart that feels deep compassion for my fellow man and my fellow creatures. A godless universe would not contain these things. I am only human - I say that because I do have low times; Times when I inadvertently place my faith and hope on trial. But those times are not as many as the times I feel God's presence inside me. And I feel the Holy Spirit fill me up and bring to me the strength I would not otherwise have in order to live successfully in a beautiful, amazing, harsh and dangerous World.