They warned us that his sores would get worse after radiation ended. A few days after he finished radiation, Andrew's sores began to continue past his mouth down into his throat. His neck started peeling, as if he had 2nd or 3rd degree burns. Thankfully, he wears two "pain patches" now, stickers he wears that provide a constant flow of pain meds, double what he had before. So, as bad as it looked, his body was numb to just about everything, including most of the pain.
Andrew had his last chemo on Tuesday. We were expecting this to be the worst one, but he said that he doesn't feel half as bad as last time. There's probably a number of factors why this one is better, but one of the reasons we suspect he has improved, ironically, is because he took only two of the four anti-nausea drugs. Andrew refused the two that keep him from sleeping at night. As a result, he basically slept 72 hours straight and he seems only to be continuing in the same pattern. He only awoke when I had to feed him or maybe to switch to another room to go back to sleep. So the nausea is much less, and any nausea he does have, he mostly sleeps through. This is just what we were hoping for.
Andrew said, 'If this is how much I actually need to sleep, you wonder why they gave me stimulants. One of the worst forms of torture has got to be forcing someone to stay awake when they're so exhausted.' The Lord really answered our prayers that he wouldn't feel so sick and unbearably nauseous this time.
Preparing before Cancer
A few months before Andrew's cancer diagnosis, it was as if the Lord was preparing me for this. A couple of times, I had this vague image flash through my mind of Andrew being totally bedridden, unable to even open his mouth to talk to me. I remember weighing it in my mind for a moment. What would I do in such a situarion? I would have to choose to love him with all my heart and take care of him, though maybe all the things I love about him might not even show through if he was terribly ill. It would be hard to not even be able to converse. I shrugged it off as fear and thinking on what's untrue. And even if there was any truth to it, I thought, it was probably not something to worry about for another forty years or more. Twenty years at the least. Hopefully.
Then, after we found out Andrew had cancer, as I begged the Lord that he wouldn't have to go through radiation and chemo, it kept coming to mind that the Lord wanted to bring us to complete weakness. He wanted to press us. He wanted me to take care of my husband, in the way I had pictured, for more than just a few days after surgery. He wanted me to practice it so that it was like doing scales on the piano day after day.
Being Stuffed into a Play-doh Press
The past few months remind me of A.J.'s play-doh press. You stuff the play-doh into the contraption. The play-doh puts up a lot of resistance, so you gradually push the handle down. When the play-doh is as compressed as it can get, the pressure becomes so great that it finally squeezes the play-doh out of the hole. I feel as if that is what the Lord has been doing to me. Andrew's second chemo, when it was so awful, was like the period when the pressure on the play-doh is the greatest, when the handle is pushed all the way down, and finally all the junk comes squeezing out. The Lord showed me what I was really made out of. Where my hope really lay. Was my hope in Him, was it eternal, or was it for here and now? Was sunshine, comfort, and ease all I am living for? Have I bought in to the American dream that much?
One of the blessings of this trial, as all the junk is being exposed, is that Andrew and I are taking turns holding each other up. "Two are better than one...If one falls down, his friend can help him up...Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken" (Eccl.4:10,12). I've never thought of myself as a particularly envious person before. Yet as this trial has worn on, I find myself struggling with envy towards nearly everyone, anyone younger, prettier, living where the sun actually shines. Andrew reminded me, I've been told a lie all my life. For all of history, life has not been easy for people. Yet only now, in modern America, where our country is so prosperous, do we expect life to be easy. Then, when it's not, we're confused and frustrated. He reminded me that I was not thinking on what's eternal, but on what's visible.
When Andrew is feeling so discouraged by his discomfort, and fears a future of continual struggles with cancer, I remind him that tomorrow is too big of a burden for us to carry. Today has enough trouble of its own. The Lord has not provided the grace yet for the unknown future, only for right now. We have to live by faith, not by sight.
But as we confess our struggles to one another and try to help each other with the truths of God's Word, true fellowship occurs. Then praise God! Let us glory in God's promises and His Word together, and if trials are what drives us to those, then thank the Lord for those trials. Because nothing is sweeter and more satisfying than God, talking about Him, what He says and does.
The Depths that Lead to Heights
After Andrew's second chemo, laying in the dark as he heaved repeatedly with nothing coming out, I thought, We are in the depths. We are finally here. Where the Lord wanted to take us. Since then, my times alone with the Lord in the morning, when I can read His Word and pray, have been what they should be, sweet, rich, preparing me for what the day has ahead, leaving my heart filled with peace so that I can approach my day undistracted by anxieties. I find contentment not in whether things are going well or not, but in my time alone with the Lord. I'm able to lay all my burdens upon Him and cry out for wisdom about all the things I'm perplexed about. And He quiets me, bringing to mind answers to my cries, correcting me and reassuring me with His Word. "Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us" (Psalm 62:8)
Prior to Andrew's second chemo, I still felt a little cold in my heart, independent, self-reliant. But at the end of myself, the Lord drew me to Him each morning, and gradually turned my heart towards Him again. And now I long to flee to Him each day, unable to face the day without first carrying all my anxieties before Him. It's a life-long battle to not become cold. But in weakness, when we can no longer depend upon ourselves but on Him, He is our strength.
When I shared all these things with Andrew, he said, "Then I'm happy, now, that I had to go through that."
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2 Cor. 4:7-10).
In so many ways, we feel like we could not have done without this trial. We see His mercy in being so jealous for His glory that He would be willing to do this in order for us to grow. While we pray that these radiation and chemo treatments are effective and that the Lord in His mercy and compassion heals Andrew, we do not feel bitter for these sufferings, we feel grateful.