At this time tomorrow (11:00a.m.) I will be checking into the cancer center for my first chemo treatment. As much as I don't want to go through this experience, I also want to get it started. As Mary Poppins says, "Well begun is half done."
I have received a revised schedule that was not great news. Fortunately I had warnings from friends who have battled cancer that these changes are par for the course so I was prepared to hear this news. Instead of 4 treatments, I will be receiving 6 rounds of 2 treatments each round. Feels like a lot. If I'm understanding the nurse's explanation correctly, that translates into chemo every other week for the next 6 months. The opposite weeks of treatments will be lab work and screenings/tests. The drugs I am using pose risks to my cardio and pulmonary health in addition to depleting my immune system so the doctor wants to monitor all of me closely. The doctor has not scheduled radiation, I was glad to hear that. She had told me I would be receiving radiation however. I believe she was preparing me based on the large size of the nodules throughout my neck, armpits and chest but if my body responds well to the chemotherapy that additional treatment may become unnecessary. One day at a time.
It turns out Reese Witherspoon works at my cancer center. Just kidding. My education nurse did remind me a lot of a cute, blonde, perky, southern belle she might play in a movie though. She was very sweet and took a lot of time to explain all the details of my treatment plan to me. I especially liked the part at the end when she held a pen and paper in front of me to sign. (As you read these words, picture a perky Reese with that syrupy southern drawl) "This just states that I have reviewed the likely side effects of your chemotherapy drugs, that you agree to treatment and understand all the risks involved," chin drop, soft eyes and meek voice, she continues, "including that you could experience death." What can I do but laugh. My dear lawyer friend reminded me yesterday that clause is written on everything I sign that releases me to do anything - enter an amusement park, ride a horse etc. Really, I'm not afraid of dying, actually did find the comment humorous.
I came across this verse yesterday and more than any so far it connected to something within me.
1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to his [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.
The truth that God has called me is of course elementary and profound all in one fell swoop. He is God, it is elementary that He would call me because it is His very being to love and include and desire my nearness. That the God of all creation would call me at all, much less His own, call me to His Glory is completely unfathomable, He Is God - what am I but a mere creation in utter dependence of His utter independence. To possess the peace of His love and the obedience of His Will is a perhaps seemingly contradictory but actually completely compatible duo of perfection in Christ.
Being called to Glory demands an answer. An answer of obedience that is often provoked in suffering, of dying to self that He may do the completing and making me of what I ought to be, establishing and grounding me. And then, settling me. I love that thought of being settled. My mac dictionary likes the legal definitions of settling a matter but that is not what my heart hears in this verse - though there is plenty of truth to be found there as well. When I look to Webster's 1828 Dictionary, I find this definition: "To place in a permanent condition after wandering or fluctuation." That sounds so sweet to me - no suffering, strife, separation, question, lacking, conflict, incompleteness, no unsettled matters between created and Creator. Miss Witherspoon like nurse can throw out those syrupy words and get my signature on anything she wants if it will settle me after a little while.
The next verse in 1 Peter is my favorite though.
11 To Him be the dominion (power, authority, rule) forever and ever. Amen (so be it).
This is what I am finally really getting. It's not about me! I can't say that strongly enough. He Is the Dominion, the Power, the Authority, the Rule, Forever. Frontward, backward, sideways, up, down and every which way. Who am I but the created. The beautiful mystery of Jesus is in getting that it's not about me. It's not about me, it's all about Him. The mystery is that in letting go, really dying to that thing I hold very most precious - me - I lose nothing and gain everything.
I continue to feel vulnerable, in cancer, in sharing my heart but to be engaged in this most real experience feels incomplete if something doesn't come from it besides me getting better from cancer. In learning to be loved, in illness I hope I am also learning to really love.