Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Glimpse Behind the Curtain

[updated version of earlier post as I gear up to head back out to Houston]

"Rumor grew of a shadow...a nameless fear..."
Fellowship of the Ring

I'll name that fear: metastatic melanoma.

(Apologies for letting you all see behind the curtain, so to speak....but here it is.)

The line above from the opening narration of the movie version of Fellowship of the Ring absolutely nails what happens every four months. Mercifully, that shadow is hidden most of the time; but it's still very much there for anyone who has ever had an aggressive form of cancer that's prone to come back. (Like, say, metastatic melanoma.)

But then comes the trip out to Houston. And the reminder that this is NOT one of those fun travel adventures that Lisa & I really love to have. We're here for a reason. And that reason makes the shadow grow, slowly & steadily.

We check in to the Motel. "We'd like the medical rate, please." And the shadow grows.

Lodging is not far from where the NFL's Houston Texans practice and play.  As much as I really love football, it won't really pierce the shadow very much.

I'll drive through Baton Rouge; Lisa & I enjoyed attending our first-ever LSU game there last Fall.  But the shadow...

I'll drive through south Louisiana, a fascinating part of the country to me.  The Achafalaya Swamp, Po-Boys sold everywhere, rice fields,...None of which pierces the shadow.

The familiar Houston traffic. The signs "610 South." And the shadow comes out of hiding.

(Again, forgive my whining here; just trying to let you in on what this trip does to one's psyche every. single. time. Well, to mine, at least.)

Partial view of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
A fantastic facility populated with tremendous folks doing amazing work;
a place I wish wasn't necessary.
This past year, my beloved brother began his own cancer journey.  Mesothelioma in his case.  By the grace of God as exhibited through some highly-skilled Drs. in Pittsburgh, his first year has gone about as well as possible.  Most of the time, the shadow of his journey is hidden too, as we talk of much more joyous things.  A visit to M.D. Anderson brings that part of our family's shadow out of hiding too.

I hate cancer!

I do not fear a P.E.T. scan. An IV stick, the injection, a mandatory 1-hour nap to allow the stuff to circulate, and the ~40-minute scan. No biggie.

However, my blood pressure will be elevated Friday morning as I watch the clock tick S L O W L Y toward 11. Walking in for the results appointment is good for an extra 20 points on my systolic number.

In a matter of seconds, we'll get the word.  Eight times in a row now, we've heard the magic, shadow-dispelling words "Your P.E.T. scan looks great; all clear!" Three years of P.E.T. scans prior, we did not hear those words.  I have the nasty scars & unpleasant memories that go along with that.

Thus, the shadow. The nameless fear (OK, it's now named.)

I do not fear death, for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day. But I do fear what a bad P.E.T. scan could imply between now & that day.

I fear its effect(s) on me physically in terms of treatment, but also its effect(s) on my life. I fear an epitaph that says "A nice enough guy I guess." I fear dishonoring my faith & my Lord by not making a difference for the Kingdom & for the Gospel. I fear leaving my family ill equipped & provided for. And, to be sure, I fear chemo (which I've never had). I fear bone marrow transplants (ditto). I fear immunotherapy (which I have had).  I fear not finishing well.

So, if you're expecting a lighthearted post with a pleasant conclusion, it's not happening. Maybe next time. *smile* 

And should I hear the magic, shadow-dispelling sentence again, this post will be an embarassing bad memory that makes me have a sheepish grin. 

For four months.  At which point I could write it again.

Thanks so much for your prayers & friendship during this journey!

"And You were the one Who filled my cup. And you were the One Who let it spill. So blessed be Your Holy Name, if You never fill it up again. If this is where my story ends, just give me one more breath to say, 'Hallelujah!'"
from "Broken Praise," by Todd Smith (based on the story of Job; one of my very favorite songs)

p.s. - I drive out Wednesday, have all the medical fun Thursday, the latest most-important-of-my-life Dr. appt. Friday, followed by the drive home.  Your prayers for safe travels & clear, accurate scans showing nothing are MOST welcome & appreciated beyond mere words.

No comments: