This past Sunday, Elizabeth and I rode a roller coaster in Spirit Lake, Iowa, called The Legend. Originally built in 1930, I used to ride the old wooden coaster when I was a kid. It seemed really old and rickety back then—more than 25 years ago—and it still makes a distinct clickety-clack clickety-clack as it passes each section of the track. While devoid of any loop-the-loops or other inverted thrills, the ride featured plenty of steep drops and climbs to keep it entertaining.
A roller coaster is a very apt illustration of how things have been for Elizabeth and I the past few weeks, both emotionally and especially as it has related to our hope during my health journey.
We have seen elements of our hope snuffed out, only to see it rebuilt again quickly and strongly.
I am continually reminded, that without hope, you are pretty much dead before you are actually dead. You die before you are dying. That may sound morbid, but when you are confronted with cancer, or really anything potentially life-threatening, it is wise to consider your own mortality, and just how important a thing like hope is in this process.
As the main character in the movie Shawshank Redemption says, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” The Apostle Paul says it is one of the three big things that remain in this transient life: faith, hope and love.
Some of you have wondered about the results of my scan, and I will get to that below. In short, the news is good. But I am definitely not out of the woods yet.
The scan on August 25 showed that my treatment is working, and that all areas of the cancer have shrunk or been eliminated—in my ribs, my back and even in the source, my liver. Cancer in bones is hard to track in a CT scan, but the scan showed signs of the bones healing (which they don’t do when cancer is present). The two spots on my liver appeared to be dead or dying, having been starved of blood and oxygen by the targeted genomic drug.
I can literally feel these results. I have felt quite good for several months, and have not taken any painkillers since June. My back pain from last spring has improved dramatically. Though I am feeling better, the chemo continues to decrease my energy each week bit by bit, which is to be expected.
So, the big picture is that we have good news. Then, why this talk about our hope taking a hit? When we met with my oncologist, he seemed curiously pessimistic about the results. A big reason is the nature of my cancer: incurable. Elizabeth and I were taken aback by his reaction. We thought the news of my scan was reason to celebrate, but the way he explained it, the news seemed mixed.
For a few days, we felt under a very dark cloud—that we had no hope and that it was meaningless to keep on fighting. The loss of hope felt like a decay in our bones and hearts. It was also perplexing because things have improved and I clearly feel better.
In the midst of our despair, I sensed the Lord told me to celebrate the news, as an act of obedience and declaring his goodness in the midst of things. And so we tried to by going out to my favorite Indian restaurant, but the celebration was certainly muted.
Yet as we continued to pray, I felt like a better outlook was coming. A few days later, we met with the treatment research team who gave a much different take on my results: “remarkable” is what they said. The markers of cancer in my blood decreased from 5% down to 0.2% and the readings of my liver that were once three times the normal limit have returned to normal. This is due, in large part, to the breakthrough immunotherapy treatment, not to mention the Cabo drug they have me on. My progress has been so good that they want me to appear in a video promoting the research center.
I can’t fully explain all of the medical details, but clearly significant things have been happening. And I feel good, other than treatment-caused fatigue. Praise God. Other than a full-blown miracle where the cancer instantaneously disappears, this is really good news.
And, so we press on in hope—that the Lord will keep seeing us through this journey. That the treatment will continue to work and I can get into a stable place. That we can return to Colorado. That the Lord will continue to use us where he has us—whether here or wherever.
Through this process, we have known we always have eternal hope in God. He is our absolute bedrock. “As for me, I will always have hope…” says Psalm 71. Along with that, it’s been a breath of fresh air to see the Lord provide some circumstantial and medical hope, too.
Thanks to all of those who have been praying for my family and me. It means a lot to us.
I could write for days about all of the things that have been in my heart the last few weeks, but it is overwhelming. I will leave it at this for now.