What a fantastic week. I really can’t say I have had a better week than this week. This week has definitely been the best week of 2014 and maybe 2013 too. Why? Well because every single day more and more of the past 18 weeks of chemo drugs have drifted from my blood stream. Every day I feel better and better. The numbness in my toes and fingertips has subsided to almost nothing. The metallic mouth is almost non-existent. No sign of a migraine. It truly is a dream come true and an answered prayer. Just a little relief has been incredible.
What a week. After such a celebration last week you would think that was the final note, the end, the last tale, but alas I was not out of the woods yet. In fact the chemo has been dragging the cancer out of me this week…..kicking and screaming all the way. No one ever told me that cancer would be easy to beat nor did they say that it would go off without a hitch. I just stupidly assumed those things. This last chemo treatment went in without a fault and I got many congrats and lots of pats on the back, but the thing is that the treatment is only half the journey. The rest of the journey is what it does to you on the way out. I was living on the high of being done with my chemo regime. Friday I taught all day, Saturday I had Keifer’s (really great greek food) with my wife on a beautiful day. I got to celebrate with my very good friend Adam in preparation for his wedding in a few weeks. I was really living. Sunday I knew would be the beginnings of the tough days so I took it slow that morning and then actually made my way to the MS Mu Alpha Theta competition. I was the needed second sponsor for our trip and our high school brought about 25 kids so I came for moral support mainly. Truly I sat with the students that were inbetween events or not in other events and tried to just stay chill. I made it through Sunday without incident and really enjoyed my time with our Mathletes (Mu Alpha Theta is a math organization for high school and junior college students).
Disclaimer: If you watch Parenthood and did not see the episode from tonight 4/10/14 I WILL spoil it for you if you read on. That is all.
Today is a day that I typically dread. It’s chemo day. But today was last chemo day. So naturally I was pumped. Don’t get me wrong, I am still pumped to be done. Since last week I got to spend a great weekend at Lake Bruin, LA with some great friends for some much needed down time. This week has been super busy at school and I really haven’t had much time to think on the magnitude of this trip to the chemo dock.
However, my spirits were high. I constantly updated my facebook and twitter accounts with the final treatment festivities. Festivities being sitting in a chair getting poison pumped into my bloodstream. I did however do something unique. Not only was today the final chemo treatment for me, but it is also Disney’s It’s a Small World’s 50th anniversary celebration. Last Friday my students and I uploaded a video of us all singing the theme from It’s a Small World to help benefit Unicef. Our video was epic. So of course during chemo I watch one of the men that wrote It’s a Small World, Richard Sherman, live in front of the ride in Disneyland answering questions about the song and the ride. This ride of course gets a song stuck in your head and you will all probably hate me for mentioning it. But that’s where our connections begin in this blog post.
It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a Small World after all – Richard and Robert Sherman
Readers it truly is a small world. A great big, beautiful small world. Over the past 18 weeks I have battled through 8 chemo treatments. It has been one of the most terrible experiences of my life, if not the worst. And yet it has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. Cancer sucks mainly because it is like the white witch from Narnia. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be aggressive and angry or it can be slow and sneaky. No matter which way it comes at you, it disrupts and dismantles. Through my diagnosis, I have met so many others with similar, easier, and harder diagnosis. I have met amazing people who have lived through worse treatments than me, and I have seen others who have passed since I started treatment. The thing is that any one of those people could have been me and I could have been any of them.
Tonight’s episode of Parenthood was incredible. I told my wife (who currently has to wake up at 3:15) that I needed her to be with me to watch it tonight (which meant staying up til 10:00). She graciously did. The reason is that I had seen in passing that a character would be returning to the show for an episode. That character was Gwen. Gwen was Christina’s (one of the main characters) friend throughout her bought with breast cancer last season. Gwen is constantly showing up on the show having a relapse of cancer. This episode was incredibly tough, because Gwen passes away in the episode. Christina immediately wants to know why. Why does she get to live and be a mom, wife, daughter, sister, etc. and Gwen does not. Why? It’s such a hard question. In the end Gwen gives a gift to Christina of money to help open a new charter school for exceptional children. Carly and I sat on the bed and wept, because that could be me. That could be me. I will never stop getting checked for cancer for the rest of my life. Also that could be my friends, family, or strangers that I will never know. That could be them. The weight of this disease is incredible……no wonder it makes you so strong.
Wednesday nights I have had the opportunity to lead a bible study on the book of Romans for the past few months. Of course I have skipped a few nights because of chemo side effects, but for the most part I am there. This week we studied Romans 9, which I found tough to teach from. But, there was a verse that I want to talk about now.
“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” – Rom 9:20-21
As a sinner, I deserve death, but Christ gives life. I want to tell God all the time, “I know what’s best for me. Here is a list of the things you should make happen.” But see God, the potter took a lump of clay. The same lump of clay that he used to make everyone else, yes even you. He took that clay and made something out of it. He could make a special vase used for special occasions or he could use an everyday cup that gets worn out from daily use. Both these items fulfill a purpose for His glory and we as the clay have a hard time seeing that purpose from the beginning. I have no idea why some die from cancer and some live. I have no idea why I’m still here, but I know who does. Readers many of you have known me since I was a born, maybe you were even there when I came into the world. Many of you might have cancer just like me. Most of you know someone with it. I want you to remember that we are all from the same clay and the same creator. We were molded for a certain purpose and put in this small world. You are still here for a reason. Right now I am the piece of clay that writes what the Potter tells me to each Thursday night. I will continue to do that until He tells me it is time to go back on the shelf.
At the end of my chemo today, a few amazing things happened. The nurses brought me a Purple Heart Certificate to celebrate that I had finished my regimen of chemo. Now I have a Purple Heart like my grandfather does. Although Papaw (Jimmy Clayton) got his from the Battle of the Bulge and another off the coast of France. So completely different, but then I heard the Andy Griffith show theme and remembered Mayberry. I remembered that right now he is there with no diabetes and he is there with my other grandfather Papaw Knot (Benoit Yelverton) who passed from this cancer disease before I met him. I know that right now they could be swapping stories of war because one was in Europe and the other in the Pacific. I just know they are both in Mayberry.
I don’t know all the answers Readers, in fact I know very few of them. All I know is that there are lessons here for all of us. We are all so similar to each other. Love one another. I also know that I’m still here for a purpose. And I will continue to serve the one that knows that purpose. Love God.
“Somewhere down the road, they’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road, though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road, you will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road.” – Amy Grant
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Rom 8:28
As Ernest Hemingway said, “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I assure you I have cried my share on this post.
I am still here, it’s a small world after all, and there is a reason. I love you all Readers. Journey strong.
First off let me say this has been a great week….comparatively. We tried some anti-anxiety medicine to calm down my heart rate and nerves and stop the onslaught of migraines. This worked. Also, I took it easy. I didn’t do much to write about. Also a gift from our now good friend Patty, has done wonders as well. She sent me a few boxes of Migraine patches that work sort of like ice packs, aromatherapy, and Dr. Scholls for your head. At the first tick of a headache, I put one of these cool patches on my head and there is almost instant relief. Definitely a blessing. I say that I took it slow this week and I am being honest. The weather was so beautiful this week and we really wanted to get out and take a walk. I had the start of a migraine by the time we were around the block. Home we went and we stopped it before it started. So needless to say, Chemo has made me pretty pitiful when it comes to athletic activity.