(Alert, alert. Lots of parentheticals, faith stuff and – trigger warning -- Bible ahead. Be forewarned.)
Last Wednesday I had PET/CT scans. Two days ago Terisa, our daughter Abby, son-in-law Kyle and I ventured up to L.A. to see Dr. Lenz to get the results. When you are waiting for Dr. Lenz, you know when he is approaching. His voice rises and falls as he moves through the halls of the clinic, penetrating walls and doors. He is a whirlwind of activity and sound, tireless, shouting orders to staff, looking after his patients, moving at warp speed. You know that he is the boss.
Upon taking a seat in the exam room the boss looked at us and, in his inimitable German accent, gave his customary greeting: "Here are the troublemakers!" Then he said to me, "Well, the report is weird, you are a weird guy but it is working for you, so stay weird!"
That sums up my latest scans pretty nicely. (And me, too.) The current chemo regimen is doing what it is supposed to do. Tumors in my lungs have increased in size and number but decreased in metabolic activity. (Weird, but good...less active equals less strength.) The tumors in my liver have shrunk and show less activity. (All good.) A new 11mm tumor (very small) showed up on my adrenal gland, but it is only slightly above normal cell activity. (Not so good, but at least it's not fast-growing.) All but one abdominal and retroperitoneal lymph node metastases have decreased in size and activity. One is slightly larger and more active. (Not so good.) My blood tumor markers have decreased slightly. (Good.) Taken together, these results indeed are weird but good.
I may have mentioned it before, but when you have been living with metastatic cancer for a long time, reports like this are cause for celebration, not sadness. That the cancer is not spreading, not attacking organs or other systems, not causing pain or triggering other maladies, is a great blessing.
This might be hard to understand. To some, accepting that you are not in the fight for a cure or for total healing, but only to live a good life as long as the Lord wills, sounds like accepting defeat. It sounds like a lack of faith. Surely if you have enough faith you will be healed. Surely if you pray expecting to be healed it will be granted to you.
As a Christian, I do believe that God heals. But I don’t think it has to do with the strength of my own faith. I’m pretty sure I do not have enough faith.
There is a story in the gospel of Matthew about the father of a demon-possessed boy who approaches Jesus. He knows of Jesus’s reputation. He wants Jesus to heal the boy. He tells Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus responds, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” (This verse often is taken out of context and used to justify the claim that all it takes is belief.) Then the father shouts out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (See Matthew 9 for the full account).
I am like that father. I believe, but to be honest, my unbelief is stronger. Thankfully, where I rate on the belief meter is not the final word. In the story just mentioned, as in other stories in the New Testament, healing occurs not as a result of the faith of the sick person, but after friends or relatives seek out Jesus on his or her behalf (see Mark 55:21-42, and Luke 4:34-39). Sometimes, Jesus even heals on his own initiative those who have no faith (see Mark 5:1-16).
These stories tell me that weak though my faith may be, should Jesus choose to heal me completely – through the faith of family or friends, the prayers of the righteous, the work of my medical team, or just because he wants to – the decision belongs to him. I know he is wise, and he is good. I know this from what the Bible tells me and my experience during the last 40 years of walking with him. I know that he will make the right decision. I take comfort that I don’t have to be perfect, find the right formula, seek out the right faith healer or herbal tea or diet (all of which I have been told at one time). I don’t have to stress about my lack of faith. His grace is sufficient.
In other news, Abby confirmed that my impersonations of Dr. Lenz over the years have been very poor.
Thanks, as always, for your prayers, friendship and support.
Until next time....