Well the tables have certainly turned since I last posted. So many of you have been blowing up my phone, email, and Facebook with your prayers, encouragements, concerns, and desire to know what is going on. I'm sorry that I haven't been able to get back to all of you so this is a way for you to hear it right from me (sorry that it's so impersonal). I'll try not to ramble, but buckle up just in case...
I have this nasty little habit of being really, really stubborn sometimes. So when I started to develop some abnormal chest pain a few weeks ago, the "suck it up" mentality built into me from over a decade of wrestling kicked in and I decided work through it and let it pass. Well of course it did not pass and I started to consider that something might really be wrong. I finally went into the school health center and after some minimal testing, they didn't suspect anything, but they decided that I should pay the Emergency Room a visit because of the way I answered some of their questions.
To make a long story short, I left the emergency room with a packet of papers and a disk full of x-ray pictures that presented several possibilities for the softball sized mass that I have growing right underneath my chest wall and pressing against my windpipe and blood vessels. It was quite a way to head into the weekend, but luckily my parents and girlfriend, Lindsay, were coming in for my senior wrestling banquet, so I didn't have to deal with this all by myself. We did our best to stay off the internet and look up all of the possibilities because we knew it would just freak us out and add more stress than necessary. Well Monday morning came around and when my mom called the specialist for our appointment, we discovered that the nurse practitioner had not called ahead and scheduled the appointment like she was supposed to. A quick whirlwind of decisions left me packing, calling, and emailing, to let folks know that I was heading home to get this investigated. We just figured it would be easier handling it from home and the Cleveland Clinic is one of the best in the business.
Due to some wonderful connections, we were able to get an appointment early the next morning. All it really established was that I was going to need a biopsy to confirm what this was. After days and days of waiting, including the Easter weekend, I finally got the biopsy on a Monday morning. After more testing, needles, blood, and pain I finally got to go back home and await the results. From three different people, I heard that we would hear from them in anywhere from 24-72 hrs. Ugh. I was packing it in for a long wait. Around the 28 hr. mark, the doctor called and uttered the dreadful word on that list that I wanted to hear last: lymphoma. They highly suspected Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but needed to do further testing to confirm it. This past Friday, I went to another appointment and they confirmed that it was indeed Hodgkin's. On Wednesday, I'll be going to another appointment to discuss treatment. This examination process has been a much longer one that I anticipated I hope that Wednesday's appointment will be the last before I get going on the treatment.
Ok... take a breath. I know that was a lot, but that was strictly the medical side of things and now I'd like to unpack some other stuff. Take another breath. Ready?
With all of this happening around Easter, I doing some reading in Mark and was captivated by the way that Jesus prayed in the garden, just hours before he would be taken away to bear the sins of the world. He prayed "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36). It refreshed in my mind that Jesus wasn't exactly fond of God the Father's method for redeeming creation. Yet He had confidence in the fact that His father had a plan, and it was a good one. A painful one, but nonetheless, a good one.
Before I heard the final verdict on what was going on inside me, I asked God for the grace to be able to pray and be like-minded with Jesus. I used some harsher language, but luckily the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. It went something like this:
"God, in my human, finite understanding, I think your plan sucks. It's not a 'I don't deserve this' type of issue. It's just that this is kind of turning my world upside down and pretty inconvenient at the moment. I'm missing the last weeks of my college experience. I might not graduate. My future summer and job plans are going to be put on hold. My body is being wrecked. Not to mention all of the stress that my friends and family are enduring on my behalf. I really want to ask you 'Why the heck are you doing this?' but I heard about when Job asked you that question and don't want to suffer the same response. But God, when I look into Your word and look around me, I see the evidence that You are faithful and that You work things together for the good of those who love You. You have placed situations in my life, both good and bad, so that people will know You better; they will know that You are God. That is what I want. I want to know You better and I want the same for those I come into contact with. If you can do it any other way than cancer, please, please do it because you are able. But if not, then okay. Okay. You are God and I am not. Not what I will, but what You will."
Well it looks like He has decided that this is the best way to make Himself known. Early on, I prayed this prayer and felt very optimistic. I talked with hope in my voice and was generally able to smile. But honestly, I don't know if I had truly grasped what was in the cup. When I did, it drove me to tears as I cried in my girlfriend's arms at 3:00am for a long time. I imagined that it was just a little fraction of what Jesus felt. I realized that the cup might be filled with months and months of chemotherapy, hospital visits, needles, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and many long, sleepless nights. This is a cup that is going to sting on its way down, and I won't lie, I'm not looking forward to it. But I am looking forward to the aftertaste. An aftertaste so sweet and unlike anything I have ever tasted before. That aftertaste is that someone will know my Jesus as a result of this experience. Maybe me. Maybe you. Maybe someone else. Maybe all of the above. Of this I am confident: God is going to make Himself known through this. Some way. Some how. And I am strangely with peace about that.
If you made it this far, I congratulate you (I tried not to ramble). To those of you who have bombarded with me truckloads of encouragement, prayer, cards, chocolate, etc. I truly thank you. What a blessing to know that I don't have to walk this road alone. You all are adding daily to my strength and for that I am grateful. If this life was it, I would have some serious reason to be scared. But I have hope. Hope for a future and full restoration in Jesus' arms one day when this will all just be an afterthought. No matter what happens to me, He will be faithful. I have 66 books that say He will.
Ready to be used,