Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pepper

There is no sense pretending that Wednesday, August 25th was not the lowest point of this battle thus far.  It was that afternoon that we found out that I have Stage IV lung cancer.  That pretty much took the wind right out of my sails.  I spent that evening calling family and letting them know what we had learned and that I was scheduled for yet another round of biopsies Friday morning.  I went to bed that evening praying for just a little good news.

Thursday morning brought a new day with new challenges.  DeLayne wanted to attend a class at MDA and left a little before 10:00 leaving me alone in the hotel.  Honestly, at that point, I just wanted to curl up on the couch and cry but something made me get up and get out my camera and start yet another project I have been planning.  While preparing my camera, I kept asking God for something, anything that would make me chuckle.

Across the street from our hotel is a small park with fountains.  I made my way over there to see if there was anything to photograph.  I had taken just a couple of photos when I noticed a guy walking his dog by one of the fountains.  We said good morning to each other as we passed.  When I got to the end of the fountain, I turned around and saw his dog running into the water.  This fountain has spouts that shoot the water straight up.  I watched as this dog started trying to catch the water.  The next thing I knew, I was laughing at what I was watching as it ran from spout to spout.  I thought I needed  some photos of this and went back to ask the owner if it would be okay to photograph his dog.  He said no problem and introduced me to Pepper.

Pepper is a rescue dog and is oddly afraid of the water.  I guess that means lakes and swimming pools because she was having a lot of fun and kept going back for more.  Pepper may have been a rescue dog but today she was a four legged angel.  I spent the next several minutes photographing and watching Pepper just be a dog. 

After they left I took a few more pictures around the park before getting a call that I had an appointment to get back in the battle.  But this time with a much better attitude.  I realized that today I had asked God for a chuckle and  He gave me Pepper.


If you want to see more of Pepper, you can go to my photography web site: 

www.chagaphoto.smugmug.com

I have started a new project there called "Living with Cancer."  It is the Featured Gallery and will remain the only featured gallery until I beat this disease.  I will load photos to this gallery that try and capture my perspective on things.  The photos can be downloaded for free, if you like.  Please display them with my gratitude.


Thanks again for all of the prayers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eye of the Storm

We have just completed our first day at MDA.  DeLayne asked me after we got back to the hotel if I ever felt anxious today.  I replied that no I never really did.  Part of that may have been due to having DeLayne's brother and sister-in-law here Wednesday evening to show us the ropes.  It helps when you have had people who have gone before you help lead you into the battle. 

Another part of it is this constant feeling I have that God has been laying the foundation for the events to come for many, many years.  Take for instance DeLayne getting the urge to reconnect with friends from 20 years ago.  Turns out that some of them have fought the cancer battle and now call or e-mail their prayers and encouragement.  Or the young lady I met in Bangkok almost 12 years ago who moved to the U.S.  This young lady walked into my office two days after the diagnoses and asked if she could pray for me.  These are just two of the instances that confirm to me that God has a plan and will give me the peace and grace to fight this battle.  I have tried to describe to friends the sense of calm that both DeLayne and I feel but the only way I can think of is to say that we are living in the eye of the storm.  Where we are right now is calm but if we try to look too far ahead, all we see is the rolling, boiling storm clouds and we feel the uncertainty of it all.

There is a great story in the Bible about Peter, my favorite disciple.  The disciples have all gotten in a boat to sail to the other side of the sea.  Jesus has stayed behind for the evening.  Then in the middle of the night, the disciples see a figure walking on the water.  At first they believe it to be a spirit but then realize that it is Jesus.  Peter calls out to Him and tells Jesus that if it is really Him to say so and he will come out to Him.  The next thing Peter knows he is out of the boat and walking on the water too.  Everything is fine until Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus.  Peter notices the wind and the clouds and starts to sink.  He calls out to Jesus and Jesus takes his hand and pulls Peter back to the surface.  This story has really struck home with me the last few weeks.  As long as I keep my focus on Jesus daily I do not see the storm around me and I sense the calmness of His love for me.  Once I try and get too far ahead, I see the storm starting to boil and can get scared. 

If doubt is going to find its way in, it will come in the night.  That is when everyone is in bed and the house is quiet and I am alone with my thoughts.  Thankfully, twenty years ago I heard a song that now is sustaining me during these times.  Back in the 1980s, Rich Mullins  wrote a song titled Hold Me Jesus.  I have loved this song since I first heard it and now the first two versus and chorus have become my almost nightly prayer.  I'll close with them:

                                           Well, sometimes my life just don't make sense at all
                                           When the mountains look so big
                                           And my faith just seems so small

                                           So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
                                           You have been King of my glory
                                           Won't You be my Prince of Peace

                                           And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
                                           It's so hot inside my soul
                                           I swear there must be blisters on my heart

                                           So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
                                           You have been King of my glory
                                           Won't You be my Prince of Peace


Please pray for the right people to be in the right place at the right time.

Love you all.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Sycamore Tree

I had planned on only writing once or twice a week.  But as the old saying goes; if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.  I think God has had just a few laughs during my life.  The last couple of days have not been a lot of fun.  I came down with bronchitis over the weekend and have been coughing and not sleeping at night.  Both nights a particular event that occurred just before my symptoms began to appear has been playing over and over in my mind.  I am finding that whenever I feel that there is something I need to share, I should share.  So, here it goes and yes it will be preachy.

Do you ever have songs just pop into your mind from nowhere?  We laugh about it around the house when it happens.  DeLayne seems to have old classic hymns pop into her mind and I have old Vacation Bible School kid songs pop into mine.  That should probably tell you something about how different mine and DeLayne's music capabilities are.

One morning as I was backing out of the driveway,  the kid song about Zacchaeus popped into my head.  The story of Zacchaeus is detailed in Luke chapter 19.  Some of you may have learned this song and might be humming along now.  It has probably been forty years since I sang that song but there were those lyrics just like it was yesterday.  If you do not know the song, here are the lyrics that kept repeating in my mind:

                           Zacchaeus was a wee little man
                           and a wee little man was he.
                           He climb up in the sycamore tree,
                           for the Lord he wanted to see.

Why was this song suddenly stuck in my mind?  I could have just passed it off but it kept happening day after day for several days.  Then one morning I heard the radio announcer say "Remember, today you may be the only Jesus someone sees."  Just like that, the puzzle pieces fell into place and lead me to ask a rather haunting question.  If my life were a sycamore tree, would someone crossing my path be able to climb it and see Jesus?  Sadly, the answer to that question is no.  There have been times in my life that if people were the climb that tree, they would not catch a glimpse of Jesus.  Thankfully and praise God, I am forgiven!

Since that morning, I have had a new morning prayer.  Each morning I ask God to grant me the grace that whomever may cross my path that day would see Jesus in my words, actions and deeds.  I had been finding it easier to be courteous and forgiving to people as I go through the day.  And thus I thought I had found the deep meaning in this song.

Then came the diagnoses of cancer and now there is a new branch in my sycamore tree.  I realize now that there will be multiple people coming into my life on a daily basis; doctors, nurses, lab techs, other cancer patients.  So, now I have another prayer.  That God heal me and that people be able to see Jesus in me during the process.

That's all I have for now.  So, go out and be someone's sycamore tree.

Thanks once again for all of the prayers, encouragement, e-mails and calls of support.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wingmen

The term "Wingman" was first used in World War I.  The air corps realized that more of their pilots returned when two or more planes flew together.  Your wingman was the pilot who flew just off your wing tip to help cover you from attacks.

One night when I could not sleep I began reviewing the last few years in my mind and some of the bike rides I have been on.  Maybe it is that I am now fifty years old or that I have cancer but I began to realize that the rides I remember most are the ones that I have been on with Chad and Shane.  We have had a lot of fun and probably more than our share of laughs but I always feel a bit younger and a bit spunkier when I ride with them.  We each get our share of barbs in and try to watch out for road hazards.  Usually, by the time I reach a hazard, I've had two warnings.


This is one of my favorite photos of Chad and Shane racing.  I have it hanging on my office wall at work.  This is a rare shot in that both boys are in the frame.  They are sprinting for the finish in a college race.  Chad is on the left and Shane is on the right.  I had watched the two of them shred a college race that day with their relentless attacks.  I am glad that when we ride together, they take it easy on me.

Sorry, I digressed there.  Back to bike riding.  As I was saying, we have had a lot of fun and they usually offer me encouragement like this:

"Hurry up old man"
"Try and keep up at least until we are out of the neighborhood."
"You want me to push you up this hill."

But here are some of my favorite bike riding stories.


We had gotten up early one morning and decided to take a ride out to Lake Lavon.  The ride is about 35 miles roundtrip and on two lane country roads.  This morning Chad had decided to ride his fixie.  If you do not know, a fixie is a fixed gear bike that does not coast and has no brakes.  We were headed down hill on one of the back roads and Chad was in the lead about twenty yards in front.  I was in my usual position, the rear.  Suddenly out of the left ditch pops a skunk and starts running across the road.  I hit the brakes and start yelling at Chad to watch the skunk.  He finally sees it about five feet from him and locks up his legs putting his bike in to a skid.  Since we escaped unscathed, that was funny and the three of us had a good laugh.

When I had first gotten my road bike and was learning to ride with my feet clipped to the pedals, we went for a quick ride.  The wind was really blowing that day out of the south and it took all I had to stay upright.  As we were approaching an intersection, our light turned red.  I was leaning hard into a cross wind, trying to stop and get unclipped all at the same time.  Obviously, it was to much for my mind to handle.  I stopped just in time for the wind to quit blowing and caught me leaning with my feet still attached to the pedal.  In my mind, I think I looked like Artie Johnson on his tricycle on the old Laugh In show.  After picking my self up and dusting off the following conversation ensued.

Chad:  Are you OK?
Me: Yes, I think so.
Chad:  Are you sure?
Me:  Except for my pride, I'm fine.
Chad:  Good.  That means I can laugh and that was the funniest thing I've ever seen.

One Sunday after church, Chad and I took off for a ride up to the north part of McKinney.  We had reached highway 75 and were crossing over to the north bound frontage road.  Chad suggested that we turn left and head north on the frontage road.  I followed his left turn and we headed down hill.  This section of frontage road goes down hill and then does a u-turn under 75 and then heads uphill on the south bound side.  I realized too late where we were and that I would have to climb back up the other side.  I hate climbing.

Me:  Hey, if we go down this side, don't we have to go up the other side?
Chad: Yes.
Me:  You jerk!
Chad:  Laughing, rides away.

After work whenever possible I like to take a quick ten to fifteen mile ride to relax.  This particular evening both boys decided to accompany me.  As usual in Texas during the summer, the wind was blowing hard out of the south.  We made a turn and the wind hit us in the face.  We had not ridden very far when I realized that neither of the boys were at my side.  I took a quick look over my shoulder and there they were riding single file behind me. 

Me: Hey, what are you guys doing?
Them: Drafting.
Me: Why?
Them: You make a good wind break.
Me: Jerks.
Them: Laughing.

Well, there you have it.  A few of my favorite memories.  When I ride with the boys, I am never quite sure where we will go or how we will get there but I know it will be fun and that I will cherish the time.   I am blessed and proud to call them my sons.  I don't know what the next months or years hold for me but I know that my wingmen will be there to lift my spirits.

Love you guys.

Thanks again for all of the prayers.  They are helping.
 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Questions

I am learning what I guess every cancer patient has to learn to deal with; the never ending questions.  There are questions from doctors, nurses, friends and family.  The worst ones are the questions from yourself.  These are the ones that can keep you awake at night and defeat the Tylenol-PM.  So, in the interest of a better night's sleep, I'll try and deal with a few of them here.

Why me?

According to the doctor, I am just one of that small fraction of people who have zero risk factors and still get cancer.  With my dad having three different cancers and my sister being a breast cancer survivor, maybe it's genetic.  For all of the people who think I am a little off, now you know.  I might be genetically modified.

In all seriousness, the question just might as well be; why not me?  I don't think there is anything so special about me that should guarantee I would not get cancer.  I might as well have this as anyone else and as of yet, God has not chosen to show me His complete plan.  I will take this one day, one step at a time.

Although I accept that there is not an answer to this question and I try not to dwell on it, I will confess that Sunday evening I did have a real moment.  DeLayne, Shane and I decided to run out and get a sandwich.  As we walked up to the restaurant, I noticed a guy who had to be 50 to 100 pounds over weight and smoking a cigarette.   The thought popped into my head "and I'm the guy with lung cancer."

Should I be mad at God?

No, I don't think so.  If I should be mad at anybody, I would go with Adam and Eve.  God placed Adam and Eve in the perfect world.  Unfortunately, he gave them free will and they messed it up.  As a result, there are bad things in this world.  Thankfully, God gave His one and only Son as a way to redemption and eternal life for the rest of us.  I can't imagine going through this mess without the knowledge that eventually my home is in heaven.

Will I be healed?

I sincerely believe that I will be.  Some of you may think I am totally off of my rocker with this one but this really did happen.  It was the Sunday after getting the CT results that identified two tumors in my right lung.  Shane and I had walked into the sanctuary at church and sat down.  I was looking through the order of service and got down to the day's message title: Healed of a Lengthy Affliction.   Out of no where I heard a voice say "It will be a long, hard battle but you will be healed."  It was not a loud, booming voice but I guess that I would call it that still, small voice we all want to hear.  Imagine my surprise today when the pulmonologist said to me "Bottom line is that you have lung cancer.  You are in for a long, hard battle."

Coincidence?  I don't think so.

That's all I have for today.  Sorry that I did get a bit preachy but hey, it's my blog.

Thanks again to all of my friends and family for the prayers, love and support.  Now, let's go beat this!