Update: Giving Thanks

I think this is the kind of update my readers really like. This is a peek into my soul.

Health update in one sentence: I’m in remission, feeling great, and my immune system still won’t rebound. Doctors are clueless as to why.

That was two sentences. Oops.

Okay, a peek into my soul.

Loving Attention

I love attention so much that it’s possible getting cancer is worth it. I am showered with attention, prayers, votes of confidence, outright praise, and profuse love. It’s overwhelming, and I cry … a lot.

I have to pray all the time that God will show me what’s real about me and not that loving, trumped-up description from my family, both in Jesus and my biological one.

What’s especially embarrassing are compliments about how strong I am and what an inspiration I am. I am so glad to be an inspiration, but I’m embarrassed about being seen as strong. All I am doing to be strong is getting up every morning. I don’t have any choice about enduring the suffering. It just happens. It’s not like I’m self-flagellating.

This next session may give you an idea.

Depression

A side of effect of either cancer or chemo is depression. It is POWERFUL. It’s only been a couple weeks since I laid in bed thinking, “I am wasting air that an actual healthy, useful, brave, decent person could be breathing.”

On days like that I feel like a fraud. Yes, the ferocious lack of energy and seeming lack of air is real, but I’m lying in a warm bed, served by my wife and children, able to eat whenever I want. Yet I’m struggling to pray, struggling to keep my eyes on my Savior. My mind wanders from one thing to the next, drifing in and out of sleep.

In the midst of that, people pat me on the back for strength and commitment to God.

I did learn to open my mouth. When I was so tired that I could not get up, I would pray quietly, in my head, and my mind wandered endlessly away from the Lord. It took a couple weeks to realize I should just open my mouth. Say the words out loud. Stay focused.

That worked pretty well.

Oh, this section was about depression. On some days the depression was so strong I didn’t even try to pray. I just hid from my thoughts. I don’t know how to describe that. In my mind, I picture ducking down out of my head down into my body and letting the frightening thoughts buzz around unnoticed.

Sometimes God met me there with great peace. That made me cry, too. Sometimes he didn’t meet me.

I’m an American

Some days in February I felt so bad that I just prayed for the terrible feelings to go away. Think bad flu that seems like it will never leave. Getting out of bed to go to the bathroom left me panting like I’d run a fast mile.

I feel like I got an answer right from the mouth of God: “Life is not about your comfort.”

That was salvation for me. I thought about the sex slave trade, kids that are kidnapped for the purpose of smuggling drugs sewn into their stomachs, children foraging in the dumps in Africa for food. I felt very American (proud, stupid, selfish, wimpy, spoiled, etc.).

Being American can make you blind.

Fear

The last week or so, while I have felt so good, I’ve run across a lot of teaching about sharing the Gospel, both in action and in words.

What I’ve really wanted to do, however, is get back to writing. I was too sick in February to sit at my computer, and since I got some energy back, I’ve been busy serving other people. (Please excuse whatever pride is in that statement; it’s true.) I haven’t had time to really sit down and write.

So yesterday, I’m at my local hematologist to get my blood counts checked. Afterward, as I’m waiting for my counts to come back, I sit down in a waiting room next to a black guy who is looking down at the floor.

If you don’t live in the South, you may not know how alive and well racism is. I’ve read a lot about studies that have been done and how the whole racist atmosphere affects the mindset, the self-esteem, of blacks all over the US.

So I sit down next to this guy and give him a cheery hello. I look at him, intent on treating him like a human being, not someone from the other side of the tracks. He looked back at me and responded just as cheerily. He lifted his head, and he seemed to have more energy.

So … I wasn’t really sure what to say next, so I opened my computer and took the waiting time to answer some emails.

I got lost in my computer, and it wasn’t until I left that I realized what I had done. I was so convicted I wanted to crawl under my SUV rather than into it.

Yes, I’m awkward with strangers, but if I had endured that awkwardness for a few seconds, I would have realized that I was in a hematology clinic! I could have asked him what he was being treated for. I could have talked about trusting God. (Everyone in Memphis, no matter how they live their normal lives, is trusting God and praying when they have a blood disease or a blood cancer. This is the Bible belt.)

I didn’t. I am still horrified.

High Praise

In the last couple months, I have had two missionaries tell me that they read everything I write. One said he didn’t care about reviews of my books, all he cared about was that my name was on the cover.

Wow. I love the fact that I can encourage two men that I look up to as heroes of the faith.

Fear, depressing, endurance, keeping my eyes on Jesus, not keeping my eyes on Jesus, failing, succeeding. I don’t know how to get off that path, but I do know that “his mercies are new every morning.” I’m not missing anyone the next time I’m at the hematology lab. That pain was sharper than the hemorrhoids that chemo tends to give me.

That’s probably not the greatest finish to a blog post, but I’m done. (I was going to say it wasn’t the greatest end to a blog post, but I was scared it would be read as a pun.)

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11 Responses to Update: Giving Thanks

  1. David Noah says:

    I am with the person who said “I don’t care about the reviews I just need to see your name and I read and recommend it to others. Can’t wait to come over and see you… much love …your spiritual dad … Dave

  2. Cancer is an absolutely devastating disease. I try to listen to people’s stories about how the disease has affected their life, as it motivates me to keep conducting research. I know research is leading cancer treatments to a place where there will be less side effects and fewer deaths. I have hope that stories like this won’t have to be told anymore. Cancer treatment is only going up from here, and that I am positive about.

    http://www.jenniferleeschwartz.wordpress.com

  3. Umm……umm…..OK, I really have nothing to say but sometimes hearing the reality of a real human being puts into focus how weak (in body and spirit) we all truly are. When we are going through debilitating sickness or really rough troubles (non-stop things, constant billing problems, etc.) or horrendous horrors (bullying, theft, rape, etc.) – all the things most Americans may suffer and then compare it to what’s going on in other parts of the world we tend to think our little problems are nothing. One reason we ought not do comparisons because when we come back to that one group of things causing us to be pushed down and live in depression and fear is the path we have. It doesn’t matter if it’s worse or better than someone else’s. It’s what God (seemingly?) has allowed for our particular point in place and time. My hope is that I can still keep calling Lord God, Father though shame and self-doubt and all those other things are trying to crowd my joy and trust in Someone bigger and badder (in the good way) has my name written on the palms of His hand. As the world (all creation) continues to shudder boil and broil waiting for the manifestation of the ‘sons of God’, you and I and all those who are leaning upon the wisdom and grace of our Lord and our God, stand in whatever supine position we find ourselves. They who continue to stand in the confession of our faith/trust/belief……
    I’m sorry, I forgot and no not where I was going with this…..not being funny Paul, but my hope is that Isaiah 35 is true, that even the most simple minded (me) will be able to walk this Highway the Most Precious and Holy has called me to walk upon (or maybe just watch it as He carries me along and watch His footprints when I look back to see where He has brought me)….
    Okay, I’m done -can’t think of anything more and rambling isn’t good either. I’m just glad you’ve a sense of humor, laughter is great for healing those places we don’t even realize need a bit of frivolity for!
    May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you as you continue forging ahead in your journey with Him and with all His chilin’ (like me, yes)! Peace, yes, but above all love and grace to you!

    j

    • paulfpavao says:

      Thank you, Jody. That was very encouraging. Good friends and GREAT wife and children really help me keep my sense of humor. I’ll never forget the day I was on my way to Nashville for chemo, and I told my 12-year-old daughter, “See you in a week.” She smiled at me and said, “Don’t die.”

      My wife and I both laughed. I really blew it when I got leukemia, and my oldest daughter got the news in a terrible way (my fault), and she never really recovered. When I got lymphoma, I tried hard to do a better job. My younger daughter’s “don’t die” said way more than it sounds like it said. She was saying, “Dad, I am so confident that you’re going to whip this cancer that I can joke about it. I’m okay. I’m not worrying because I know you trust God and he will take care of you.”

  4. paulfpavao says:

    Well said. I should tell you a story about praying for someone I didn’t witness to. It’s long enough I’ll make it a separate post, not a reply. Thank you for the encouragement.

  5. Ruth says:

    maybe just Jesus sitting next to you with energy and a smile.

  6. Ruth says:

    maybe he was there for you not you for him. peace to you and love

  7. Ruth says:

    it’s not too late to pray for the man at the clinic. keep walking.

  8. Thanks for sharing!
    Marcy Westerling
    http://livinglydying.com/

    • paulfpavao says:

      I rarely approve short comments with a link. Usually, even when I’m sick, I take the time, on my phone rather than my computer, to mark such comments as spam. This link, however, is to a real web site with a real cancer story on it. I’m not necessarily recommending it, but I am leaving her link up.

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