Sunday, May 23, 2021

Bear One Another's Burdens

Welcome to leg three of this cancer battle.  It's radiation time, and my family has just arrived in Houston to walk this journey with me.

There is so much I want to reflect on, and as my mind is all over the place, I'm sure this post will be, too.  But, each new day is a day packed with lessons to be learned, virtues to build, and beauty in uncommon places.

So, first: I'm three days into a thirty day cycle of radiation.  I thought it was proton radiation but am mistaken, it's actually photon and electron radiation.  Every other day the radiation is a bit more intense in some parts (on those days, there is an extra layer of protection they put on my body), but each day is 25 minutes on a table with a machine moving around me (lining up with my beautiful magic marker tattoos) radiating me via 16 different rounds of beams.  It doesn't hurt, but laying in the position can get uncomfortable.  I've been told to expect what will be like a bad sunburn and quite a bit of fatigue as the radiation builds in my system, but we shall see how that exactly pans out.

So far, I've been a tiny bit tired, but I think that has more to do with having chemo and radiation together, getting adjusted to a new place, and hitting the ground running in Houston.  

My hair is growing back.  Still can't tell exactly what color it's going to be, but man it's soft!  My surgical sites are already tightening with radiation so I'm having to remember to stretch more so I don't permanently lose more range of motion.  Much of my right side is still numb, but I'm praying that comes back to life as time goes on.  I can also no longer go without worrying about the ol' mustache, dang it - ha!  There are some benefits to chemo!

More importantly, I want to talk about something else.  I want to talk about what some call my "tribe" and what I like to refer to now as the Body of Christ.  Before I was diagnosed with cancer, heck even before Agnes was born, I knew I was blessed with amazing family and friends.  But, those blessings have become ever more visible in the last nine months.

From the day we found out about Agnes' health issues, help came in all forms, mostly the power of prayer.  Through those prayers, I truly believe God has answered and fulfilled out needs in ways we could have never imagined.  One was the revival of an old friendship.

My friend Carin and I were roommates in DC when we were both working for the Bush (43) administration.  We weathered some minor storms of growing up right after college graduation and living in a new, exciting place.  What we didn't know then was how intertwined our lives would become fifteen years later.

Agnes was born on the birthday of her second daughter, nine years later.  Carin, in a roundabout way, would find the expect on LUMBAR syndrome who would become Agnes' primary specialist.  Then, in a strange last-minute recollection, she would also guide us to the doctor who I believe saved Agnes' life (or who at least changed it drastically)...her neurosurgeon.  Beyond that, she took me to and from the airport on our multiple Houston trips.  She asked the questions she knew I needed asking (often without me knowing it).  She showed up.  Always.  Sometimes with the perfect little combo of things I would need for each particular trip, and others with a cup of coffee and time for a chat.

She still does these things, and this summer our kids get to do them together.

Upon arriving in Houston, we have been greeted with indescribable hospitality.  People have shown up with toys, books and meals for our entire stay.  We've been helped getting into summer camps and activities.  We've been invited on different field trips and outings, and a cookout is even being hosted to welcome us to town.  All of this by people who nine months ago were complete strangers and some who still are.

We've been welcomed into the home of an incredibly generous family who provided a haven to recover from surgery and a priest to always hear my confession and anoint me before.

Old friends from college have reached out to take care of every need from when we were here for Agnes' surgery to now.

And beyond all of that, we've had friends from home, family, and strangers pray unceasingly.  I've had family take me to and from appointments, watch the kids, bring meals and help in other ways!  I've received notes of encouragement and care packages that bring a smile to my face.  I've walked this journey with a best friend from high school undergoing her own battle with cancer, and I've become close to then strangers on a similar path but who now provide the strength for each other to keep fighting.

I say all of this not to put one blessing above another.  I don't say it to make anyone feel bad.  I write this to say thank you.

Because when I told one stranger that sometimes it felt too much (that I felt guilty in accepting the blessings of others) she immediately said, "We bear one another's burdens [because that's what He asks of us]."

It's true.

We do it all together.  Because what hurts one, hurts us all.  What builds another up has the cumulative affect of building up others.  It doesn't stop with us.  In fact, we have within our power the ability to shoulder some of the cross we see others carrying simply by praying, reaching out, and allowing Christ to work.

I've been taught so much by these diagnoses.  Beyond learning to completely surrender and trust in God, I've learned to better share in the joys and sufferings of those around me.  

And, I have you to thank for that!

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