Dirty Dozen

09 Apr

Chemo. Oncologist. Stage 2. Stage 3. Port. Pump. Folfox.

An unwelcome vocabulary.

When we sat in the oncologist’s office last week, hearing him lay out the chemo regimen that he strongly recommended, I felt like pouting and walking out of the room. Enough already of incisions and blood draws, of doctors and needles, of backless gowns and procedures. And here was another six months of who knows what laid out before me.

The next few nights in the wee hours of the morning I wakened, the inner rebellion and wrestling surfacing. Like the Rock in The Rundown, I found myself shouting inside, “I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go hoooooooome!” But what if this is home. For awhile. The fact is, with this hereditary condition, I haven’t been done for thirty-four years. And I never will be until it or something else takes me. Cheery thoughts at four in the morning.

Alternate paths were offered by concerned family and friends – with gentleness and respect. Diet. Supplements. Natural boosts to the immune system, natural cures.

How do you make a decision like this?

My key observation: you don’t make it alone – even though, in the final analysis, you have to call it.

So I’ve listened this past week.

Tried Bible roulette. Ended up in Acts 13 with Paul and Barnabas boarding a ship with John Mark as their attendant. An ambiguous reference at best. Could have landed in a much worse spot. (“Set your house in order for you are going to die” comes to mind.)

I continued with my renewed devotions and reading each day. No direct answers there – but watching Jesus move in Mark I couldn’t help but sense his touch, whichever route I chose. “He took her by the hand and helped her up; and the fever left her and she got up and began serving them.” Now there’s a keeper. Good word. Make me as Peter’s mother-in-law – and let me serve as joyfully the rest of my days as she no doubt served that meal for the Lord of all creation.

Confident of that touch, sensing that touch, the deeper realization set in that I have as little to fear of chemo as I do of cancer – though my emotions still struggle to catch up with that realization at times. But in that confidence, two further considerations became clear.

First. The illogic of using toxins to go after cancer cells finally struck me as being, actually, a fairly common theme. My mind immediately went to The Dirty Dozen. Lee Marvin, Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, 1967. I would have been eight when my dad took us to see it. Convicts and lowlifes sicked on the Nazis. A cinematic image. Twelve chemo sessions – my own Dirty Dozen. I could even name each session after one of the actors. I would just ask for more Jim Brown and Charles Bronson, less Telly Savalas (please!). I can trust Him with my own Dirty Dozen.

Second. Having just read Henri Nouwen’s book The Wounded Healer last month prior to surgery, I realized how many people I have encountered and tried to minister to who were going through assorted chemotherapies – including my own daughter. What is this but the opportunity for more relevant wounds through which to carry out a life calling of ministering to the hurting? Moving beyond sympathy to empathy. It’s our wounds that take us there, and it is through our own wounds that we become vessels of healing to others. “So then, death is at work in us, but life in you.” Think of it as an advanced seminary course. I’ll never have the letters, but I can continue to amass the wounds as he brings them. That I can lay myself out for, and trust him with it all for good or ill.

How do you make a decision like this?

Am I just kidding myself? Is this just a show, an act? Everyone watch the noble martyr stepping onto the stage?

I guess I have to trust him with the shifting uncertainties of my own heart and motives, too.

And perhaps that’s the best answer of all.

How do you make a decision like this?

With trust in a Grace that is greater than any options I will ever consider or choose.

Even if it’s the Dirty Dozen.


Posted by on April 9, 2012 in musings, Suffering


Tags: ,

6 responses to “Dirty Dozen

  1. Robin Lee Hatcher

    April 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Continuing to pray, dear friend. Your posts always speak to my heart.

  2. jhopping

    April 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Great connection to the Dirty Dozen! I’ve never though of toxins, or vaccines for that matter, like that before =)

    May the Lord continue to walk with you each moment.

  3. wordhaver

    April 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks, Robin! 🙂

  4. wordhaver

    April 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks Josh – you bless my soul! 🙂

  5. Chad Estes

    April 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I love the way your heart and mind process life.I’m beside you all the way.

  6. wordhaver

    April 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you Chad! I am blessed!


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