It’s January 10, 2017. I’m sitting in a patient waiting room of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Myeloma Institute. A patient care technician just took my vital signs. This is always done prior to my receiving a visit from Dr. Morgan, the director of the institute, who is also my oncologist. The place is busy this morning. I’m having to wait a little more than normal; however, that’s no problem. If it weren’t for the physicians, researchers and staff of the Myeloma Institute, I wouldn’t be here this morning. It’s their care, by the grace of God, that has gotten me through the last (almost) seventeen years. So what, I must wait a bit more than usual…small price to pay.
The waiting has caused me to occupy my mind with several apps on my iPhone, along with looking out of the window. Although this is the middle of January, it’s a rather warm day. The temperature is around 62 degrees. The skies are gray and the wind is high. I’m on the eight floor of the building in which the institute is housed high above the tree line. I’m looking north, away from the UAMS campus. The topography, extending out from the campus, is inclined upwards to almost eye level at the point of the horizon. In my view, I see the steeple of a church poking its holy meaning into the sky. My faith tells me that it’s meaning is filled with hope; hope for healing and salvation. Thoughts of healing and hope are richly occupying all corners of my mind at this moment. I’m here to finish up the staging activities that are preambles to my beginning treatments for my relapsed Multiple Myeloma. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed a good ride. I’m remembering the prayer I made to God shortly after I received my initial diagnosis. It went something like this, “Father, please let me survive to see my children grow into adulthood.” At the time, my youngest was nine, the middle child was thirteen, and the oldest was twenty-two. As I look back, I’m convinced that the prayer was a bit selfish; however, God was graceful enough to grant it to me. Thank God, He’s who He is, because with the things I’ve done, I probably wouldn’t have taken the request under consideration-had I been God.
I’ve told myself countless times that I’m not surprised, since Dr. Morgan gave me the news last month that I was experiencing relapse of my Myeloma. After all, there’s no cure for this wretched stuff. There are patients who are experiencing remission much longer than I, but the chances are always good, that if you live long enough, the disease will return. There was a time when I probably would have found myself debating the decision as to whether I would undergo treatment for my relapsed condition. The toll taken on my body seventeen years ago, isn’t something I would wish on any human being. The chemotherapy, other various drugs, and the pièce de résistance tandem stem cell transplants put me into remission quickly, but not without a good degree of agony. Advances in treatment over the last sixteen years have convinced me that treatment for relapse won’t be near as agonizing. I won’t even have to take chemotherapy this time around. Instead, I’ll be administered a drug designed to boost my immune system, giving it the ability to fight the Myeloma cells. It’s been an easy decision. God has presented me with the opportunity to have “cutting-edge” treatment in both cases where the disease has ramped up its attack.
There’s nothing like suffering from a chronic health condition to make you appreciate the gift of life. Being accompanied by cancer in my daily walk has brought me into a greater understanding of what others with chronic health conditions contend with daily. Many live agonizing lives, suffering through excruciating pain twenty-four/seven. Diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Muscular Dystrophy, and any number of muscular degenerative ailments that attack the vessel in which they reside. I find myself blessed, since I don’t suffer the agony of constant pain.
I’ve chosen not to petition God for x-number of years this time around; although, I have as strong a reason to do so. He’s blessed me with four grandchildren, ages five months to twenty-two years and a great grandchild, one year old. The past seventeen years have fueled my faith in ways that probably wouldn’t have happened, if I had not lived all these years. At the time, I was diagnosed, patients with Multiple Myeloma were dying within three to five years of diagnosis. I missed many patients/fellow sufferers, who were diagnosed around the same time as I. They would sit in the waiting room with me for treatment; then, at some point I would see them no longer. Now, my prayer is, “God thank you for all that you’ve done for me. I pray for healing (long-term remission at least); however, it’s your will that must be done. It wasn’t easy reaching this point…
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.