Do you…?

Do you truly enjoy being a bandwagon fan?

Do you hate weekdays that much?  I mean, weekdays are 71% of our entire lives and we’re spending them wishing that it was Friday night already.

Do you mean to tell me you’ve never given a thought as to what the meaning of this life is?  You’ve never considered whether or not there’s a God?

Do you really think that life is all about self enjoyment, living it up, and having the best possible time you can?  Or is that just the way you want to live it?

Do you really believe without a shadow of a doubt that there is no God?  Or are you just afraid to believe there is because it might just interfere with your lifestyle?

Do you ever stop and think to yourself, “My life is missing something”?

Do you mean to tell me that your parents have lived 20-30 more years than you, and you still think you know better?

So you’re saying that we all live our lives, eventually die, are bones are buried and that’s it?

Do you know what happens after death?

Do you just not care about God?

Do you automatically assume that everyone on this planet goes to heaven? Do you know without a shadow of doubt in your mind, or is it just wishful thinking?  But wait, you’re going to heaven, but didn’t you just say you didn’t care about God?

Or do you believe that your good works will get you to heaven because hopefully they’ll out weigh your bad ones?  I can tell you right now that if my good and bad works were on opposite sides of the scale, it wouldn’t be pretty.

Do you think true satisfaction in this life is all about fame and wealth?  Tiger Woods is known throughout the entire world and is a billionaire.  Ask him if he’s truly satisfied with his life right now.

Do we really walk around this planet thinking we’re something else?  I mean 99.9% of this planet doesn’t even know our names.   I’m just 1 of billions and trillions of people who have ever walked on this earth.  How am I any different than the rest?

So you’re telling me that just because you go to church, you know God?

Do you mean to tell me you’ve had parents who know God, friends who know God, you’ve had Scripture taught to you in it’s fullest, and yet you just don’t care? You just want to live you’re life the way you want to?  Those are some scary shoes…Scarier yet, you even know that there’s a God, and yet you still knowingly spit in his face daily through the way you live your life.

You claim to be a Christian?  But your life looks and sounds no different than the world.  Or is that just you’re way of having fun and fitting in?

Do you really think church is centered around you and making you feel good?

Do you mean to tell me that your Bible is not important enough to bring with you to church anymore?  Does the pastor of your church even open it up anymore, or is it just an inconvenience to find and carry with you every Sunday morning?

Do you really believe the Bible is just another book?

Do you look at the world around you and think, “man this is such a great place to live!”   Sure we live in America, have good family and friends, and can eat whatever we want every day.  But look deeper.  Do you not see the immorality, greed, violence, wars, dishonesty, slander, hatred, poverty, drunkenness, and selfishness that plagues this world?  Just turn on you’re tv.

Do you really not care?

So this world is it huh?  I’m here to tell you it definitely isn’t…

Update

Going back and forth to UNC every day is a memory of the distant past.  It’s actually almost bittersweet in a way because the place became a second home to me.  But it’s very sweet because I know that the first month is over.  On Tuesday afternoon Fed Ex dropped off a package at our front door filled with syringes of interferon for the next two weeks.  Although I’m still very thankful that these injections only take place 3 times a week, I surely didn’t know what to expect as far as the severity of the symptoms.

Mary wanted me to do the first one on my own just so I get use to it.  But I chickened out and asked her to do it instead.  The needle wasn’t as big as I originally thought it would be, but it’s still a needle right?  For some reason, when I’m in the hospital around nurses or complete strangers, I tend not to complain or act like a child when I’m being stuck or cut.  I take a deep breath look away and try to daydream about something other than pain.  But being at home in my own comfort zone with my wife gives me the excuse somehow to act kind of pathetic.

Mary forced the small needle into my abdomen as she pinched a tiny bit of skin.  She then pushed and injected the medicine subcutaneously and that was that.  Once the medicine was injected, I felt the symptoms rev up within 5 minutes.  As soon as I felt it, I headed straight for bed.  Going to bed and slipping off into my dream world means that I won’t remember the feelings of misery.  However, on Wednesday my symptoms were very nearly in full swing.  I didn’t feel up to doing much for nearly the entire day.  I slept, rested, ate, and rested some more.  It’s amazing what a tiny amount of interferon can do to your body.

Tonight will be my second night of self injections, and I do mean ‘self’ this time.  Mary has left me for work tonight, and I’m sitting here wondering if I’ll be able to work up the bravery to stick a needle in my gut.  Maybe I ought to play through a couple “Band of Brothers” episodes tonight to fill up my bravery tank.  Maybe Braveheart or a bowl of Wheaties?  Maybe I should just bite the bullet, put my pom poms down and act like a man.

The words “thank you”

Do you ever stop and think to yourself out of frustration that the English language just doesn’t have enough words to express your thoughts?  In the last three months of our lives, NEVER have we received so much.   With every little thing people graciously give us, we are absolutely stunned and completely humbled that someone would even consider such thoughtfulness.  I truly feel that the words humble and thanks don’t even come close to expressing our full gratitude.

There have been quite a few instances where we have no idea who gave us what.  That’s exactly why I’m writing this entry, not to boast in pride at everything that people have given us, but to give credit where credit is due.  I cannot tell you how many hundreds and thousands of cards we’ve received in the mail, all of them full of gracious and kind words of encouragement.  We’ve been given baby furniture, baby clothes, and other baby necessities.  Great resource books, a Bible for our little Reese, and a basket full of baby goodies that some mysterious person decided to drop off at our door!   We have had numerous people cook us meals which helps out Mary a ton.  We’ve been given gift cards for restaurants and gas stations (we haven’t paid for gas in a month).    Teachers have graciously donated sick days for my extended absence from school.  E-mails, phone calls, handshakes, hugs, and on and on and on it goes.   And I truly apologize if I forgot anything.

However, one of the most difficult gifts for Mary and I to receive is money. Unbelievable donations for bracelets!  A bake sale!  A fund raising night at my school with B-I-N-G-O and pizza!  People have walked right up to me and handed me cash and signed checks.  Every single time someone has handed me money, in disbelief I literally am left shaking with tears in my eyes.  I’ve been left speechless, thoughtless, and many times even motionless.

Numerous times, Mary and I have thanked God for medical insurance that covers so much of the costs of everything I’ve been through.  But the even bigger blessing is each and every one of you who have gone beyond gracious and dug into your pockets for us!

Selfishly, there have been times Mary and I have prayed and been stressed out with finances through all of this.  And every time, God has lavished on our selfish cries and completely humbled us with the most unreal gifts.  The words “I AM NOT” have never been more appropriate to use.  Let me express that I, Jason Norton DO NOT deserve any of this.  Reflecting on my own life as a sinner on this earth, is what humbles me and stuns me the most.  The only thing that I can truly do is fall flat on my face and cry words of gratitude and thankfulness to God himself.  His grace is sufficient for us, yet for some reason he still blesses us during times like this.  Making sense of all these gifts and words of encouragement, has long OVERFLOWED my mind with shock.

So I sincerely hope no one goes away from reading this blog without understanding how God has provided for us and how thankful we are to Him.  Let me proclaim to every heart and mind reading this that you all have given us things that have not gone unnoticed.  You have given us things that we don’t deserve.  And most importantly you have attached the most priceless thing of all to each one of those gifts, love.  And that love has brought us many tears.  We have felt that love extended to us, not only from here in North Carolina, not even only here in the States, but from all across the GLOBE.  So let this announcement be sung, screamed, and proclaimed across the globe, THANK YOU!  Because those words are not enough, it is our prayer that someday we can give back to each and every one of you during a time of need.  The Lord has taught us now more than ever, that what is given to us or even what we think we possess, is truly not ours.  It belongs go God and God alone for he is the creator of all things.

Day 16-Our little princess

Yesterday, while strolling down the path that leads to the hospital doors a little girl caught my eye.  She was probably 2 or 3 years old and was holding her mothers hand as she walked.  She was cute as a button as she talked her mother’s ear off.  Just another countless example of me thinking to myself “I can’t believe I’m going to be raising a little girl.”

Little Reese at 18 weeks

I say the phrase all too often because it’s all still surreal to me.  Whether I see a teenage girl, a tiny baby girl, or any girl that invades the hallways of my elementary school, they all speak thoughts of what it’s truly going to be like.  The cute dresses, braided hair, painted nails, maybe even a pathetic girly scream.  The baby dolls, the obsession with shopping and shoes, the tender emotions, and just overall girliness.

I truly can’t wait until I can take little Reese on daddy dates and consistently lavish my love on her through a slice a pizza or a kiddy ice cream cone with eyes.  I long for the day when she can brag to all her friends of how great of a man her daddy is, as her face swells up with pride and love.

She’s more than likely going to get her mothers stunning looks, but I can’t help but wonder if she’ll get daddy’s competitiveness.  I often dream of her terrorizing the soccer field by breaking backs and ankles with her slick moves, while mom and dad cheer uncontrollably on the sidelines.  I don’t care what sport she chooses to be competitive in, but my selfish prayer is that she’ll find at least one. God only knows what her passions will be and I’m stoked to accept whatever it is and love her to death no matter what. 

Our little Reesey princess already weighs a little over a pound and measures about a foot long.  Anytime I hear an ooooh or an ahhh from Mary I know that Reese is either kicking or rolling around doing somersaults in her.  She’s been doing a ton of that lately, which leads me to believe that she’s going to be one wicked soccer player.

The coolest part of this whole process for me is to place my hands on my wife’s pregnant belly and feel Reese kick.  It makes the whole experience so much more real.  Mary’s sweet and motherly reactions prove to me that she was born to be a mother, but I’ll be honest, I never envisioned being a father of a girl.  Either way, joy consumes us both in anticipation of our little princess being born into this world.

Day 15- Running through my mind

04 In Christ Alone

Have you ever just sat in complete silence and listened.  It gets so quiet you start hearing a faint ringing sound as your mind races uncontrollably with thousands of thoughts.

I’ve had a few people pick my brain about what runs through it on a day to day basis.  It leaves the impression that their curiosity is peaked at how often I think about death since I have been diagnosed with cancer.  When you’re 25 years old with a wife, a kid on the way, and what seems like your whole life ahead of you, death is really not on the forefront of your mind.  Not too many young people think about dying themselves.  But when you’re diagnosed with cancer, that confident feeling of being indestructible dissipates rapidly.

If this trial didn’t cause me to think about physical death at all, I would be making a huge mistake.  I know a lot of people give out advice to cancer patients like me, many of them saying, “just don’t stop thinking positive.  It won’t let you think about death.”  To that I say, pish posh!!  Vice versa, the thought of death can consume a person to the point where that’s all they think about and fear.  But honestly, who isn’t scared of death.  I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared of it.  However, I know that physical death is not the true death of me.  It’s just the doorway to eternal life with the creator.  The power of Christ in my life gives me hope and assurance of something greater than this life.

As far as the other thoughts that run through my head rapidly, I’m not sure I could explain it in under an hour.  Sports, my wife, school, my kids at school, friends, our church, past acquaintances, and a lot of times, I just stare and don’t know what in the world I’m thinking.  Lately, due to all the meds I get day in and day out, my mind runs rapid filled with nothing but a big blur.  It’s actually kind of scary and can keep me up for hours at night.

If my thoughts were split up into categories on a pie chart, it’s my desire to have that biggest piece to say “How to glorify God”.  That’s my prayer day in and day out, that He would be glorified above all else, especially in my thoughts.  Whether I’m thinking about death or life.

My absolute favorite song says, “Not guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.  From life’s first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.  No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand…”  What powerful words!  What assurance we all can have!

Day 11- Dreaming Reality

Brains accomplish the strangest things in each of us every time our heads hit the pillows and our eyes focus on the back of our eyelids each night.  It’s the brain’s cue to do whatever it wants, no matter how bizarre it may be.  We call them dreams and sometimes even nightmares.  Parents all over the world still offer comfort to their children when they wake up in a cold sweat and run to the room where mommy and daddy are sleeping.  A parent still offers their child a quick hug and reassures them that “it’s just a bad dream.  Now go back to sleep.”

There are the dreams in which we are conquering the world or doing something extraordinary, when all of a sudden your bladder politely awakens you, ending a chance to see the conclusion.  And even if you jump right back into bed and think as hard as you possibly can about the dream, hoping and praying for the dream to reoccur, it all but vanishes as you drift into dreamland again.

I often dream about being on the soccer field again, feeding a great ball down the sideline to a teammate who then crosses it in for a header and the winning goal.  I’ve even dreamed of playing on the U.S. squad in the midst of the World Cup.  I’ve been given second chances in dreams and I’ve journeyed back to the day when Mary and I weren’t even dating.  Once I dreamed of calling her day by day by day for a month, and she never would pick up her phone.  She wanted nothing to do with me.  My most recent encounter with this bizarre dreamworld was a couple of nights ago.  LeBron James himself came and sat right next to me in a theater just to chat.  Little did I know that it was just a plot to kill time, set bombs and traps outside of every exit so I couldn’t escape.  What happened next is too crazy and violent for even me to describe.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good dream?  At times I can’t control my giddiness prior to going to bed because I know I’m about ready to embark into dreamworld.  Dreams don’t last forever though, and recently just waking up and thinking about life seems like it should be a giant dream.  I daily wait for someone to take a good grip of my shoulders and start shaking me until I finally wake up.

But when I actually do wake up each morning, nothing in my life is fantasy anymore.  I still have a port in my chest.  I still have scars underneath my arms and on my back.  I still have to go to treatment every day because I still have stage 3 Melanoma.  I still have family and loved ones that hurt for me.  But what my dream world can’t capture is the love that my wife and I share, a healthy little Reese  whose kicking more and more each day, and a relationship with my Creator that surpasses everything, good and bad.  Because of this, how could a guy like me not desire to wake up and live his life.  I have so much to be thankful for!

I Peter 1:6-9- “In this you greatly rejoice through now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him;  You believe in him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Day 10-I’m halfway done…the first month…

This week by far I feel the worst out of all of them so far.  I literally spent the entire day and night last night asleep while avoiding the disgusting sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  A nurse today asked me how I had been feeling and the only way I could describe it to her was, blah.  That’s how I feel, blah!  I could only slurp down 5 spoonfuls of chicken noodle soup last night as well as a small banana.

I woke up at around 6:00 this morning feeling great and very refreshed.  I was jazzed to get to physical therapy and work on my arms.  Immediately following therapy I treated myself to a large breakfast at Cafe Carolina, knowing that I had to get some food into me.  I lost 3 pounds over the weekend and I know in order for me to maintain my weight and my strength right now, I have to eat.

Now I’m sitting at station 17 in my recliner listening to the IV pump churn and hum in rhythm as it feeds fluids into my body.  The preview of what’s to come in a smaller bag of interferon.  The thought of even looking at another bag of interferon makes me want to hurl.  If I could paint a picture of what my stomach actually looks like right now, it would be extremely overcast with darker clouds on the horizon.  It truly feels like a giant storm is rumbling inside of me, and it’s not a great feeling.

I catch myself more and more staring off into space.  The glazed looks of staring come in spurts, some lasting 10-12 minutes at a time.  Really no purpose to them, but it helps me collect my thoughts and process everything that is happening in my life.  But as every new day arrives, it seems as if I need more and more time to process and stare.

I continue to be supported by countless people.  There’s at least 1 card a day in our mailbox that brings a smile to my face.  People continue to be generous in giving in ways I can’t even describe.

Tomorrow begins day 11, the beginning to the end…of this first month…