Alas, I awake from a short hibernation. Actually the last couple of weeks have been anything but a period of hibernation. After 6 straight weeks of being away from my rugrats at school, I returned on the 5th of April more refreshed than ever. One by one, my students walked through the classroom door on that first day back, staring at me like I was the ghost of Christmas past. For some reason, the majority of them were quite shy my first two days back. But it was back to the norm of every day teaching. The first entire week, I failed to stay conscious past 8:00 p.m. At times delusional, I would wake up at midnight or some time later in the middle of the night, lying in a puddle of drool with limbs twisted, feet propped, and head turned in directions that I didn’t know I was capable of. And to think that I had slept in some of those positions for more than 4-5 hours at a time, truly astonishes me. I was exhausted.
The self injections of treatment at home continue 3 times a week. Originally the vials of medicine were shipped to us every other week, but each shipment was costing us $100 a pop. $200 a month was hardly an attractive thought, so my wife worked her magic. To make a long story short, we now get a shipment once a month cutting $100 off of our monthly co-pay. BUT, for some reason, accomplishing this requires me to now get 2 shots at a time (6 per week). Many times I have looked deep into Mary’s eyes, pleading with her to go back to the way it use to be. I’ll gladly be willing to pay that extra $100 a month just to get one shot at a time. And once again, there’s the baby in me.
Not once have I given myself the shots yet. The one time that I needed to, I held the needle 2 inches from my abdomen for about 20 minutes after finally giving up. And it wasn’t me giving up just this once. It was a fully committed “I’m not doing this ever” for the next 11 months. That’s why God provided nurse Mary for me, right?
One thing you might notice when you see me next is the swelling in my right hand. In a way, it actually resembles the Hamburger Helper hand.
The swelling in this hand is a result of lymphedema. Before I even had the lymph node dissections on both my right and left side, I was fully aware that this would be a possibility. Lymph Nodes main responsibility is to filter and drain fluid. Depending on where one has lymph nodes removed, permanent swelling can occur since there is essentially nothing to drain the fluid buildup. From the moment I had my surgery, my right and left arms and hands were at risk for developing this. They gave me a list of rules to follow for the rest of my life to avoid ever developing it. Some of the few things that I am to avoid are heavy lifting, too much repetitive motion, hot tubs, cuts and bruises to my arms, and needles to my arms. I was told that in order to fly, drive long distances, or do any type of exercise, I needed to where a compression sleeve on each arm. So many rules…so many do’s and dont’s. I didn’t want permanent swelling. I didn’t want to wear any sleeves. I was not comfortable at all with this possibility of lymphedema. Two Thursday’s ago, while sitting on the couch, Mary noticed that I had started to develop the swelling already, in my right hand. But some people never get it, so why me? And why couldn’t it be my left hand? I do everything right handed. Yet the Lord continues to be sovereign, humbling and teaching me along the way.
I’ve grown very used to the fact that the next many years of my life are not going to be normal. From scans, to more scans, visits with the dermatologist, physical therapist, medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, and maybe the radiation oncologist. The high probability of my cancer reoccurring, leading to more surgery and more treatment. I’m actually having two more moles removed on Thursday that my dermatologist labeled “pre-cancerous.” In fact, I have so many moles that I’ve been approved to be in the mole mapping program at UNC just so they can monitor ever single one of my questionable moles. Mole mapping? Sounds like a pretty sick and twisted map if you ask me.
This map of my life is not at all the map that I would have created for myself. The highways that I’ve been forced to take over the last few months are very very bumpy and far from enjoyable. But driving over and through these constant bumps on the road, with the strength that only God provides…that’s what makes this journey a rewarding growth experience that I could never replace.