For many who read this you may already know the season I am writing about … my six month journey through diagnosis and treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Cancer, the “BIG C”, how could this ever be a “Season of Joy” for anyone. First, I don’t mean to minimize this for anyone else who has had to endure it. Everyone’s journey is different and the impact of cancer is stroked with a very broad brush.
Having just finished all of my chemo treatments, I wanted to share this before getting my final diagnosis because the real joy I have experienced over the past six months has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome. So here are some of the Moments of Joy (although there were so many more):
• Feeling God’s presence so much more intimately than ever before. I asked Him early on to please teach me through this season and it was the discovery of finding joy that I think I needed to learn the most.
• My Angie, is how I like to refer to my beautiful bride, shared every aspect of this journey with me. Almost daily I would hear her on the phone with a co-worker or client and when they asked about me she would always answer, “‘WE’ had a treatment yesterday” or “‘WE’ are half-way through.” This was such a strong reminder that I was never alone and she was right there fighting with me.
• My family, both near and far, calling to check on me, driving me to treatments, and most importantly offering their prayers. From family we tend to expect it, but their sacrificial love without a second-thought was truly a huge source of strength for me.
• My church family, which feels more like a real family. These are people that we get to live real life with and not just see once a week for an hour or so. Because of the relationship we already shared not much had to change. I know I was on the receiving end of many more prayers than usual and there were lots of offers of help, but there was no need for a ramping up of relationships. Joy came from knowing that God already had me in a good place to help me through this storm.
• Little moments like still being able to work even there were days that staying curled up in bed seemed like a better plan. I remember one particular day, I had been out shooting videos on 3 homes just a couple days after a treatment, and while driving back to edit I started to feel very weak. About a half mile from home I started praying and asking God for strength to finish the day’s work. That’s when I rounded the corner next to this little fenced pasture and saw 2 beautiful painted horses. They were both standing at the corner of the fence and looking right at me as if waiting to greet me. As I drove past they began to run alongside my truck and their beauty was overwhelming. I immediately forgot all about feeling tired and finished the day.
• My 4 grandsons, from their sweet tears after hearing the news, to the awesome “head shaving/pizza party” we had together. Every moment with them and Facetime calls brought instant joy and reminded me that my unconditional love for them is the same love our Father has for all of us.
• We have a cat called “White Cat” cause she’s white. If you know me, then you know I don’t like cats and this cat knew it too and always avoided me. But almost immediately after getting diagnosed, this cat started following me all around the house and trying to crawl into my lap. Over the 3-4 months of treatments and a lot of couch time, White Cat and I have become much closer and I have even been caught calling her over and giving her a good head rub.
• And then there were many other things that brought so much joy and always when needed most.
- A phone call from a group of Ethiopians (arranged by our missionary son, Brannon) praying for me, some in english and others in their native languages.
- A small country church in Eufaula that heard about my situation and started mailing me personalized prayer cards and words of encouragement.
- Our Embrace set-up team still letting me show up early on a Sunday morning and pitch in. Those mornings I wasn’t able to make a huge impact but just being there with them was great medicine for me.
- My Realtor customers, who are also my friends, that kept me working and giving me purpose. We have enjoyed a special partnership over the past 24 years but they really showed me the meaning of extended family during this season.
- Some very special ladies, that barely knew me, getting together with Angie to make special broth soups to help with my immune system. Not only did they feed my body and soul, but they also loved on My Angie and became a support system for her. Much joy came from seeing her get loved on.
My Season of Joy is about to be capped off later this week as I am scheduled for a P.T. scan to see if we “got it all”. But because of the lesson I’ve learned about finding joy even in the roughest of storms, I find myself only focusing on the day after. Whatever the outcome, I know that God will continue to show me His love and help me find joy each and every day so long as I’m willing to keep my eyes and heart open. Joy is not something we walk through life to occasionally stumble across, but joy is a decision we make. So I choose to rejoice again and again.
- Guest Post by John Sweatman -