Many years ago, a friend of mine told me that my life was too nice and easy. Everything came easy to me and nothing bad ever seemed to happen. God was blessing me and my life. But that was going to change.
At the time, I thought my friend just took everything in a bad way. Every little thing that happened in his life was some kind of judgement from God and really bothered him in a negative way. I always viewed good things as unearned blessings and when things went badly, that was just God letting me learn new things in new ways. I always thought of them as good things disguised as tragedies. My friend struggled to praise the Lord when things went in ways he didn’t appreciate.
At the end of this past September, I had the opportunity to remember my friend’s prediction for my life. Just after we had visited Home Depot and ordered our new kitchen cabinets and had torn out the, then, current cabinets and floor (yes, a full kitchen remodel), my wife complained of a terrible stomachache. Of course, in my normal, easygoing way, I told her to take some tums and if it still hurts, I would take her to her doctor in Pullman to see what’s what.
An hour later, she called me and said the pain was really bad and she thought we needed to go to the emergency room. So we went. Hospitals are full of sick people, doncha know, and as it turned out we were about to join them. Three hours later, after a bunch of poking around, a camera down her throat, a lot of blood tests, and a CAT scan, we were told that Eileen has Esophageal cancer. The tumor on her esophagus was over four inches long.
Furthermore, the cancer had caused her lymph nodes to become swollen and the cancer had caused lesions to form on her liver (50 of them, all at least ¾” in size). Because the cancer had spread and was in her throat, it was inoperable and the could not be treated with radiation. Chemotherapy was all that was left. Without the chemo, the doctors said she might live another six months. With it, she could expect to live for another year and a half to two years.
Since then, we have been visiting St. Joe’s Cancer Center in Lewiston, Idaho every other week to get chemo treatments. The chemo wipes Eileen out and for the next week or so, she is very tired and slow. So far she has slowly been recovering for the next week until she has to go in for her next treatment. It has affected her thinking very minimally, she is slower, can’t get as much done, and is very tired after doing pretty much anything. She takes a lot of naps.
On the up side: her brother, Tom, who brought his wife (Carolyn), came up from California to help redo the floor and give aid and comfort to Eileen. They were great and were a great blessing from God. The men in the church jumped in to help finish the kitchen, which is almost finished. Some of the folks in the church bought us a new stove. We’ve been given some financial aid. The women of the church have been bringing us meals every night the whole time. There is a cleaning service in town that irons my shirts every week. Some of the young ladies clean our house every week. The women are bringing Eileen soups and other mushy food every day. The church is letting me take as much time as I need to care for Eileen and get our house back together. The church has been doing an amazing job of taking care of us.
Things are bad, but God is so good to us. It has been an amazing example of how God works through his people to build up the church. While Eileen is going through a very tough time physically, we are going through a very blessed time spiritually. We know that our redeemer lives and that he loves us. Whatever happens with Eileen, therefore, will be a blessing to her and to Rachel and me. While we dread, and even fear the future on one hand, at the same time, we are thrilled to be a part of what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those around us. It’s all part of the adventure. And God is good.
So, my friend was right and he was wrong. My life was smooth and nice, but that didn’t mean that God was planning to throw a stone into the middle of it. God wants me, Eileen, and everyone else to walk with him, to become more like Christ, and to shine his light on all those around us. He uses the hard things, the trials, to mold us and shape us into effective ministers of his Word. And so, we consider it all joy when we face various trials because we know that the testing of our faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jas 1:2-4).
Oh, one more good thing: another CT scan a couple of weeks ago revealed that the lesions on Eileen’s liver are less than half the size they were when the treatments started. They can’t tell how the chemo has affected the tumor on her esophagus because of the way it has grown in her throat. The doctors were hopeful that since it has affected her lesions, it has also affected the main tumor.