I’m sitting on my front porch in the early evening after a summer rain. The ceiling fan is keeping the mosquitos off. It’s just me and my dog…and the hummingbirds.
I put up a couple of feeders this year, and we now have several hummers who come scores of times each day. I could watch these little birds for hours. I don’t know why I find them so fascinating, but I do. They are nervous little guys, as much bug as bird, twitchy, darting here and there. They are not personable at all. They certainly don’t seem fascinated with me, though one of them seems to like my dog. He will come and hover over her while she lays on the steps sometimes. Maybe he thinks he is dominating the dog. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a hummingbird!
My dog is a mature gray standard poodle. She is a strikingly beautiful dog, and people in my neighborhood often stop as they are driving down the street to tell me how pretty she is and to ask what kind of dog she is. I always tell them she is a “long-nosed pit bull”. They always say, “No she’s not! She’s some kind of poodle!” And I tell them to hush, because I want her to believe she is a pit bull. We live in the hood.
Victoria likes to tell people that her name is “Gracie, but it is spelled G-r-e-y-c-e”, like that matters. Greyce is never going to spell her name. She is never getting married, and she is never filing taxes. So who cares how we spell her name. I suspect that Vic wants people to know that she has an elegant name because she wants people to think of Greyce as an elegant dog.
The truth is that Greyce is a dog whose greatest love in life is trash, and that she thinks she is a little dog. She sees people coming down the sidewalk, runs up and scares them half to death because she is large and has a really loud and ferocious bark, and then is puzzled and hurt when people recoil in fear. She wants to be a lap dog. She loves playing with little dogs, who she often steps on and hurts by accident.
OK, what does that have to do with cancer?
First, I really don’t want to talk about cancer today because my update sucks. Greyce and hummingbirds are a nice distraction. But so that you understand, here is the scoop…
I met with the doctor yesterday, who mostly wanted to talk about the side effects I have been having. It is not normal to have side effects from immunotherapy, and especially not this soon. We talked/processed through the possibilities.
Maybe is was a one-off event…something unrelated to my treatments. But we would find out later in the day since after meeting with him I would go immediately for my infusions. And here is the real sucky part – I had side effects, as bad or worse than before, within 2 hours of the treatments. Yuck!
So, if not a one-off event, then maybe I am allergic to the drugs. But my symptoms don’t present like allergic reactions, so that is unlikely.
The most …[pause for hummingbird break]… The most concerning possibility is that my immune system has decided to target the immunotherapy drugs. That is extremely rare. Immunotherapy drugs and my immune system are supposed to be friends. They are designed to work well together. If my body is attacking the drugs, then my immune system is fighting the cure instead of the cancer. That is probably as bad as it sounds.
According the doctor, the most likely scenario is, in his words: “Hey, this is biology. People are unpredictable. We don’t understand, and we may never understand.”
Don’t let anyone tell you that science is different than faith. Science/medicine is good and helpful; but as much faith goes into it as in faith healing. I believe in both, by the way. I find it easier to put my faith in God, not in a healer and not in a doctor. My favorite doctors are ones who pray. My favorite healers are ones who tell people to go to the doctor. They get it.
Yesterday I spent 6 hours at the cancer clinic. It ended with 2 hours of infusions while I listened to 3 episodes of Snap Judgment. (Don’t ask me which ones. I drifted in and out under the comfort of a heated blanket.) I got home at 3:30 feeling spent. By 4:30 I was in bed with 101.5F fever, severe chills and body aches. They got worse during the evening. I asked Victoria to contact the elders of my church and asked them to pray for me. They did, and minutes the aches and chills were bearable, (a couple of the elders are doctors who pray.) though the fever remained. My fever broke about 4:30 this morning. Heavy night sweats. Exhaustion. I stayed at home today. Weak as a … well, pretty weak, and feeling pretty low.
Back to dogs and hummingbirds. My dog-friend Greyce is not who she thinks she is. She is a big dog, In fact I call her “Big Dog” most of the time. She is also not who my wife thinks she is. (We never tried to teach Greyce how to spell her name.) The domineering little hummer who hovers over Greyce is not who he thinks he is either. Self-awareness is not a gift many of us have.
I don’t feel much like spiritualizing tonight, but I can’t help but think about the verse in James that describes people who focus on theology but don’t focus on practicing it. He says they are like a person who looks in a mirror, but forgets what they look like when they walk away. I also remember how many times Jesus spoke to common folks about the religious hypocrites who were in charge of their temples and synagogues. He called out those who appeared pious, reminding us all that you “know a tree by its fruit”.
Tonight, I feel pretty weak. I don’t feel motivated to be “in faith” for my situation. I am frustrated – disappointed that medicine doesn’t answers and may even be doing me harm.
What does that reveal, really? …That for all my rhetoric, I have placed too much hope in the wrong things. Today I think I am a small dog; but I am not. I know too much. I have too much history. I have learned that my faith doesn’t ever belong in things – not in medicine, or systems, or churches or even truths. I have learned from 46 years of experience that I am called simply to trust God - the Person, not the religion. I know Him. He doesn’t change. He is good. Often, He is mysterious. But that doesn’t mean He is fickle. He is WHO I trust. If I am disillusioned by medicine, then that helps me see that I have mislaced my hope. When we are disillusioned, we lose our illusions. I am Beloved’s. He is mine. I am content in that.
But I am not what others want me to be either. I am not a super saint. I am not as spiritual or as wise as some want to believe. I am not even a great pastor or leader. Truth. I am honored that some may think that, but all that means is that one day they will have the privilege of losing that illusion, too. I have real weaknesses. I am wallowing in self-pity today…and sort of enjoying it. It’s wrong, its self-destructive, I know it, and I am still doing it. But because I am not getting drunk or high or going to some porn site, some might think that I am not so bad. Boy, are they under an illusion!
But in spite of my pretending to be a “little dog” today or a “giant hummer” tomorrow, I am still God’s. He is still my God. He never changes. “The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are sons of God.” In a relentlessly loving way, the Holy Spirit is saying to me, even tonight, “Hey, Big Dog, how are you doing?”
If you made it to the end of this, know that I write these more for me than for anyone else.