I wrote in a previous blog (“Into the Batter’s Box…Again) of my experiences with cancer-related issues. I closed that little essay with the statement that I had at that time (November, 2014) been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, commonly referred to as CLL. I was comforted at the time by my skilled doctor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic that CLL was a very slow working form of leukemia, sometimes not active for years, and that my level of progress of the disease was very low. It was, he said, just a matter of monitoring the problem with no treatment planned on the horizon.In March of this year (2015) I revisited MDA (the term of affection for M.D. Anderson) and after $16,000 worth of testing (!) was again reassured that all was under control, and monitoring would continue as needed. I felt comfortable with the diagnosis and prognosis. Since that date I have felt well and hearty, probably partly because I have lost a lot of weight on purpose, and as a result I’ve had less baggage to haul around, so I’ve had a corresponding reduction in blood pressure and periods of extreme fatigue. But…the disease has still been there lurking somewhere in my bloodstream.
Fast forward to the recent past at my church, Bethel Tabernacle. Anyone who has been a relatively faithful attendee in the last couple of months will tell you that we have heard several unusually powerful and moving sermons from our pastor, our associate ministers, and even visiting ministers about the healing power of God, and as each sermon was delivered, it seemed that the message was directed to me…to the point that in one sermon the minister referred to “a faithful member of the church who is suffering from cancer.” I understood at the time that the minister was probably referring to one of our established members who is known to be suffering from the dreaded disease, but even with that, the statement came close to me, primarily because I had not advertised my own health situation very openly.
During two separate services, when prayer for the health-challenged was offered, the ministers of the church anointed me with oil and prayed as the scriptures suggested, and I felt a tremendous touch of…whatever you want to call it…virtue, healing, spirit, or God (all the same, anyway), and I, after the second prayer, felt that my situation with leukemia had possibly, even probably, been abated. I felt such, to the point that I looked forward to my visit to MDA on Wednesday, October 28, because I fully expected my doctor to look at my lab work and tests and be amazed at the unexplainable positive changes that had occurred in my blood. I was so confident that I told my wife that she did not need to travel with me to MDA, because I was expecting a very positive outcome to my tests. She was scheduled to work that day, and usually she cancels her work to go with me, but that morning I drove away from our home in high spirits.
All my tests were done by 10:30, so I dawdled and wandered around until my 1:00 appointment with Doctor Ravandi, who has been my doctor since 2008. At precisely 1:00 p.m. I was ushered into the patient’s room and as usual interviewed by his nurse, then his physician’s assistant. The PA was looking at the computer screen on the desk asking me questions about my medications, feelings, last six months’ events, etc., and when he finished, he left, saying that Doctor Ravandi would be available in a few minutes. The computer was still running, however, and I, being the nosey soul that I am, decided to take a look at my medical charts and the results of the blood tests of three hours earlier. What I saw (I’m learning to read those charts), left me cold.
It was abundantly clear that my “dormant” CLL was on the move. Without getting into technicalities, everything about my blood that was supposed to be low was rapidly increasing, and everything that was supposed to be high was dropping like a rock. I was stunned and disbelieving, and under my breath whispered, “Oh, God, can this be true?” I felt as if I had been promised a valued prize and at the last minute had it snatched away. When Doctor Ravandi entered the room a little later, I did not react much to what he had to say because I was already a little numb. I have described in an earlier essay the moment I was told I had cancer in 2008. This moment was not as traumatic as that, but it was a shock, anyway. He told me what I had already determined, but offered the analysis that the progression of the disease had not reached the treatment stage. By next May (my next appointment), however, he stated if the current activity continued, we would begin some sort of procedure. Apparently the general consensus is that until a certain level of progression in some diseases is reached, early treatment can actually be counterproductive. It’s sort of like when I had the blockage in my carotid artery in my neck cleared in May, the blockage had been there for at least eight years, but until the blockage reached 70%, no surgery was planned. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it’s done.
I said my goodbyes to my medical team and headed home. I had a hard time concentrating on the traffic because I was so disappointed in the news I had received. I had been so confident…so full of faith…in the expectation of receiving a great report that I had trouble grasping what had taken place. If you’ve ever tried to pray and drive in heavy traffic at the same time, it’s pretty challenging. Actually, I suppose anytime one gets on the streets of Houston, praying while driving is a necessary practice.
In a short while, however…even before I arrived home…I began to feel a comforting spirit from God descend around me, and I remembered some of the statements I have both said and written during earlier trying times. God’s time is not our time; sometimes healing comes, and sometimes it does not. If we were all healed every time we became ill, we would all live forever, but our forever will come in the next life, not here on earth. I taught a series of lessons a few years ago on “Seeking the Will of God,” and I learned that the only stated will of God in the scriptures is that “none should perish, but all have eternal life.” Everything that He allows to happen to us is geared toward pushing us in the right direction to insure our eternal salvation. Healing occasionally comes, wealth may come, earthly security may come, but those blessings are at best only supplemental to His divine plan for us…that we be saved. It is our job to accept His plan for each of us and follow his leading and inspiration. He promised, “I will be with you…even to the end of the earth.”
So I have accepted the situation, perhaps as a child does when he/she is denied a toy. There is initial disappointment, but just as children eventually understand that their parents still love them in spite of saying “no,” the disappointment quickly fades and the love remains as strong as ever. I understand that in His time, all will end well. I will live each day enjoying the blessing of having His spirit near me. Healing may come, but, if not, He is still my provider, benefactor, and soon coming King. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.