Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Just heard there have been 45 million plus who have served our country's military and 1.2 of those has given their lives in defense of our country. Last night watched the PBS presentation of the Memorial Day Concert and was brought to tears often. As a plus, family from out of town arrived and we took a night time 'drive by' tour of the memorials, museums, capitol, etc.

Thanks be to God for our American Military. We all owe every member of our military more than we can pay. May God help all of us at the very least offer prayers of thanksgiving, protection, provision, and words of respectful honor when we are in the presence of a person who is or has served us as a member of our Armed Forces.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fullness!

Friday evening dinner date and movie with Brenda. Saturday morning breakfast with the Krafts and Landis families. Deliver Krafts and Landis' to AT and walk one hour in with them. Afternoon in back yard water park with grand daughters. Awaiting visit by Brenda's mom. This life abundant, purchased by our Lord, preserved by faith, and defended by a diligent military is VERY much appreciated.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Miracle in the works.

Following what I felt was inspiration I ran/walked 6 miles this morning (80 minutes). It was LSD, not the stupid stuff that almost fried my brain in '73 BC (Before Christ) but Long Slow Distance. It has been way over a year since running that far. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chemotherapy Recovery: Cycles of suffering.

Regularly observing cycles of self directed suffering increases the likelihood of recovery from any major disease or issue.

Overlaying the principles of a sine wave in the context of overcoming cancer and its many treatments is important for recovery. The RMS (square Root of the Means (average) Squared) value of an alternating sine wave for household voltage is 120 VAC. It alternates between 170 and 70 volts so fast (60 cycles per second); no one notices the highs and lows. Sometimes you can hear a 60 cycle hum when passing under power lines. We see most people in their RMS or average state. However, loved ones see the highs and the lows and the highs and lows are always changing. This adversely impacts relationships of cancer survivors or anyone facing chronic illness or chronic stress. These extreme highs and lows can contribute to some negative behaviors that often are worse than the disease or treatments themselves.

One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that anyone can receive is self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23) or longsuffering. The way I mature or grow this fruit is acts of self-discipline, or self-directed suffering. An example is fasting a particular appetite during the season leading up to Easter (Lent). This self directed suffering is a spiritual discipline to prepare a person to "rejoice in sufferings", or to "glory in tribulation (Romans 5:3)". A self-directed season of suffering is also seen in physical exercise. On a regular basis a person who exercises self-directs themselves to suffer for a brief period of time while doing exercise. This self-directed suffering produces long lasting benefits to spirit, soul and body when integrated with spiritual disciplines and accomplished for a cause greater than one's self. It can take the form of something proactive such as exercise or abstention such as no dessert or no caffeine or no carbohydrates or no alcohol for a self-directed or self-controlled season. The more a person is self-controlled, or engages in self-directed sufferings, the better prepared one will be during and after cancer treatments.

I have discovered that I am 'vagal'. I don't have a high pain threshold so, I have fainted numerous times while giving blood, getting shots, or experiencing moderate levels of pain. I don't mind it, and let my nurses always know that it is a possibility. I have provided tons of laughter at my expense because of my 'vagalness'. I have fainted in some of the best doctor's offices around the country. I remember distinctly, admitting this to the congregation I serve and instead of laughing at me, one of the members was in disbelief, and said something like: "You cannot be serious. Anyone who runs forty and fifty miles cannot have a low tolerance for pain". I laughed, but pondered this. I found that as a result of self directed suffering through extreme exercise that my tolerance for pain had drastically increased. I also found that after falling flat or 'splatting' (see earlier post), that the time of recovery was quicker. I only fainted once during chemotherapy and it wasn't pain related. My blood pressure dropped below sixty and I almost left this planet for the heavenly one, and because I knew I was losing consciousness I was able to alert the nurses that "I am leaving…" (Another story).

Suffering need not debilitate us forever. It's true, that suffering will debilitate a person for a lengthy period of time. During chemotherapy, especially in the fourth, fifth and sixth treatments it takes a much longer time to recover. And anytime during and afterwards, if something unusual gets thrown into the mix, it takes even longer. Last year at this time, a simple mowing of the lawn after the fifth treatment resulted in four compression fractures of my vertebrae. The back pain this caused is something I still have to deal with 24/7. This particular cycle of pain bottoms out less now, than it did, but the RMS value of my overall sense of well being was very low for very long periods of time. I never fainted, because of the self directed or fruit of self controlled sufferings had elevated my pain tolerance.

As a pastor, I am always encouraging my congregation to engage in as many spiritual disciplines that involve self directed sufferings as one can endure. This fruit of the Spirit can grow in such a way to speed up the cycle of suffering towards recovery. What if a person is forced to not drink coffee when that same person has never self-directed themselves to suffer from a lack of caffeine? What if a person is forced to not eat for a particular test? If they have never on their own, not eaten, or abstained from coffee this could prove to be cycle of suffering that bottoms out much longer than it should. I recently felt the Spirit asking me to fast a mental enjoyment. Listening to "classic rock" (sixties and early 70's music is classic for me) and watching old movies was something I did when I was relaxing. However, I was noticing higher levels of mental chatter going on in my head, and was facing difficulty focusing in on the Lord and His promises. I was easily distracted and my mind was wandering instead of focusing. This self directed suffering from listening to classic rock and watching old movies has slowly helped my mental state recover. Everyone has a will, and self directed suffering can exercise that will to positive purposes.

Romans 5:3Not only so, but we
also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Cycles of suffering will eventually begin to rise up from the depths, and by engaging in regular self-directed disciplines that cycle will turn positive much quicker. Once a person is in chemotherapy, I am not sure a new discipline can be attained and added to one's lifestyle. At least, for me, I found the season of chemotherapy one in which I just needed to get through, not develop some new discipline someone else was recommending for me. Growing a fruit of the Spirit is more tolerable when it is welcomed by self-discovery, not recommended by another. To raise one's RMS sense of well being, a self-directed plan of self controlled suffering increases the possibility of the upswing after a low. While one is healthy, is the best time to direct one's self into suffering of your own choosing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chemotherapy Recovery: Falling flat.

It doesn't happen often, but it happens. Many factors converge at one place at one time, and falling flat happens. There is no bounce, only a splat. Feelings, realities, reports, experiences, misunderstanding in a primary relationship can converge at one moment resulting in a downward 'splat'.

To understand this reality, one can research the elements of a sine wave. When a person utilizes the AC power that is readily available in the USA they are using 120 VAC. What is actually happening is an alternating sine wave with peaks up to near 170 volts and valleys down to 50 volts is being cycled at sixty cycles every second. It all happens so fast, we only think of this sine wave as 120 volts, but it is anything but a static level.

In human life, we tend to think statically instead of dynamically, and don't take into account the sine wave of life. These sine waves, or cycles, or seasons of life are filled with alternating highs and lows. In recovering from cancer/chemotherapy and/or any major issue one must take into account the cycle of one's life. We tend to only write about or hear about the averages or peaks of the human experience, but every living thing goes through these alternating experiences. The energy lulls, emotional blahs, mental fogs, relational misunderstandings, physical depletions, etc, are not the topics of best sellers but they are the realities of every human life, especially those of us overcoming cancer and its treatments. Add to this complexity the differing personality types comprised of a unique combination of personality traits these cycles of life are manifested in many differing ways. Add to this complexity the multiple side effects of the drugs and one can become overwhelmed with these cycles when they alternate to the lows way too often than one is accustomed to. How to handle life when one's cycle is on the bottom for an extended period of time is at best difficult. To sleep when sleepy, to rest when tired, to relax when stressed, retreating to rebuild a relationship, to build up oneself when torn down, to eat when hungry, to drink when thirsty, to seek God when lost, to not do stupid stuff when you don't know what to do: all of these are cycles of life that if ignored or denied keeps one at the bottom of the sine wave longer than necessary. Admitting to oneself, others and to God where one really is may just help the 'splat' experience to eventually cycle back up to some sense of normalcy. We are not voltages, and our cycles do not occur sixty times a second, but they occur. When and if one's main areas of enjoying life all cycle to the bottom at the same time and place is a dangerous time of life. It is at these moments when God's grace and other's grace manifested through the comfort and counsel of the Holy Spirit are so vital and necessary to cycle upwards to help one keep "walking through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23: 4).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chemotherapy Recovery: Perseverance!

"Son, you have to get back on the horse and ride!" At four years old, these words sounded pretty harsh, but at 55 they remind me to keep moving forward. Growing up on a cattle ranch in Central Florida, I was riding horses long before I could walk, and one day fell off. My father wasn't overly merciful, and promptly put me back on the horse with the above admonition. I was crying, upset and mad at my father, but his words have served me well as a cancer survivor. Outsiders would consider my father abusive and in today's culture would have called the child protective services. Unfortunately in today's world, families are hindered from giving their children the advice they need for the harsh realities of adult human life.

The drugs that are administered during R-CHOP chemotherapy are designed to kill fast growing cells. They also render one's mental clarity to a foggy haze. During the season of treatments, I would often "fall of the horse". Pity wouldn't put me back in the saddle, but perseverance, planted by my father's words as a four year old combined with God's grace helped put me back in the saddle of life innumerable times. Every aspect of human life is rendered at least 50% ineffectual during chemotherapy, and mistakes can begin to stack up against a cancer patient.

Yesterday was a "get back on the horse and ride" day. 2008 and 2009 were difficult years. Doctor's reports were revealing I needed cancer treatments, and the 2009 treatments were harsh, difficult, and almost killed me. During that time frame, many enjoyable things were missed or mistakes made in such a way that made enjoyable activities painful to attempt. One of these activities was hunting spring gobblers. In 2008 , 2009 and most of 2010 I kept making mistakes and was beginning to wonder if I would ever regain the ability to call in a mature bird. After getting a lot of work done on Monday morning, and early afternoon, I headed to the woods again. My first set up spot was unproductive and so I risked a move. I bumped a turkey and as I watched it running away I wondered if the hunt was over. I went on ahead and set up in a spot I had suspected was the place the gobbler was roosting in and began to call as the evening drew closer. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a gobble in response. I triple checked my set up, repositioned, and began to call. The tom responded, so I knew he knew my general area, so I just waited… and waited. I decided to call again, and he was much closer, and the field I was set up near had two feet of grass and I wondered what path he would take. I eventually saw his head and just waited. He was a big bird and was strutting and slowly making his way to me. He was angling away from me, so I softly called and it put him into a strut and he readjusted his path. He was in no hurry and was putting on quite a show for me. I softly called again, and he again started strutting and walking my way. I cocked the gun, and found a shooting lane and when he passed into it, at 30 yards I fired. Immediately I saw a gobbler flying away. I leaned back in my chair and just couldn't imagine missing or making another mistake, but it seemed like I had. For about 30 seconds I was giving myself a bad talking to for not harvesting the gobbler. Just as I thought I had missed, and made yet another mistake, I heard a wonderful sound. The flop/flop/flopping of a turkey. I rushed out to the field, as the grass was too tall to see from where I was. To my wonderment and praise to God, there was a magnificent specimen of the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). There was a second gobbler that I never saw that was accompanying the dominant bird. The tall grass had concealed him. Only those who have tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed, so many times would understand the sense of thanks to God for a success. I quickly called Brenda (who graciously lets me tell her all the details that she really doesn't want to hear). It was only voice mail so I gave her the nitty gritty of the story, and then I took some pictures and sent them around the world announcing "the drought is over".

Perseverance is especially needed before, during and after chemotherapy, because life had become skewed with the drugs. Returning to some sense of normalcy was important for me, though the mistakes were painful to press through. Many, many times, after falling off 'the horse', I would sense the Father's hand and Word encouraging me away from pity and into action.

For this, we survivors of cancer and cancer treatments, like the Apostle Paul, can "glory in tribulation".

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chemotherapy Recovery: Be Nice.

.

Being overly nice and friendly to fellow patients and nurses is very vital for recovery. Being looked upon favorably by fellow patients and nurses could be life prolonging. Humor goes a long way, and gifts are always welcome. One infusion day, (with my wife present), I handed out red roses to all the nurses and support staff. Being a self-confessed redeemed flirt it is a natural thing for me to be friendly with nurses. Complimentary comments are usually returned and I have received very much needed advice in the context of a casual and friendly conversation. In an appointment with oncologists, it is inevitable you forget to ask a question or to inquire about a side affect or issue. Nurses are literally loaded with advice and knowledge. Tapping that resource is a very, very healthy choice. Looking around at fellow patients is a learning experience as well. These veterans of chemotherapy can also be quizzed on various topics. One day, I observed a fellow patient with noise canceling headphones. I took that to note and at the next infusion, I brought mine to cancel out all the beeping of the instruments to listen to music or teachings. Nurses that have the 'athletic' look I always ask, "Hey, how do you stay so trim and fit?" It opens the door for conversation that could be an opening for friendship. I am genuinely curious and love to discover the joys of life others enjoy. When I come in, these tidbits of personal information makes it easy to start conversations and once they are started, the resourcefulness of a nurse is tapped and I become a better person as a result of their resourcefulness and experience. Those that are runners I always inquire about their progress and their goals. Information sharing in the context of friendship creates a healthy bond with another fellow human being. Instead of dreading an infusion, or appointment, or a port flush, it becomes an event to look forward to hanging out with friends.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chemotherapy Recovery Continued…

Think of others. For cancer and chemotherapy patients, both family and friends do an inordinate amount of thinking about us. Especially on special days, return that favor by no longer thinking of yourself and all you are going through. Choosing to pry your own eyes off of your own situation and placing them on others, especially significant others will aid in your own recovery.

Celebrate Mother's Day, by taking your focus off of yourself and placing it on the one who bore you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Positive Relationships

Another chemo recovery tip. Only have positive relationships. I was, am and by God's grace will continue to be in a positive marriage relationship. Three fruit of that relationship are three blessed children. Brenda has been, is and will continue to be the best mother. Blessed mothers day Brenda.

Friday, May 7, 2010

More Chemo recovery:

It is inevitable that during chemo the regular routines will be neglected. For me one was lawn care that was neglected. Returning to a somewhat sense of normalcy isn't going to exotic places. Just kneeling down in your flower beds may be just the experience you need to continue recovery.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chemo recovery: Multitask

Finding ways to enjoy life during and after treatments is integrating body, soul and spirit. A favorite is prayer, study, meditation, and calling in turkeys. This morning I am calling to the Lord for His anointing on Mothers Day message while calling to a gobbler across our cove.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Eliminate Non-Essentials

Eliminating Non-essentials while undergoing any type of cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, is a very wise thing to attempt. For me I had to eliminate the stress of political rhetoric. Some may find enjoyment over hassling the opposite political view, but I found it adding to my stress. So… I have eliminated negative thoughts or comments towards those of a differing political view for over a year. Living in a suburb of the nations' capitol it is difficult to NOT engage in this, but for my health sake, I did and I have no regrets. Many people must feel a call to hassle opponents, but for me, I don't and have felt more peace since eliminating this non essential from my life.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Port, or not to port.

One option in chemotherapy is to have a surgically inserted port instead of having to locate a vein every time you get infusion. It is a hard decision, but my daughter-in-law coached me through all the pros and cons. (She had chemotherapy and was/is a good coach on the topic.) For me it was a good thing, and fellow chemo patients with sick humor like to show off their ports. (You have to be a bit discreet as it is located on your upper chest.) (A female friend and I had to show off our ports yesterday, and it was a funny moment.) Some get theirs removed immediately after chemo, others do not. My chemotherapy will continue another year and half, and so it is was an easy decision to keep it in. Keeping it shaved is necessary, as the last time, I got infused, the tape on what little chest hair I have was more painful than the therapy. A big oooowwwwww was uttered when my nurse removed the tape the last time. It aids in the recovery process because it is just one less thing to worry about. The plus is that every month you have to go in and get it flushed. This time gives you access to the nurses who are loaded with information and can give wise counsel on most any topic. It also connects you to fellow patients, with opportunity to minister hope and receive hope as well.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Friendships

Chemotherapy negatively affects one's immune system, and patients are highly encouraged to stay away from crowds. However, I found that isolation from friends was not an option. Not attending one's own church you are the pastor of was never considered. Not attending our annual District Council was never under consideration either. The positive benefits of friendship activities, especially church attendance far outweighed the negatives. Simply adopting a no hug policy and no open handed shaking really helped. Only a few people were initially offended, but quickly understood as I explained why I didn't shake hands open fisted. Only knuckle to knuckle helped reduce any possibility of catching someone's cold. Assume that no one else washes their hands, and it is easy to not shake their hands open fisted. I still would rather knuckle to knuckle handshake. Following good hygiene practices during and after chemotherapy drastically reduces the spread of anything contagious. Being in the presence of people who like/love you has a positive healing/restorative affect. Generally people don't know how to approach a person who is on chemotherapy and therefore lean towards avoidance. I would advise the opposite, for friendships are very vital for recovery. Treat everyone with respect by practicing good hygiene. Respectful hygiene is good whether or not the person is a chemo patient or not and is a sign of friendship. Chemo patients need the love found in group settings, especially those found in places of worship. It is a Sunday morning, and tonight is our annual District Council. Last year, I was bald headed, blurred mentally, with a very low immune system. However, the group dynamic of worship with friends brought such positive healing benefits that far outweighed the risks.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Enjoy life!

Even on the 90% less energy days from chemotherapy there is still plenty of things to enjoy. Nature has lots to offer on the low energy days. I remember going cane pole fishing on a very low day. Just sitting, watching the bobber and occasionally catching a catfish or crappie helped realign my soul. Doing very simple yet enjoyable tasks is refreshing. I also took slow meandering walks with mt toddler grand daughter. Her slow, exploring pace made her feel like she was setting the pace. (she was)
Plus she was good at finding worms.