"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".