Sigh of Relief

Autumn morning 10-20-12 006“You are free of the virus”, stated the doctor to my wife. Her response…”What?” “Your viral load is zero. You no longer have any Hepatitis-C virus in your body”. When Cheryl told me, my first thought was, “What?”. We both wondered how can that be when she was forced to stop the Interferon treatments due to severe reactions to the drug regimen after only three weeks of a forty-eight week, multi-drug administration? That was in 2008. So, since that time we have waited for a new drug to become available which has less side effects and is more effective than the treatments used during the past several decades. Fortunately, that drug is ready to be introduced to the public, and Cheryl was ready to try it. However, she doesn’t have to which is news almost too good to be true! We both breathed an extreme sigh of relief.

Cheryl acquired the Hep-C virus during blood transfusions given her after our first child was delivered by C-section. She needed blood, and got it. Unfortunately, it was tainted, and she received something she didn’t ask for or even know much about. That was 1979 when blood wasn’t screened for a host of virus’, including AIDS. We didn’t find out she had the Hep-C virus for another ten years until our family doctor noticed some elevated liver counts and prescribed further testing. We learned that Hepatitis-C is called the silent killer because it is so subtle in the way it attacks the liver and can eventually lead to liver failure or cancer. If it is active for too long and the symptoms become clearly noticeable, it is usually too late to do anything about it. In that respect it is similar to certain types of cancer.

There is the possibility that even though Cheryl’s treatment was cut way short, just enough of the viral-killing drugs stopped the virus from reproducing. Also, there is the possibility that because many of her friends and family prayed very specifically that what little treatment she received was sufficient to halt the disease, those prayers were effective. I prefer to think both theories are correct…God used the prayers of many to supercharge the medications which, in turn, stopped the virus. It may have stopped immediately or taken years, but the great news is she is free from this dark cloud of the unknown hanging over her head. This fantastic news is similar to how I felt when my younger sister was pronounced cancer-free after dealing with breast cancer a few years ago.

Am I grateful for this blessing? Of course, I am. But, that is only the beginning of my thoughts and emotions concerning the health of my best friend. For there are loved ones and acquaintances, work associates and strangers who carry with them grief and pain, loss and fear. We are all are aware of the devastation diseases such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, Ebola, etc. can have upon an individual and, sometimes, upon an entire nation. I have lost loved ones to disease and am aware of far too many who are currently dealing with cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and the list goes on and on. I don’t think there is anyone untouched in some way by some sort of disease.

For those who are the sick ones, and to those who are not (but are directly affected) my heart goes out to you. Human suffering is as old as man and the consequences today are no more or less than those of yesteryear. Pain and loss are not respecters of anyone, any time or any place. I have witnessed the grief of so many in my brief lifespan, but by grace I have not become callous by it. On the contrary, when I learn of another’s plight, I can almost feel their pain and the heartache which accompanies the illness and treatments. I guess one might call this association a form of empathy. I state this because I, simply one among many, am affected when another is infected. I have seen some of the greatest acts of compassion during the greatest of trials, and for every one of them I stand in awe of what others do to assist those in need. And, I praise God for what He does. Whether He heals or doesn’t, He is always available to comfort.

I wish to end on a positive note by stating that there is much to rejoice about in spite of the scope of disease. New medical treatments and breakthroughs for specific diseases are actually eliminating some and curbing others to a point where folks may once again experience a better quality of life than ever thought possible just a few years ago. Although there is so much more that can be done to prevent or stop the flow of diseases like cancer, we are gaining ground. Just as God has placed intelligence within the soul of man, He continues to expand his mind to find cures, and increases the compassion of others to comfort the hurting. I have learned that there is usually something good which comes out of something bad. That is His way. I do not understand it, but accept it, and rejoice because of it.


Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I wish I could take credit for this title because I find it so profoundly accurate to the story I am about to share in this post. Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message Bible, developed this paraphrase from a passage about surrendering our burdens to Christ whose grace never ceases, but flows continually into our lives. Rather than simply create a word picture, I have included several photos of waves I recently watched and played in off the coast of the Dominican Republic. The time spent at the  beach was as enjoyable as one can imagine!IMG_1359I really love waves. They remind me of clouds passing across the sky-an ever-changing panorama. I am in awe of surfers who navigate these fluid highways with stunning accuracy, and I thoroughly enjoy those jaw-dropping videos of waves rolling over surfers or crashing over reefs and onto shoreline rocks. Nature in motion. Breathtaking beauty. The visual and audible rhythm is soothing. At the same time waves can be extremely dangerous, especially the undertow and hidden objects below their momentous surfaces. Nevertheless, waves are awesome to behold and I count it a privilege whenever I can be near them (on or next to land, that is).IMG_1111While on the coast of sunny Punta Cana I was reminded of the words a friend spoke to me a few weeks ago. Tom lives in Florida and spends time lapping up the soft wave action of the panhandle. He often sits in the shallow water as the waves gently roll into him…repeatedly without end. He loves that. Tom discovered he has a very serious form of lymphoma cancer which devastated his body in short order. The good news is that his type of cancer is curable. However, the treatments last five months with week-long infusions, then rest and more infusions. Tom is away from his home during these treatments. His body suffered serious bone deterioration in joints and along his spine. Surgeries were necessary. It has been rough sailing for him and his wife.IMG_1134You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about Tom in the same context as waves. I’ll tell you. Before our vacation, I met with Tom for lunch and he explained the whole ordeal with cancer, treatments, etc. No pity-party, just facts. I’ll never forget the part where he talked about this journey and how his faith played a part in him keeping a positive attitude despite the circumstances. As he sat in his wheelchair, he kept motioning with his arms; he would extend them outward and then draw them inward in unison, like he was rowing a boat. He told me that God’s grace flowed into him just like the waves gently rolled into his chest as he sat in the shallow water of the ocean. Back and forth his arms moved. Then he said, ” I’m blessed, you know. I’ve been given so much and don’t deserve it all “.