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.


It’s Never Too Late For Lilacs

??????????When I was a child, my mother shared a tradition with my two sisters and me which continues to serve-up fond memories at this time of year. Mom was from the country formerly called Yugoslavia.

Every May Day (May 1st) was a day of celebrating the end of a long winter, the promise of a fruitful summer, and a pinch of kindness. The act of kindness which our mother taught us involved flowers and anonymity! The flowers were usually lilacs because our home was blessed with a row of bountiful lilac bushes. These bushes often produced bumper crops of the largest, most colorful, and fragrant lilac blossoms I have ever seen. Simply to view them from afar and catch a whiff of their scent was pure joy.

Rather than call our sharing of these wonderful blossoms a random act of kindness, it was actually a deliberate act of kindness. Randomness has no place in my way of relating to kindness…either you are kind and perform acts of kindness on purpose or you don’t. Simple, but that’s how I see it.

This particular act of kindness went something like this; we made construction paper baskets with paper handles. The colored construction paper was decorated with warm messages and the best child drawings we could create. Mom would encourage us, but left the designs to us. The ‘baskets’ were shaped into a curve to hold the flowers. We would select the biggest and most colorful blossoms, clip them from the bushes and fill our baskets to the brim. Sometimes we would make three or four baskets each.

Next, we would give serious consideration as to whom would receive our treasures. This took some effort as we graded our neighbors based on their kindness, perceived need, whether they received a basket the previous year, and so on. Again, mom would offer her input, but left the final decisions to us.

Then came the exciting part. We would stealthily walk the neighborhood, hiding behind cars, trees and bushes until it was time to strike. I shudder to think what would happen to us if we did such a thing in today’s culture of fear. Back then we were free. When we thought the ‘coast was clear’ we would run to the front door, hang the basket on the door knob, ring the bell and scurry to hide…and wait…and watch.

The anticipation of waiting for the door to open was exciting. As the lady of the house opened the door she would look around for someone. Upon seeing no person, she would notice the basket of fresh blossoms, take them from the door, glance around once more and then retreat inside. The smiles on the recipient’s faces was worth every ounce of energy and time spent on creating these gifts.

The simple joy of blessing someone anonymously still warms my heart and brings a smile to my face, too. Mom knew something wonderful and chose to share it with her children: giving is far greater than receiving. And, for that eternal truth, I and my sisters are forever grateful. Thanks mom for teaching us how to give without expecting something in return, except for the satisfaction of ‘making someone’s day’ !

P.S. I posted a photo of Tulips because Lilacs haven’t bloomed yet. It’s not what is given that really matters as much as why and how the gift is offered.