After a grueling four months of chemotherapy treatment it all came down to yesterday’s meeting with our oncologist to discuss the results of my latest PET scan. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

The latest video update is below, and this one’s a doozy, filmed on Nate’s documentary camera.1 If you’re unable to see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.

If you don’t mind, please be sure to “like” the video by clicking the thumbs-up while it’s paused. Thanks!

So, what next?

About midway through my treatment and again yesterday, our oncologist walked us through the possible treatment options by showing us a Hodgkin lymphoma treatment flowchart, which you can see below (you can click the image to enlarge it).

Hodgkin lymphoma treatment flowchart

After an initial four cycles (eight treatments) of ABVD chemotherapy, there are two options for a person displaying a “complete response” (“CR” on the chart), as presented at the top of the chart: Two more cycles of chemotherapy followed by radiation (“IFRT” on the chart), or moving straight to radiation therapy. I, thank God, will be foregoing more chemo and moving straight into radiation. The justification for doing so was summed up by our oncologist thusly:

  • According to the oncologist, I have had a “rougher time than most” dealing with this particular chemotherapy regimen. Some people “breeze through it” (I’m not really sure how that’s possible or what it would look like), but clearly I have not.
  • The longer that a person endures chemotherapy treatment, the higher the likelihood that complications may arise in the future. Things like the return of different, more agressive forms of cancer in the future. No thank you.

Libby and I will meet with our radiation oncologist for a consultation on July 5, and our hope is that I can postpone radiation for a few weeks until after traveling to New Orleans with high schoolers and adults from our church for the National Youth Gathering. At our initial consult with the radiation oncologist on February 24, we were told a) that my radiation regimen would likely be five consecutive weeks of five-days-a-week treatments and b) that it would be possible to hold off on radiation until after the New Orleans trip.

So if the PET scan revealed a “complete recovery,” why the need for radiation? (I’m sure my dad wasn’t the only one with this question.) Chemotherapy and radiation are two different ways of attacking tumor cells. Chemo is a drug therapy that works via the blood, while radiation is an energy aimed directly at the tumor cells. Because I had a “bulky mass” in my chest, they want to be sure that they are eradicating 100% of the disease, and so radiation will be used in conjunction with chemo. That’s why the title of this post says “essentially” cancer free — the PET scan revealed no disease, but who knows how many stray cancer cells are traipsing through my body.

Recovery

The CBC I had done yesterday showed my highest white blood cell count in several months: 2,300 (the normal range is between 4,000 and 11,000). Two weeks prior it was at 1,600, the lowest number of my entire treatment. Over the next few weeks, as the chemotherapy drugs continue to wear off, my white blood cell count will continue to climb, and my body will continue to heal. This is great news in general, but also specifically for my anal fissures, which wound up becoming — by far — the worst side effect I experienced.2 More white blood cells = more ability for my body to heal itself. Every day a little healthier.

Moving forward

We’re not out of the woods just yet. Radiation isn’t exactly a walk in the park (so I’m told), but there’s no way it can be worse than chemo. Even after radiation is finished, I will continue to be a cancer patient: I’ll have frequent follow-ups with my oncologist, occasional CT scans, etc. for months and years to come.

Additionally, I’ll continue to post updates and video blogs here throughout the next several months, but they may be less frequent (especially in July). I’ll be learning alongside all of you about radiation and its side effects, and it will surely feature prominently in the documentary as well.

I don’t even know how to begin thanking everyone for their love, support, prayers, and encouragement through this process. It was and continues to be an immeasurable source of strength for both Libby and I. Thank you. And speaking of Libby, what an utter gift from God she has been. I am beyond blessed to have such a caring, supportive, selfless, beautiful, and hilarious woman by my side.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Let’s do this.

UPDATE: We’re working on a feature-length documentary about my cancer journey and recovery, titled Let’s Do This: Facing Hodgkin Lymphoma. Read about the documentary here and “like” the page on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the film’s progress.

  1. A huge “thank you” to Dr. Freeman for allowing Nate to film this appointment. It will undoubtedly make the documentary far more powerful than it would have been otherwise. []
  2. In fact, I had to take a break from writing this blog post to go to the bathroom and then immediately take an epsom salt bath. Ugh. []

{ 34 comments }

Cancer & Theology guest blog series

This post is a part of a series featuring an assortment of voices exploring how to think theologically about cancer and those who have it. Read the series introduction or view all posts in the series. UPDATE: The beautifully designed Cancer & Theology e-book includes the original essays as well as three new essays and a new introduction.

There is nothing more disruptive, more apocalyptic, in the life of a modern American person than a health scare. It is peculiarly disruptive in America because we Americans seem to believe we have been inoculated against the possibility of disease and death. Until… that is… we get faced with a brutal life-threatening health scare.

And yet when a difficult illness strikes a whole set of activities are set into motion. We have these visits with doctors, we are given options, our lives are set into the motions and the rhythms of the medical industry. We are made aware of how small we are, and how large the medical machine is. And we keep pushing along doing what people are supposed to do when they get cancer or heart disease. It feels much like we’ve been technologized in the midst of this crucial moment in our lives. Is this me they want to do this stuff to?

But I have personally learned that perhaps the best place in American life for God to get through to me and actually open up a space to be heard are these times I am calling “the health scare.” For it is here where we can come to grips with the illusion that we are in control of our lives. We seek God. In the midst of the panic, the sleepless nights, somehow when we lie exhausted and calm down, we can somehow find Him. Just find Him.

But I think doing this is impossible. Impossible, that is, all by oneself.

I have discovered that getting sick is the worst time to isolate yourself because I cannot escape my fear, I cannot make the walk from fear to trust by going into a closet. I need someone to proclaim (and witness) to the gospel, that “Jesus is Lord,” that he is taking the world somewhere, and that I am an intricate peculiar particular part in all that.

This is the profound place of trust that a health crisis can lead me to if I will somehow go there. But I’ve found myself, and have seen other people, managing ourselves out of this moment. We seek to control everything and put up a front. We research endlessly on the internet every little detail of our disease and our treatments. We spend hours trying to deal with this all in our own human strength. We’re going to “fight this thing!” we say. It’s here I can get isolated and go into a spiral. We need people. We need the body of Christ witnessing to the reality of “Jesus is Lord” amidst the machinations of the American medical industry.

Walking through a health crisis alone is, in my opinion, a denial of the resurrection. It is within the “body of Christ” that fellow believers can proclaim the gospel, lay on hands and pray, all to make present the rule and authority of the Reign of Christ over our lives.

And so, crazy as this may seem, we need to nurture these times when we are presented with a “heath scare.” Take the time afforded to slow everything down, seek God, be with proclaimers of the gospel, let the Holy Spirit be present, submit to the anointing with oil as an unction signifying my body is the Lord’s to be sovereign over. Seek that “way” that guides us into trust from fear by the proclamation of the gospel. This is a process. This is a journey. But this, I believe, is the life-changing Kingdom.

There is a place of peace, discovery and God’s power to be found in the valley of the shadow of death. There is a place here to go deeply into the reality of what God is doing in Jesus Christ and His resurrection that is admittedly hidden to most… until, that is, we get sick.

I pray God’s lordship, God’s healing, God’s blessings over all who walking through an illness. May God by His Spirit in Christ sustain Jake, his family, and others for the work to which God has called them that lies ahead.

Cancer & Theology

The entire Cancer & Theology series is now available as a beautifully designed e-book, featuring a new introduction and three new, e-book-only essays from Adam J. Copeland, Joshua Longbrake, and Greg Syler. It is available exclusively for Amazon Kindle devices and apps (including most smartphones, tablets, and computers) for just $5.99.*

Buy Cancer & Theology [Kindle Edition] | $5.99
(Clicking this button will direct you to Amazon’s website. Your credit card will not be charged.)
*20% of all proceeds from the sale of the e-book will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

David FitchDavid Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary. He blogs at Reclaiming the Mission and has written several books, including The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from Big Business, Parachurch Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism, and Other Modern Maladies.

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Above: Libby shaves my head in our bathroom. This photo is one of a series taken by our wedding photographer, Joshua Longbrake, for use as promotional images for Let’s Do This: Facing Hodgkin Lymphoma. See below for a link to more photos.

You’ll find the latest video update below. If you’re unable to see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.

If you don’t mind, please be sure to “like” the video by clicking the thumbs-up while it’s paused. Thanks!

Additional updates

  • I had my eighth chemo treatment this past Friday, and depending on what my next PET scan shows, it could very well have been my last. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but it’s really difficult not to, for several reasons. First, enduring chemo’s side-effects has been maddening, and second, all signs point toward progress: My original symptoms have disappeared (night sweats, etc.) and the tumor on my neck has shrunk enough that it cannot be felt anymore (right before chemo began, you could see it). Our oncologist seems to be quite confident that I won’t need any more chemo; only radiation would remain. But the only way to be sure is to get another PET scan, which is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20. We will review the results with the oncologist that Friday.1
  • As mentioned above, Joshua graciously made the trip from Chicago to Des Moines to spend some time with Libby and I in order to shoot some promotional photos for the documentary. He posted several of the (phenomenal) photos over on his blog. I’d post the rest of them here, but we’ve gotta keep some things “secret” until the documentary is officially released, right? Anyway, “thank you” to Joshua for being willing to take time out of your life to document part of ours.
  • Another huge “thank you” and congratulations to my friend Erik for finishing the Dam to Dam 20K and raising over $1400 along the way — money which will help offset the costs of medical bills, prescriptions, etc. for Libby and I. You can read Erik’s post-race report here. I hope to be healthy enough to run my second 5K in October, right alongside Erik. Libby and I continue to be humbled at the love and support from the people in our lives – it has been and continues to be one of the most unexpected gifts that cancer has brought.
  • Speaking of gifts, this short TED talk is well worth three of your minutes. Warning: It may make your eyes leak.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks as always for your continued prayers and words of encouragement! I just might be through the most difficult part! And stay tuned tomorrow — the esteemed David Fitch is contributing to the Cancer & Theology series.

  1. Although I never posted them, I do have images from my original PET scan. Once I get the images from the next scan, I’ll put together what will surely be a striking before/after image. []

{ 5 comments }

Cancer & Theology guest blog series

This post is a part of a series featuring an assortment of voices exploring how to think theologically about cancer and those who have it. Read the series introduction or view all posts in the series. UPDATE: The beautifully designed Cancer & Theology e-book includes the original essays as well as three new essays and a new introduction.

“The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all.” — Karl Barth1

I have had a number of great theological conversations with my friend Jake over the years. Some have been intentional, like laboring through Ched Meyers together on Thursdays. Some have been unintentional; they’ve sprung out of other conversations, like the time we were laughing and playing guitar on the farmhouse porch and in the blink of an eye we were off, walking, gesturing wildly and speaking excitedly to one another across clover and cornfields. However a really good theological conversation has begun, when Jake and I really got into the heart of an issue, I would become, invariably, giddy. My heart would race, I would smile, I’d feel light as air, and I would laugh.

I have loved having theological discussions with Jake. We have not often seen eye to eye, but I have loved every minute of conversation. It has been a joy to converse with a brother about the One who created us and the One that sustains us. The One who has claimed us as His own. The One whom we can question, together, in the night like Nicodemus. The One who holds us when we don’t have any answers. The One whom we both love, for He first loved us.

It has always been a joy to speak of Him with Jake.

And then Cancer.

When tragedy or pain or suffering comes upon us, we are tempted to believe that that a word can somehow change the conversation. Cancer, infertility, unemployment, and death have been a few of the words that have entered into our theological conversations over the last few years, for these are the tragedies and pain and suffering that have entered our shared lives.

It is easy, in the midst of tragedy, to allow for that tragedy to rule a conversation. We ask ourselves or each other, “If cancer; then what of God?” It is a natural thing, I think, for the darkness of tragedy is so overwhelming. It becomes hard, or impossible, to see anything but darkness. We become dislocated and disoriented.2 But if we grope around theologically from in this darkness, we will always wander down meaningless trails. And at the end of it, we are left with a shrug, a sigh, and maybe, just maybe, a “God is down here somewhere… I think…”

As such, the temptation that tragedy or pain or suffering pushes upon us is to do poor theology (is that a theological category, Jake?). To allow cancer to take the lead in the conversation will always leave us bankrupt, leave us impoverished, leave us starving. For it cannot nourish, it can only suck us dry. Cancer does not strengthen us, it depletes us, it robs us of sleep, it makes us sweat. And while I haven’t experienced cancer for myself, this is my understanding of the disease as I’ve watched loved ones struggle against it.

And struggle, I believe, is an appropriate word;3 for otherwise we would not apply ourselves to seeking out relief from suffering or healing from disease. We can speak in euphemistic terms, there’s often good reason to. But struggle is necessitated by cancer. And we, Christians, of all people it seems, ought not to be fatalistic on this point. For while disease and dying surely seem like the most natural things in the world (it seems to come upon pretty much everyone I know!), the narrative of our Scriptures assure us that quite the opposite is true.

Disease and dying, rather, are uninvited guests to the party. Suffering and pain, these are symptoms of something gone wrong. Cancer, infertility, unemployment, death; these are words of untruth. But the Word of truth has spoken. And the new words He has spoken are healing, redemption, salvation, and life!

Rather than allowing symptoms of our brokenness to begin a conversation, Christian theology done well takes as its first subject the Triune God as revealed in our Holy Scriptures and asks, “If this God who heals, who redeems, who saves, who lives; then what of cancer?”

And what Scripture reveals to us is a God who is wholly and truly good. This is the One who speaks over us healing, redemption, salvation, and life. And this God becomes present to us in Jesus Christ, so that we might become present to Him. He lifts us from dust of disease and the ash of tragedy.4 That’s the Good News! To ponder this God is a joyous thing for He is Joy.

The word “cancer” has been spoken in our midst. It has entered into our conversations. It has pricked our ears and stirred us. It has threatened destruction, it has set its yellowed eyes on my friend. It has horrified us. We have wept. Yet, I tell you the truth, joy has remained in our conversations. Since Jake’s diagnosis we have continued to have theological conversations that have made my heart flutter, made me feel light as air. We have spoken of God and we have laughed.

But for Jake and I to do theology well in the presence of cancer, it is proper that we constantly remind each other of our Subject — the God who redeems and lifts us up. We must stand firm against the temptation to submit to an impoverished conversation that begins, “If cancer, then what of God?” and be resolved to allow our conversation to begin, “If this God, then what of cancer?”

Now some care must be given to speak of healing, redemption, salvation and life with someone upon whom tragedy has come to rest. It would be a thoughtless and careless thing to say, “Well, Christ has brought redemption, why are you wallowing in your cancer?!” But this God whose modus operandi is redemption in the macro sense also operates in the same way in the micro sense. He doesn’t act one way in the big picture and another way when it comes down to your life or my life.

James reminds us of this when he says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”5 And this admonishment comes in the context of tragedy in James’ epistle. It follows on the tails of his seemingly unreasonable urging for us to “Count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds.”6

We must hold onto the truth that God is good, even when it doesn’t seem that way. Do not be lied to! For God’s goodness is a greater truth than the ephemeral nature of our circumstances (be they good or be they ill). It is not God who changes, it is we who change. If my view of God is dependent upon my life circumstance, then He will either be an angel or a viper depending on how I feel.

So what of cancer?

What do we make of cancer in the face of an all-good God whose modus operandi is redemption? In the hands of this God, we can count it as joy. For just as it is with any trial or tragedy or pain or suffering, cancer then becomes the stage on which redemption will unfold as the God of Redemption performs his good and perfect work. Many writers have spoken of suffering as gift. I’m there. I wasn’t, but through my own suffering I have been given new eyes. This is a hard lesson to be sure, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

I pray that in time, and perhaps already, Jake will see his cancer as a gift. The truly miraculous, extravagant goodness of God is not simply in the absence of evil (though that is almost unbelievably good!) it is in the fact that our God can take all that has been handed to us, even that which was intended as evil against us, and turn it into grace for us and glory for His name.7

So what grace will come and what glory will be given to God through Jake’s cancer? That’s for Jake to tell. I pray that he does. (I laughed just thinking about that conversation!) And when he does we will dance and sing and make a lot of noise. For as Barth says, “Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lighting.”8

If God is good and in Him is grace that doesn’t merely tolerate suffering but has the power to transform it into good, then all of life, even cancer, becomes an opportunity for gratitude.

A conversation that begins with this God always ends in “Thank you.”

Let it be so.

Cancer & Theology

The entire Cancer & Theology series is now available as a beautifully designed e-book, featuring a new introduction and three new, e-book-only essays from Adam J. Copeland, Joshua Longbrake, and Greg Syler. It is available exclusively for Amazon Kindle devices and apps (including most smartphones, tablets, and computers) for just $5.99.*

Buy Cancer & Theology [Kindle Edition] | $5.99
(Clicking this button will direct you to Amazon’s website. Your credit card will not be charged.)
*20% of all proceeds from the sale of the e-book will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Brandon MickBrandon Lyman Mick is a poet, a reader, an aspiring pacifist, a would-be farmer, a student, and a teacher. He is the Assistant Pastor at Westkirk Presbyterian Church in Urbandale, IA. He and his wife Abbey have been students of suffering in the school of infertility for over five years. They are expecting their first child in December. He is overwhelmed by this grace. He is grateful.

  1. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), II/1, 656. []
  2. I’m going to put as many footnotes as I can in this post because I know Jake likes them. But seriously, it is here that we should talk about the scriptural theme of exile. We should, but we won’t. This post would get way to long. Someone else should take up that theme in their post. Did Walter Brueggemann make the list of upcoming bloggers? He should totally interject at this juncture! []
  3. It might be important to note that I do not, personally, claim to be anything more than an aspiring pacifist! Jokes aside, I think the notions of struggle and war are appropriate here in a way they are not appropriate in relation to other humans. For a human bears the image of God, and disease bears a false image. Another great conversation for another day… []
  4. See Psalm 113:7. []
  5. James 1:16-17, ESV. []
  6. James 1:2. []
  7. See Romans 8:28. Also, read about Joseph. It’s somewhere near the beginning of the Old Testament. Seriously, God has been running this deal for a long, long time now! []
  8. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), IV/1, 41. []

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Cancer & Theology guest blog series

This post is a part of a series featuring an assortment of voices exploring how to think theologically about cancer and those who have it. Read the series introduction or view all posts in the series. UPDATE: The beautifully designed Cancer & Theology e-book includes the original essays as well as three new essays and a new introduction.

I’m writing the first paragraph last, now that I have finished the rest of this post. I’m writing it last because I wasn’t sure how this would all shake out and I wanted to begin with honesty. Now that it’s written I can say honestly that I’m grateful to be a part of this and offer my paltry contribution. When first I received the invitation from Jake, I thought, “Shit. I don’t want to get into this again. I don’t want to forage around in the mess that cancer has made in my own small experience of living and dying.” But resistance, like pain and suffering, is a good teacher. Cancer evokes fear and anxiety, and confronts one with the reality of finitude — often much sooner than one wants to be confronted with that reality. So I paid attention to my resistance and realized that there is no “getting back into this again” because one is never out of it. Once you have been existentially punched in the gut with something like cancer, you never quite breathe the same way again. You breathe, but you breathe a bit more carefully and gratefully. So thanks, Jake, and way to go, me, for choosing to write toward the very end after so many brilliant voices have already spoken.

My parents were divorced when I was five years old. Although my father lived a mere 20 minutes or so away as the crow flies, my relationship with him was among the most emotionally distant and disconnected of my entire life. For all practical purposes, my Uncle Mike (Fulton) was the closest thing I had to a father growing up.

Mike Fulton was a curious combination of a man: a landscape artist who taught art at the high school I attended; a closet cowboy living in northeast Ohio known for his signature cowboy boots and pearl-snap western shirts; a devout Lutheran who was born and raised in the Missouri Synod church; and an avid, if not staunch Notre Dame fan.

I was a freshly minted teenager when Mike Fulton married my mother’s youngest sister, Vickie, and during the formative years in my life that followed my Uncle Mike functionally was the closest thing that I had to a father. In spite of a lifetime of conflicted feelings about my biological father, eventually I came to realize that the fathering my Uncle Mike provided was more than sufficient.

Mike Fulton took me to the sporting goods store in Medina to help me purchase my first jock strap and athletic cup before 7th grade football. Many Saturdays he would take my brother and me to Taco Bell so we could eat cheap bean-and-cheese burritos. And before my first real date, he told me, “A little kiss won’t hurt anyone, but keep your hands to yourself.” But perhaps more than anything, he taught me to respect women through his own indefatigable care for my Aunt Vickie and patience with her sisters.

Cancer came to visit my Uncle Mike many years ago and he lived through the initial bout. It returned to stay in 2007. From 2007 to August of 2009 we made trips too numerous to count to visit my Uncle Mike and Aunt Vickie. Holidays, school breaks, during the summer I would load my own two boys in the car and we would make the 9 1/2 hour drive from Dubuque to the log house in the country where they lived in southern Medina county (Ohio).

The rhythm of our visits was simple: we would sit together, talk and watch sports on TV, go outside and “putz around the yard,” as he liked to say, then repeat. He would take us on long drives through Amish country in his truck. And he loved to sit on the front porch of the house, easel and charcoal in hand, and watch us play whiffle ball in the vast front yard of the country home while he sketched.

The school we attended with my Uncle Mike for over two years had a specific curriculum: learning to befriend suffering, confronting mortality, and living with and through dying. Ernst Becker writes, “Education for man [sic] means facing up to his natural impotence and death.” As Luther urged us: “I say die, i.e., taste death as though it were present.” It is only if you “taste” death with the lips of your living body that you can know emotionally that you are a creature who will die.

Among other things, in the face of what Ernst Becker called our human “immortality projects” — all of our heroic attempts at denying and defying death — cancer compels one to come to terms with our finitude. In Jesus Christ God stares into the face of finitude, steps into it, embraces it, and then calls it out of its tomb into a life of freedom characterized not by heroism, but by trust, vulnerability and promise.

It’s one thing to think about or ponder mortality or finitude from a somewhat removed academic distance; it’s quite another thing to be confronted with the reality of death through the life of someone you love. But both of these pale in comparison to the existential punch in the gut that occurs when something like cancer comes to roost in your own body. No one knows what this is like except the person who is living with it.

And so we would simply go and spend time with my Uncle Mike. We would talk and sometimes not talk; joke around and sometimes cry; eat pie when Mike was able, play whiffle ball so he could watch and sketch, and putz around in the yard. In short, we would try to live it with him.

In the last chapter of the fourth volume of Frederick Buechner’s memoirs, The Eyes of the Heart: A Memoir of the Lost and Found, he tells of the final conversation he had with his brother Jamie, who was dying from “cancer of virtually everything.” Buechner told his brother that he had loved him as much as he had ever loved anybody in his life, to which Jamie responded that Freddie had been a wonderful brother. I had a similar conversation with my Uncle Mike about a month before he died. I introduced him to the writing of Wendell Berry, America’s farmer poet, and just about every visit we would discuss whichever of Berry’s books he had been reading. I read a short excerpt for him from Andy Catlett: Early Travels: A Novel, where Berry suggests that the great question to ponder at the end of one’s life — or anytime for that matter — is if you “have been grateful enough for love received and given.” And then we wept. And then we prayed (at his request):

“Dear God, bring us through the night and into the light. Bring us through pain into peace. Bring us through death into life. Be with us wherever we go, and with everyone we love. In Christ’s name we ask it. Amen.”

Mike said he was ready to die, and wanted me to assure him that I would take care of his funeral service and all of the arrangements at church per the many conversations we had had about those matters. I assured him that I would, and then told him that I loved him, that he had been like a father to me and I wanted him to know that. It is a gift to be loved truly; it is a blessing to truly love another.

What counsel might I suggest in lieu of the well-intentioned but trite theological platitudes so often offered in response to a crisis such as a cancer diagnosis? What I have to offer is not so much something that one says as it is something a person and (hopefully) a community seek to live and embody: I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what to do, but I’m going to stick with you until we figure it out. Although it is a long day’s dying for us all, the shadows wane, and God’s promise of new life in Jesus Christ casts light on the land of the living as well.

Cancer & Theology

The entire Cancer & Theology series is now available as a beautifully designed e-book, featuring a new introduction and three new, e-book-only essays from Adam J. Copeland, Joshua Longbrake, and Greg Syler. It is available exclusively for Amazon Kindle devices and apps (including most smartphones, tablets, and computers) for just $5.99.*

Buy Cancer & Theology [Kindle Edition] | $5.99
(Clicking this button will direct you to Amazon’s website. Your credit card will not be charged.)
*20% of all proceeds from the sale of the e-book will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Nate FrambachNate is an ordained minister in the ELCA and is Professor of Youth, Culture & Mission at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He and is the author of Emerging Ministry: Being Church Today and a contributor to The Hyphenateds: How Emergence Christianity is Re-Traditioning Mainline Practices.

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The latest video update is below. If you’re unable to see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.

If you don’t mind, please be sure to “like” the video by clicking the thumbs-up while it’s paused. Thanks!

Additional, non-video updates

  • If you live in central Iowa, be sure to pick up a copy of The Des Moines Register this Sunday (May 27) and flip to the Iowa Life section. As I’ve hinted in some of the video blogs (and totally given away in the latest one), the Register is running a story about Libby and I, our journey, this blog, the Let’s Do This documentary, etc., complete with photos and even video (the video will only be available online, of course). In addition to the photographer and reporter being at treatment number six, I’ve done several interviews and they’ve taken both photos and video at my church — I’m excited to see how the whole thing comes together. I know Libby and I will be picking up a copy or five this Sunday!
  • You may recall that the issue of fertility after chemotherapy has been a significant one for Libby and I, and for many others undergoing chemo treatment as well. During our last oncologist appointment, I was asking our doctor how soon after treatment I can get tested for fertility and his response was something along the lines of “You won’t need to. You’ll be totally fertile.” Say what?! From many of the things Libby and I had been told and read, we assumed I would probably be sterile and so responded accordingly. Now, our oncologist reassured us that he would have recommended sperm banking anyway, but we were (and are) still pretty shocked and —obviously — very happy.

    Just to be sure, I did some digging and found this 2008 article published in the Annals of Oncology which says, among other things: “With ABVD [the chemotherapy regimen I am receiving], azoospermia1 was observed in fewer patients, ranging from 0% to 4%. In our cohort, all patients treated with ABVD have preserved spermatogenesis.2” Translation: There is a very good chance Libby and I will be able to conceive children naturally, despite being treated with ABVD chemotherapy. Praise the Lord!
  • In the video, I eloquently allude to the fact that “my butt hurts,” and then hop into an epsom salt bath. I should explain. (Warning: In the interest of full disclosure, this will be TMI for some people, but please recall that I’m trying to be transparent in order to help others who are going through the process.) As you’ve no doubt ascertained by now, one of the side effects of both the chemotherapy itself and the medications I’ve been taking is extreme constipation and other gastrointestinal issues. Well, a side-effect of those side-effects has been unpredictable and at times extreme duress on my lower rectum, which has produced anal fissures (read at your own risk). Essentially, every time I am actually able go to the bathroom is a very painful experience. Lately, the pain subsides rather quickly and returns later in the day to be almost unbearable — hence the epsom salt baths. Libby and I are trying to be proactive about it; we tried to get a referral to a colorectal specialist, but it turns out I’m not allowed to see anyone until after treatment has concluded due to my super-low white blood cell count. Until then, it looks like I’ll be taking a lot of baths.
  • I am scheduled for a second pulmonary function test today, which will give the doctors an indication of how much (if any) the chemotherapy is impacting my lungs. If nothing else, it will be fun to go inside this machine again. Keep praying that my lungs are holding up!

That’s all for now. Thank you for your continued prayers and support! (Oh, and if you haven’t purchased and/or listened to the new John Mayer album yet, what are you waiting for?!)

  1. Via Wikipedia: “Azoospermia is the medical condition of a male not having any measurable level of sperm in his semen.” []
  2. Via Wikipedia, again: “Spermatogenesis is the process by which male primary sperm cells undergo meiosis, and produce a number of cells termed spermatogonia, from which the primary spermatocytes are derived.” []

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