So... I have completed my first full 5 day week of Chemotherapy! It has definitely been a new path, one that was unpredictable from day to day. I am a planner and a scheduler so it's not easy for me to take a "day at a time" but I am beginning to learn. I am grateful for the loving care of the doctors and nurses at the Bristol Cancer Center and for the smiling face of Sonya Eller (who is our worship leader and works at the cancer center) visiting me each day. The week was not without it's pains: having to get poked every day with an IV for my chemo, dealing with acid reflux that took my sleep away a few nights, retaining fluid in my legs and feet, and just the mental & emotional hurdles of trying to figure out what is going on with my body. At the end of the week I can say not only have I survived but I do feel improvement. Gratefully nausea has not been an issue and a new medication seems to have gotten the acid reflux under control (slept the best night of the week last night). This morning for the first time in a few weeks I ate a half a biscuit with some scrambled eggs. So far, so good. Not pizza or a cheeseburger, but it's solid food and that for me is a celebration!
This next week is going to be different. I have one brief chemo treatment on Monday morning and no more for the week. Tuesday I will surgically have a port for chemo put in my upper chest (that will remove the need for chemo to be given through IV). Besides that I will be waiting to see the effects of the chemo on my body throughout the week (and waiting to see if my hair is going to fall out) AND waiting to see when I can eat what I want to eat!! Next week will be a one day treatment on the Monday also and then I begin the next full week of chemo the first week of May and begin the cycle again. There are 3 cycles altogether. So... I'll actually be a third of the way through by 2 weeks from now.
I have been contemplating what I have learned this week and the word "empathy" has been coming to mind. Sympathy and Empathy are different. Sympathy means "feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune." Empathy, on the other hand is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." I have always felt and sought to be compassionate towards others pain but I believe I am learning through this experience that there is another level that allows us to really begin to feel what people feel. I have felt that from others. People all across the globe that have reached out to me to tell me they love me and are praying for me. Several have shared their own struggles with sickness or pain showing that not only can they relate to what I am dealing with but they understand. Some of those I have heard from have really surprised me, people that I have worked with, even filed cancer claims for in the past are now reaching out to encourage me. It has meant so much. I already see how my struggle is changing how I see the struggle of others, I can see that empathy is being developed in me. I have learned already some things that will help me in the future when reaching out to others in pain: Regular check ins by text, email, or messenger are greatly appreciated, but long phone calls/visits not so much. The wonderful thing about text/emails/messages is you don't have to respond right away when you're tired or not feeling well but they encourage you just the same and you are able to read them again and they bless all over again. I'm sure there is much more that I will learn through this that will help me to show more empathy to others in the future but in the meantime I am so grateful for those that have shown such love to me! God has called us to feel what others feel (rejoice & weep) and to "bear one another's burdens" and that is at least in part what I am experiencing through the empathy of others.
We must never forget, however, that no matter what pain we have walked through we will never completely understand what someone else feels as we have not felt the exact same pain. There is One that has done that, His name is Jesus. Isaiah 53:4-5 says "surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." During this time I have not felt God distant from me. I have felt Him very close. As much as I have been strengthened by the genuine love and care of others, it is His love that has held me the closest. My current favorite song is by Ce Ce Winans "I Have A Savior." I have listened to that song probably 50 times over the last few weeks, there is one line in the song that brings me to tears almost every time "all I ever need is Jesus." I'm being reminded through all that I am walking through that there are many things of value in this life but none more valuable than knowing you are loved by a Savior who TRULY empathizes with what I am walking through and is there to give me strength physically, emotionally, and spiritually. How people walk through personal tragedy without knowing the love of Christ I don't know, but I am SO GRATEFUL I don't have to.
So... my prayer for me and for all is that if/when we walk through suffering that it brings us closer to the One who understands us the best and causes us to be more understanding (empathetic) of others so that learning from the Great Burden Bearer we can learn better to "bear each others's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" Gal. 6:2
Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. Love you, Pastor.
Thanks Elaine. Love you!
Prayers for you Pastor Matt
Thank you Melissa!
Praying for you
Thanks Judy. Love you!!
I love your blog. So beautiful and real. We are all praying for you.
Thanks Joy! So glad this has blessed you.
Love reading your blog! Good word.We are praying here in Tx for you!
Thanks Nicole! We miss you but so glad we are still in touch! Love your family.