My wife (Cherish) posted on Facebook this past Tuesday the above picture of me as I started my third round of chemo treatment. Wearing my superman t-shirt I was feeling pretty good at the time. She made the statement that "it feels like we were shoved on a roller coaster ride we didn't want to take... we have complete faith that God will bring us through this but the new perspective takes a little time to get use to." When I read her post that day, I didn't realize how prophetic she was actually being. See... the previous couple of weeks I had felt SO MUCH better. Things were coming back to me. I was back to eating anything I wanted, gaining weight, feeling more energized, I had been able to be at church two Sundays in a row and got to preach on Pentecost Sunday, I even mowed my own yard this past Saturday. When I went to get bloodwork done this past Tuesday morning my white blood count was the best it had been in a month (a big improvement from the previous week) and my iron had much improved as well. I'm grateful for that answer to prayer as I know many of you were praying for those two specific things.
Something else that was a really big deal happened in the past couple of weeks, I had discovered that I could sleep in my own bed again. Due to various pains in my body making it uncomfortable to lie down and a struggle with reflux I had slept in the recliner in my basement den for more than four months. What was so touching was the first night that I slept in the bed was the night before our 18th anniversary, we woke up on our anniversary morning, holding hands, it was such a precious moment. I proceeded to sleep the next 2 weeks straight in my bed. It felt heavenly. I was really beginning to feel that we had this thing licked and that it was just a short time when it would all be over.
I don't think I was ultimately wrong in my thinking as I am MUCH better off than I was even a month ago. However, on Tuesday morning when I headed down to what my Mom calls "the torture chamber" to begin another week of chemo, I did not have the foresight my wife did as to the roller coaster ride this week was going to be. Tuesday I felt tired after treatment but not too bad. On Wednesday night I came home, took a nap, and felt good again. That evening Kevin & Pamela from our church came over and brought the famous Pizza Hut Pizza I had been wanting. It was another epic moment. I ate three slices of stuffed crust pepperoni pizza and then some ice cream. All was right with the world. However, that night, I went to bed as usual but... at 3:00 in the morning I woke up tasting some reflux in my mouth and feeling slightly nauseous (I don't blame the pizza for that, I blame the chemo). I suddenly found myself spending the rest of the night back in my recliner. It's probably silly but that felt like a huge blow to me. After sleeping two weeks in my bed, going back to the recliner felt like a massive step backwards to me. All of a sudden I felt the exciting ride I had been on was changing. It was discouraging.
Thursday morning I got up early and was looking forward to getting to sing at the Thursday morning staff meeting at the cancer center, you may remember that last time Sonya and I sang "Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone." This time we were planning to sing "Cornerstone" which uses the verses of the old hymn "On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand" with a newly written chorus. However when I got to the cancer center that morning I discovered that the staff meeting had been cancelled that day, so Sonya and I had to miss our opportunity to hopefully be a blessing to the staff and patients, which was also disappointing. Depending on whether I have a 4th week of chemo or not, we may not have the chance to sing at that staff meeting again.
When I got home Thursday evening I felt pretty bloated from the chemo and already sensed it was going to be a full night in the recliner that night. My precious wife slept on the couch near to me all night, she obviously felt my discouragement, she has been AMAZING and has been on this journey every step of the way with me, I am SO grateful for her. As I type this it is late on Friday evening, I am sitting in that same recliner, preparing for another night not laying next to my wife, not in my own bed. I definitely don't feel as close to having this thing licked as I did just 4 days ago... and because this week was a short week due to Monday being a holiday I have to go in for one more day of chemo this coming Monday. I have by no means lost hope, and my confidence is still in the goodness and mercy of God, but I just don't feel the same "pep in my step" that I did a few days ago. It simply has not been a fun week, which in retrospect I should have been prepared for more than I was. Instead of things coming back to me, this week I feel like I've lost just a little (although I am confident they will be regained). I'm just on a different part of this roller coaster ride than I was a week ago.
Earlier tonight, in the midst of all this going on in my mind, we watched a family movie together. After it was over, my 5 year old (Esther) gave me a note that she hadn't written (because she can't write yet) but Cherish had written down word for word, here is an excerpt from it: "this is all my family, I love you because you watch a show with us, I hope daddy feels better... kisses, kisses, hug, hug... I hope we can go to the beach soon.... I hope daddy goes to the pool some days, I hope we don't watch scary movies, I hope we don't eat candy that isn't good for our body". The love and simplicity of her note so touched my heart as she watched me read it and then gave me a big hug. There's a reason why the Bible said for us to come to Christ we must come as a little child. Little Esther obviously senses that all is not ok with her daddy but in her simple way she is confident that it will be and that trips to the beach, the pool, more (not scary) movies are still to come, and somewhere there is some healthy candy out there. The roller coaster is not as discouraging for her.
As I began this week thinking about what I was going to say, this was definitely not the blog entry I was originally intending to write. But I have discovered that sharing the disappointment and frustration is just as important as sharing the faith and hope, for they are really intertwined into the journey. I have called this journey "unexpected" and "long" but it truly is also a "roller coaster" and just as I know your life has it's ups and downs too, we can learn from the moments we want to throw our arms in the air with excitement and the times we feel the need to grip tightly to our seat, close our eyes, grit our teeth and just hold on. The scripture in Isaiah quoted at the beginning of this blog states "fear not... I will be with you" in the waters and in the fire, and "I have loved you." I am being reminded once again in the middle of this crazy experience that God didn't promise us a smooth road, He really promised us more of a roller coaster, BUT He said He would be with us through it all because He loves us. The chorus to the song I had hoped to sing at the cancer center this week says: "Christ alone, Cornerstone, Weak made strong, In the Savior's love, Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all". I am reminded again tonight that no matter how good I may feel one day and think that I can conquer the world (in my superman shirt), it's just as likely that the next day I'm going to find that I need His strength "to be made perfect in my weakness." You would think that after 5 months of this journey I would be more prepared for that but perhaps feeling SO GOOD for the last couple of weeks set me up for a discouragement I didn't see coming, even though my wife apparently did.
So, what am I going to do? I'm going to trust in the God that said He would be with me and admit my weakness so He can give me His strength. And... I'm going to try to learn from my 5 year old daughter and ask Him to help me to be a little more childlike in my faith. Over the next couple of days as the chemo soaks into my body and I quite possibly have a few days of feeling rough, I know that I am safe in His hands, the best is yet to come, and with God's strength this cancer WILL be licked and it will eventually be in the rear view mirror of my life. Regardless of what happens with my current struggle, I know the roller coaster journey of life doesn't go away, but neither does the One who tells me not to fear for He is with me. And... I am thankful that nights spent in the recliner will be temporary and few.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog entry. I pray that it has encouraged you in your roller coaster ride of life. If so please comment and share it with others. No matter what tomorrow brings, we do not need to face it alone, we can "fear not" for He is with us. God bless.
Thank you Pastor Matthew! I love the openess you have sharing your journey. You are such an encouragement to me and my family. I read this word for word to Mammaw. We are praying for you and love you dearly..praying this roller-coaster ride is soon to it's stopping point. You are more than a conqueror in Christ who strengthens you!!
Thank you Sonya! Love you & your family so much. I want so much to be real while pointing to Christ. He is our hope & strength!
Read this with tears in my eyes. It is a hard journey. Chemo is rough. We just have to remember who the Great Physician is. I’m sure as you are on this journey that you have been a blessing to others that are going thru hard times. And I’m sure that you have met people that have blessed you. We do learn to slow down and enjoy the little things. You and your family are in our prayers every day. It will get better.
Thank you Joyce for the encouragement you have been to me. This is changing the things that I see as important & that is a good thing. Thank you for your prayers.
Matthew this was a beautifully written blog. It evoked a towel for my tears, instead of a tissue. My prayers are with you & Cherish and your precious girls as you walk out of this valley.
Thank you Diana. I so appreciate your love & prayers. God bless.
Thank you Matthew for sharing your ups and downs. And thank you for sharing the very personal parts of your struggles as well...
And I thank God for Cherish...Her strength and perspective and loyalty and faith humbles me and strengthens me as well...I thank God every day for you both and I know that you are already healed because
God has promised healing for his faithful...I love you both and I pray your days to come will become easier...❤
Hi Lisa. Thanks for your encouragement & prayers. Thanks for what you said about Cherish too. I am so blessed!!
I cried tears of happiness the last two Sundays when you were speaking to us at church. More tears of thankfulness when I got to see you during our Teams training meeting and you looked so much better. Tonight are tears of empathy as you speak of the past week. Remember, what you are feeling now are the effects of the chemo, not the cancer. Like most treatments that are hard to go through, this treatment is healing. Soon you will be off that roller coaster and know that the cancer is gone. God is working in the dark of the night but your night WILL turn to day. Joy does come in the morning! Praying for you and your precious family. Love ya! Mean it!
Thank you so much for your words Elaine & I say “amen” with you!! I know healing is mine in Jesus name. The roller coaster ride is not fun for any of us in whatever way that looks in our lives but we are never alone & He ultimately controls the ride!!
Amen, I'm confident and pray this is only a minor change to your ride and I'm confident God has this and it's almost a memory! Praying brother
Thanks Jon. I agree just a temporary shift. We’re almost through to the other side!
I love your honesty. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness depends on ‘happenings’ but joy comes from the Holy Spirit. It explains the dichotomy of having comfort or joy when bad things happen.
I’ve thought about this for years, even more so with Asher’s loss. I miss my son so much. I see your joy in spite of the roller coaster you & Cherish are on. I pray that, along with your healing, you both have fullness of joy.
Keith. Thank you so much for your comments & your prayers. You are so right about the difference between happiness & joy. I am grateful for the true joy we can know in the midst of heartache & pain. You and Sarah are so incredibly precious to me & have exhibited such genuine faith in Christ that has been so inspiring to me & so many others. Praying for you today that God continues to strengthen & comfort you as well as God bringing great glory to Himself through your lives. I believe in time your story will impact many, many lives. In His time & way. Lots of love. Honored to be with you on your journey as well.
Thank you for sharing Matthew. Praying and expecting the best yet to come for you and your family. Thank you for sharing the scripture. The last 5 months has been like a roller coaster ride for me as well but thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ Jesus!
Hi Carol. Thanks for your comment & prayers. Sorry you’ve had a roller coaster ride too. We’ll have to catch up soon. Praying for you. Love ya!
God bless you Matt. God’s got this. Praying for the next few days to go by quickly and for the good days to linger a little longer❤️❤️ You are such an inspiration to so many. 😊 Praying for the Lord to throw out an extra handful on purpose for you this week.
Thank you Tammie! I so appreciate your prayer & support. I agree. Gods got this!!
Mckameys "JUST KEEP PRAYING. THATS WHAT WE R DOING PASTOR. BLOGS ARE SUCH A BLESSING TO THIS WORLD
Thank you so much Retha! God bless you.
Matthew, thank you for your example of faith and for the wonderful pattern of true love that you and Cherish share. Your words are strength to Theresa and I. And, you’re right… God is the God of the hills and of the valleys (1 Kings 20:23-28)
Thank you Pastor Richard! So grateful for you love & prayers. God is so good!!