Memo: April’s Summer Update – July 2021

April has improved over the last few weeks! She no longer counts nausea and pain pills as her close friends. For the first time since late April, she has been able to care for our three kiddos on her own. She and I praise God for the latest round of victories over her stage four breast cancer and for our friends and family that have rallied around us during these dark days.

What’s Going On?

But her journey to this point has proved difficult. The climb is not yet done. Like the mountain paths hidden in the depths of the Blue Ridge Mountains that fill the horizon outside our home, April’s chemotherapy path has been steep, narrow, and full of rocks and roots. As some of you know, she stumbled off the chemo path just days after beginning her new phase of treatment. The chemotherapy drug ambraxane depleted her white blood cell count, dooming her to a six-day hospital stay. Once recovered from her infection and being neutropenic, she began to climb again. She still felt the daily pains of nausea and exhaustion. But with each passing week, the intensity of those pains has lessened. The liver pain went from being an ever-present companion to being an occasional twinge that came and went with each chemo dose. Over the last two weeks, she has been able to catch glimpses of health’s glorious vistas.

Notwithstanding the good results, the climb still contains dangerous three week stretches associated with chemotherapy. After each dose, April experiences noticeable fatigue, loss of appetite, and some nausea for at least two to three days. After three doses of chemo, she takes a week off from her treatment bringing her monthly cycle to an end.

But even during this break, she can encounter rough terrain. A few weeks back while at Lake Michigan, April’s legs blistered after minimal sun exposure, revealing that she has developed photosensitivity, a complication of her medications. Now, she must avoid direct sunlight as she walks towards health.

Despite these challenges, April’s Doctors believe her treatment plan has been successful. Her blood work has revealed that her liver and bones contain fewer and fewer cancer cells. She will undergo a new set of scans in mid-August. The climb continues.

The climb’s challenges go beyond nausea and fatigue. As she attains health, April has endured the thunderstorms of hair loss, canceled plans, and changing family dynamics. These summer winds have snuck up on her soul and flooded it with the heavy rains of sorrow on multiple occasions. But through it all she has remained resilient ever committed to caring for me, her kiddos, and her church family.

How are We Doing?

Her doctors think April will be walking on the chemotherapy trail throughout 2021. What comes next, no one exactly knows. She and I will cross that bridge and decided upon the next treatment plan when we come to it.

After wrestling with Jesus’s words in his famed Sermon on the Mount, April and I have sought to focus t our gaze mostly upon the present. Matthew 6:34 states, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Though we like to think our plans and emotions can determine the future, we have come to the simple and yet profound realization that they do not. Our fears about death do not keep us alive. Our worries about trials do not make us more beautiful. And our what if scenarios with all their hypothetical contingencies don’t shape God’s plans for us.  As Jesus notes, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” When we live in the world of imaginary futures, we do harm to our souls.

When we live in the world of imaginary futures, we do harm to our souls.

This is not to say that we should not plan. April and I have delayed this blog in part for planning purposes. We wanted to determine our children’s destination for the 2021-2022 schoolyear (we decided to enroll them in Fresta Valley Christian School) before sitting down to the keyboard. Moreover, I think having health insurance is a good thing. But worrying about what happens if this treatment fails in five months is completely unprofitable. We could be hit by an asteroid tomorrow and never see five months from now. Though we tend to assume that the future is more tangible than the present, Jesus asserts the opposite. Today is our greatest reality. We will deal with tomorrow….well, tomorrow.

But we are not putting our heads in the sand. Rather by faith we trust in the goodness of God. He is the same today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow exactly who he is today. In other words, the God that has seen April through her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days will see her through tomorrow. He will be ever present with her and us regardless of whether she reaches new pinnacles of health or stumbles into another steep decline. He will see us through all our tomorrows and will be a present help even if tears rain down our faces. Since God will be there tomorrow, we allow him to deal with all those future worries. We cast our cares upon him for he cares for us!  

Admittedly, we are not great at holding our thoughts captive. Sometimes when life heats up, the thought vault in our heart cracks allowing thoughts to ooze past the door of wisdom and pool up in the valleys of despair, casting unnecessary shadows over otherwise good days. To be like Jesus, we must daily crucify our instinctive impulse to speculate about tomorrow, remembering that the God who clothes grass in glory also cares deeply about April and our family. We don’t always live in today; but when we do, joy and comfort abound. To be more like Jesus.

How to Pray

We ask you to pray for our hearts. Pray that we will focus upon today, keeping our thoughts away from unprofitable thoughts about tomorrow. Pray that God will give April the strength she needs to love others well when she has good days full of strength and bad days full of fatigue. Pray that God will extend April’s life. Lastly, please pray that God will save our three children.

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