I met a man named John this morning. His wife is here for treatment for a non-Hodgkins lymphoma that is incurable. It's been put in remission before, and now she's going through a series of one week long chemotherapy sessions--seven total, I think--meant to put her back in remission.
They're over 65, I'd guess. I can't tell how much older. The first round of this chemo was so rough on her that she didn't want to do anymore. She wanted to just resign herself to whatever happened. Friends and her husband talked her through it, and this session's been better.
Please pray for them. Her name is Diane.
The difference between Leukemia and Lymphoma, by the way, (or one of them) is that Lymphoma malignancies tend to accumulate in the lymph system (or skin) and create tumors. In that sense, my leukemia was like a lymphoma because I had two tumors on my back, a third starting on my right clavicle, and a fourth growing in my upper lip!
Jerry (hope I got that right), whom I met four or five days ago, gets his bone marrow biopsy this coming week on Thursday. The father of the two brothers I met gets his tomorrow. What the doctors are hoping for in a bone marrow biopsy is that their marrow will be completely "hypocellular." They want no bad cells, no good cells, just a matrix (I guess). Then they let the person grow their own blood back, hopefully properly.
About 50% of patients have a clear biopsy. The rest have to go through another round of chemo, usually less intense, to try again.
I think that if that doesn't work, then they just try to treat the disease, which will be fatal eventually. I'm not sure I have that right, but since the leukemia survival rate for 5 years is still only a little over 50% overall—even including those with chronic, and thus slower-moving, leukemias—I'd say an inability to get a clear bone marrow is probably very close to a death sentence.
I was asking a nurse the other day about what they would do if my biopsy isn't clear, which will probably happen a week from Saturday. She was explaining what the next round would be, and then she slapped my arm and said, "But let's not talk about that." It was obviously a much more horrifying thought to her than to me.
It just doesn't horrify me. I'm not "dying" of leukemia. I'm walking with God on a course that he's mapped out for me. A clear biopsy is not better than a "dirty" one. Being on God's path is better.
So, My Great, Great Morning
I start the day by walking and riding a stationary bike, as you know, then hitting the family room to see who God sends in to talk to me. Today that was messed up because I got up a little later, plus I've been given a laxative in preparation for a chemo I'm getting today, so a couple necessary breaks slowed me down, too.
So today, God sent people to me while I walked and biked.
First, I saw Anna, the warrior nurse, who I have named Kamau (Ka-MAH-oo), which means "quiet warrior." She asked for the spelling of the name, and she told me she's putting it on her name tag.
Now that was really cool.
When I got on the bike later, I saw just about everyone I've already met. They stopped by, and I got updates on all their conditions. I also met John, who I'd seen walking with his wife (and with an IV pole that had very noisy wheels) yesterday.
Before them, in fact, Doc Halliday came in, and he started smiling from way down the hall, seeing me on the bike with my coffee in my hand. He's told me he's never found a patient on the exercise bike for morning rounds before. I think he gets a kick out of it.
He walked up and said, "Let me guess. You're still feeling great."
It's y'all's prayers, you know. Thank you so much!!!
Then he did his checkup while I was on the bike. That was fun.
In fact, I had so much attention that I did 4.5 miles on the bike rather than 3, and I barely noticed them.
Then my "care partner," who I know know is a non-nurse who needs only a few weeks' training, but who is also usually a nursing student, came in to check my vitals ... four times. I was in the bathroom (laxatives), showering, getting visited by the doctors. When she found me, she said, "You are a busy man. I feel like I have to take a number and get in line."
I told her that was terrible, that she had the most important job and the least priority. She agreed.
This is way too much fun.
Oh, Wait! One More Guy!And then there's the cleaning guy who comes in every morning. I told him this morning that his bright smile is one of the best parts of each day.
Sorry if there's anything that sounds racist in that, but since we non-blacks need to learn something from those young guys--and there's some older black Christians that need to remember their younger, more humble and joyous days--I need to point out who they are so you can learn from them. I certainly am.
Usually, they're a lot less quiet than this guy, but otherwise he's got it all. Joyous, infectious smile. Complete openness that makes you feel like you could be his best friend today without any work. Simple, uncomplicated faith in Christ that doesn't need to question or explain anything, just do it.
Of such is the kingdom of heaven. Oh, God, please never let my gift of teaching blot out that kind of simple faith. Please let me always have it because it's the only thing that matters on earth.
By the way, that reminds me that I wrote a "Rest of the Old, Old Story" blog post on that very subject last night.