Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma with Myc rearrangement

My pathalogy report came back from Vanderbilt today. My Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) is positive for "Myc." The NP pronounce it "Mick." This is known as a "Myc rearrangement." I don't know what that is, but I do know—after researching today—what that means.

Like what happened with the leukemia, a Myc rearrangement attached to DLBCL had a terrible prognosis just 3 or 4 years ago. It's great now.

Apparently, back in the ancient days of 2011 and 2012, all DLBCL diagnoses were treated with a regiment called R-CHOP. The letters stand for the names of 5 chemotherapies used. Except Prednisone, which is taken as a pill, all the chemos are administered in one day, then the patient goes home for 3 weeks, and 6 rounds are given.

With that regimen, 77% of DLBCL patients with Myc rearrangement died within 4 years. Now, though, they use a regimen called EPOCH-R, which stands for 6 chemo drugs, several of them the same as R-CHOP. As a result, right now it looks like 77% are surviving. The latest study came out just day before yesterday!

My first round was R-CHOP because pathology reports weren't back yet. From now on, though, I get EPOCH-R, which will require 5 days inpatient, including 96 straight hours of infusions. Five rounds to go.

Keep in mind that a 77% chance of survival seems "epic" (pun on EPOCH) to me. With leukemia, which also had a long name and a 5-letter acronym (BPDCN, see tabs above), what I found at first was 0% (zero!) chance of survival. Fortunately, that information was 2 or 3 years old, and it turned out I had a 20-25% chance of survival. Whew, much better!

So for leukemia, I was pretty convinced God told me I wasn't going to die. My faith was shaken when I found out my odds of survival were zero. It was easier for me to believe God was in control of a 1% chance situation. Somehow the concrete "You're going to die" was more frightening.

I have no such promise this time, but the church tells me that they still need me, so I'm pretty confident God will grant their desire.

There was a Christian from around AD 200 who said, "Our goal in this life is to get out of it as fast as we can." If we give ourselves fully to God, then we can expect there to be a lot of suffering in this world. We'll be looking forward to departing and being with King Jesus, which is far better.

Some of you may not realize that's the Christian path. Philippians 1:29 tells us that we have been "granted on behalf of Christ," not only to believe in him, but to suffer for his sake. James 1 tells us to rejoice in suffering, and Romans 5 assumes we rejoice in suffering.

A long time ago, before I found out that you can't just "name it and claim it" with God, I attended charismatic churches. We all wanted to pray until our building shook, like the Bible says happened in Jerusalem (Acts 4). We wanted to pray and praise till an earthquake happened, like what happened to Paul and Silas in Acts 16.

It never happened, but I found the missing ingredient over the last 3-1/2 years. Suffering. In both those instances mentioned in the last paragraph, there was intense suffering involved. Try praying and praising when you're in agony. People take notice. Things happen.

That's truly the way to shake the earth and set the prisoners free. Mix your prayer and praise with good, strong, God-given suffering.

Thank you, Lord, for such a gift!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A New Cancer: Lymphoma and Faith

So I have cancer one more time.

Based on what my doctor said, it's an easier one this time. I doubt lymphoma is always less dangerous than leukemia, but in my case, it is. This is Little League compared to the Big League version of leukemia I had.

I get to face chemo at home, here in Memphis with my brothers and sisters, though the final authorities on my treatment will be the stem cell transplant team at Vanderbilt in Nashville.

How Should I React?

Hearts are tricky. We have to guard our heart because out of it come the wellsprings of life, but we cannot trust it. Without the daily exhortation of the saints, the craftiness of sin will disguise bad as good and make our hearts unmalleable.

For me, cancer has been the great revealer. Leukemia answered questions about my heart that nothing else could have. Do I believe what I teach, that it is far better to depart and be with the King, or will I shrink in terror when death comes near? As it turns out, physical death came and breathed in my face, and I smiled at him. He found nothing in me, and he went his way.

I told people that if they were faithful in the little things, that if they bit their lip when they wanted to insult, that if they gave way when they wanted to step forward, that if they eschewed glory rather than pursuing it, that all the little acts of faithfulness would give them strength for the big acts of faithfulness.

I repeated Amy Carmichael's words: "In acceptance lieth peace." I repeated Watchman Nee's teaching that the circumstances that come to us are God's chisel, molding us to fit precisely into his eternal temple.

But I had no way of knowing whether I believed those words until I was writhing in pain on a hospital bed, in honest gratefulness that I might be delivered from my soft American ways and be a soldier in God's kingdom.

So here comes the chisel again, shaping the hardness of my heart to the power of his will, making me fit into the stones that surround me in the wall of the temple of God.

Such chiseling, shaping, and smoothing does not come by prayer or discipline. It comes by troubles and suffering.

Mia Hamm, the great women's soccer player, once said that the image of a champion is not holding a trophy aloft, but bent over, gasping for breath, and drenched in sweat long after everyone else has gone home.

The picture of the faithful saint does not consist of the sweat of labor, but of songs through tears and cries of praise in the midst of groaning. It is joy in suffering, and as Paul and Silas proved, that joy and those songs shake the earth and set the captives free.

We don't have to make the best of the suffering that comes our way. It already is the best. We just need to embrace it.

"May all who come behind us find us faithful."—Steve Green.

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