Once again, the Roller Coaster continues
OK, a few of you have suggested that I owe you another update, and I suppose after a month or so it’s time, so here goes. Thanks for caring enough to ask.
Health Update: Counts Mysteriously Up Once More
First things first, the latest health news is odd and not good. As you know, last month the protein counts (UPEP) that indicate the level of the Myeloma in my system/bone marrow had dropped drastically from May through June, from 15 to 4. This was great, if somewhat befuddling news and we hoped and prayed that it was the first bit of more good news along the way.
However, on Monday I received the results from my most recent 24 hour urine collection that measures the UPEP proteins and was told that they had risen, this time even more drastically--to 19--the largest single increase (by number) since we’ve been counting.
Sheri and I spent most of last night shaking our head and wondering an ever-eloquent “wha?” and then started wondering about the various things and correlations that might have caused such a fast and extraordinary jump. We had some ideas, which we’ll share with my doctors when they both return from vacation the first of next week, but it’s all just pure hypothesis at this point, most of it revolving around the addition of the steroids (Decadron) in May and the fact that the couple of weeks before the collection (half of the time between collections) I hadn’t been taking them. We’ll see what Dr. Luger says, and we’ll do the next test making sure that the ‘roids are in the system to be sure that that variable is consistent.
Beyond that, we’re at a loss.
So, we need your prayers. This roller coaster is a bit more than I/we can take some (most) days, so exhausting on so many levels, and I think, the real, deep reason that I don’t want to go head-long into the proposed Bone Marrow Transplant—I’m just so weary, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually--just spent, you know?--and can’t imagine going through another big procedure or crisis again in less than a year, especially when the last one was supposed to give me a couple of years of remission.
What is this Thing You Call Normal?
All this is especially maddening when it also means that my attempts to cultivate something like normalcy in our home and to try and work on at least a fairly regular once-in-a-while manner are curtailed by all of this. I want so badly to do be able to do good work, to rediscover the discipline of the daily “burden” and miss so much the creativity and thrust and parry of having colleagues and employees to empower and nurture and occasionally boss about.
I’ve even discovered that working alone as a “consultant” and sitting with folk and small ministries and non-profits that need your experience to help them negotiate the landmines and pitfalls in their own contexts--or even to see their context more clearly--is an extraordinarily invigorating challenge.
Last year I was able to do this a bit (working with World Vision Canada, mostly) and the couple of years before with others like my old friends at Habitat for Humanity and some smaller groups and I had a blast when I could do it.
The other thing I’m trying to carve out (listen to this “woe is me” wanking on my part… sorry) is a way to make the discipline of writing a regular part of my life--something that I’d been able to begin earlier this Spring before things got weird and the “chest thing” made me a sloppy, dopey, endlessly weary muck-about. It’s a burning need on my part, because I know that I’ve got some important stories to tell--many of which I nearly lost when my computer crashed in June, and that near-tragedy (OK, wrong word--millions in Africa with HIV-AIDS is a tragedy) made me only more aware of how much I love to write, and how important those stories and ideas are to me.
Of course, the problem is that when I’m sick all the time, or just exhausted by the roller coaster, it’s harder and harder to actually try and write, let alone reinvent the discipline that you need to do it well. Please pray for me on this, really. I know that many of you have been helped, how in heaven’s name I don’t know, by my writing, so I feel a real burden to make it central to my life.
Thank God for some of you that have read my musings, and in one case it led to what I can only call a real miracle. It’s a long story that I shan’t bore you with, but it basically boils down to our being able to have a real vacation in early August, even after our original plans had unraveled. Yep, we’re going to spend five days at a resort that we could never have dreamt of in a million years, even if we were both working full-time and making decent money. I won’t embarrass the person who came to the fore with that gift, but we can thank her. Unbelievable. We can’t wait.
Speaking at Met
As I mentioned to you in the last update, and then added to my website, I was honored with an invitation to return to London, Ontario’s Metropolitan United Church, where I worked for three years from 1989-1992. Met was the largest “mainline” church in Canada at the time, but had never had a youth ministry, so my time as a “pioneer” was pretty cool, and filled with rich relationships and times of great creativity. And fun. We had lots of fun.
Met was also the church that in some ways saved my life at a time when I was wondering what and where my faith would become and be as I left the denomination and traditions of my youth. I first went to Met in January 1996 with my roommate and best friend Bob Holmes; Bob met his future wife that morning and we both heard what might be the best the sermon we’ve ever hear (from the great Rev. Dr. R. Maurice Boyd), and I never looked back. Met, I learned later when I went to work for them, was far from the perfect church, and Dr. Boyd, while a great preacher was not always the best pastor, but Dr. Boyd’s preaching--all Irish erudition and a grand course in English literature and the best of neo-orthodox theology--was always pure inspiration, from that first Sunday until he left for NYC in 1988.
Moreover, in the summer Met invited the best preachers in the country to their “summer replacement preacher series” and upped the ante even more.
So, being asked back to preach on the second Sunday of the summer (July 10) was a big honor, even if that summer replacement series isn’t what it used to be (as they invited me). The problem was, however, that I was sicker than a dog the week leading to the 10th and I had no business even considering coming up. We did anyway, not willing as I was to either give up the date/honor or lose my airfare, and so on Saturday morning we hopped on our little US Air commuter jet, flew to Toronto, grabbed our rental car and drove to London where we hung out at Mark and Bill’s amazing Victorian (it really does feel like my home away from home in London, now, except that it's nicer than home) until early evening when I left Sheri with the boys and I for the hotel room that the church had secured for me.
I spent the night going over my notes and then, around 3am, had a two-hour coughing fit, just another extension of that ridiculous chest infection that I haven’t been able to shake for two months. More importantly, it beat the crap out of me the night before I was to speak at two services; to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could do it.
At about 8:30am--and hour before the first service--I was about to pull the plug when I realized that the theme, in part at least, of my sermon, was the notion of desperation--that if when you encounter Christ and the call of the Kingdom of God your first reaction isn’t “Help! I can’t do this!” than you probably aren’t encountering Christ or his Kingdom--I felt like I had no choice. And so I did it--got things together for the first (contemporary) service (the entire existence of which at Met is a real miracle in itself, I must say, given the church's less than progressive history), this time with my friend and colleague Kevin Rogers at my side singing three songs--and plowed into the sermon and made it work. It was decent enough, not a flop and I think good, tho’ far from all it could be.
The second, “traditional” service, however, went, I believe, far better, and was close to an entirely different sermon in many ways. (The points were the same but the stories were mostly different.) I felt much more like myself in that hour (at least myself preaching), despite my fatigue and the heaviness of feeling lousy (what proportion "the Spirit" and what proportion "adrenaline" were in teh mix I don't know) and the weight and the heat of being “robed.” (Thanks, with much gratitude, to Ramona Lumpkin, the Principle of my Alma Mater Huron College, who lent me a robe and hood. I recommend that anyone dieting grab an academic robe on a hot day and wear it while doing something strenuous and stressful—watch those pounds roll off, baby!)
It was also an extraordinary time of reunion, seeing several of the “kids” from the youth group from 16 years ago--far from kids now as you might guess--as well as seeing many old and good friends that I see not nearly enough of, and a few of whom Sheri had never met. Especially fantastic were two things:
First, Sheri was finally able to meet Jan and Martin Bracken, the couple who in many ways adopted me and kept me sane both before and after the “Peru ‘90” mission trip, and who have continued to be the very best friends imaginable to someone we basically only talk to via the internet. Second, Heather and Cam Stevens, two exceptional folk who were in our Young Adult group way back when (and whom I sort of introduced), along with Gail and Doug Perry (who I also introduced and who were instrumental in helping me negotiate the entire day at Met) put on an amazing luncheon at Cam & Heather's where there were gathered about 40 great friends from Met and even some from around the country, like long-lost friends Rod and Heather Card for whom I was best man 19 years ago and who now live in Elmira. It was amazing.
All in all, I felt like I was available to the Spirit to do something of value and use to the church in that place, although when it was done, I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life. Unfortunately, the late-night/early-morning coughing sessions didn’t slow until the middle of the week afterwards, which was annoying the night after I preached when Sheri and I spent the night at my folks (before our very early flight out—we had to leave for Toronto Pearson Airport about 4:30am to drop off the car and get through customs and make our flight). This was no way to spend the morning after listening to me cough for an hour…. Yuck.
Overall, in spite of all the roller coaster nonsense and bouncing ball protein counts, I’m feeling much better (in general) than I have been over the past two months and change. I’ve been battling this chest thing, but in the past week or so the extraordinary bad stuff has been slowly getting better. I’ve actually slept through entire nights, lately.
On the downside, however, I can’t manage to gain any weight—I’m still hovering in the mid-high 160’s—and no one seems to know why. It’s maddening, as I’m eating well.
Last Sunday, (7/17) was Sheri’s birthday, and instead of a big fancy (and expensive) dinner I cooked her a five-course tasting menu on Saturday night.
It was, I hope, a raging success, starting with grilled scallops on watercress with a home-made raspberry vinaigrette, followed by a heirloom tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil salad, followed by a pasta course of papparelle with an amazing soft calves-milk cheese cream sauce, then a Cornish hen grilled under brick with a dessert with a grilled peach with gorgonzola and drizzled honey finishing up the night. Yum. Matched with some perfect New Zealand Pino Gris and great Napa Pinot Noir, it was a perfect meal—well at least close to it.
Beyond that, there’s not that much more to say. I promise to give you more information on my health as it comes, and to post some notes and photographs from our vacation.
I also ask you to contemplate this small thought: Rick Warren, pastor of the monstrous “Saddleback” church in AZ and author of The Purpose-Driven Life/Church has had a “revelation” that he should spend the rest of his life caring for the poor and the “least of these my brothers” and specifically those with HIV-AIDS in Africa.
Good and fine.
But what does he need a revelation for when it’s there already? I mean, really, if you need a revelation to discover that God has called those who would be in his Kingdom to care for the poor than there’s something wrong with how you’re reading the Bible, with, to use the fancy seminary term, you’re hermeneutic. It’s there already! Listen to John the Baptist on the very nature of repentance: “let him who has two give to him who has none!” If we want to follow Jesus, if want to be part of the Kingdom, then we have no choice. It’s like believing that Jesus is lord, it’s like bread and wine. Being a believer means we care for the poor.
End of lecture.
And so, as you go, when you remember to pray for me, remember to pray for those who have no voice, and remember to find a way to love those who have no one to love them, and to share your stuff with those who have little or none.
And, of course, we thank you all for your kindness, your prayers, your love, shown to us in so many ways.
Thanks, we love you,
Dwight (& Sheri)
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