I have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and, on this site, I will provide updates as I have them. I will also treasure messages of encouragement and promises of prayer. I am trusting the words of Juliana of Norwich:
God did not say: You will not be troubled, you will not be belabored, you will not be disquieted; but he said: You will not be overcome. God wants us to pay attention to those words and always be strong in faithful trust, in well-being and in woe, for he loves us and delights in us, so he wishes us to love him and delight in him and trust greatly in him, and all will be well.. . . [The Lord says most comfortingly]: I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well.
This past Tuesday, I had my first face-to-face meeting with my new oncologist, Dr. Greg Pollack. It was good to meet him, and it's clear that he's a bright and caring physician. He listens well and he demonstrates interest in the person who has cancer, not merely in the cancer which the person has. We had a good conversation about Zometa, the result of which is that I won't receive any more infusions of it. The rash, which steroids had kept at bay for a week or so, has begun to reappear, and I continue to have some of the other side-effects I mentioned: dizziness, lowered blood pressure, and increased fatigue. Because Zometa has a long residual life in the body, I will deal with those kinds of things for a while--maybe a good while--longer, but not having more infusions means that, over time, its impact on me will decline. Dr. Pollack also recommended that I take Revlimid continuously, rather than 21 days on and 7 days off; he indicated that's the standard pattern for post-transplant patients who are on low-dose Revlimid.
My basic blood work was good; nearly all of my counts are in normal range. On this visit, I also had "myeloma labs," the blood tests which indicate the level of myeloma's presence and activity. Dr. Pollack left a message for me today, and he said that "Frank" is present at essentially the same (very low) level he was in December of last year. It's good news that Frank isn't getting any stronger, but he's still hanging around (not a surprise) and not getting any weaker either. I am very grateful that Frank remains under such tight management.
March was the hardest month I have had since the stretch of days between mid-July and mid-August of last year (the time I was at Duke for the transplant and initial recovery). Among other challenges, the flu, the Zometa rash and other side-effects, as well as the medications which addressed those side-effects, left me feeling depleted and, at times, disheartened. I have felt better this week, and I hope--and think--that that positive trend will continue.
I was a part of the congregation at All Souls Cathedral for their Maundy Thursday service tonight. It was a starkly beautiful experience of worship: footwashing, Eucharist, and "the stripping of the church" as a rich symbol of the poverty and shadows into which the world descended as Jesus moved deeply into suffering and death. The choir sang an arrangement of George Herbert's "Love Bade Me Welcome," and it was filled with the ache of longing for love and mercy and with the tender assurance that God gives those gifts in abundance. Thomas Murphy preached about how preparing to die is, paradoxically, a way to make room in oneself for new life.
Thomas' sermon enabled me to frame cancer's invitation and requirement that I keep coming to terms with my death. it also allows me to anticipate--and to begin to experience--resurrection. During the month of March, it was impossible for me to navigate around the nonnegotiable reality of my mortality. That confrontation with the ultimate limit we face is a gift. It shatters my denial, and it challenges me to surrender myself into the mystery and joy of Easter.
This Easter will be the first time in 37 years that I won't be preaching on the most radiantly important day on the church's calendar. That, too, is a gift--a difficult but significant gift. This year, I need to hear the good news, far more than I need to announce it. In the gathering gloom and growing silence of the cathedral tonight, I found quiet in my heart, a quiet which I trust will be filled with the incredible news that "Christ is risen." Because he is, we are and will be, too.