This is not a post I want to write.
Wednesday afternoon, I had a very hard phone conversation with our neuro-oncologist. I asked him to be very honest on what we were facing medically given Jonathan’s continuous and rapid decline despite completing the radiation treatment. He explained to me that he had been hopeful that radiation would bring improvement, but that by now, it was clear to him that Jonathan’s symptoms were speaking of disease progression. He said that we had reached a point in which treatments were hurting Jonathan more than helping him -we all know that both, radiation and chemotherapy are toxic and harmful not only to cancerous cells but to healthy ones as well. He gently explained that it was time to switch our focus from fighting cancer to having the best quality of life possible and spending time as family… That is not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that there is a new experimental treatment, or that there are some medicines that he had in his back pocket, or that perhaps these symptoms were not tumor related and could be resolved soon; that we could resume our lives of living with cancer and having clear quarterly MRI’s for years to come.
But he did not.
We decided to schedule an appointment for this morning along with an MRI before we made final decisions. The MRI this morning revealed that, as the doctor anticipated, there are new areas of tumor growth that are on an opposite side of where we were currently treating. That means that while we were targeting one area, the disease was spreading to another place. This explains the symptoms that Jonathan has been recently experiencing and why the current treatments didn’t seem to be working effectively. Medically speaking there is no reason to keep putting Jonathan under such aggressive treatments. So our doctor helped us made the decision to call palliative care.
Our afternoon was long and emotional. We have always been intentional to communicate with our children as openly and clearly as possible. This time, the news was hard to convey, and their many tears made evident that they understood well the implications of this shift. We hugged and cried quietly together for a long time. Jonathan keeps shepherding our family well and in the midst of his exhaustion, found energy to encourage his children to trust in God’s goodness even in the middle of this.
The pain is so deep and the fears are very real. But God’s character doesn’t change. His love for us doesn’t change. Jonathan and I have always loved the Biblical image of the anchor. Hebrews 6 says that the hope we have in Christ is an anchor of our souls. We need an anchor. The circumstances around us feel like a storm tossing us back and forward; there are many uncertainties, we face realities that are physically and emotionally challenging. We need an anchor that keeps us from being swept by the waves. And we have that anchor in the hope we have in Christ. While life is uncertain, our salvation is certain. While our reality is challenging, our future hope is glorious.
We go to sleep with heavy hearts. Hearts that struggle to make sense of our reality. Hearts that keep begging our Almighty God to intervene in a miraculous way and to receive the glory for what only He can do. And as we beg, we also trust His perfect ways. We know that He goes before us and behind us, and that He will never forsake us.
Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol Him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and at the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! ~Psalm 117