Updated: Sep 24
UPDATE: It has been one month since my last chemotherapy session. Things are returning to "normal": my hair is growing back, my gut is less bloated (but I still can't wear some of my pants), the neurop
athy is fading, and my energy is coming back! But the best news? I got the results of my "one month after chemo" PET Scan!
Introducing my new favorite word: unremarkable.
As in, “PET scan reveals nothing remarkable in regard to evidence of lymphoma.”
On Sunday, Brenda and I “skipped” church to drive down to MD Anderson in Houston to get a PET scan to see how six cycles of chemotherapy affected Timmy the Tumor. Now, on May 26th – after three cycles – I already had a scan that showed nothing – so I was in good spirits about this one. But there’s no guarantee; “Timmy”* could have been hiding or something. That’s why my oncologist said, “Just in case, we’re going to stomp him to death with three more cycles.” (Okay, he didn’t say “stomp to death” but that’s what he meant.) “Finish the rest of your cycles,” he said, “and let’s get another scan a month after you finish your last cycle.”
So that’s what I did – and then waited to see.
The day arrived. Dr. Sattva Neelapu, professor of lymphoma and myeloma at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, walked in the room and gave me the goods: “Well, Mr. Lee – we have good news! Your PET scan shows nothing remarkable. You are still in re-mission with a high probability of long-term success.” (And he drops the mic! Okay, no, he doesn’t but that’s what should have happened.)
And with that – cue the funeral dirge – I spit on Timmy’s grave.
Now, with my particular type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Diffuse Large B-Cell type), because of its aggressive nature, I have to watch it because it’s prone to being a zombie. So for the next two years, every six months, I’ll get a CT scan.
Lord-willing, I’ll spend a lot of money on pictures showing “nothing remarkable.”
That got me to thinking: we spend a lot of our time, talent and treasure wanting to be the opposite: Remarkable. Isn’t that why I want newer, shinier, bigger, more expensive, more … remarkable … stuff? Isn’t that why “social media influencers” have become such an important part of the “gig economy”? Let me be clear: I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with owning quality things which usually are expensive – if you can afford it. But when one makes purchases solely for the point of conspicuous attention, or make posts on social media for the sake of feeding their self-image, there’s something going on – and it’s probably not good.
Sean: Maybe you’re just being a little sensitive, you know, given your situation? I’ll admit that: close calls with death often make one wax philosophically. My “punch in the throat” with cancer has made me think very deeply about things. But, lymphoma only served to reinforce conclusions I’ve relied on for a long time, now. Only, this time, I’ve discovered new layers in regard to the meaning of life, the purpose of pain, the love of God, the kindness of God, the power of His Word, the absolutely dizzying manifestation of his love through God’s people – all in the background of the worst pandemic we’ve seen in 100 years.
I would wager, however, that searching for universal, and time-tested principles during times of crisis is not only de rigueur for such times as these, but it’s also absolutely necessary. “Fallacies,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “do not cease to become fallacies because they become fashions.” So, what word of wisdom should be slowly chewed and suck the marrow out of? The Holy Scriptures, of course:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)
Now those are remarkable words! This week, I was given good news. Tomorrow, it might be bad. What matters is that good or bad doesn’t control my destiny; health or dis-ease doesn’t prove God’s love for me; remarkable or unremarkable PET scans don’t injure or manifest the kindness of God. I rejoice in the good news! I praise God for the prayers of the saints who – I truly believe – had great influence in the strengthening of my body, soul and spirit during my ordeal.
But all that matters, is the promise of Jesus – that if I seek His Kingdom and Righteousness, I’ll never lack any remarkable thing from God.
C.S. Lewis quoted the great Scot, George Macdonald and added:
'You must be strong with my strength and blessed with my blessedness, for I have no other to give you.' That is the conclusion of the whole matter. God gives what He has, not what He has not: He gives the happiness that there is, not the happiness that is not.
Why on earth would I choose happiness that is not from God? Why on earth would I choose anything that is unremarkable to him? That is, of course, unless it is remarkably unremarkable. Yes – I shall take that!
* In case you weren’t aware, I gave my lymphoma a tumor (which affected many lymph nodes, actually) a name, “Timmy”, to give my enemy a name.