Wednesday, February 22, 2017

No Exchanges or Returns

Oh how I prayed there would be something to update you all with. And there is, it's just not what I anticipated. His answers sometimes differ from the ones we expect, from the ones we pray for :-).

Round 5 of chemo for my lupus is complete and we're two weeks away from the 6th, and expected final, round. Since we upped the dose, pretty much the whole week after is rough from a fatigue perspective. As long as I stay on top of my nausea meds, it's not too bad. But the fatigue and over sick feeling - wowee. I sleep pretty much all day for the first couple of days after, and then my naps gradually get shorter. And at about a week out from the dose, I feel like I usually do.

Complications this round included my insurance company balking for the first time since the new year (it's a praise that they haven't questioned the chemo treatments). Unfortunately, it's over my main pain med. I take an extended release form of it and then a regular release form of it for breakthrough pain. It's the extended release form that they are questioning (and I understand, this is a continuing treatment for me and they are seeing for the first time - I switched health insurance in January). So for the last two and a half weeks, I've been trying to time the regular release pain med to mimic an extended release plus handle break-through worked initially, but as the level of the meds wore off in my system, my pain levels have increased and stay at a pretty uncomfortable level most of the day. This means more days in bed and less days trying to have outings or visit with people, or do things around the house. So that's been dreary side of the past few weeks.

A huge praise is that I was able to get into a second opinion rheumatologist (still seeing the bigwig one in March) and she recommended a neurologist look into my case and gave me a name. I was able to get in to see him the day after I called! That NEVER happens. And, he is AWESOME. He spent time listening to the complicated history and reviewing the almost 2-inch thick folder (um, it's a Batman folder :-) ) of medical reports from each of the hospitals. I had another series of brain/spine MRIs that came back normal. The next step is for me to have another lumbar puncture (LP)  (also known as a spinal tap). This will be my 6th (!!!) since August. He needs to see what's going on in the fluid. Should be happening next week. 

I am now in a single digit dose of the steroids and should start to see (over the coming months) a loss of the water and steroid weight I've gained. I'm excited for that because I very much want to be comfortable in my own skin again. Chemo and steroids do quite the doozy on your body, although I'm thankful for the steroids because we are seeing that they have been helping with the head inflammation: my head keeps hurting worse the lower we go in the steroids..;so that's going to be an interesting discussion once I get to my steady state steroid dose.

That's my update - not much change painwise, except in what I consider the wrong direction. Some positive change in endurance and stamina (I was able to attend a friend's birthday party with a fairly large group of people in a busy restaurant - the ear plugs definitely helped!). What is every day normal for someone - grocery shopping, happy hour with the coworkers, trying to find a pair of jeans that fits, is a milestone for me and something we celebrate. It hurts to do these things, it requires detailed spoon balancing, but I am able (He enables me) to see past the pain and move forward, accepting the pain as part of the process, even though I don't like it. 

People comment that my faith is strong. I assure you, it's not. Instead, I offer to you that my God is strong. He is the one who enables me to get through each day, not just surviving, but most of the time with forward motion, with joy. Some days are survival days and that's okay. People comment that they couldn't imagine going through this, or handling what we are walking through. And they are right. They couldn't. Because they haven't been asked to walk what we're walking.

God gives us the grace we need for what He brings about in our lives - no more, no less. 

What's grace? Merriam Webster defines it as "unmerited divine assistance given to humans to promote growth (as in character growth) or the church-y word "sanctification, a special favor, an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency. I recently read something that pricked my heart. From "The Scars that Have Shaped Me," Vaneetha Rendall states that there is deliverance grace and sustaining grace. 

We (or at least me) pray for deliverance grace - to be healed, to be vindicated, to redeem that which is broken or unsettled - the wayward child, the broken relationship, for the tumor to shrink. We want it to be fixed and so we pray, just as He tells us to. 

And then there is sustaining grace - that energy to crawl out of bed and face another day of head and neck pain, or to face a grumpy teenager who won't talk to you, or a spouse who's giving the cold shoulder, or that boss that micromanages everything. It's the stiff upper lip/pull yourself up by your bootstraps gutsyness we're able to conjure when all we want to do is crumble, the deep breath we take when it feels that all the air has left the room, the ability to swallow one more med, get poked with one more needle, joke one more time with the nurse, or doctor, or receptionist. This is sustaining grace. He provides us so generously and abundantly the ability to LIVE: to walk in this world and process the hurt and pain, to move forward and encourage others in their hurting, to not be okay with our circumstances but still have the ability to love and laugh and choose joy. He is amazingly good to sustain us. To sustain me.

And I shun it. I put out my hand to return what I've been given and say, um, no. I want deliverance grace, I want this to go away. Let's see a miracle happen. Ready? GO! And He patiently responds with sustaining grace in the form of an email or text message of His Word, reminding me of His faithfulness, His goodness, His power. I stamp my foot and stick out my hand, greedy to thrust back this sustaining grace in return for deliverance grace. 

There are no exchanges or returns on His grace.

He gives the perfect amount, at the perfect time. Grace that, if we believe in Him, will bring us good and Him glory (Rom 8:28).

It's not that He doesn't answer, it's that His answer is different than what I expected, than what I prayed for. It doesn't mean that it's a poor offering from Him, that He's giving me the short end of the stick, the last dredges from the bowl. He is giving me His best - whether that be deliverance grace or sustaining grace. (Matt 7:11)

Oh Lord, for the heart and spirit to sing your praises even when the answer or direction of things doesn't match my expectations. To be able to see your sustaining grace as the immense blessing that it is. To again see that I don't walk this path alone, that you are there, sustaining me, giving me what I need each step of the way. May my definition of "good" match Your definition. May my heart accept the "Final Sale" of the grace, in whatever form, You give to me. And may I rejoice in that grace.