Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good

I know, I have those backwards. It's supposed to be The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. But I'm not giving a review of an old Clint Eastwood movie. It's a review of my life as a cancer patient. And the reviews are mixed.

One of my fellow cancer patients suggested The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly as the title of a post because our lives tend to comprise all three in increasing measure. Those closest to us get to see all of it up close.  Most of it isn't pretty. In fact, some of it's pretty ugly. But a lot of it's good.

I'm reversing the order because I'd rather end on the positive. Let's get the ugly stuff out of the way first.

Since my last post, Progress/Regress Report, I've gotten feedback from other cancer patients, some of whom are new to me, and a few who are good friends. Many could relate to my anger issues. I found out after the post that Lupron may be to blame for more of this than I realized. Many suffer from anger, mood swings, depression, and loss of focus from Lupron. It makes you crazy, as it turns out.

I don't know if that's supposed to make me feel better or worse. If it really is just the Lupron in my system that's making me feel and act this way, I suppose I shouldn't beat myself up about my emotional ups and downs so much. But it also means that I have more of this to look forward to. My last shot is good until September, and then I expect to get another one. I don't know how my wife and I are going to navigate this.

I do think I've identified the source of my anger. There is one person in particular that I'm angry at, and it's causing problems, not just for me, but for some close friends. I've put them in the position of having to choose between me and the person I'm angry at, because I can't stand to be around that person right now. It's wrong of me to ask that of my friends. It's like a divorce. If I can let go of my anger and get to the point where my friends can invite both of us to the same occasion, lots of things will get better. I'll get there, eventually. Please be patient with me.

If I try to force it with this person, who is oblivious to my pain, it could get ugly, and things between us could become irreparable. That's the ugly I want to avoid. In identifying what's good, bad, and ugly for me right now, I put damaged and broken relationships in the ugly category. There's lots that's bad, but if I allow what's bad to come between us, then I've allowed things to get ugly. If the wrong thing gets said to me by the wrong person at the wrong time, an ugly scene is all too likely, especially under the influence of Lupron.

This is especially difficult for someone like me, since I've been in ministry for so long. I've been involved in music ministry for most of my life, and I consider this blog a ministry. When you presume to teach others, I've always believed that you need to be held to a higher standard. So ugly public scenes are to be avoided at all costs. Even online. Maybe especially there.

I reacted emotionally to a friend on Facebook who I thought used the wrong word this week. I was offended by what he said, but I shouldn't have come down on him in public the way I did. That was ugly, and I'm sorry, Gary.

That's enough of the ugly. Here's what's bad. There are things that my wife and I need that seem out of reach. With summer coming, there are lots of jobs for me to do in the yard that I just don't have the physical strength and stamina to do. Lupron is making me weak. But we also can't afford to pay anyone to do them for me.

We've gotten a lot of help over the last several months, and we're very grateful for all of it. But that makes us feel like we can't ask for more. And our needs don't stop. They keep coming. That's not good. That goes in the bad category.

I'm still finding it almost impossible to concentrate on music work. That's not good. I got my song back for one day about a month ago, but now I'm having trouble finding it again. That also goes in the bad category.

I still have this ball of anger, or disappointment, or something that's robbing me of the peace I had, and making it hard for me to sleep through the night. Bad.

Of course, the mere fact that I have cancer is bad.  I'm sure you've noticed that I leave that out when I consider what might be bothering me. I really don't think that's what it is. When I thought I had cancer in my bones, and my future was completely out my hands, I had peace. I was grateful for the positive changes in my life that would never have happened if it weren't for the cancer. I've never been upset about having cancer, the way so many are about their cancer, and the way my loved ones are about mine.

I don't like what treatment is doing to me, but the cancer itself has caused me no discomfort, and I'm perfectly fine with the idea of a shortened life span. I know that my cancer is probably what's bothering you, but it isn't what's bothering me. None of us are permanent residents here on this planet. We're all renting, and the lease comes up for all of us sooner or later. I'm at peace with that.

But in the midst of all that's ugly and bad, there's a whole lot of good. That's what I'd like to focus on.

While I have a very few strained, damaged, or even broken relationships, I've gained many more good ones. Relationships that had gone dormant for years are now vital and alive. My relationships with the close friends I had are, for the most part, better than ever. Expressions of love come much more easily now. That's a very good thing.

This afternoon my wife and I celebrate the one year anniversary of our friendship with Derek Donnell and Amber Berry. We met on the patio at the place I can't seem to stop talking about, Wahoo's Fish Taco on East Hampden in Denver, last April. That's where we'll be today, with our dogs, just like the day we met. There are very few things in life more precious than a new friendship, especially when you know that it was meant to be, and that it will last a lifetime. This is beyond good. It's amazing, and it was completely unexpected at this point in our lives. God is good.

Paul and Denise Kelley have stepped up for us in unbelievable ways from the beginning, and continue to do so. Our friendship with them is old, but new. Like so many of my relationships, this one has been transformed. This probably would not have happened without the cancer, and that's 100% on me. For years I said and thought that we needed to cultivate a friendship with Paul and Denise, but I never followed through on it until I got smacked by God's 2 By 4. How dumb am I?

If you've read this journal from early on, you know about the fact that, when I was diagnosed, and for months thereafter, I had no church and no pastor. That has changed. It's wonderful having a church home again, and I have a relationship with my pastor, Tim Jones, that's unlike any I've had before. That's very good. He's much younger than me, but I won't hold that against him.

I've grown closer to so many others in the past few months, whether they be new friendships like Sandi Labo, or rekindled ones like Nicki Morgan, Deanna Griffiths, and Tiffany Berland. I can't thank you ladies enough for what you've meant to me during this time.

To everyone I've mentioned here, and to everyone I left out, Sharon and I will never be able to thank you enough for what you've meant to us this past year. We wouldn't have made it without you.

That's a whole bunch of good, and it's just the beginning.

In spite of the turmoil I'm experiencing right now, my relationship with God is better than it's been for most of my life. If only I could tag his Facebook page! When you have to learn to trust God, loving him is so much easier. My love for the friends I tagged above is magnified by my need for them. Same with my relationship with God. My relationship with him is so much more than it used to be for one reason. I finally realize how much I need him. That's why I wouldn't change my diagnosis, even if I could. Even tribulation is a good thing when it brings you closer to God.

I can't forget my new passion, writing this blog. I feel like this thing is really starting to hit its stride. Not because I'm getting better at it, though I think I am. Practice makes perfect, after all. But I don't think my writing chops are the reason for the growth in readership. And the growth has been amazing to see. My readership has tripled in an average post, and quintupled in my most read posts. But that's not because of me. I believe it's because there's a need for this, and God is using this blog to meet those needs. That's all I want.

There's a lot more good that I could talk about, but I've gone on too long, as usual. Sometimes it's hard to see all of the good because it gets obscured by the bad and the ugly. But it helps to remind myself of all that's good in my life. I encourage all of my cancer brothers and sisters reading this to take stock of the good things in their life. Especially the people who love you. They are more precious than money, added time on this planet, or even a cure. Without love, is life worth living? Not to me.

We can't avoid the bad things that will come our way. But we can try to avoid the ugliness by focusing on the good. If you have a loved one with cancer, thanks for helping us bear the load of what's bad. We know that it's worse for you, in many ways. Thanks for enduring the ugliness that creeps in. You are what's good in our lives, even when everything else seems bad or ugly.

And for all of us, if we can have a relationship with the loving, personal God that I'm getting to know better with each passing day, that is what's best of all. That's what will last forever.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)


  1. Love that I can be placed in that good category as you are in mine as well!! ❤

  2. I remember reading a book on anger and the author made a valid claim. You can tell you have let go when you no longer feel you have to tell people about the incident. I bring the memory out and set it on my right shoulder and ask God to take the memory from me. So far it has worked. Sometime I just pretend to like a person I really don't like and voila, before long I really like him.

    1. Thanks, Steve. I think not needing to talk about it is a good measuring stick, too. I think I'm getting there.