Even thought the first round of Chemo I had almost killed me-let’s ignore that and move on the “consolidation rounds” of chemo I had every time after that. I remember getting the phone call that my blood counts indicated that I had Leukemia. They told me there was a bed reserved for me at the hospital and I should go there immediately. After I called Blake and he came speeding home, he called and talked to the doctor while I arranged for the kids to go to friends’ houses over night and packed my things (what in the world do you pack for a “trip” to the hospital?). When we got in the car, I wondered out loud about how long I might have to stay in the hospital. “Thirty Days.” What? Blake said that the doctor told him to expect at least THIRTY DAYS. After surviving Chemo and the first 30 days, they have a pretty specific regiment of chemo that follows. You get chemo off and on for 3 days while STAYING in the hospital for 6 days-go home-feel good until about day 5-feel like crap and generally need blood or platelets for the next 5 days-recover-feel pretty normal-go back in hospital and do it all over again. I did this 5 times. However, by the last round, I didn’t get to feeling better for about 2 weeks. My doctor pointed out that this is because Chemo is CUMULATIVE. It only makes sense, then, that by the end of 5 rounds my body might find it harder to recover than it did after round 1.
It occurred to me, actually about 3 months ago, that most of life is the same way. We don’t get fat, or skinny, overnight. I read recently that once you start losing weight, it takes about 30 days for YOU to notice a difference in your body and 60 days for OTHER people to notice (probably due to the naked factor-we can hide a lot of rolls under baggy clothes and hold in the excess with spanx!). We don’t arrive at serenity, or bitterness, overnight. These traits, these characteristics or defects of character do not occur without lengthy practice. Lengthy, repetitive, recurring choices create an outcome that was cultivated over time. It’s the principle of the “slight edge”. Small decisions and actions, over time, equal big results. And most of the time, we are the only ones who are aware of the work being done-or being ignored…for a little while, anyway. Maybe no one sees you eat french fries or drink a venti Frappuccino every day, but in 6 months, they WILL notice. In the same way, no one may notice whether you read, pray, meditate, work a program, or engage in meaningful personal growth opportunities on a regular basis, but in a year, and when the crisis comes, they WILL know. Becoming genuine, loving, authentic, confident, peaceful, patient, joyful….these things require practices that are CUMULATIVE. They all add up over time. When we don’t engage in practices that foster this way of living, we see it pretty clearly. Either in ourselves or in others. The “fruit” is rotten: Anger, bitterness, depression, cynicism, hopelessness, sadness, emptiness, isolation.
People often commented that they were inspired by the strength and faith I had during my Leukemia battle. At first, I thought that God had just granted me these gifts BECAUSE of Leukemia. I don’t actually think that’s the case, the more I think about it. I am not implying that I “earned” these gifts, but I do think that the things I read and the relationship God and I had BEFORE I got sick, contributed greatly to the repertoire of scenarios that God had already brought me through and a storage of strength that had been built up and into over time. I had been training, in a way. That doesn’t mean that God CAN’T and WON”T give you extra when you need it, but there are plenty of people who go through illness or tough times with a negative, bitter spirit about them. Part of that is because they were out of “spiritual shape” before they arrived at that point. Leukemia was a Marathon for me, and I felt prepared for it. If I had NOT trained, I still could have made it. Just like I could finish an actual marathon without training-I’d just be walking, possibly crawling, by the end and it might take me 8 whiney, miserable hours. Without the cumulative results that came from investing in a relationship with God, I might have whined my way through Leukemia, and other struggles in my life as well. There have been times when I was not making this investment and reaped the consequences of a life run on self-will. It wasn’t pretty.
I really wanted to be done with Chemo after that first 30 days. Really, Really bad. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts if you want to be cured. I did feel better, so could have decided to just quit at that point. I would have felt better for a few weeks, but then the cancer would take over and I would be sick again-possibly sicker than I was before. I hate to break it to you, but a little effort, a short-cut version of the actual work required if we want to be more (more, spiritual, more patient, more fit, more loving, more fully yourself, etc.) only works temporarily. What we want is a cure. In order to be “cured” we have to be vigilant. We have to understand that like Chemo, our “treatment” is cumulative throughout our lives.
Now-on a final note, I want to mention that I am tired. maybe you feel tired too. I get it. I mean, I am 44 yrs. old and If I could move into a gated retirement community where other people mow and clean and I can use a pool that I don’t have to take care of-I’d be there in a heartbeat. And when I talk about all these “practices”, it just sounds exhausting. This is one area of my life where I have had a HUGE paradigm shift. What has worked for me in the past few years is different from what I TRIED to MAKE work during the previous portion of my life. Instead of striving to BE all the things I listed above, I simply do the work and leave the results up to God. I can’t control the outcome. I don’t have to work HARDER. I can live day to day, practicing principles and making choices that I think are best, trusting that God will take care of the rest. No more scrambling, beating myself up or agonizing about if I am “doing it right”. Just living life in simplicity and doing my part helps me contribute to the cumulative effects of my “fight for the cure.”