After no posts for 8 months, I thought it might be time to prove that I haven’t expired yet.
To make your reading simpler…I’ll give you the “bullet points”. Then you can choose to read any additional thoughts at your own leisure.
- Still alive.
- Cancer is still labeled as “barely detectable”.
- Still on a maintenance-chemo regimen.
- Continue to undergo once-a-month blood tests to re-up prescriptions.
- Continue to visit the oncologist every 4 months.
- Doing well physically. My blood counts are pretty normal.
- Still experience some fatigue, peripheral neuropathy in feet and hands.
- Still losing hair on my head but gaining it in my ears & nose.
- Will have my first-ever colonoscopy this week. (I’ll upload the video later)
- Still married.
- Still serving full-time as pastor at LifeChange Community Church in West Michigan. (Hard to believe it’s our 8th winter here!)
- Buried my 72-year-old dad last summer after his battle with prostate cancer. Didn’t expect that so soon and miss him a lot.
Additional commentary (because medical stuff by itself bores me)
I once worked for a company that would randomly send me an email to let me know that I’d be receiving a lump sum of cash from their profits. I never knew when they were going to do this or if they were going to. But it was always cool when they did. It was their way of giving a bonus.
The dictionary defines bonus as “something good that is more than what was expected or required”.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is an entitlement. Entitlement is defined as “the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something”.
In one case, there’s a something that exceeds what you expected (or maybe deserved). In the other, there’s something that can never exceed what you expected but may actually be less than expected.
If you were playing Monopoly, it would be like getting the “Bank error in your favor!–Collect $200” card versus receiving your $200 allowance for crossing the “Go” square. Both are worth $200. But one is way more appreciated.
As a visual equation, maybe it looks like this:
Bonus = Transaction > Expectation.
Entitlement = Transaction ≤ Expectation.
Somewhere in the middle is simply a “wage”. You get what you expect.
Wage = Transaction = Expectation.
Why the silly little definitions and formulas?
A little over four years ago at the age of 47, I was diagnosed with a rare and killer blood cancer called multiple myeloma. I was told I might have up to four years to live. You might say up until that point, I had expected more out of life. I deserved more out of life. I was entitled to more. Life, itself, was an entitlement.
After lots of drugs, a stem cell transplant (2012), lots of prayer, and great medical care, today I’m doing extremely well. I will turn 52 in about 6 weeks and as of today, my cancer levels are barely detectable and my side effects are tolerable for living a productive and “normal” life (whatever that is).
When it comes to expectations, myeloma patients always live under the reality that the myeloma will return. You then reload your toxic weapons and go through another stem cell transplant (if your body is able to handle it).
Needless to say, my expectations about life have certainly changed over the past four years. Most of the entitlement thinking has now been replaced with bonus thinking.
It’s amazing the benefits of bonus thinking over entitlement thinking. Rather than thinking God owes me something more (entitlement), I’m keenly aware that every day really is a perk (bonus).
Bonuses are fun. Bonuses bring pleasure. You can actually enjoy a bonus.
Entitlements are typically, at best, a break-even proposition. But frequently, entitlements breed frustration, worry, stress, disappointment and anger.
When there’s entitlement thinking: people, traffic, salary, health, weather, job, spouse, kids, government and you name it, SHOULD perform/relate/provide for me at an expected standard. And when they don’t meet me my expectations, then my satisfaction and contentment level is at risk.
But with bonus thinking, it’s not that you don’t toss out the expectations. It’s just that you don’t let your expectations rob you and keep you from making the most of TODAY. I understand that God and life don’t owe me a dime. They existed long before I showed up. They will exist after I’ve departed. As the Old Testament character Job once stated, “I was naked when I was born, and I will be naked when I die.”
Cancer (and the torture called chemo) has a way of moving things from the “entitlement column” to the “bonus column.”
- With bonus thinking, age 52 is a nice perk. (and not a guarantee for everybody)
- With bonus thinking, each new day of my 10,585-day marriage is a reward.
- With bonus thinking, being able to work is a privilege.
- With bonus thinking, a good tasting BBQ rib is a treat.
- With bonus thinking, a nice walk in the country is majestic.
- With bonus thinking, great friends are cherished.
- With bonus thinking, grace is a more natural response to other people.
- With bonus thinking, being able to serve and love others in the local church is a gift.
- With bonus thinking, reading the Bible and knowing God is more a delight than duty.
- With bonus thinking, feeling well is not taken for granted.
- With bonus thinking, my stuff and my money hardly matter anymore.
- With bonus thinking, why worry so much? We’re all terminal.
With bonus thinking, what’s to fear? After you’ve been through hard-core chemo, you tend not to fear stuff near as much. In fact, the most important thing that anyone should fear is an eternity without a relationship with Jesus. After that, everything else is small potatoes.
So you might say…multiple myeloma has its perks. Bonus thinking is certainly a better way to live than Entitlement thinking. And it’s a choice.
Remember that you’re just passing through. We all are. Consider Bonus thinking. I’m talking about more than just the power of positive thinking. Real Bonus thinking isn’t about artificial happy thoughts. Real Bonus thinking assumes that there is a divine Bonus giver and you are the receiver in this transaction.
After almost 33 years of surrendering my life over to this Heavenly Bonus giver, I am more convinced now than ever of the truth of His incredible love and promises for those who will take that step of faith. God never promised that life on earth would be easy (or even make sense). But He does promise to walk along side you during the journey!
If you have God-issues or people-issues or church-issues or faith-issues, just know that you’re not alone. But don’t give up on God. Want to talk about this further? Feel free to send me an email or Facebook me or Tweet me or Instagram me. I am accessible and we can connect. (I consider your friendship a bonus, not an entitlement).
Thanks for your ongoing prayers! If you’re still breathing, enjoy your bonus today!