If a cancer patient hasn’t updated their blog in eight months, there are three likely reasons (and one of those is not good). Hopefully this update will clarify which end of the spectrum I’m at these days.
As proof that I’m actually still around, I’m including a selfie. You know, one of those pictures that you take of yourself with your smartphone and then upload to social media so that all of your friends can make fun of your vanity. My kids actually did laugh at me for taking a selfie.
In case you missed it, the word selfie was listed as Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 “Word of the Year”. Lest you criticize the impact of pop culture on our language, just be glad that the “runner up” word didn’t win (because I would’ve refused any personal references to twerking in my blog).
I’m still stuck on this topic of selfies (which proves that I may be more vain than I thought). Even President Obama can’t escape being made fun of for taking a selfie (and tell me you wouldn’t take a selfie if you were standing next to him!). Here’s why this whole thing is silly:
1. People have been uploading selfies for years, we just used the ones that others took of us. (The vanity it took to upload was the same).
2. I’ve literally been taking selfies for decades. It was called a timer on my Canon AE1 (and it was the only way that this dad was ever going to show up in a few of the 1.3 million family photos that I’ve taken). It was my only proof that there really was a daddy to this tribe!
3. Back in another life, I sometimes used to videotape my own selfie so that they could broadcast me on the evening news. Imagine, the vanity of using the height of a portable light stand to set the proper focus and then using the camera lens as a mirror so that I could comb that lush of hair before the tape rolled (and I always carried a comb!). It must be considered double-vanity to take a selfie of one’s video-selfie and then upload that.
Enough about selfies. Now, let me tell you about my medical issues. (Think of the irony of that statement). I’ll use bullet points to spare your eyes:
- I successfully “passed” my one-year anniversary of my stem cell transplant this summer. Doc gave a “thumbs up”.
- I continue to be on a maintenance regimen of chemo (Revlimid) which makes me sleepy (almost all of the time) and slightly nauseous (much of the time).
- I’m “weaning” off several of the pain killers for peripheral neuropathy (cause they’re not really working and they’re not helping me stay awake)
- As of yesterday’s check-up, my cancer appears to still be at “zero”, my bones look great and my organs show no impact from the myeloma.
It was exactly three years ago today that I was first diagnosed with this killer disease called multiple myeloma. It has certainly shaped (but not defined) my life and has taken me through more appointments and more needles than I could have ever imagined (not to mention, more than $750,000 in treatment, so far). Thank the Lord for a job that pays for health insurance. I’ll let my wife tell you about the required process of signing up through Obamacare! (Yikes!)
Otherwise, how am I doing? (another selfie question)
- Medically, I’m doing really well (say the doctors).
- Physically, I constantly fight fatigue and the urge to sleep. Which…
- Mentally, causes frustration as I try to live the “normal” life of a husband, dad and pastor.
- Spiritually, is the only way that I can reconcile this crazy life I now live.
The Bible has a lot to say about not being a “selfie”. (Phil. 2:4, 1 Cor. 10:24). Our church just went through Rick Warren’s What on Earth Am I Here For? (It’s a refresh of his classic book, The Purpose Driven Life). Several quotes from the first couple of chapters were great reminders of how we are to properly “view ourselves”:
- “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness.” (p. 21)
- “…focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purposes. The Bible says, “It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power.” (p. 21)
- “Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. He thought of you first. It is not fate, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment.” (p. 26)
- “You are alive because God wanted to create you.! The Bible says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.” (p. 26)
I can’t exactly explain the why’s and wherefore’s of my life’s journey. Nor can I predict the number of my days (nor can any of us). What I can do is come to grips with a God who is teaching me, “It’s not about you, you goob!” (OK…I added the goob part). I don’t need to prove myself to impress God. He doesn’t need me to prove myself to impress others around me (including a church congregation).
What He desires from this recovering selfie is to still do the great commandment thing: “Love God and love others.” (Matt. 22:37-39) Even when I feel like….? Yup. (Ironically, it’s when I feel awful that I can’t do much for anybody. I can only be that guy who loves God and loves others).
Struggling with being a selfie? Give it up. Your performance will not impress God. Get your identity by who you belong to, not by what you do. The Apostle Paul understood it when he wrote that knowing Jesus was the single most important thing in his entire life (Phil. 3:8). Now there’s real purpose!
Thanks for reading! Definitely enough selfies for one post (or for one lifetime). Your friendship and your prayers are a real source of thanksgiving! Take some time during these CHRISTmas holidays to worship Christ, enjoy your family and your friends!