A Cancer Journey Part Two
Today we continue to hear about Nicolas Henderickson and his journey of discovering he had cancer and how he fought through it.
I began to see how the most depressing experiences would ultimately reveal something to me that was to be cherished rather than mourned. I could not focus on any negative thoughts for too long because my narrative stemmed from the positivity that “this is an opportunity to change”. There is a common saying that, ‘God works in mysterious ways,’ and when I reflect on these experiences, I see a God showing my family and me that there is nothing impossible for Him and that He is the good shepherd who rejoices over bringing back to life a fallen son, lost in his transgressions. My only job was to endure the treatments and focus on faith believing the promises of this opportunity. I won’t’ say it was all easy to endure because I was being reborn metaphorically and literally but I was no longer hopeless to my circumstances and so the negative thoughts that would attack me with guilt and shame were beginning to lose their capabilities. I was witnessing God at work within me and remaining in peace through every battle would only make me stronger.
The parable, I alluded to earlier which states ‘no one can serve two masters either you will hate one and love the other’, perfectly illustrates the importance of choosing a mindset and not wavering. I couldn’t believe that this was an opportunity to grow and change if I also thought that I was going to die. I had to evaluate every thought so I could be on guard against believing the negative narratives that had sowed themselves to my soul. Although I was saddened by the loss of some friends or family who remained distant from me at my lowest points, I replace that sadness by focusing on the strengths of those God has put before me. Even though I cried along with family and friends, who broke down from just looking at me in a weakened physical state, I would not accept their uncertainty over my life as truth. Their truth was not my truth and so I reminded myself of the promise that I am being given an opportunity to be a better version of myself. I began to focus more and more on the positive things in my life and I would guard my thoughts so the oppressiveness of negative thinking would not take hold over me. I would marvel to the point of tears at the beauty of life in these moments of despair. I understood on a visceral level the strength of a man through my father’s patient endurance as he drove me to and from the city for my chemotherapy. I knew he must’ve been tired but he’d continue to joke with me, which would always lighten the mood. I have a deeper appreciation for the strength he showed, especially now, being able to reflect on the circumstances that surrounded us. A month earlier he had buried his mother as well as attending chemo regimens with my mother who was being treated for breast cancer and finally having to visit his oldest son in prison for an unjust technicality. Where others may have seen my family as being attacked, I saw us as growing in love while in the trenches. I now look back fondly at those times and think of the lessons I was being shown about patience, love, endurance, and perseverance.
What the enemy meant for evil, God will use for good. Although my God-given ability to creatively think and strategize potential moves was used against me towards unfocused fanciful distractions, God was giving me back the power through those experiences with my family so I can use His gift in my life more wisely. It was like a Mr. Miyagi move to sharpen an ability without me knowing fully what is happening. I can see how God has given me strength in every memory even those memories that may have seemed uneventful, such as playing guitar hero with my sister and brother. Instead of just remembering these moments, God was using these as tools to build me into someone who can learn to love and value the present because these traits were a mirror to who God is and who I would need to become in order to help strengthen others. I grew the most while facing my own mortality, which has helped me to prioritize and form a new foundation. By focusing on the blessings of my family and friends I could no longer focus on myself which I believe helped ease any anxiety regarding the fact that I was actually dying. Jesus says first focus on the kingdom of heaven and all things will be added to you. I believe God was showing me how to have true faith and it was by being able to change every negative thought to something positive and ultimately knowing that I was going to be made better through it all. By focusing on what God is trying to show you, your mind will no longer dwell on the aches and pains that are afflicting you.
Finally, after months of chemotherapy, I was going to begin the process for my bone marrow transplant. Now, this might be a topic for longer discussion but let’s just say this was the toughest part of my whole experience. Partially because all of that support I had grown accustomed to was now going to be limited for the next 30 days to two visitors at a time in your room and some nights or days, depending on people’s schedules. I will call my bone marrow transplant the last 48 hours of a birthing process since it was the light at the end of the tunnel that had been preceded by random crying, difficulty sleeping, constipation, vomiting, uncontrollable headaches, and pain (from spinal chemo, which has nothing to do with pregnancy). The goal for bone marrow transplants is to suppress your immune system to zero with heavy dosages of whole-body radiation and chemotherapy so when you’re ready to receive the bone marrow transplant, your body won’t reject it creating a cascade of dangerous side effects. I believe this calculated way of eliminating your body’s ability to protect your life, represents a rebirthing that revealed as I got closer to death my resolve to want to be alive.
This is both pathologically and metaphorically, one of the most vulnerable positions, I have ever been in my life. However, I discovered that vulnerability is a key attribute to allowing oneself to be at the mercy of others, and in such a state, all competing ego defense mechanisms fall away. Vulnerability is like tight rope walking over the grand canyon, you are at the mercy of the elements but through each step you take you to begin to the truth the promises of God who tells us that He will never leave us and He will never forsake us. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we are able to be more open-minded, more willing to take risks, more likely to explore and be creative. On a deeper level allowing yourself to be vulnerable with others can free yourself of their judgments controlling your behaviors, which frees you to be different. Even as I continue with my education and career helping others, I still practice being vulnerable in as many ways as possible because it has ultimately reaffirmed my trust in God’s promises.
Some of my favorite promises are that He aims to make you the head and not the tail, that He has plans to give you peace and not disaster, and if God is for you who can be against you.