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Chronic Pain, Charcot Joints, and Me

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New Ailments, Old Problems

It seems none of us can get away from deteriorating health. Once you have a major illness, I’m convinced you don’t ever actually get back to 100%. I just returned from a follow-up with my surgeon, Dr. Herbert Schwartz out of Vanderbilt’s Orthopedic Oncology clinic (Medical Center East, 4th floor). No matter how much I may complain, never let it be said that I’m ungrateful for all that has been done for me. G-d is good and He has a plan, even if I cannot see even the most immediate parts of it, or understand any of it, at this time.

Chronic Pain

Ever since my surgery, I have been dealing with chronic pain issues. Whether from swelling or as a direct result of the surgery itself. I’ve been dealing with pain through medication or just not using my arm. It’s not been going very well. I’m on several prescription painkillers (Ibuprofen, hydrocodone, gabapentin, etc.). This is not an ideal situation for me. I don’t like taking pills but I don’t think there is anything available homeopathically that would be of any help, not for the level of pain I am in during or after a hard day’s work. I can only imagine what it is like for those who have pain from unseen causes (fibromyalgia, MS, etc.). For those of you with whom I may have been not totally believing or sympathetic to what you are going through: I am truly sorry.

Charcot Joint

Charcot joint is an issue usually described in diabetics, and is usually a problem that seems to resolve itself – to a degree – if properly treated. My issue is similar to charcot joint, but isn’t exactly the same. Neuropathic arthropathy is definitely an accurate description of what is happening to my elbow, but diabetes isn’t the cause (as I am not diabetic, der). I have arthritis in my left elbow, and the pain I have in it will only worsen with time. Today I was fitted with a brace to help limit the movement of my elbow in an attempt to control pain in it, but it’s really a poor bandaid for the issue. It is also only one of three options. An artificial elbow joint was one of the other options, one which I immediately dismissed, even before he said that the usually do not last very long. The third one was left unspoken, though I had an idea about what he was thinking by the pained look on his face.

Today did have a silver lining, though. The cancer has not returned and my wife and I had a very late lunch at the Mt. Juliet, TN Olive Garden. The former is always a blessing to find out, and the latter has always been a good experience for us no matter which Olive Garden we dine at. Fabulous service, great food, awesome prices. We will definitely be returning in the future.

Faith: Where Have I Put Mine?

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A Question That Needs to Be Asked

Where does my faith lie?

All too often we begin down a path, sure that is where God is leading us but how often do we stop to evaluate the choices we make? As I sit here at the hospital waiting to be admitted for the last round of my first cycle of post-operative chemotherapy, I am left asking myself: How far will I go down this road and where does my faith lie? Is it with God Almighty, the Great Physician, or is it with man? If its the latter, it is sorely misplaced. If it is the former, I still need to seek Him out in prayer so as to be sure I’m still operating within His guidelines and will – not just for these treatments but every other area of my life.

Questioning the State of My Heart

Why, after coming through almost 7 months of chemotherapy, doctors visits, and major surgery am I questioning my faith now? As I said earlier, I’m finishing up my first cycle of post-operative therapy. I think now is a great time to really look at where my faith lies. I know that prior to this point, I was indeed following God’s will. Successful treatment and surgery and lots of time spent in prayer and His Word confirms this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

These post-operative treatments aren’t about healing, though. They are preventative in nature and – I’m beginning to feel – a way to make the oncologist feel better that I won’t relapse. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I are very happy with my doctors and we feel the care has been stellar but has my faith shifted away from God and onto the doctors? 1 John 4:4 says “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” While John is speaking of antiChrist’s and false doctrines, I believe the same can be applied to my situation: If I am healed, do I need maintenance treatments and have faith in God or do I give into a false-sense of security and follow my own will in the matter?

That is where I stand right now, am I following my own will or am I still walking in God’s? If the former, I am in sin and need to repent. If the latter, I continue as I am right now. Either way, now is the time for sober self-assessment, all the while giving all honor, glory, and praise to God.

Life

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I started reading today the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. I started this morning at around 9:30 am and find myself enthralled with the books, and a bit miffed that I rejected them off hand when they first appeared on shelves nearly 10 years ago, though at the time I can readily say I would have enjoyed them as nothing more but pure fiction instead of the well written “Well, this is how we think the end of the world will happen based on what’s in scripture.” Chapter 6 is probably one of the most well written in book 1 (Left Behind) of the series. I especially like how they wrote the breaking of one of the main character’s ego and his new-found resolve to find out the truth and how he started with the Bible, hoping beyond hope that it’s not too late for he and his daughter to come to a relationship with God and be spared eternal damnation. I have the first three books (found them at a thrift store in Murfreesboro, TN on the way home from a doctor’s appointment on the 3rd of this month) in hand and will slowly scour thrift stores for good copies of the next books in the series (not sure how many there are, will have to look that up on Amazon.com).

I also like how the authors treat Scripture. Even though they are using it as a mode to tell a story, its as if the story isn’t theirs, but the one that belongs to Scripture. They are taking the prophecies of the end days and using it as a vehicle to bring people closer to Scripture. I hope that was their intent, though back in 1995 I wouldn’t have been ready to receive that message, now that I am a believer I find it even more enjoyable to see Scripture told in such a manner.

Hey Josh, I will be coming over to your place one day to watch each of the movies in turn (not all in one day, but definitely expect me, hehe).

Another thing I like about the book, is it forces me – as if my cancer diagnosis hasn’t done so enough already (more on that later) – to ask the question: “What do I know about what Scripture says of the end times?” and “What will I do if I’m one of those left behind? Will I kill myself in grief, or will I allow myself to be broken after having found out my wife has been raptured away and search in earnest for that relationship that I was missing?” or “What purpose does God have in leaving me behind?” To be honest if there is a rapture as pictured in the book (and by others in more serious, non-fiction works), and I was left behind, I’d be seriously crushed and questioning my faith.

I’ve been asking myself that a lot since December 23rd when I learned of the possibility of cancer in my broken humerus. I’ve been questioning my own faith really hard for the last several months because of sin I’ve let dwell in my heart. I’ve confessed that sin and try to turn from it but I find it so easy to keep slipping into it. I once thought I had been relieved of it nearly a year ago and to fall into it again, right before all this happened, it’s got me wondering just how serious I have been in my studies, in my pursuit of God, and in my relationship with my wife.

I thought I was doing pretty good, engaging myself in self-studies, but my resolve for them hasn’t lasted long (aside from my current study of Job which I started several months ago and only in December did I start taking notes after having read Job for the 4th time in as many months). I thought my relationship with God was at least satisfactory. I pray, praise, and worship Him (in and out of church) but I kept finding myself drifting further and further. I thought it was just a matter of perception but now I’m not so sure. I thought my relationship with my wife was great, but the sin I had to confess to her was nearly shattering for me and I’m sure her heart broke a little, but I know that4 she – as did God – has forgiven me.

It still bothers me though and drives me toward keeping up at least better studies then I have recently and turning to God with my questions more than I have been. It’s interesting what a well written story about the end times, coupled with a simple book of the Old Testament, can do to keep one turning toward God. Just wish it didn’t take a diagnosis of Stage 3 Osteoblastic Osteosarcoma to get my attention even more-so then my own sin has.

I love my family, I love my wife, but more importantly I do truthfully and honestly love God most of all even if I’m still wondering what He has in mind with all that is going on with me personally and all about me. This world is going to pot and no one has an answer – except for the Bible – of what world peace even would begin to look like. We think it will be one currency, one government, one world. But who picks the rulers? Who makes the rules? Who enforces them? People, people, and more people? We can hardly run our own cities, counties, states, provinces, and countries without bloodshed, corruption, and injustice. Even religion (and I use that word in a very specific manner) can’t agree on what it looks like. Joel Osteen smiles about everything while raking in millions every year. Fred Phelps scowls at America and homosexuality while he leads his church in ugly, un-Christ-like protests of funerals and whatever else strikes his fancy. Paul Washer cries at where the American church is at and where it continues to go and that no one really seems to get it.

Where does that leave World Peace? Even the hippies seem to really just be drifting in drug-induced hazes with no more direction than anyone else. God lives, but I really think He’s seriously distressed at how ugly His beautiful and good creation has gotten. We’re so focused on things of trivial importance (“Keeping up with the Jonses'”, as it’s known in the U.S.) that we flippantly disregard what Scripture has to teach us and seem to get more and more self-serving each successive generation. Sure, some of the causes are really noble: cure for all diseases (cancer, AIDS, and the like), better care for the environment, better care and treatment of animals, equal rights and responsibilities regardless of gender or ethnicity (I hate using the word race as it’s really inappropriate, we are all members of the human race), the end of abortion. How we go about it, though, is mostly ignoble. Wars, bombings, killings, vandalism. Even Christians seem to get caught up in the ignoble methods for seemingly noble endeavors. Where is God in all of this though?

Despite all that I have seen and done, all that I’ve experienced and know to be true (not just from experience, either), I sometimes am left to wonder if we as a world are being given enough rope to hang ourselves with. I feel as if I’ve already been hung. “And the wages of sin are death.” Here’s hoping I’m not reaping what I know I deserve. Here’s hoping that it’s not too late for me. I pray for healing as God sees fit to bestow it. I know others are praying for my healing and calling out in Christ’s name for His healing hand to touch me. What if it already has? What if I’m not a True Believer as the Bible regards such? 1 John 5:14-21 speaks of two types of sin. That leading to death and that not leading to death. We know from Scripture that the only sin that will not be forgiven is the one we do not ask forgiveness for (the Gospels show that in the Pharisees that blaspheme the Holy Spirit, such a person as that would not ask God to forgive them). It’s alluded to again in Hebrews where the writer speaks of those who have been called, if it were possible for them to fall away and they did, there was no coming back a second time. What if I had it, and then because of this inability to shake myself of this sin, lost it? Many questions, ones God can answer, but I don’t hear them. I’m even beginning to believe that my study of Job is more academic (i.e. carnal) then spiritual. If so, it will not benefit me – or anyone else – one iota.

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