I’d like to give you one more update on my wife Lana this week, and then next week we’ll return to our study of the book of Romans and the topic of “Renewing Your Mind.” Although I know my messages these past few weeks have touched many hearts and lives as you’ve been watching Lana go through this, she’s never really liked being the center of attention, so she’s ready for me to go back to writing about you instead of her!
But I had one more thought I’d like to share with you before we return to our study of Romans, and as I said last week, we’ve never been so aware of the importance of “renewing our minds” and keeping our thoughts focused on God‘s thoughts than we have been during this whole experience. It’s so much better that way! Given that, here’s Lana’s most recent update, which she posted on her blog at lanaelder.com. (If you’d like to keep up with her over the coming weeks, you can sign up for her updates at the link on her blog.)
I just wanted to follow up with everyone on my visit to my oncologist on Wednesday. She put together a treatment plan that would use chemotherapy to help shrink the tumors and would alleviate any symptoms from the cancer that I might have down the road. She also explained that treating stage 4 cancer is like treating diabetes. You can manage the symptoms of diabetes with insulin but it is something that you will have the rest of your life. In the same way, the treatments I would have for any symptoms of my cancer would be something I would likely need for the rest of my life. She said I could take a break from the chemo for a couple of months from time to time, but that the tumors will most likely grow back and then I would be back on the chemo to shrink them.
However, currently, I feel very few symptoms and have a lot of hope from the prayers and nutritional changes I’ve been making. She agreed to let me continue doing what I’ve been doing and check the status of my tumors in two months. I was so thankful and happy that she agreed to this. I could have kissed her! Thursday I met with a nutritional doctor to help me determine the best way to build up my immune system over the coming months. I have also read many books regarding nutritional approaches to treating cancer. I am currently taking more supplements than anyone I know but I feel very good about this approach and I’m so thankful to be able to treat the cancer this way. I’m praying my tumors will continue to shrink and disappear through prayer and nutrition.
On a funnier side note, as we the left nutritionist yesterday, walking out with a bag chock-full of supplements, Eric said he felt like he was in a scene from the movie “The Princess Bride” when two men take their friend Westley to see Miracle Max. Even though they thought Westley was dead, it turned out he was only “mostly” dead according to Miracle Max, so he made a special pill to bring him back to life. As the two friends left with the pill in their hands and their friend Westley over their shoulders, Miracle Max and his wife Valerie are seen standing at the door waving. Valerie then leans into Miracle Max and says, “Think it’ll work?” to which Miracle Max says, “It would take a miracle!” and they just keep waving. (It’s a great movie if you haven’t seen it.) Apparently, that’s how Eric felt leaving the nutritionist yesterday with all these pills, smiling and waving and thinking “It would take a miracle!” Thankfully, he makes me laugh. I credit him for most of the wrinkles on my face! I told Eric I feel like some people think I am like Westley….that I’m “mostly” dead. But I just want you all to know I’m alive and well. I continue to eat very healthy and exercise (either walking, running, weights, or stretching). I also know it probably will take a miracle to cure me from this disease. But thanks to your prayers, I’m chock-full of faith, too!
So thank you for adding your prayers to mine! I do believe they make a difference. A psalm I read last night that encouraged me is Psalm 121.
I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip-
He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you-
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
He will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
I am very much aware that my help comes from the Lord. But I also know that God works through His people and I have seen Him working through many of you. Whether it’s a word of encouragement, a prayer, a card, or a gift, I sense God working through you all to encourage and strengthen me. You are being the hands, feet and body of Christ to me. So thank you again for everything. May God bless you back abundantly!!
As you can tell from Lana’s note, she’s planning on living! And I, for one, am thrilled with that plan!
One of the gems that emerged like a diamond for me through all of this high-intensity pressure of the past few weeks was a comment from a friend that captivated me when I first read it and still does today. At the end of her note she wrote:
“… and for everyone’s sake, LIVE like she’s going to LIVE!”
Wow! That made me sit up in my chair and think long and hard about how I was going to live in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Was I going to live like my wife was dying? Or was I going to live like she was going to live? They seemed like two diametrically opposed paths.
But the truth is, we’re all on a path towards death, and have been ever since the day we were born (even the day we were conceived, really!). And at the same time, we’re all on a path towards life. The only difference in the situation that Lana and I are facing is that we truly believe we’ve been given a great gift: the gift of seeing both the brevity and fullness of life, simultaneously.
We all have a choice to make each day. We can either live like we’re dying, or we can live like we’re going to live. Lana has chosen to live like she’s going to live, and with that attitude, the chances are good that she could outlive us all! I know I want more of that attitude in my own life, too. When people live like they’re going to live, it’s contagious.
So many of you have written to say that even though we’ve been asking for prayer for ourselves through all of this, that you’ve been blessed by praying for us through it all as well. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and I think is summed up in this thought by a woman named Marianne Williamson:
“And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Lana’s not afraid of dying. She just wants to live! And by choosing to do everything she can to stay healthy and alive as long as possible, she’s giving me and many others the inspiration to live our days to the fullest as well.
The truth is, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. But we can choose how we’re going to live today. As the apostle James said:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:13-17).
God has called us to do as much good as possible in the days He’s given us here on earth. So while none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, the challenge–and the joy–is to live like we’re going to live, while at the same time being fully conscious that at any moment we could die.
Neither Lana nor I are trying to be heroic nor presumptuous about what God might have in store for either of us in the future. But what we do want to do is to be faithful with every day that God gives to us here on earth. Every day really is a gift from God. As the saying goes, that’s why it’s called “the present.”
I want to encourage you today: don’t be afraid of dying, but live like you’re going to live. As Jesus said,
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).
God has created you to do many good things here on the earth, things which He has prepared in advanced for you to do (see Ephesians 2:8-10). So live like you’re going to live! That’s what Lana’s planning on doing, and that’s what I’m planning on doing, too. I hope you’ll join us!
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for giving us another day of life today. Thank You for reminding us of the importance of living every day to the fullest, and living in such a way that our lives bring glory and honor to You and to those around us. We pray that Your light would shine through us, even in the darkest of times, so that people can see You more clearly, putting their faith and trust in You for everything in their lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. My sister, Marilyn Byrnes, has recorded a beautiful piano solo of a song for Lana and me to listen to as we go through all the tests and doctors’ visits and unknowns of this whole process. It’s called “You Raise Me Up” by Rolf Lovland and Brendan Graham. With Marilyn’s permission, I’ve posted a copy of it on our website so you can listen to it to give you encouragement for whatever you might be facing in life right now, too. You can listen to it free anytime at the link below:
Listen to “You Raise Me Up”
P.P.S. ALSO, if you haven’t gotten one of the T-Shirts yet that our friend designed to remind you to pray for Lana, you can still get one for a donation of any size to our ministry, no matter where you live in the world. The shirts have a verse from the book of Joshua on them that says: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.” If you’d like to make a donation and get a shirt, just click the link below and our friend will be glad to mail you one. Your gifts really do help us to continue sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people all over the world, and our friend would love to send you this gift as her way of saying thanks!
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