Ep.328: Chemotherapy.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Eight weeks after my cancer surgery, the Cross Cancer Institute inEdmonton extracted blood to determine if I’d survive chemo. “You’re good to go,” said the doctor as he cleared me for intravenous medicine and chemo pills. 

On the first snowy Wednesday of winter, nurses sat me in a recliner, draped me with a warm blanket, and started my two-hour drip of chemo meds.

The nurse said, “We’re the lucky ones. We have a fourth-floor view out the window!” 

I said, “Can you turn my chair so I can enjoy it?” 

Couldn’t be done. The view I got was busy nurses completing forms and hooking patients to IV’s. Blood, paperwork, chemicals. That’s life in Chemo City! I fed my brain with Dostoevky’s Crime and Punishment while the IV meds attacked the evil inside me. 

Then they sent me home with two weeks of chemo pills. Four pills morning, four evening. Take them with food because they’re hard on the stomach.  

The oxalyplatin from the IV lingered in my body and made me cold-sensitive. At night I wore socks to bed. In the morning I needed gloves to get an egg from the fridge for my morning omelet. Two weeks of eggs and chemo pills for breakfast, two weeks of chemo-pill dessert after dinner. I hated those pills. They coated my taste buds with motor-oil sludge, they threw off my digestion, made my hands and feet desert dry, and I always felt wasted. 

As Lamentations says, 
   I remember my affliction. . .
      the bitterness and the gall (3:19). 

It also says,
    Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.
      His mercies are new every morning (3:23). 

I thanked God for small mercies under the merciless regime of chemo. I thanked God for the gift of sleep on cold winter nights. For warm naps on cold winter afternoons. For the daily omelet. For the courage to follow it with the hated pills. And I was most thankful for the promise of a week-long break after two weeks of meds.

I finished the round of pills on a Wednesday and started my week off. But my digestion had other plans. The pills left me unable to eat, and barely able to drink. I toughed it out, miserable and dehydrated, until Saturday, waiting for things to improve.

They didn’t. So my family took me to emergency, where I was put on IV to rehydrate, and kept for two nights until a hospital bed was available, in a room with a man who had spent 40 unhappy days in the hospital after a stroke. 

They gave me a clear liquid diet, of which the mainstay was jello. Red jello. Yellow jello. Green jello. Like stop lights. I just wanted it to stop! I tried, but I just can’t handle that much jello. Chicken broth and beef broth were better, thank you! Orange juice in the morning, cranberry juice at noon, apple juice at dinner. My wife supplemented the hospital fare with homemade broths and juices.  

After a week they declared I could eat regular food and they sent me home. I celebrated with a package of Japanese noodle soup, which proved my digestion had not recovered after all. An ambulance collected me, burping green bile, for a midnight ride back to the hospital. 

They didn’t know what was blocking my plumbing and backing up the bile. A CT scan showed nothing. So they put me back on a liquid diet, this time in an isolation room with a view of Sister Mary Ann Casey Park. In the coldest week of November, I watched the winter sun rise every day through fog and smog. It was beautiful.

Somehow, the winter sun warmed my soul. I found gladness in the sunrises, joy in the wintery landscape, hopefulness in the care of friendly nurses, patience with the everlasting hunger, grace in a podcast of morning prayers, love in the care of my family. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, I spent two weeks in the hospital. So did you. You were with me, my family cared for me, my church and friends prayed and visited. 

Who understands these gifts of your grace? 

O father, surprise me again today with the grace I need. May the sunrises of spring light my darkness. May patient endurance lead me to new hope and better character. I say with Paul, “I rejoice in my trials, because trials produce endurance; endurance produces character; character produces hope. And hope does not make ashamed because the love of God is poured out in our hearts” (Rom 5:3-5).  


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

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