But If Not

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them…fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Daniel 3:14-18

I guess you know where this post is going with that intro.  The scan results came back and the cancer has progressed.  Immunotherapy (Keytruda) wasn’t successful.  I guess that is not a totally fair statement.  The specifics:

I had four small tumors in my neck and those were resolved as the radiologist eloquently reported.  Sweet.

The tumor in my tongue is less pronounced.  Awesome.

There is no evidence of disease in my pelvis.  Aight, aight.

Then the pathological prose —  multiple large cavitary masses in both lungs which are compatible with metastatic disease.  Wham-o.  Also, [insert favorite expletive here].

But here is the deal.  I feel better than I have all year.  I have no symptoms.  I have energy.  I am sleeping well.  My feet don’t hurt as much as they used to.  My saliva is coming back.  But I’m not getting better.  I have 5 squamous cell tumors in my lungs that are each around the size of a quarter.  I don’t get it.

I found answers and inspiration in a great sermon by Martin Luther King that I will share at the end of the post, but first some logistics.

Back on the chemo train

(feel free to skip this part, it’s really just for the medical geeks and my mom)

I’m switching off of immunotherapy and onto a chemo regiment that will start this Thursday September 14th.  The regiment will contain 6 cycles and each cycle is 3 weeks long (18 weeks total).  A cycle is like this:

  • Day 1 – IV infusion of carboplatin, 5FU, and erbitux for several hours.  I leave the infusion center with a backpack pump that stays connected to me for the next four days and drips in the remaining dosage over 96 hours.
  • Day 4 – I return to the infusion center to have the pump removed
  • Day 8 – IV infusion of erbitux for a couple of hours
  • Day 15 – IV infusion of erbitux for a couple hours

The plan is for me to do this three times in 9 weeks and then do another scan to see what the lungs look like.  Assuming we’ve made a dent in the tumor growth we’ll keep on this path for another 9 weeks.

In all honesty, while chemo is the pits, I’m really not dreading it that much.  I just need it to work.  I don’t care about all the side effects.  We can get through those.  I just need a serious cancer-cell-killing-chemo-cocktail.

 

Striving for “Though” faith

Camilla and I are doing fine.  We really are.  We probably wouldn’t tell you if we weren’t, but we are actually doing fine.  We’ve already been through this mental, emotional, and spiritual blood bath enough times that we really just took the news in stride.  When we got the news last Friday night I pouted for a couple of hours while she wrangled the kids.  And then we went to Culvers.  And then we proceeded to have an epic Labor Day Weekend with the kids.  This is just another step in the process.  We are taking each day as it comes.  Each is a gift and joy can be found within it.

I’ve always joked with Camilla that I might join a Baptist church as a part-time member in addition to my membership in the LDS church.  I just love hearing the Good Word preached with emotion and passion and even flair.  If they ever let me teach early morning seminary, watch out!

You have probably already read or listened to Dr. Martin Luther King’s impassioned sermon called “But If Not”.  It is worth spending another 23 minutes to re-listen to or read.  Daniel 3 is the text for the sermon and faith is the topic.  Many similar sermons have been given from this text and on this topic, and I just love listening to Dr. King preach it.

Everything in my life pre-cancer has always worked out.  Life wasn’t easy but everything seemed to resolve eventually into the best possible outcome.  It was easy to have faith in God and His plan for me because it always seemed to be exactly what I would have chosen for myself.  While I never verbalized it this way, in retrospect I can see that Dr. King could have been categorizing my relatively untested faith when he described the “If” faith.

If all goes well; if life is hopeful, prosperous and happy; if I don’t have to go to jail; if I don’t have to face the agonies and burdens of life; if I’m not ever called bad names because of taking a stand that I feel that I must take; if none of these things happen, then I’ll have faith in God, then I’ll be alright.

But it is the “Though” faith that I want to get to, the level of faith I believe the Savior deserves from me for saving me through His grace.

And the ‘though’ faith says “Though things go wrong; though evil is temporarily triumphant; though sickness comes and the cross looms, neverthless! I’m gonna believe anyway and I’m gonna have faith anyway; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the LORD of hosts is with us;  Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. My faith is a ‘though’ faith.” And this is the essence of life and religion.

Right now, more than ever before, I know that this whole mess can be resolved.  I know that God can heal me and that the treatment plans can work and that I can live a long and wonderful life with my wife and kids.  I know that.

But if not.

Yet will I trust Him.  Yet will I worship Him.  Yet will I love Him.

15 thoughts on “But If Not”

  1. This is Vince Massa I’m at your parents are at home show. I’m sorry to hear about your situation. All you can do I guess keep the faith and keep trusting in the Lord like you have been. I don’t know why I was spared my life time I think I should have departed from this Earth with the troubles I’ve been going through but anyway I’m sorry to hear that will pray for you I love you.

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  2. You seriously are so inspiring and bring such clarity to life! Thank you for posting these for us down here! We love you And continually pray for you all!

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  3. Leer tus palabras aumenta mi fe y me hace recordar que somos hijos de un Padre Celestial que todo lo puede. Sigue ahí querido hermano. Te amamos. Eres un fuerte guerrero. 💜🇵🇷

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  4. These words just became a part of my priesthood lesson to my young men today. Your experiences have impacted my life and your words and example through trial will impact more lives than you know.

    You and your family are in every prayer we utter. Much love Brother.

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  5. We admire you and your wife’s strength and example of faith and fortitude. I value so much the lesson you shared. I put your name on the Snowflake temple prayer roll. Lots of love and prayers for you and your family!

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  6. Jarom… I love hearing you bear testimony. It strengthens mine. You would be an awesome Seminary teacher!!!
    You have inspired me to focus more on realigning myself through faith, hope and charity.
    Thank you for sharing the insights of your journey and powerful testimony❤️ Love and prayers for you and your family🙏

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  7. We will continue praying you and your sweet family. Your testimony is always inspiring. Thank you for sharing and keeping an update. We think if you often.

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  8. Thanks I needed this reminder. My faith was tested last week, I had an MRI and I they found another tumor. After a year of surgery, chemo, radiation and lots of meds I was feeling better looking at the W you gave me, thinking “I am winning”. Hearing your update and how positive you are keeps me hopeful. Keep flying your W, it will all work out.

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  9. Hallows no tenia ni idea por todo lo que estabas pasando! Por un momento pense que era otra cosa y que ya estabas bien hasta que me encuentro con esto y me quedé shock! Le conte a Nathan anoche y no pudimos dejar de llorar y sentirnos tristes por ti. Yo no pude dormir y dejar de pensar en ustedes. Estamos orando por ti que te recuperes pronto! Y mil gracias por tu testimonio tan fuerte que me enseñas a no dudar ni un momento no importa cuan grande es la Prueba. We love you guys! Ponte bien pronto pa’ llevarte un arroz con gandules y tostones! Y pasteles, alcapurrias, pinchos y todo lo que quieran! 😉muchos besos y abrazos para tus hijos que estan bien bellos todos! Todo nuestro amor para ti y Dickson.

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