Over and over throughout the day I curled the curve of my body around Allistaire, pulling her in close to me, arms wrapped round her and face nuzzled into her neck and hair, murmuring over and over that it would be okay. And still they came, people entering the room inciting fear and causing pain. Needle in the hand, blood pressure cuff constricting, cold saline entering the vein, yucky medicine forced down her throat, eyes pulled open for drops, ceaseless harassment. Over and over, I stroked the hair off her sweaty forehead and told her it would be okay. On and on she cried and moaned and whimpered and cried for it to stop. And yet, I let them. Over and over I allowed them to come in – I permitted the very thing Allistaire fought against and cried out, pleading for it to end. And I allowed them in – I permitted them to take the blood. Over and over I told her it would be okay.
Did it hurt Allistaire? Yes. Did it absolutely scare her? Yes.
I allowed it and I said it would be okay.
Allistaire is sick and her sickness may kill her. I will continue to allow them to come in and I will continue to allow what causes her pain and what terrifies her – because I love her, because she is precious to me, because she must endure this pain if she is to have a shot at living. And I endure the pain with her. I pull her in as close as our two bodies can get. I hold her trembling hand and feel her rapid heartbeat. I love her beyond what any words can convey and my love propels me to allow harm done to her. Why? Because I have perspective. I know things Allistaire has no comprehension of. I know that the bones of her body are the dwelling places of blood stem cells that have mutated and will never mature and will replicate their broken selves preventing the healthy cells that sustain her life from thriving. I know that the pain she endures in these moments is nothing compared to the pain of her death and nothing compared to the worth of her life. I see beyond the moment which consumes Allistaire’s vision. I love her and I allow pain and fear. These are not contradictory. They are simply not the entire picture. There is another part of the equation, the part that absolutely and utterly changes the nature of the pain. I love her and I allow pain and fear because in the end, I am hopeful that she will be healed of this monster so imbedded in her flesh.
Her blood, that very substance that should be supplying her life, is instead, giving rise to death. So her marrow, the source of her life blood, must be put to death, in order that new marrow, life-giving marrow, can take the place of her diseased marrow. It will not due to temporarily wipe out her marrow, eventually it will have to be utterly destroyed or death will continue to rise up. No, a much greater destruction must occur in Allistaire. Myeloablation – the complete destruction of her marrow must take place to at last kill the monster of her cancer. But annihilated marrow is only half the equation. She must also receive new marrow – stem cells that can produce the blood cells she need for life. Without replacement marrow, she would die regardless.
Have you ever wondered why we humans procreate the way we do? Why don’t we just divide like gooey amoebas? Why do we need a man and a woman when we could just split in half and make another one of us? I have a much fuller theory on this, but in sum, I believe God created man and woman and thus family for the sake of a picture. God could have enabled us procreate in any number of ways but He saw fit to show us the love of a man and a woman that we might better know His love for us – this love that is relentless and unconditional and wooing. He gave us the picture of a father and a mother and what it is to be a child and what it is to have a child. He did this I believe that we might know Him better – know His love for us in the most tangible of ways as we love one another and as we cradle our child.
We resist pain. We thrash around and cry out to God. At times we wonder how a loving God would allow such pain to continue to enter into our life. If He can stop it, why doesn’t He? As our eyes well with tears and we cannot see Him at our side, we demand to know how this could be okay? We call Him hypocrite and we distrust His love. We see what is happening through the scope of our miniscule view. We do know pain. It is shockingly and numbingly real to us. But. It is not all that is real. Our Father is curled up by our side, arms circling us, stroking our fear laden foreheads and telling us it will be okay.
And why and how will it be okay? There must be death for life to rise up. Like Allistaire’s diseased marrow that requires utter and complete death, so we must die to our sinful selves. Like Allistaire, we need something to replace that which is too diseased to sustain our life. We need Christ. We need His death to be our death. We need His resurrection life to be our life. We need, like Christ, who knew the terrifying silence of God, to trust, that seeming silence and that a seeming turned face, are not the end of the story. We feel ourselves groping in the dark, calling out for the Lord, wondering why He would allow this wretchedness. His mercies are new every morning and He will raise us up like He did Christ – with the very same power that He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead – that is the power at work in our lives to bring us through the darkness of death, in all its myriad forms, into the light of truest life.
I murmur to Allistaire that it will be okay. I allow the pain, not because I have turned my back on my wee love, but because I do love her. I invite in the death that will destroy, that there might be room and foundation for new life. I cry out to my Father in the darkness. I listen to His Word and I put my hope in Him – the author and perfecter of my faith.
We are half way through these days of chemo. On Monday, prior to chemo, Allistaire’s absolute blast count was 8976. Yesterday it was 3024 and today it was 418. When the doctor felt Allistaire’s back and her lymph node she felt they were reduced in size to almost nothing. Yesterday brought the news that a second RSV test confirmed zero presence of the virus in her body. Today she has an ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count) of 22 after two weeks at zero. We’re not entirely sure this is the case, but the doctor is hopeful this is a result of there being a bit of clearing of the cancer cells in her marrow which has allowed a few healthy cells to grow. I would anticipate it going back down to zero as the chemo continues to take effect. Today Allistaire drank an entire pint of milk – the first liquid she has been willing to consume in days. She also ate a fair amount of macaroni and cheese. In the last three days she has only eaten about 20 tortilla chips. What can I say? Wahoooooooo! So many great things! Praise the Lord and may He continue to provide!
Allistaire herself has been laying pretty low. She hasn’t walked in four days and has pretty much been in bed watching movies and little else. But today she seems to have a bit more energy and has been very sweet and quite irresistible. We took a few walks around the Unit to the, “Pizza Room,” as Allistaire calls the little parent kitchenette. She sported her pink cowgirl boots and her sweet pink cowgirl hat. She received many compliments to which she mostly huffed and growled. So, she’s sweet to me, but not really anyone else as of yet.