It seems to be the time for giving thanks, but this is not going to be about gratitude; we were grateful in April.
No, this is about faith.
Now, many folks get squirrelly when that word is mentioned, experiencing bad Vietnam flashbacks of having to WITNESS to the UNSAVED when they were little, and then words like "testimony" arise, and it's just all bad.
But enough about my youth.
In the New Testament -- the one in the Bible -- Hebrews 11:1 gives an amazingly practical definition of the word. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
This is not guided wishing, the "if you can visualize it, you can have it" mumbo-jumbo. It's an if-then thing. If you put in the work, the results will materialize. You know, faith without works is dead, and all.
The concept could hardly be more applicable than in the world of sports. Running, even. If you do speedwork, your short-twitch muscles will be ready to carry you at a brisk pace through an entire race, not just the big foolish sprint at the end.
If you put in some distance training, you'll be able to last the entire distance, and your short-twitch muscles can do their thing because you have a solid base.
Granted, when you're putting in all this groundwork, you're not actually running the race; only preparing. But you have faith that if you do A, B and C, you'll get D results.
The conviction of things not seen.
Most of us exercise our faith muscle daily. Faith that if you work hard, you'll see measurable results. Faith that sometimes the good guy does win. Faith that the one you love is telling the truth.
Faith in the process.
Adhering to this alphabetical analogy, A was done in July; B occurred in September. Last month, I promised you C -- that I would practice self-care. But we cannot know D until sometime around Christmas.
Dr. Damien Wild -- is that the most romantic name you ever heard? -- performed Round I in Switzerland. Vicky and I sat, leaning forward in our eagerness to make sure we grasped everything he said as he summed up the previous three days in the hospital. But he offered no measurable results.
"Now ve vait and ve vatch," said the non-native English speaker, in heavily accented German.
There's nothing else to do.
I hate that. It's not comfortable, this faith thing. I'm used to doing it myself, thank you very much, or being so incapacitated I am forced to depend on others.
Having to use my own integrity is awkward.
Generally, I can exorcise the fear with a good run. I am cleansed by sweat, suffused with endorphins. Things maneuver back into balance.
Because of my low platelet count, I am allowed few workout options. Worse, this serum's effectiveness is causing other chemical insufficiencies. So as I “vait” and “vatch,” I feel like a nutball, with hormones spewing all over inside, emotionally wobbly and physically out of sorts.
Except that in the hospital, back in Basel, the administering physician spoke words of hope that I had not heard prior to the treatment. Before Dr. Wild told us to be patient, he gave no statistics, no guarantees. He did, however, tell Vicky and me, as she perched on the bench in my room and I curled around myself, propped up on the bed, "Our substance is in the cell now, together with the receptor."
This receptor -- a protein molecule that binds to the substance I'd been shot with -- had only been on the cell membrane before -- as if a tandem diver were waiting, poised, but solo, as his partner gave a final yank on his Speedo. Dr. Wild said the cancer cells had internalized the material. No longer was the receptor perched alone on the cell membrane, peering warily inside. "Now of course the substance is working, and should destroy the DNA."
Meaning this serum, if it does what the doctors designed it to, and what they are convinced it will, should invade and annihilate the entire structural makeup of the cancer cells.
We don't know that it will happen; we can only believe.
That was what I received in July.
During this second, September Swiss regimen, I was compelled to rely solely on faith where Marcelo, my caregiver, was concerned. Because my behavior certainly wasn't scoring me any points.
Faith that Marcelo could deal with my sleep deprivation and weakness. That the foundation of our relationship is strong enough to withstand my catapulting emotions, lack of focus, general impersonation of The Bad Seed.
He totally validated that belief, carrying me the entire trip -- physically and emotionally.
And the day we left the hospital, my faith in the treatment was upheld by the man who initiated the therapy, more than ten years ago.
Dr. Mueller said there is no way to gauge the results until eight to twelve weeks after returning to the States, when a CT scan with contrast will provide answers. However, "what we see now are results from the first treatment."
I could hardly breathe.
"At this moment there is definitely no progress" of the cancer. The deadly, inescapable cancer which had grown, increased in size on the liver, and spread to the lower left side of the pelvis.
The cancer has finally been held in check.
"Second in your case is that you have some small spots within the liver (that have shrunk, and some) that have gone away."
Heretofore, the operative word about those liver spots -- like Horrid Age Spots, but cancerous -- was "innumerable." Too many to count. Just leave off the liver; it's hopeless.
Some of the lesions are smaller, and some are gone.
Dr. Mueller continued. "I don't expect a full remission but you have a minor stable response …" He said he expects the tumor volume to diminish by 25% and then stabilize. This would mean no chemo and no return to Switzerland anywhere from one year to four years.
A tiny part of me, the one that begins every story with "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess," even if I'm discussing gravel, sobbed silently. Because I had thought maybe there was a chance that Switzerland would provide a magic-wand solution, that with one bippity-boppity-boo wave, the cancer would be gone in one fell swoop.
This is not likely.
And yet, much can happen in a year. Even more can occur in four.
Folks, faith is not practical.
Then again, life offers no guarantees. So if you're going to put in the work, you might as well throw in a good dose of faith.
This month, I will strive to bless everyone for whom they are, right this second. I will exercise my faith that all is happening as it should. Whether or not that seems to be the case. No matter that these days, my head is a dangerous neighborhood and I shouldn't walk through it alone.
Under the internal chaos and outer weakness is a throughline of faith.
The other day I was looking for Christmas present ideas in a terrific catalog, Femail Creations. On Page 34, a frame of pretty, dark-green fern fronds outlined a quote I hadn't seen.
"When you come to the edge of all the light you have known and are about to step out into the darkness, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen … There will be something to stand on or you will be taught how to fly."
Let go and fall up.
Come fly with me. Leave Frank Sinatra at home, and soar, borne on the wings of faith.