There is a battle being fought in Matt’s hospital room. A week ago, the battle looked daunting, but somewhat one-dimensional with attack really only coming from on vague direction: lung cancer stage IV. Today, the battle is multi-dimensional and it seems as though every few hours, there is a new attack from a different direction. But there are also sweet reprieves and glimpses of hope along the way.
Here’s the update: In the good news department, Matt got a feeding tube successfully placed yesterday which was a big battle for most of the morning. This is good news since he hadn’t had any nutrition since Wednesday. He was also able to move the fingers on his left hand four times yesterday and squeeze with it. Some of the best of the good news is Matt’s communication ability. Since the bleed happened in the part of the brain that controls emotions, Matt isn’t actually able at present to express emotion or control his face–so his tone is always monotone and his face and eyes look vacant. So he tries extra hard in his words to make all of us know he’s still the same inside. He makes the same jokes and says things that regular, joyful Matt would say. He’s also speaking more in phrases and sentences, which has been wonderful.
His obstacles, however, tend to overcome those bright spots on any given day, the biggest one presently being Matt’s bleeding problem. It goes like this: Matt has cancer; the cancer is consuming Matt’s blood in such a way that he has lost the ability to clot wounds normally. As a result, we haven’t yet been able to stop the bleeding from his incision from the surgery. Transfusing platelets alone has been unsuccessful, so last night, they transfused three different blood products to see if that would help. So far it has not. His wound has gone from just oozing and dripping, to having a full head bandage needing to be changed every four hours, to now every two. He is in critical condition.
There is hope from a medical standpoint, in that Matt tested positive for a gene mutation called ALK which makes him a candidate for a targeted therapy drug that, if he responds, might be able to shrink and control the cancer for months and possibly grant Matt the ability to fight through this. The goal right now is to keep Matt stable until we can get the drug and, hopefully, administer it to him via feeding tube.
The last few days have been difficult. I feel like I have a pretty good theology about living, how to live, and a pretty good theology about dying, how to die, but I don’t really have one for this in-between place, this place where life and death meet so closely, where machines alarm and nurses rush in and then you wait to see if it will happen again. But I’m building one as I go and it looks a lot like trusting the Lord, casting my anxieties on Him because He cares for me and for Matt. It also looks like hoping. I realized yesterday that it was easier for me to prepare for Matt’s death than to hope for his life because hope can be so acutely painful when disappointed. But the Bible tells me that love hopes all things. And if Matt can fight to breathe and swallow then I can surely fight to hope and hope fiercely until God says otherwise.
God has been faithful to uphold us even in the midst of this. Matt is not scared or sad; he’s still quite himself, though he can’t speak the same way he used to, and that in and of itself has been such a kindness of God to me. Ultimately, when Matt and I say to each other ‘it’s going to be okay’, it’s a true statement because God has not changed. His goodness has not changed. Our salvation has not changed. Though our hearts have been wrenched and wrung here these past few days and we don’t yet know what God has planned for us, our hope is still in Him and in Him alone.