Monday, July 16, 2012

Blinded by the Light

Disclaimer: this post was a difficult one to decide to share as it is very personal and is in no way intended to seek sympathy or attention, other than your faithful reading, from this or any previous posts. I say this only because I more often than not am writing about the struggles in hope, faith, and health throughout our ordeal. It's hard to write about one's most intimate emotions and trials to a wide audience without feeling like it's to seek recognition. It is not. I hope only to inspire and to share the transformations that have occurred in my life because of this and can only hope it will instill some hope in others who can relate or garner some wisdom from these words to apply to their own life.

This past week has led to some pretty major changes in perspective and 'coming to terms' with some heavy topics touched on briefly in my last post. I started the week seeking solitude and faithfulness (which was the name of my room at the guest house) at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, CA; a monastery, winery, and retreat center. Being a self-guided retreat I had my own agenda while attending: seek a quiet place free of all distraction to be still and be in the presence of God. The first morning there I embarked on a trek across the acres of orchards and vineyards on the property to reconcile the concession of several topics in my own faith. Lately, I had grappled with the concept of how to truly and fully submit your cares and worries, to give them up to the Lord and declare "My life is yours Lord, I give it all up to you, my worries, my burdens. I submit myself wholly unto your will." It is such a digression from our social habit for American's to do this. You see it prevalently in other cultures; believers laying supine in the middle of the road, praying to God. This is so unthinkable in our culture because we worry what others will think, how they would judge you. I was walking down a gravel road, walnut trees on my left, wheat fields on my right. Not a soul around as I prayed for guidance on how to submit myself to God's will, to relinquish control of this struggle within to plan and trying to choose the correct path to secure a happy outcome from this disease. Totally isolated and alone, I knew the simple gesture I needed to perform to show God my willingness to submit and relinquish control to Him, but I still clung to stubbornness, looking around to see if anyone was watching and I still couldn't do what needed to be done. I walked on frustrated at my inability to overcome petty stoicism. God then presented me with a sign to answer my question and how to overcome my hesitations. A rock the size of a watermelon lay on the side of the road, pushed to the edge of the field when it had been plowed. The rock was me, Peter the disciple, 'The Rock', the foundation of the church. It was scratched by the plow blades but impervious to anything thrown at it. I saw that I must assume my namesake and be the rock, the strength to carry God's will and His word, impervious to the outside whatever they may think or judge about me. In the middle of this gravel orchard road, I lay face down and prayed; committing myself to the Lord and to ask for guidance in lifting all my worries up to Him to give Him control of where this struggle will lead us, to grant us wisdom to make the right decisions. I stood and felt lighter, freer from burdens that had weighed me down. They were no longer of my concern. God will deal with those now. I still face some heavy decisions and tough roads to walk, but now I know that He is with me and will guide and protect me.

When all medical options are extinguished, treatments tested and failed, natural methods abandoned, in that end, I know the Lord. My faith that His will and His plan for me will either be revealed or shall deliver me to the state of mind where I can accept my fate and am ready and willing to join Him in my eternal home. It is an easy thing as a believer to know your ultimate fate and to accept that you will be going home to Jesus; sooner or later, but it leaves still difficult human aspects of that commitment that aren't so easy to accept. My wife and family know where i'm going, even my three year old daughter knows that Daddy's sick, he has Cancer and might be going to live with Jesus soon. She may not grasp the depth of those statements fully yet, but she gathers enough to know most of what's going on. Since that walk and laying supine in the road like a pilgrim on road to Damascus, i've been able to face the possible inevitability of my condition. Doctor's don't want to say the word 'terminal' or 'prognosis' to you, but they start talking around things saying in not so many words that 'there's nothing left we can do for you.' That part is disconcerting amidst the rediculous levels of pain i've found myself in the last few days. The low-dose morphine complemented still will occasional Percoset hasn't even touched the pain at times. They also have the unpleasant effect of making me extremely constipated which in trying to resolve has caused more pain and discomfort that the pain pills were intended to treat.

I was writhing in pain most of the evening last night with Alysha by my side, upset that there was nothing she could do to help me. I sat in the shower for a little while as I no longer had the energy to even continue standing. With the water falling on my shoulders, I had the distinct sensation that someone had placed their hands on my shoulders. I knew no one was in the bathroom with me but I instinctively looked anyway and then hung my head and closed my eyes again. I felt the individual drops of water splash on my neck and my shoulders but again felt the sensation of someone standing behind me with their hands placed on my shoulders as if rendering comfort and support. In that moment, I felt God's holy presence and they were His hands on my shoulders; comforting yet giving me strength and renewing my spirit to know that I would get through this as long as I continued to trust in Him. A while later I was in excruciating pain laying on the bed with Alysha holding on to me wishing there was something else to ease my pain. I was at the point of almost shaking and feeling faint. When I had been standing or walking even just between the bathroom and the bedroom, the pain and pressure that the tumor is putting on my sciatic nerve causes intense lower back pain and discomfort in my leg on my left side, so much to the point of my legs wanting to buckle under me when I stand and put weight on them so I end up hobbling short distances to find a semi-comfortable place to crash and pressure breathe through the next wave. At one point it felt like all my senses were slowly failing. I started getting the tunnel vision feeling even though we were laying in the dark, as if I were about to faint, but this felt more ominous. Things I could hear around the house, the rush or air and the a/c unit running, the sprinkler running outside, all started to slowly fade in volume. It didn't feel like fainting, it felt like my body could no longer sustain me in that condition and was shutting down. It felt like the end. I was literally grasping Alysha's arm to hold on, to keep from slipping away, to cling to something in this life to fight the coming of darkness then light. It may have just been a wave of faintness coming over me, but it certainly felt like a glimpse of what the coming of the end may be like. It scared me. I started thinking that if the pain continued, that tonight could be my last day here, that my body may succumb. The kids were both asleep already but I snuck quietly into both Izzy and Lucas' rooms, laid beside them and prayed over them; prayed for them to grow up strong and to be fair and caring and generous to others and to accept the Lord into their lives. I said goodbye and that Daddy would always be with them even if they couldn't see me, that I will always be there and that I love them very much. I prayed with Alysha as if it were the last time we would lay down to sleep together. The pain had mostly subsided but I was afraid to go to sleep. Awaking the next morning to the sunrise was the happiest I've been to see a new day for a long time. I praised the day and hoped for many more, good or bad, to come without that ominous feeling I had felt the night before.

I am ready to go when my time comes, but not yet. I don't get to decide that, but not yet. We still have a few avenues to explore before we have to make our own distinction as to when enough is enough, that we've extinguished all our options and will then spend our time enjoying life, doing the things we haven't had time to do, as a family, as a married couple, as Christians wanting to make a difference in someone else's life. The freedom of living life unrestrained shouldn't be reserved for the end when your options for staying alive and living a long full life have run out, but often is. Live like there's no tomorrow, or 'live like you were dying' (Tim McGraw). We should all get a chance to do that. Hell, that's a lifestyle everyday for some people. I wish the rest of us could share in it, to re-prioritize and stop giving a shit about all the trivial stuff in life. Things just don't matter as much once you truly see what's most important in life. Again, it shouldn't take a life-altering event to bring  out the best in yourself, to realize that you have the strength within you to be the parent, the spouse, or the believer you thought you were but weren't really living up to the expectations of what a good one should be. Unfortunately it often takes something terrible to happen to make that change in perspective the catalyst for change. It is within you to be a better person. It's within me, i'm still finding it myself, it's not an easy or a short road either, it's an ongoing progression that lasts a lifetime. Transformation isn't about completely changing yourself. People can't change who they're meant to be; their design for their personality. They can change how they look at things and change how they react to them and act toward other people. They can overcome weaknesses and find new strengths. It's a process of perfecting the mold which leads to the ultimate goal of how you will affect others and pass on traits and inspiration to them so that they may be able to mold it into their own identity to then pass it on to another to inspire change and so on. I hope my stories can inspire strength in others, to change maybe certain attitudes toward life or towards others, maybe give new perspective on predispositions otherwise never addressed. I wish I could provide some profound advice to those closest to me to initiate changes that I know are in dire need for some, but all I can do now is to show them how I have found my strength and can only hope that this will inspire them to search their soul too to find the strength I know they have within themselves to fight their own struggles and to win out over them. I am confident I can help those who seek it, but I am still on my own journey as well, so can just be a helping hand along the way. This is what I truly hope.

All the best and thanks!



  1. Pete, I've sat here for atleast an hour trying to configure my words after reading this. Tears of worry, of sadness, of sheer overhwelming love of the person you are and are becoming through this journey, were dropped. I look over at Zoe through these tears and hope I can be half the inspiration and loving parent and partner you are Pete. I found myself very conflicted when reading about your walk and submission to God in the vinyard, and I ended up with wondering why I am still turned away from the idea of faith. Our childhood of being second to Mom, with God and the congregation always being first. And living down South and experiencing the bigotry in god's name, I turned away! Now as a mature adult I need to reasses my feelings. You have made me remember that faith and religion doesn't have to be what everyone else believes. It can be an intensely personal relationship, one which I can keep to myself if I want to. I wish I could have been there to be another pair of comforting hands on your shoulders and to witness your sunrise the next morning. You are, always have been and always will be my hero and that is because you are just has human and vulnerable as you are strong and solid. I love you big brother.
    ~Amy Lynn

  2. Pete you are amazing and such an inspiration. Thank you for being so transparent and allowing God to use your story for his Glory. I'm so proud of you and Alysha for how you've walked this most difficult path. We are continually praying for you!