Friday, April 23, 2010

Final Post (God Willing!)

I can't believe it's been over 2 years since I last posted here, and almost 3 since my initial diagnosis. I've been thinking about making this final post for quite awhile, now. I've frankly been waiting because 1) I still have some trouble typing; 2) I haven't had as spectacular a recovery as I'd hoped. But, as my boss and friend, Mark, reminded me the other day, few people survive brain cancer - let alone 2 pulmonary embolisms (which occurred less the 1 week after my brain surgery) - and I have a lot to be thankful for.

And I am so thankful:
- to God for preserving me through my various trials
- to my family for hanging in there with me (I know I haven't always been the easiest person to live with)
- to my friends at church and at work who have given much needed comfort and support when I needed it m0st
- and to all of you who followed me and prayed with me through this blog.

Thankfully, most of my memories of being in the hospital and acute care center have mercifully faded into a kind of mental fog. But some memories are vivid:

1. I remember my friends from work coming to see me in the hospital a few days after my surgery. I couldn't express myself very well verbally. I do remember saying to each one, "You are blessed!"

2. I remember being awake for a few minutes in the ICU after my embolisms, with a breathing tube down my throat, and my wife telling me how much she and the kids needed me. That really made me want to fight to live!

3. I remember my family coming every day for the almost 2-months I was in the hospital and in acute care.

4. I remember my pastor coming to see me in the hospital and struggling to communicate by pointing at pictures on a laminated board. I even remember what I wanted to say so badly: "Turn off the light"! Seems so simple, now.

I still struggle with weakness in my right arm and leg. Though I do exercises almost daily, I'm still not where I'd like to be. There have been some set-backs along the way - I've had a couple mild seizures, a volvulous (a twisting of my colon which required the surgeon to open up my abdomen and perform a resection), I fell and broke several ribs.

And I still struggle mentally as well. As I blogged long ago, I was never the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I prided myself on being one of them. My mother used to tell me that no one would be able to take my mind away from me. But though she was right about a lot of things, she was wrong about that. God could take away my mind - or part of it, anyway.

The most obvious deficiency is in my ability to speak. I used to be so articulate - I am no longer. I can still write reasonably well, but I'm not as verbally proficient as I used to be. But the most frustrating thing is that I don't think as quickly as I once did. I simply can't make those mental connections. I don't make as many witty comments, and all those things that once came to me so easily, befuddle me.

I used to get excited when I could teach a class or give a presentation at work. Those days are long gone. I've returned to the venerable Gospel of John class - the one I was praying in front of when I had my first seizure - but I only teach once a month (it takes me a full week to prepare what used to take a couple hours). And I have to give a couple presentations to my superiors and peers at work next month, about which I'm apprehensive.

I take that back - the most frustrating thing for me is the growing distance I feel within my family. My wife has encouraged me to develop more of a relationship with my kids, but I know I embarrass them and they find me annoying, so it gets easier and easier to just throw in the towel and not try anymore. And my wife's patience ran out long ago.

God is surely testing me! It's so hard to trust Him through this trial - to trust that He intends this for my good and His glory. But I can tangibly see some things He is already teaching me:

1. I'm learning patience; I hardly ever raise my voice in anger
2. My faith is growing again
3. I'm learning to take my deficiencies in stride

Hebrews 12:5-6 teaches us to love the Lord's discipline, because He knows what is best for us, and passionately wants to conform us to the image of His beloved Son. This fact is not always welcome, but it is always necessary.

In many ways, I feel my greatest trials - and potentially my greatest rewards - are still ahead 0f me.


Donald E. Hartley said...

Hey Robert,
Its been a long time. I was thinking of you and just wanted to send along my appreciation for your hard work both in the past and your present struggles. You are a great brother in the Lord and one of the few and bright lights when it comes to understanding Colwell (his rule and construction). When I get around to finally writing my article on that (yep, I still plan on doing so), your work will definitely be in the footnotes if not in the body of the text. I just wanted you to know that. Although we have not met face to face, you are in my heart and prayers. All the best brother.

Robert Hommel said...

Hi, Don,

Great to hear from you. Thank you so much for the kind words. They are a great encouragement to me!

Keep me posted on your article.

God bless you, bro!