Certainty

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Something that has always driven me a little bit crazy about Christians is their desire to be certain. About everything. Precise age of the earth? Know it! Celestial status of all people who die without knowing the rules of Canadian football? Got it! The world of belief, it seems, is only safe if it is known. Every corner of the Christian faith must be mapped, or it is nothing at all.

I once took a class on apocalypticism and the belief that the world would end, and I remember being especially upset that scholars had created a category for Christian prophets who wanted to predict things after they had already happened. They politely called it “retrospective prophecy.” I feel fairly certain it’s called “being a know-it-all.” Some things are shrouded in mystery, and anyone who pretends otherwise is probably also the kind of person who cheats at golf. No one wants to play the ball as it lies.

So let me tell you this, before it happens, so that you know where I’m at. Until recently, I was fairly convinced that I would die soon-ish. I thought, since I am pretty scrappy, that I could string things along as best I can. But I know that I am on the very edge of what medicine can promise. So when it came to stopping chemotherapy and testing the effectiveness of my immunotherapy drugs, I was trying not to be morbid. I know that it means that I will either die this year or live on. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually make it. But I didn’t know when I should finally find out if this is working.

So I prayed. I said, God, I don’t trust myself. Give me some advice. And I am only saying this because if I am wrong, I will need you. But if I’m right, I want you to know what I believed. I believed that God answered my absurdly specific prayer.

I’ll keep this general, because I don’t want to embarrass the people involved, but the next day I got an e-mail that said, hey, I don’t know if you remember me but I’m an oncologist and I read that you are trying to make a decision about stopping chemotherapy drugs. Do you know about this world expert in your particular cancer? I already talked to him about you and he can answer any questions you have. So I emailed the world’s leading expert in my cancer. And he immediately said, STOP CHEMO. And so I confirmed it with my oncologist, and I took a deep breath. And I laughed.

I stopped chemotherapy drugs because I believe that my immunotherapy drugs will hold. And because I believe that God gave me a sign, even though I barely believe in signs. But I do believe that sometimes when you ask God for things then something suprising happens. God answers.

So, my darlings, I want you to know that I am a little bit terrified that I will get scans that tell me that my tumors have grown, which means that I was always going to die this year. And that I am planning a dinosaur birthday for a boy who will only have a dad next year. But that I have hope that this will work and that God and good doctors reached into my life and said, It’s okay. You’re okay.

But in any case, I will let you know on Wednesday. And, in the meantime, I have been in Italy eating chips which taste like meat–because that’s their thing–and drinking wine from the Tuscany coast because that’s also their thing. And forging ahead ahead because, hey, you can’t be certain of anything.

15 thoughts on “Certainty

  1. September Vaudrey

    I know I only met you less than a year ago but you marked me and I am sitting here crying because of your bravery and boldness and joy. And I am praying really hard that in a couple years you will be planning maybe a Lego birthday for a little boy who still has a mama.

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  2. Debra Maione

    Wonderful wonderful news! I am so glad that the burden of chemo, and your burden of fear of losing that lifeline, have been washed out of your life. Enjoy your lightness of heart, the light of Tuscany, and the promise of that miraculous immunotherapy. It is ab astounding development in cancer treatment, and the timing of its development just in time for you is sweet grace indeed. So happy for your sign: those kinds of events buoyed me up so much in our journey: felt like telegraphs from heaven. (I suppose that might be the equivalent of texts these days? Doesn’t work for me, I can tell you that!)

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  3. Ashley Rash

    Kate I found your blog through Mike Altman and have been so blessed by it. God has used your struggles and fears and emotion to speak to my heart as we begin the journey of foster care. And even though we are in completely different situations God has used this blog post in particular to encourage me as I was praying through my fears and doubts about Christianity and fostering. Thank you for your words. They were an answer to prayer for me today.

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  4. Nancy Nasrallah

    And the disciples took the baskets of bread and fish, 5 loaves & 2 fish, and thousands of people were fed. They were tired themselves, but obeyed. No doubt with the same trepidation we feel today when we obey, or think we obey, or hope we obey… God does still speak to us, and give us signs and directions, and the courage to follow. I trust that you will experience His glory in your following.

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  5. Karen Bender

    Kate. Thank you for this. We all struggle with certainty and uncertainty. As if we personally have to have all the answers. The older I get (61 now) the fewer answers I have and the more questions I have. But I think you have put your finger on something important. What differentiates real Christians from some others is that we move forward as far as we can in hope. Not hope that we can, in and of ourselves, achieve things but that God can and will. Just this morning I reread a quote from Rowen Williamson which says, “The person as he or she is at rest is worthwhile, just as they are. From that God will move. God will create. God will change. … God has done, is doing and will do all. We have only to be still.” I pray for you and your son and I hope fervently that you and he will spend many many more birthdays together. I hope the prayers of many and your hope will carry you forward and away from this shadow hanging over you, that you will lifted away from all this and be able to dance in the sunshine with hope rewarded.

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  6. Julie Stroud

    As someone who has learned the value of “signs” and paying attention, I smiled at this post and felt the power of you letting go of the chemo. Take heart in the near instantaneous connections that brought the renowned expert to your virtual door. Thinking of you today.

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