Yesterday the consolidation phase of chemotherapy began. I’ll give you some explanations about that. And after that, if you’re interested, I’ll share some thoughts on the New Year under the title “Be still before God”.
Dear family and dear friends,
A few days ago, a new year began, the year 2022. God’s blessings and all the best in the New Year! On this occasion I thank you again from the bottom of my heart for your prayers in the past year, for letters, feedback, comments, or calls!
About my personal situation: Yesterday morning the so-called consolidation phase began, which consists of two cycles of four weeks each; in the first two weeks I get an injection with a chemo drug on Tuesdays and Fridays, and in addition on these days cortisone tablets for me to better deal with the drug. And from today I will take another chemo drug as a daily tablet for 21 days. In week 4 there is a break. From March on, I will continue with the maintenance therapy, in which a chemo drug is being given as an injection every two weeks, plus an injection every month to build up the bones. I will write in a few weeks how it looks with the side effects and how I react to the therapy.
Yesterday, the doctor also showed me the evaluation from December 16 (shortly after the second high-dose therapy and stem cell re-transfusion) in terms of disease scores.
- The harmful and pathological protein had a value of 46.8 when it was first diagnosed on April 15, 2021.
- On Sept 8, 2021, shortly after the first high-dose therapy, the value was still 2.9, which was already a substantial reduction to a bit more than 6%, and the doctors called it a “very-good-partial-response”.
- And on Dec. 16, 2021, the value was only 1.2; that’s 2.5% of the original value.
Early on, the oncologist showed us a graph showing the difference in the evaluation of proteins in the blood between normal findings and multiple myeloma. The red “peak” (the rash in the upper right) represents the amount of abnormal proteins that damage bones or kidneys:
In my case, it looked like this on May 31,2021 (by then the peak had already dropped quite a bit due to the therapy):
And here you see the status as of Dec. 16, 2021:
The “peak” is gone; already at the last bone marrow sample almost no more harmful cells were measurable, as the oncologist told us. Again, I can only be amazed and grateful at how the treatment has taken effect.
From here on you will find some thoughts about the turn of the year, which you are welcome to read and comment on if you are interested.
Be still before God
«Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him!» (Psalm 37:7)
«For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.» (Isaiah 30:15)
«My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.» (Psalm 62:5)
My wife and I didn’t stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve because we were pretty tired. Nevertheless, I woke up at midnight to the banging of firecrackers and the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and to the persistent ringing of church bells.
We all have hopes that things will be better for us in the new year, that restrictions will be lifted and travel will become easier, that we will experience many beautiful moments and that we will (be able to) get closer to each other again. Therefore, it is understandable that many cheer and celebrate the transition into the new year in this expectation with parties, with fireworks and with a glass of champagne.
Personally, though, I’ve wondered: if so many problems and questions remain unresolved, how hopeful does the future look? And personally, we know or have heard of people struggling for breath and life in intensive care units; my mother has had to spend the days since Christmas isolated in a retirement home; many elderly people live (or die) in loneliness. Others are threatened in their economic existence, counseling centers for mental problems can no longer save themselves from requests, and it seems that society is becoming more and more divided and driven by fear and social pressure.
We subscribe to a magazine that regularly analyzes current events and their backgrounds and looks at them from a Christian perspective. One recent article describes the disturbing changes in politics and society and then asks the question[i]:
What can be done? First of all, as a Christian, you should stop being surprised that you “no longer belong” in an anti-Christian time, because we are “called out” of this world. For Christians of earlier generations, this was a given. And also that suffering injustice is better than doing injustice. With reference to Socrates, the Christian philosopher Daniel von Wachter points out this principle, which is also a biblical principle. …
It is of utmost importance to counter the noise of the news, the prescribed restlessness and anxiety with the sheer opposite – silence with God. Psalm 37, which speaks so powerfully to this time, says, “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him!” God will do what is beyond our power. He will act and put an end to evil: “For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more.” The Holy One of Israel (Isa. 30:15) exhorted his people, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” We may command our souls through God’s Spirit: “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him” (Ps. 62:5).
So what to do in a world …? … to oppose by another way of life. Resistant living means to oppose the noisy, rushed idleness of senselessness with the peace and quiet of embracing God’s word. Becoming still before God. Alone in reading the Holy Scriptures, spending time with God in prayer; in fellowship with brothers and sisters in faith.
This is not the weakest weapon of God’s adversary, that he sends people into the constant noise, into the (digital) and state-imposed restlessness. Only in the silence with God’s word, the reading of the Scriptures and in the prayer the stronger weapon is found. The person who seeks silence with God becomes aware that God does not abandon anyone, not a single person who walks over this earth. God wants to be close to the frightened one. He is not bothered by the false promises that someone has fallen prey to. He sees the seeker who simply says: “God, if You exist, if what is written in this Bible is not all fairy tales, then help me, show it to me. Now, today, I am reading in Your Word. I need You, reveal Yourself to me, please!” Yes, this can be the beginning of hope, from which trust in God germinates and grows, until hope finally becomes a firm confidence, the certainty: “God means well with me, with us. He helps me.“
Trusting in God, who has thoughts of peace and not of evil for us (Jer. 29:11), man can put aside the prescribed, exaggerated fear of illness and of death and the devil. The Christians of earlier centuries, who did not have an easier time with the pestilence and with the arbitrariness of princes and squires than we do today, also succeeded in this with God’s help.
This surprising, but so important and good answer to the question of what we should do in our current time, appealed to me very much! If there is something that is lacking in our noise-filled, fast-moving, and restless time, it is times of rest, reflection, contemplation – and of conscious turning in these quiet moments to God, our Creator, and to His Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. The “other way of life,” the “living resistantly,” does not consist in going out into the streets and protesting government measures, but in periodically and vigorously withdrawing from all media noise and the loud and sometimes shrill voices of the left and right to talk to God (in free prayer) and listen to how he speaks to me (by reading the Bible). If you already have a relationship with the Lord Jesus, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t yet, I invite you to try it out as the author quoted above suggests in the passage “God, if you exist …”.
In the past year, my illness led to several hospitalizations; there were difficult days and sleepless nights, sometimes with severe pain, nausea, and total lack of strength. During these times of involuntary silence, my heavenly Savior was there for me. “The Lord is my shepherd,” sang the Old Testament songwriter King David, who tended sheep as a youth. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me!”[ii]
God is not far away, is not unapproachable and unreachable, but is close to us and came so close to us in his Son Jesus Christ. When I become still, free myself from everything that distracts (especially from the digital world), and turn to him openly and honestly, but also reverently, he answers me. This relationship allows me to be at peace, a peace that is totally liberating. I wish you such regular times of becoming still before God for 2022!
[i] factum, 1/22, Schwengeler Verlag Berneck, pages 23-24 – bold highlighting and English translation by me.
[ii] Psalm 23, verses 1 and 4