Getting out of the Boat?

I’ve made a lot of important decisions in my life. The college I chose. Saying yes to my first call to a congregation in Michigan instead of heading to Puget Sound for a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corp. Choosing seminary. Relationships. We make so many decisions on a regular basis that change the course of our lives. But, I have a new one approaching, and this one has a different weight to it.

This looming decision, that I may or may not have to make, has me a little on edge. My ideal situation is that my body makes the decision for me and that the chemo does its job. However, it may not be that simple and at that point, I’ll be called on to make a big decision.

After 2 rounds of chemo (I get my second August 14), I will get a PET scan about 3 weeks later. If I still “light up,” I may qualify for a CAR-T-Cell therapy study. CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell) is currently only a last line of defense, like after you have a relapse a couple of times, but new research is looking into making it a first treatment option.

The studies are hard to relate with, because the current success rates are only 52%, but that’s with people who have tried (and failed) 2 or 3 other treatments. So, a 52% success rate for this new treatment is actually HUGE.

It seems that a number of oncologists are believing that after a few more studies, CAR-T will become the first line of defense for my kind of cancer. This treatment is specifically for those whose bodies are responding slowly to chemo. Some lymphomas are chemo resistant and I just may be a lucky one with that reality, sigh. The marker that makes me more susceptible to that is something called a non-germinal centre. A germinal centre responds better to chemo. I guess this non-germinal one can be real bugger!

A brief explanation of CAR-T: Our immune system has T-Cells and B-Cells. My B-Cells are cancerous (little buggers). So, they remove my T-Cells. Ship them to a lab that does the CAR part to the T-Cells. This means they genetically modify them and basically teach them to kill my B-Cells. Then, they put them back in my body and my T-Cells (aka my own immune system) kills off the B-Cells. So, instead of chemo killing good and bad cells in me, I would just have my B-Cells (both the good and bad) being attacked by my T-Cells.

Side effects— yep! And some VERY scary ones (which chemo has plenty of those too).

Sadly, studies for people like me, who have a good prognosis, simply don’t exist much yet. They are only at the beginning of this research. I am on an IRB (Institutional Review Board) and have always been into science. If you are unaware, IRB’s approve or deny human subjects research, essentially the benefits should always outweigh the risks. Part of me would love to be a part of a study that betters the lives of people to come, but there are major risks and inconveniences that come with joining a study like this one.

In the midst of this looming decision, I find myself with a newfound appreciation of the story of Peter stepping out of that boat. I have always loved the story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus. It’s one of my go-to’s when people ask me my favorite biblical story. I love the imagery of getting out of the boat a seeing what’s possible. It is comforting and glorious that even when Peter doubts and begins to sink, Jesus reaches out to lift him. Impossible things happen with God all the time!

Now though, I have this new respect of Peter getting out of the boat. I know the ending of that story. I know that Jesus reaches out when he begins to sink. So, it has been easy to preach, “It’s time to get out of the boat and see what God will do.” But, what about when you don’t know the end of the story? What if it is literally a life or death choice? It’s not so easy to step into the unknown. I feel like if I do the study, I am stepping out of the boat, and I don’t even know if Jesus told me to. I mean, my R-CHOP regiment has been working for people for 25 years! It’s not a comfy boat, but it does get many people to the other side.

So, I research, pray, and listen! And to be honest, I just might stay in the boat. I hope I’m able to quiet my loud, anxious, fearful voice and listen to God.

In about 4 weeks, I’ll be deciding if I’m getting out of the boat or staying in…

Thanks for all your prayers and love. I can literally feel it.

12 responses to “Getting out of the Boat?”

  1. Christina Avatar
    Christina

    praying that the Holy Spirit guides you in all you do!

  2. Amy Avatar
    Amy

    Prayers that the Holy Spirit sends you an abundance of strength, wisdom & healing, Dana. Hugs!

  3. Linda Ordiway Avatar
    Linda Ordiway

    Pastor Dana, I am disappointed that we didn’t get to meet face to face before this challenge arose for you, and looking forward to that meeting with great anticipation. Please know that you are constantly in our prayers and that every update posted is a new opportunity to hold you close and lift you into God’s arms. You are loved beyond measure!

  4. Denise K. Avatar

    This life business is tough and you’ve had your share of tough. You are the precious daughter of a loving God. I know you’re holding fast to that, I am too.

  5. Julie B Avatar
    Julie B

    I will pray for wisdom and discernment. And no matter what you decide, may the precious Lord take your hand and guide you

  6. Dianna House Avatar

    God is always with you to hold your hand.

  7. Margaret Vredeveld Avatar
    Margaret Vredeveld

    Praying that the gentle voice of God will reach out to comfort, reassure and
    guide you! Put your hand in the hand of the one who stilled the water…. Love and prayers! 💞🙏🏼

  8. Debi Avatar
    Debi

    Pastor Dana, you are blessed with a plethora of information and interest about your treatment. Thank you for sharing you are never alone. Prayers are always with you.

  9. Diane Avatar
    Diane

    Love, prayers and hugs surround you from all who love and care about you. God will guide you.

  10. debby and larry Avatar
    debby and larry

    Dana we r both keeping u in our prayers- as well as Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Littleton, CO-such a big decision requires prayer and FAITH-oh, so much faith, but do u feel the love- we r all with u in stepping out of that boat, every day in every way. much love

  11. Patricia Premo Avatar
    Patricia Premo

    God’s will WILL be done. I pray you find comfort and peace in your decision. You are in my prayers.

  12. Jan Eversole Avatar
    Jan Eversole

    Praying you will know what the right decision is when you have to make it. God is a good counselor.

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