This weekend was also our stake conference, which in our church is a special weekend of meetings where multiple local congregations meet together under the direction of both local and general authorities. We attended an adult meeting last night and a family session this afternoon, and I also attended a youth meeting very early this morning, because I had the opportunity to sing a duet at that meeting with one of my favorite students from back in the days when I taught voice lessons. I had the pleasure of meeting with many wonderful people, including good friends, the radiologist who read my first MRI scan (when the tumor was identified), a man who recently lost his wife to brain cancer (but she lived more than 20 years after her initial tumor diagnosis - long enough to raise her children) and a general authority who is also the son of our current prophet (who is also battling cancer, so I pray for him, too). In addition to the wonderful associations with great people, the meeting was a spiritual feast, and I found myself taking copious notes of different insights and thoughts that came to mind as I listened to the various speakers.
One of those insights was the concept of faith dismissing fear. I remembered my recent experience of feeling the love of my Heavenly Father, and how it drove all fear away from me at that moment. And I thought about how things might be in the coming months, and how apprehensive I might be feeling soon. You see, I am close to finishing my initial course of radiation and chemotherapy treatment. I will finish around the beginning of March, and then I will have a period of rest through the end of March. On April 5th, I go in for an MRI scan, followed immediately by an appointment with my oncologist to discuss the results. I will then go to a maintenance dose of chemotherapy, where I will take a very high dose of chemo medication five days a month. I will then have monthly oncology visits and MRI scans every other month to check for recurrence. Recurrence is obviously the main concern. If (or as they characterize it - WHEN) there is a recurrence, we will have to address it based on its size, location, and clinical effect. It may mean more surgery. It may mean experimental treatment. It may mean gamma knife. It may be inoperable and life-threatening. We don't know, and we pray that it will simply not happen. (My favorite part of the discussion about these next steps was about the maintenance dose of chemo, when I was told that they would want to do that for about 18-24 months. Considering my statistical prognosis, I was just so thrilled at the idea of me doing ANYTHING for 18-24 months!)
Anyway, I have felt very apprehensive about the idea of going in for these scans, starting in April and continuing every other month. I am sure that they will be very nervous times. But during this recent meeting I had the opportunity to ponder the concept of faith vs. fear, and I felt a calming reassurance that EVEN IF there is a recurrence - no matter what the scans reveal - I am being watched over and cared for through this process. It will be okay for me and my family. We will be given what we need. I should not fear. I can have sufficient faith to carry me through these times of uncertainty. I am hopeful that I will be able to remember these thoughts when the time comes.
Shortly after this topic was discussed in the meeting, there was a beautiful musical rendition of "Be Still, My Soul". I've included these lyrics in an earlier blog post, but they are worth repeating, because they were the perfect complement to what I was realizing during the meeting:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.