This blog post is part of the continuing story of our family’s journey facing my husband’s cancer with the grace that only the Lord Jesus can give. If you would like to read the story from the beginning, go here.
Normally when we get scan results, they are sent right to Dan’s, “Mychart” account. This time, they never came. We waited over the Fourth of July weekend and told ourselves that the lab, or Dr. E, may have fallen behind in their work because of the holiday.
Finally, after the long weekend, Dan had his monthly oncology appointment. The cancer was back. We weren’t prepared for those results, so it really hit us hard, almost like hearing for the first time that Dan had cancer. The best method of battling his kind of aggressive cancer wasn’t working anymore.
This news brought a whole new set of emotions, but Dr. E quickly recommended another medication from the same family as Tarceva, the medication that Dan had had a love-hate relationship with for the previous 18 months. We researched Afatinib, the new medication, and were encouraged. The side effects and the chance of response sounded similar to Tarceva. It sounded like he would just change pills and hopefully the cancer would obey and flee.
Taking the new medication was uneventful. In fact, it seemed that the new medication would be easier to tolerate than the old one. Throughout July, Dan had far more energy than he had when he was on the old treatment. As August came he continued to dutifully take the Afatinib tablet at 6:30 every morning. He began to feel less energetic and achy, almost as if he has the flu. And then diarrhea hit…and never stopped, in spite of taking two daily medications to prevent it. Also, his fingernails and toenails became infected. We thought the new medication would be easier on Dan, but soon it was tougher for him to tolerate than the old one. I always pray that he doesn’t get discouraged by the limitations that cancer and the treatment have placed on him.
In the fall of 2014, Dan returned to Pacem in Terris, a hermitage retreat in St. Francis, Minnesota for another couple of days in the woods alone with the Lord. The following week, I planned to go for four days and three nights. This was something of a tradition for Dan and me. Each visit to Pacem in Terris is a wonderful, unique experience; a chance to spend time with the Lord in silence.
During Dan’s retreat, three of his friends went as well, so they could meet together to pray after dinner each night in the main house. It was a spiritually invigorating time. I couldn’t wait to go, myself, but when I finally was able to, I struggled more than I ever could have imagined I would. As night approached, it became unbearable. It seemed I was plagued by the feeling that I was should be spending the finite time we had with Dan. I felt selfish. It wasn’t true, but I couldn’t shake it. Then I felt guilty for not putting God above my husband. It was too late to leave, but I knew that as soon as day broke, I would be heading home. As much as I wanted to be alone with God, I couldn’t bear being away from my family. It became very clear to me that it would be a long time before I could go to Pacem again.
Dan’s birthday would soon be upon us. Ever since Dan was diagnosed, our family has observed his birthday with a celebration of life. November of 2014 was no different. Nearly all of the Ericksons gathered at Pizza Flame, a local pizzeria, in honor of the wonderful gift of Dan’s life. Several people shared their thoughts with touching sentiments that spoke of how much they loved Dan and were grateful for God sustaining him. We had pizza, a cake, and a wonderful time being together with thankful hearts. What a wonderful thing it is to have such a supportive family. We are so thankful for the Lord giving us the gift of time. We have been blessed beyond measure! We continually ask the Lord for many more years together, for Dan’s life, and for his well-being.
You can learn more about Dan Erickson, his family, and his ministry at his blog,”Dan’s Pulpit.” Follow “Facing Cancer With Grace,” to read our continuing story.