"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)



With my wife, Teresa, by my side, began my first of four immunotherapy treatments at Inova Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center in Fairfax, Virginia, July 14, 2016. The center is Inova's new multi-specialty melanoma and cutaneous oncology center and a clinical partner of Inova Translational Medicine Institute that conducts genomics research.

My oncologist informed me that there would be adverse side effects caused by the immunotherapy treatment, from minor ones – e.g., stomach pains, skin rashes, blurred vision – to acute side effects, which can lead to death if not addressed right away.

The initial two manifest side effects were quite minor: mouth sores and lethargic energy.

For the mouth sores, a daily mouth rinse with either salt or baking soda usually lessens the pain. And to deal with the sluggish energy, Teresa and I went out for a Saturday morning walk with the hope to invigorate a little life into my step.

Unfortunately, there was third side effect just waiting to throw a wrench into our enjoyable Saturday.

At the grocery store...

After the pleasant morning stroll, we decided to do some grocery shopping. Once we arrived at the grocery store, I grabbed a shopping cart and proceeded to the produce area. As I pushed the cart down the aisle, I looked down and noticed another palpable lump and swelling around the surgical scar on my left leg (the same area where the tumor was resected). As I showed Teresa the lump and swelling, we stared at each other with a dreadful look on each of our faces.

"You want me to take you to the hospital?" she said.

"Most definitely!"


At the emergency room...

I underwent an ultra sound at the emergency room. The ER doctor then contacted our on-call physician to discuss my situation (one of the benefits of being a cancer patient, you get treated first class ;-) Both physicians recommended that I see my oncologist first thing Monday morning. But I did get to go home with a new prescription of antibiotics to hopefully reduce some of the swelling. 

Once we arrived home, Teresa emailed my oncologist about the palpable lump and swelling. Soon after, she received an email from him, instructing us to come in first thing Monday morning.

Coping with the first two side effects were easy for me.

Conversely, the third one effectively chipped away my 'chipper' attitude. Thus, around a quarter past eight o’clock yesterday evening, feeling somewhat exasperated by all three side effects that ensued from last week’s immunotherapy treatment, I went to bed without saying "goodnight" to Teresa.


So, this is where I’m at this morning...

Feeling frustrated;

self-pity; and

downright vexed!

However, I am reminded by the following scripture verses penned by St. James:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

In my heart, I know there resides a universal purpose – a purpose that I must find – in the midst of this cancer treatment; and for that matter, finding meaning in each of these side effects, as well. It is a purpose to either "humble me", "prove me", or to "teach me".

  1. The nugget of meaning that I’ve found in having mouth sores and the difficulty of talking with pain, is that they give me the opportunity to listen more;
  2. The nugget of meaning that I’ve found in having low energy and the difficulty of being energetic, is that it gives me the opportunity to rest more and focus on reading and writing; and
  3. The nugget of meaning that I’ve found in the swelling in my left leg and the difficulty of enjoying outdoor activities, is that it gives me the appreciation that I still have two legs and can walk, because there are many others who have to live their life in a wheel chair.

By journaling these truths above, each one has proven to be a valuable therapeutic nugget for me this morning…far more valuable than the antibiotics given to me yesterday ;-)


For those who are walking along side me in these therapeutic journals, I hope the journey affords you some personal nuggets of meaning and purpose, as well.





In the video below, "Search for Meaning in Life Today with Viktor Frankl", author and Jewish Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl, who is one of my personal historic heroes, contends that each human being must find meaning in their life, especially during those difficult times of their life.

Frankl was interned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. As a longtime prisoner in Nazi's concentration camps, he found himself stripped to naked existence. Sadly, his wife, parents, and brother were killed by the hands of the Nazis in similar concentration camps. However, he held on the truth that all human beings possessed the freedom to choose and how to respond toward life's tragedies. 

One of my favorite books that he authored is: "Man's Search for Meaning."

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