To my surprise, I see that it has been 5 days since I last posted any progress report. It’s hard because the day-to-day progress is so subtle. At the end of the day, I think to myself, “Nothing much to report today.” Just that same old rhythm of Jennifer doing her little self-guided physical therapy on the floor with her yoga mat and her iPhone with the little videos she’s been instructed to imitate. Not surprisingly, she’s super serious about it. Anything to get better. And while she’s never been a napped, now she regularly lays down in the mid-afternoon, partly because she’s exhausted by the slightest routine and partly because she has been convinced that it is part of the healing process.
So, it’s Saturday, and now it seems so normal that she moves freely without her walker. When we go out of the house for a walk in the woods or on the gravel road, I hold her hand, but the walker is feeling quite neglected.
The most exciting thing, however, is the incremental improvement in her right eye function. In the morning (when her body and brain is most rested), she can intensely concentrate and focus on a distant object and consciously bring the two images of her double vision together into one image. And as I watch her do this, her two eyes appear to be in normal conjugate gaze (aligned with one another). When she first realized she could consciously do this, she could only accomplish it for a couple of seconds. She would concentrate intensely (like Milly Bobby Brown does on Stranger Things when she wants to throw a car across the street) — and then almost collapse because of the effort. Now she can hold the images together for longer periods and is practicing doing this throughout the day. She must always return to the eye patch (her pirate look) because the double vision is otherwise constant. Her eyelid is less droopy and the pupil might be slightly less dilated than at the beginning—though this seems less dramatic to me.
The implications of this are HUGE! If she continues on this trajectory, she has a real hope of leaving the double vision behind and avoiding corrective eye surgery—both for aligning the eyes and propping up the lid. Here is a picture of her this morning (she is not going to be super happy about me posting this)—but it seems only fair to give this feedback to all of you who have prayed for her healing and will be so encouraged to see the evidence of it happening.
We continue to listen to Kate Bowler’s book No Cure for Being Human. In our chapter today, she struggles with the possibility that her cancer might be in remission as a result of the immunotherapy. But it is a strange place. She has been living in a fearful and hyper-vigilant state, wondering if she might die this year. It’s felt like that for us as well. In those early days, I wondered what would Jennifer be able to do in the coming months and years—walk, bathe, type, read, bike, swim? All things that we took for granted in our “before the accident” life. But now with these improvements, can we dare hope for a full recovery? For a normal life? Kate Bowler asks her psychotherapist, “Is there a reasonable time for me to stop being afraid?” I don’t think we are there yet.
Kate Bowler’s academic niche in the Duke Divinity School is the Prosperity Gospel. She doesn’t believe in it—she studies it. It’s primarily an American phenomenon and she comes at if from a Canadian perspective. Jennifer remarked today, that Bowler is a really a modern day Job. She got colon cancer at age 35 and like Job’s friends, many want to assign some explanation of why she got this cancer — and like the prosperity gospel enthusiasts—how she can be rid of it and make the best of it. At least she can go out ticking off a profligate Bucket List (of this she says… “The problem with aspirational lists, of course, is that they often skip the point entirely. Instead of helping us grapple with our finitude, they have approximated infinity”).
She struggles (and I think we all do) in light of the painful reality of not knowing the future and our outcome—and what that means for how we should then live? How do we live under the burden of not seeing our future? We wait. We walk. We pray.