Well, in some ways yesterday was better than Monday. First of all, Kevin tried taking his anti-nausea medication before he was nauseous… I know, I know, what a concept… and it really did work. No throwing up and no nausea, so that is a big improvement over the previous day. Let’s hope that the nausea continues to stay at bay. But this time, he did start feeling the effects of the interferon much sooner, in fact before we’d even left the hospital (it didn’t hit him until an hour or two later on Monday). He was having chills and aches while he was finishing up with his IV drip. We don’t know if this is because he’s starting to have the medicine be built up in his system (a little discouraging, because that means it will just continue to get worse as we go along). Again, we will trust in God and just take it one step at a time.
The routine did seem to be the same, so we hope this will at least be one area of predictability for us. Based on his experiences Monday, Kevin decided he wouldn’t even try to go into the office, but try to work from home as he was able. We went home (me sweltering, because Kevin needed the heat blasting in the car) and I got him settled into bed. He slept (or at least attempted to sleep) for a few hours, and then did a little work. He’s already finding he doesn’t have a big appetite, so I suppose he’ll be losing those last 20 lbs he’s always wanted to lose! Not that I would recommend cancer as diet plan.
Tuesday was also better for me as I managed to keep the house a little quieter and more peaceful. I had a big challenge on Monday relating to our friends and neighbors on our street. As many of you know, we purposely chose to move into an under-resourced neighborhood in the inner-city. This neighborhood has a very diverse mix of socio-economic levels, and a good deal of the neighbors on our street that we have connected with are poor. There are often a lot of needs, and we have been navigating having a healthy, neighborly relationship with these new friends over the past few months. It has been a blessing and life-giving in many ways, as so many of them have given back to us from what little they have. But a few weeks ago, some of the neighbor kids from down the street started visiting me and the kids in the afternoons more and more. We had been hanging out on our porch a lot, and I enjoyed having these kids come and visit with me and my children. But their presence increased very quickly, to the point that they wanted to come over every day, were ringing our doorbell before my kids were up from nap, and were coming back every half hour asking if we were ready to play on the porch. I had been working on establishing some boundaries and setting some expectations, but also praying about our call to see our neighbors truly as neighbors, not merely a service project. I felt that that meant treating these kids and my other neighbors as I would treat anyone from my own socio-economic background. We are very early in our ministry of presence in this neighborhood, and at the same time were hit with so many challenges for our family, that we are struggling to find that balance.
Monday ended up being one of those days. Without going into too many details, it seemed like there was one person after another needing something, whether it was a hungry child wanting to join us for our family dinner or a neighbor with an uncle who was dying that day from cancer and needed a shoulder to cry on. It was literally one thing after another all day long, and I was struggling with getting distracted with all of these pressing needs. Now, I have Lila here taking care of my own kids and the house, and I had purposely asked her to come so that I could 100% focus on Kevin and whatever his needs would be. But I found myself “putting out fires” with stuff on my street, while racing back and forth upstairs to check on Kevin, bring him water, a puke bucket, etc. The day was neither peaceful nor quiet.
At the end of the day, I sat down to try to process what had happened. I knew that we needed good boundaries in a neighborhood with many needs. I knew that we were very early in our time here, and needed to not get burned out so as to be able to be present for the long run. I knew all these things, and yet on the very day that I needed to most prioritize my family, I had gotten sucked in. The hard part here is that these are all God’s children, with very real needs, and there will continue to be many that we encounter. This is a ministry that we feel called to.
But, and this is the big caveat, I believe that God has called me first and foremost to care for my husband and my children. Whatever is left over can be committed our other callings. I think this is an area where many can get burned out and frustrated. They know that God has called them to big ministries in their lives, but wonder why they are feeling so burned out and tired, or their marriages or their kids’ lives are a mess. As I thought through all of this, I determined that I would not let it happen to us, but was not quite sure how to backpedal out of the environment I’d created and expectations I’d set. In these past few months, I’ve purposely reached out to neighbors, walking over and chatting with them, helping out with little things, being friendly and welcoming. And now I wasn’t sure what to do, because it felt like everyone on my street seemed to think of our house as the place to go to. These were good things, very good things, but not if it meant I couldn’t serve in my primary ministry – to my family.
I asked a friend for advice. She and her husband run a formal ministry in the neighborhood that reaches out to and mentors at-risk kids. She confirmed the very things I’d been feeling and shared stories of people she knew who had thriving ministries, but their marriages were a mess, or their own kids were neglected. She encouraged me to close the blinds, keep the front door shut, put a sign out saying the Hill house was “closed” due to illness, and focus on what was happening inside my house, not outside of it. And so yesterday I did, wondering if my neighbors would think me unfriendly or uncaring. But you know what? They all understood, and were glad to know how best to support us (in this case, staying away for now). Even the kids were understanding in the best way they could. When I was coming home from a quick errand yesterday, they said, “I saw your sign Miss Rachel. I hope Mr. Kevin feels better soon.” And then they ran off to play. It was such a relief, such a peace, to know that there was understanding, and that the beautiful messiness of ministry in the ‘hood was something we just might be able to navigate. This was only one small step I’ve taken, but I believe for myself, the most important thing is to make sure we are moving in the right direction.
So here we are. I’m sitting in an uncomfortable visitor’s chair next to Kevin waiting to get started on day three. We’ve been here since 7:30, and he’s just now started his IV drip. Hopefully we’ll be home by lunchtime, and the routine will continue. This is all so hard, harder than I think we could ever imagine, but also a strange blessing. I never thought I’d say cancer was a blessing, but it is. God is carrying us through and we feel Him holding us oh so close. I am spending special time with my husband, with both of us seeing sides of the other we never thought we would. We hold our children a little closer, knowing how precious life is. And we are daily reminded that today is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad for this day.