Today is my last day on drugs. Tomorrow is my first day off of acute leukemia medication in 15 months.

No more monthly trips to see my dealer at the Vanderbilt Medical Center pharmacy. No more pills—pills priced at $4,500 per month for 240 tablets taken at a clip of eight per day. No more co-pays that slash the pill cost to $35 per month. No more self-administered toxins.

No more long walks to hematology, hoping for a technician with a good eye for a vein, hoping for an empty waiting room, hoping for a new form with different questions, hoping for good numbers.

No more failed efforts to persuade my oncologist to let me stop taking chemo earlier than planned.

No more good excuse for falling asleep in Sunday school and worship. No more excuse for bad hearing as a way to evade things I don’t want to do at home.

No more wondering if I would really ever get to this stage.

Now I will see if the treatment works—works as in successfully moving in good health toward the long-term next stage. Now I will see if what the doctor said happens about my body readjusting and my brain resetting.

I’ll see in the months ahead if my brain returns to full function without memory holes, without stalling out in discussions. I will find out if the creaky joints and “smoker’s throat” disappear. I will discover if my crankiness is a temporary chemo-related problem.

As I wait for the unfolding, I must confess that these months have been an unexpected banquet of goodness. I would never have voluntarily walked through the wasteland of ill health, never. Now on this side of the wilderness, I would not surrender a step of that journey.

I’ve had an opportunity to experience the grace of a community of good will, many of whom are readers of Others are outside the Baptist tribe. That experience is most rewarding. I’m most grateful for the kindness that has come my way from you and others.

I’m grateful for BCE’s transformation. Despite the short-handedness of staff, BCE has experienced one of its most productive periods, moving perhaps from success to significance. We have launched new educational/advocacy resources. We have even better ones in the pipeline. We have expanded our network within and outside the religious community in substantive ways. We’ve witnessed a huge surge in readership of

I’m grateful for what I know about the wasteland: the desert gives clarity.

From a galaxy far away, I have a glimmer of what some of the biblical figures encountered on the backside of nowhere. They heard things in the so-called barren places. They saw things, little things, great things—things too-often missed.

The desert gave them clarity about their context and crossing. That clarity thickened their skin. That clarity gave them a sure compass. That clarity taught them to make the most of whatever time was allotted.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thankful to be out of the desert, albeit with clarity. And I do wonder if I will lose the gift of clarity with time and distance.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

Share This