The one thing that bothers Warner physically more than anything else is the loss of feeling in his hands and feet. He has neuropathy. I don’t think that I had even heard that word before 2012 when it became a side effect from Warner’s chemo. It was the reason he couldn’t finish all of his treatments. Since then, neuropathy has been an ever present ball and chain dragging Warner down. He hates it. It is what he prays most fervently for God to heal.
The official diagnosis is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). This is an often irreversible condition that afflicts between 30 and 40 percent of patients undergoing chemotherapy. The numbness is usually resistant to treatment. Its cause is unknown.
I can’t even imagine Warner’s frustration. How devastating it must be for this strong, proud and self-assured man to have to look down as he walks, to hold on to the railings, or to me. For the most part, he has learned how to compensate so that other people can’t tell that anything is wrong. But each time he has to ask for help to tie his shoes or do some other menial task requiring hand or foot dexterity he is reminded that his body is less than it was. He feels old and feeble.
My dear friend Heather told me about doTerra’s Aromatouch essential oil blend used for neuropathy. In her diligent research to help us, she also found several massage protocols to use in applying it.
I began to massage his legs from the calf to his feet according to the protocol. Now it is part of our daily routine. As I massage, sometimes Warner tells stories from his childhood, family and career. I turn the recorder on so that I can save these cherished stories to better remember them. That man has more incredible stories than anyone I’ve ever known!
Other times he just listens to old gospel hymns. Sometimes he does Sudoku or watches TV. I massage. And I pray. I listen to his stories, laughing, learning, understanding him more. And I pray. I sing along with the hymns. And I pray. I feel every bump, every muscle, every nuance of each leg. And I pray. Sometimes I cry quietly. And I pray.
The other day as I was massaging his foot, he tensed his leg and jerked his foot up. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “It tickles.” It tickles? It tickles! We both just looked at each other and then laughed. I tickled his foot. He has feeling in his feet! After all this time of suffering from neuropathy, we have massaged our way to a miracle. It IS a miracle, a joyous, wonderful miracle.
His feeling isn’t completely back. It is still less than half of what it was before “chemo 2012.” But his walk has changed. He can lift his head and look up when he walks. He doesn’t have to focus on the ground below, deliberately plodding one foot in front of the other. He can see the road ahead. He can look around while he walks. There is a confidence in his gait that I thought was gone for good. But it was just dormant, waiting for me to massage it awake. It’s been a long time coming…..
Although we may not have visible neuropathy in our hands or feet, many of us do have neuropathy of the heart or the soul or the mind. We walk around numb and unfeeling. Our heads are down. Our hearts are turned off. Our minds are consumed with trivialities. We are the living dead. Like Warner, we may hide it so that others can’t tell that anything is wrong. But we know. We know.
The only lasting way to come awake is through the presence of the living God in our lives. It’s so much more than asking Jesus “into our hearts.” It’s allowing him to be our leader, our life force. We don’t know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power because we do not invite him to work in us. Or we invite him and then put him in a corner, ignored. He won’t force himself. Yet He longs for us to come awake in Him so that we may experience the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
This makes me think of David and his lament in Psalm 17. He begins the psalm asking for God’s vindication for the wrongdoings against him that have caused him such suffering. Yet he ends on the other side of bitterness and resentment. David concludes with confidence and anticipation of eternity with God, awake and satisfied.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. Psalm 17:15
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. Psalm 57:7-9
I am smiling right now as Matt Maher’s lyrics just popped into my brain: “Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave! Oh Church, come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night! Christ is risen from the dead, we are one with him again. Come awake, come awake….”