Session 1a: Soul Care for the Land in Between by Jason DeVries

So the question is talking about the land between, and how we do soul care. So my land between has been health related.

Seven years ago, I found a bump on the back of my calf. And as I talked to health professionals, they’re like, “Oh, it’s over the muscle. It moves around. There’s nothing to worry about.” Except in my story, I am the oldest of three children, and me, my brother, and then we had a sister who had cancer throughout her entire life and passed away when she was 31 years old. So when they said, “Oh, you don’t need to worry about it,” I want to make sure. And even when I was in the biopsy room at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago, they’re like, “Why are you even here?” And I said, “I want to know for sure what it is.”

And so they took the biopsy, and the next Wednesday night I was leaving church and it was raining, and I was at the corner of 45th and [Callumet], and my doctor called and he said, “It’s not what we thought it was.” He said, “It’s a leiomyosarcoma, which is a very aggressive and rare form of cancer. It shows up in the soft tissue of your body.” And so completely reeling, had to keep the car on the road and drive home and tell my wife, our kids. We decided not to tell them then, but I also had to call my parents and tell them that the second of their children now has cancer.

Thankfully, we live right outside of Chicago and have world-class physicians and medical care. Was able to get the tumor removed, stayed in the hospital for five days because it required a skin graft, and continued on my journey. There was no other treatment. Three years later, I found another one in my abdomen. A year and a half later, CAT scan showed that there were tumors in my lungs and on my liver. And so started to go through processes of things that are called ablations, where they put you into a CAT scan machine to make sure the needle’s in just the right place, and then they fire that baby up. They heat your tumor up to over 200 degrees so that it boils itself, and kills it. Completely outpatient procedure, you leave and go home.

Targeted radiation, where they go in through your groin, they map your arteries, and they release radiation in pellets one-third the width of a human hair. And so have been going through, and then I find a bump on my head and I’m like, “Hey, is this leiomyosarcoma?” They’re like, “Oh no, it’s not. But if you ever want it removed, let us know.” So six months had to see the dermatologist for something else, so I said, “Hey, can you remove that?” So he did. I went back so he could check the closure, and he comes in and he goes, “I am so sorry. That was a leiomyosarcoma.” So more treatments.

And then this year, I’m thankful to live in a place where I have a sarcoma specialist. The city of Chicago, there are probably five in the entire city, one at every one of the major hospitals. But I have a sarcoma specialist, and he said, “With what the tumors that are on your liver that are starting to grow, you need to start chemotherapy.” The chemotherapy treatment regimen that they put me on is nicknamed the red devil. It immediately changes your bodily fluids red after the infusion. You can’t stay for it to drip in. A nurse would sit across from me and inject four large vials of the chemo into my port.

Praise God, I went through that with fatigue and constipation, and that was about it. I didn’t get sick once. This is what six weeks of hair growth looks like, as I finished the last treatment in May, and they were very pleased with the results. But I was scanned on Friday and I’m waiting for the results tomorrow. So with the last time waiting to hear the results, I came home to my wife and I said, “You’d think this gets easier.” And I said, “People have life changing conversations and they get phone calls, but they usually don’t know they’re coming. When you know they’re coming, the anxiety goes up.”

And it is not a fun journey. And so tomorrow at 8:20, I will connect with my oncologist to find out what the results were, unless they release them on MyChart. Any of you use MyChart? Which is very nice, unless they release your cancer results to you and you have to figure them out on your own. So that’s the journey that I’ve been on, that my wife and our three kids are on. Our youngest is 17, she’s been going through this since she was 10. Then we have a 20 year old son and a 22 year old daughter. It’s a journey that my parents are on. My grandma told me the other day, “Your parents are planning on going up to the lake.” She said, “I asked them when you’re going. They said we’re not leaving until after Tuesday and the results come in.”

So how do, how have I done soul care? It’s hard. It is so hard. It’s a continual battle between what I know and what I don’t know, and my mind can tend to go to what I don’t know and to the worst possible outcomes. And I need to remind myself of what I know, that my only hospital stay was for the first one, for the one on my leg. Everything else has been able to be treated outpatient. That I went through chemo extremely well, and bigger things. That God is still with us. That God is still for us. That my victory is already won. That my wife and our kids all love Jesus. They all serve Jesus Christ. So no matter what happens, we will be all together for eternity.

I’ve had to learn to rely on other people, to be able to admit what I cannot do to take care of myself. And as a firstborn son with a responsibility strength and gene, that is really hard to do, to let other people mow your lawn. To let other people provide you food. To say that I don’t have enough energy to stay at the office. But I need to care for myself, because I’m also in a position to care for others. And not just my family, but also those within the church. And I realize too the power of community, the power of the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ to come around you.

There are some people who keep their health concerns and issues so private. My wife and I have marveled that one of our biggest issues, because our flow is meet with the doctor, get the results, go downstairs to the area where all the restaurants are, and text people exactly what we just found out. First our kids, then our parents, our brothers, our sisters. And when I release the news, whether it’s a celebration or it’s burdensome, other people are there. They’re encouraging us, or they are also carrying our burden which lightens my own. And then every time when my phone is making the noise that it makes when a new text comes in because they’re texting back or sharing on Facebook and looking at all of these people who so deeply care for us, it’s a reminder of a father who cares for us. Who loves us and is right there for us. And so for me, I’ve had to learn to be that and to live into that more. So those are just some of the ways that I do soul care in the midst of this land between.

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