Monday, May 07, 2007

Preparing to Die...

Yea, yea, I know…this is a rather harsh title. But you have to understand where I’m at and where I’m coming from as to why I used this title. Read on.

I made my whirlwind trip to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City last week. I flew up on Wednesday, had my appointment on Thursday, and flew back home on Friday. This much travel in three short days was pure hell on the body, but the trip was well worth the effort. It was something I needed to do, to get the curiosity out of my system. The purpose of the trip was to get another “set of ears” to review my treatment history and offer up any possible alternatives to add some time to my life. Long story short, the gentleman I met with didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know. Don’t get me wrong, he was a compassionate, knowledgeable person who spent a total of two hours dialoging with me. This is obviously a man people are sent to when they call Sloan Kettering looking for help because all else has failed. Throughout our meeting, there was one thing he kept saying that really stuck with me. “We can try this treatment therapy, it may add another two months to your life if it works”…aha, there is the magic phrase; if it works. No one knows for certain if anything will work, and no one can put their thumb on the exact amount of time I have left in my life. No one except God.

On the flight back home, I spent a lot of time reviewing in my mind the appointment at Sloan Kettering. What the doctor said, should I continue treatment or stop it altogether and enjoy a better quality of life, and so on and so on. Then it really began to hit me – you have to begin to prepare for the end. I have thought about this for a long time now, but I never really took action. Now, I must take action. The reality of my situation is I probably have months to live. I don’t see me making it to 2008 to be honest with you. The cancer continues to invade my lungs, making a walk up a flight of stairs seem like a one mile run. I began to think deeper, and the idea hit me that I need to put together a fat, three-ring binder for Kimberly that explains everything that has been my responsibility. Life insurance info, credit card info, bills, even passwords and user names to the web sites we frequently use. All of this stuff is stuck in my brain. I need to do a brain dump and organize it in such a fashion that she will not be struggling to make sense of everything once I’m gone. This makes sense, and it will make her life easier given the difficulty of the situation. A pretty cool idea if you think about it. I get to plan for my death instead of someone who is tragically killed in a car accident for example. They are here one second, gone the next.

Then I picked up a magazine and began to scan the pages, doing something to pass the time on the flight. It was one of these Skymall magazines, advertising all kinds of stuff you can buy. I came across a silver bracelet, with a very simple inscription – Loved. That’s when it hit me. The emotional enormity of my journey hit me like a ton of bricks. I began to cry, uncontrollably. Sitting in the back row of the airplane, I quickly put my sunglasses on and used one of my hands to shield my quivering face. The constant drone of the jet engines helped to stifle the sobs coming from my mouth. I simply could not stop crying. Luckily no one was sitting in the seat beside me. I cried for what seemed like an eternity, until the pilot came on the speaker and announced our final approach into Greensboro. Finally, I was able to gain my composure. I must admit though, it felt good to cry.

As I have said so many times before, I am not afraid of dying. But, I don’t want to leave anytime soon. I keep thinking about my family, my wife and two beautiful daughters. I think about the pain they will suffer up to and after my death. The emotional scars will last a lifetime. It pains me so. But then I begin to think about heaven. I begin to think about how God wants to work through me today to touch others, including my family. It very clearly states in the bible that our days are numbered before we are even born. And then another revelation hit me. My concerns about how my family will react is nothing short of selfishness. Stay with me here. Matthew 6:25-34 is one of my favorite verses in the bible. It is entitled “Do Not Worry”, and here I am worrying about my family and how they will react to my death. That, my friends, is a sin. It is a selfish emotion that is seeded deeply in our own persona, wrapped up in our own self absorbed guilt, and topped with a bow of anguish. It goes directly against what God tells us in Matthew 6. Do Not Worry. Think about it.

So today, Monday, I met with my oncologist here in Greensboro to discuss my trip to Sloan Kettering. After the small talk he asked the obvious question – what are we going to do next? I shrugged my shoulders, took a few seconds to think, and then blurted out “I don’t know!” It seems like I’m damned it I do, damned it I don’t. If I continue treatment, the chemo will beat the hell out of me physically and emotionally. But it may add a few months to my life. If I drop chemo altogether, I will have a better quality of life, but…but…but. Paralysis through analysis. It happens to all of us from time to time, some more than others. I tend to be pretty decisive most of the time. If I see something and it makes sense, then I do it. But now I am faced with decisions that literally impact how long I may be alive. Aha, another magic phrase. How long you may be alive. There are no guarantees my friend. We can analyze things until the cows come home. There are some things that you simply must accept. At church last Sunday, it was announced that our Senior Pastor is stepping down. Burnt out. Been there for 10 years, served the church well, a tremendous growth in membership and programs, you name it. Very successful. However, the mood was quite somber, almost like a funeral. “We will get through these difficult times…” was something many leaders in the church said during the service on Sunday. As I sat there and listened to the dialogue, something caught my eye. Years ago, during a Sunday sermon, I wrote the following in the blank space at the end of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28. My notes say “God’s sovereign will is frequently the opposite of human nature and what we often expect and want.” BINGO! The congregation wants the pastor to stay. Please don’t leave us!! We love you! The pastor has been burning the candle at both ends, literally giving a portion of his life and sacrificing his family and his marriage to serve the church. As for me, I want to live. I want to watch my kids grow up, get married, and have grandchildren. I will be a GREAT grandfather! I want to be a husband to my wife and enjoy the rest of our life together. ME…ME…ME!!! Stop. Read it again - God’s sovereign will is frequently the opposite of human nature and what we often expect and want. Bingo. It’s God’s will, not ours. It’s God’s plan, not ours. It’s God timing, not ours. We are a selfish society driven by self-centeredness and the need to have it now. How sad is that? We have lost focus of what is important in this world. How sad. After the sermon on Sunday, the pastor and his wife went to the gym to accept well wishes from the congregation. He was so worried about the congregation feeling abandoned, like an athlete retiring at the peak of his or her game. People were in tears. He was in tears. Why I thought? This man has nothing to be ashamed of. I looked at Pastor Bill, gave him a big hug, and said “I have a different word for you. How EXCITING!” Sometimes we have to embrace the good and ignore the typical human emotion. Bill feels God is calling him to begin another chapter in his life, to better serve the Lord. I feel God calling me home, saying “Job well done, good and faithful servant…” Get off this “poor me” train and jump on a more positive means of transportation. This is something I am reminding myself of, right this very minute. Believe me, I know it’s tough my friend.

In closing, I am going to share a verse with you, once again from the sermon last Sunday. It is from 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. It reads “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Second Thessalonians was written by the apostle Paul, the second letter to the church in Thessalonica. It was written to clarify points misunderstood in his first letter (First Thessalonians). While he assured the Thessalonians that Christ would eventually return and set the world aright, he emphasized focusing on the present. As you read this scripture, be hopeful about what God has in store for your future, but concentrate on living and working with what he has given you for today.

Till next time, Brian….

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love You Brian...I am so happy I know you and your family. Please keep sending Till Next Time Messages...I look forward to them every day.

Chris Morris

6:09 PM, May 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2Cor.4:16-18.

Thank you Brian for sharing your heart with all of us. You're amazing and your light is shining so bright for Jesus in the midst of your trial. We're praying for you, Kimberly, and your beautiful girls every day!

Karen & Scott
Erica, Chelsea & Morgan

7:20 PM, May 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I knew what to say Brian. I am truly dumbfounded and sad. I have always admired your strength, your faith and hope, and your wonderful sense of humor. You and your family have always been so warm and kind to me. Thank you for the words of wisdom and for sharing everything. You are an awesome role model for us all. I hope to see you again soon. In the words of Bob Marley...
"Everything's gonna be alright."

Love
Maggie and little Anthony Valentino

10:57 PM, May 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear brother in Christ:

I can barely see through my tears and I do not feel I can adequately say what my heart is feeling .

I know you want to live! All your friends, family and complete strangers are praying to Almighty God that there will be a miracle...we must hang on to hope. I also pray that the cancer will stop spreading in your lungs so that physical activity will not be a burden (in your famous words, "cancer sucks"). All that said, I believe as well, that God's will is not our will...God had big plans for Brian Stoll.

On the airplane flying home, seeing that little word, "loved" ---such a small word that says how endless amounts of people feel about you...

Brian, you are a blessing to so many for sharing your life. I love your wit, your gusto for life even when you ain't feelin' so great, but especially your trust in God---your FAITH is real.

Much love,

Diane Jones

5:27 AM, May 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction! my typing skills are lacking...the end of my 2nd paragraph SHOULD have read

"All that said, I believe as well, that God's will is not our will...God HAS big plans for Brian Stoll."

Diane Jones

5:38 AM, May 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, reading your post made me sad but also in such awe & respect of your perspective on your life and your future, it is inspiring and a reminder to not sweat the small stuff and just appreciate each day for what it is. You and your family will continue to be in our prayers. With love, kevin & lisa williams

10:08 AM, May 08, 2007  
Blogger Kaye said...

Brian, Brother in Christ

I have never read your blog and I have seen you on our prayer list and prayed for you in general.

You certainly do not need me to tell you how amazing you are...God speaks through you and shines in your words and your pictures.

I am about the same age as you are, and I am a Christian as you are...saved by Grace amen! But unlike you are I have been sitting in a pool of self loathing and self pity trying to "figure" out what to do with my life and wondering what I am supposed to be doing.

After reading some of your blog it struck me that we all should be preparing to die...not in some morbid way but in a desire to meet Christ, and in making the most of every moment we have with people we encounter on earth.

I am sure as you move foward, life will challenge you, but how blessed your family is to have you and your daughters to model you.

I thank you for your words, your pressence and your courage. If we live to inspire one person how wonderful our life has been! You have inspired me.

GOD bless you and keep you. Again thank you. Kaye Fuson

11:32 AM, May 08, 2007  
Blogger Cherith said...

wow Brian, I'm not "wowing" about what you wrote, although I was moved to tears and had a hard time reading your latest entry "preparing to die"...I am so happy that our Lord Jesus Christ is giving you grace....grace to cry, grace to love your family, grace to see that you are humbly/honestly accepting His plan for your life and His plan for your family's life....He takes care of His children. Thank you Brian for serving our God....continue to do so...you're among others who are leading the way to knowing what it really means to live--here on earth and life to come.
Prayers for you and your family,
Cherith Pratt

2:29 PM, May 08, 2007  
Blogger Rochelle said...

Brian,
I keep replaying our last conversation in my head and I know how tired you must be. I understand going from doctor to doctor looking for the "right" answer...only to find that there is is no right answer.

Now is the time to enjoy and appreciate everything, not because you might not be here tomorrow, but because only some of us might be.

I'm not going to tell you to stay strong, you already are. What I will say is smile. I believe God has surprises in store for you...and you don't have to worry about believing it. I'll believe it for you.

Come say hello when you get a chance.

Rochelle

3:32 PM, May 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian at the sake of overstepping by boundries since I've only met you once or twice as our Global rep for Savannah, GA. I would like to suggest Christian Science. It has healed cancer. You can go to www.spirituality.com and read verified accounts of people being healed of cancer. There are Christian Science practitioners who you can call and they will pray for you. At the website go to Journal directories and search by state. You can call anybody. God is your life and he doesn't want you to die. My prayers are with you and your family.

1:16 PM, May 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian the last posting was mine and I didn't mean to forget my name, but this is the fist time I've ever responded to a blog and didn't realize I needed to include within the message.

Penny Heritage
McWaters, Inc.
Savannah, GA

1:21 PM, May 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All my love Brian. Sorry I haven't been in touch. You have been in my thoughts and prayers daily. Thanks for being the couragous mentor and friend you are.

Where is my spiff check? LOL

DT

10:32 PM, June 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, I don't know you, but I stumbled across your blog while I was researching sites on how to tell my kids I am also dying. My cancer has advanced quickly from my original diagnosis last year. I was told Friday, I have less than six months...or I can do some agressive, awful chemo that MIGHT work this time. I choose the former. God has given me a gift of time, whether it is months, weeks I don't care. I look forward to heaven. My physical body is tired, but my soul is thirsty for more. I hope you can find the tranquility in your heart to live, love and laugh while you can. Make as many memories as you can. I will meet you in heaven.

Barb
Arizona

12:27 PM, October 28, 2007  
Blogger NOT GIVING UP ON LIFE! said...

I wish you all the best. I have 4th stage pancreatic cancer complicated with diabetes. I have been fighting for my life since 5/19/08 8pm. I have had 8 operations, 8 months of chemo, recently started radiation and the pain is getting greater..I am on pain meds and now also a newly acquired pain patch. I want to inspire others not to give up. I was looking up "preparing to die" when I found your blog. I am a Scorpio too. Someone just told me about the OX, but I am not sure what that means in relation to health and healing.I am from NYS and was originally treated at Sloan Kettering too. They were wonderful. I made a Wish through Make a Wish for adults and they are sending my fmaily and myself to Disney next week for a few days so that I can be a kid again and be in a temporary"perfect" environment. Thanks to you, I just started my own blog: Not giving up on Life...now if only I can remember how to access and view it. Any words of advise? Thanks

2:56 AM, February 06, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian -

We've never met, and by skipping ahead to your last post, I know that you've moved on to your next Journey. I wanted to thank you all the same for your words.

In a little more than an hour I will have an MRI and truth be told I'm scared to death that I'll have a tumor.

I will try to remember that it is our Lord's will and not my own that is important.

WBJ

3:44 PM, August 12, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very touched by all these stories. One thing to do I think is leave behind some videos for your loved ones. Tell your story and take control of your legacy. There are a few sites that can help with this including ifgone.com or ifidie.com

God bless,

12:56 PM, February 21, 2014  

Post a Comment

<< Home