Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
~ Benjamin Franklin
This past Wednesday, I met with my oncologist and we discussed several metrics used to measure progress during my cancer treatment. Some of the smallest changes may indicate the greatest growth — a stronger voice, a decline in my persistent cough, a slight decrease in WBC and RBC indicating more strength than expected in my immune system, a slight swelling in my mouth that indicates possible mouth sores, and a maintenance of weight, blood pressure, oxygen level. We pay attention to every little detail. All are indicators of change or progress (some are positive and others require immediate action). And with improvement, additional plans can be made. My next chemotherapy treatment is on Friday, August 26. And then the good news — my second PET scan is scheduled on Wednesday, September 7! Another important measurement of progress. We will be able compare my original scan with images after three rounds of chemotherapy. I believe we will then be able to define success. And, we will realize that some measurements of progress will take additional time to emerge.
I left my appointment with a hopeful heart. It felt good to be forward thinking. To identify clear points of evidence that will be analyzed to determine my progress. I also realized that some of my progress will not be measured for several months. My treatment will include at least four more rounds of chemotherapy and one full year of maintenance chemotherapy treatment. There will be small quick checkpoints along the way before a final analysis is completed.
A good friend shared an important perspective on progress over time through the Bamboo story.
“The Bamboo is amazing. You water it and wait. You wait an entire year and nothing appears. No bud, no twig, nothing. So you keep watering and protecting the area and taking care of the future plant. You wait another year. Still, nothing happens. Another year passes, and still no sign of growth. It has been three years. Should you give up? Someone told you that it might take a while to really see the fruits of your efforts, so you keep on keeping on. Finally, after three years, the Bamboo starts growing — and in six weeks, it grows to over 80 feet tall!”
The point is simple. There may be times in our lives when progress does not seem to come. Although we may find some evidence of change, deep success is developing that will support tremendous growth opportunities in the future. In the Bamboo story, if the gardener had given up, even for the shortest period of time, there would be no Bamboo. It took almost impossible persistence. During my cancer treatment, every point of evidence will be recognized, celebrated, and captured to help maintain the right focus during times when progress comes over longer periods of time.
Progress in my life is similar to my cancer journey and the Bamboo story. Growth comes line upon line. Understanding spiritual purpose is a spiral experience that slowly builds my soul and draws me closer to a more excellent way. Relationships are strengthened as I persistently tend to the important things that provide nourishment. At times, there are many indicators that help us measure progress. This strengthens faith and hope. Other points of evidence require more time — even years — and then the fruits of our labor are realized.
Through the journey, I know that hope is forward looking. This was reaffirmed during my doctor’s appointment. Hope has a personal component to it that brings peace, reassurance, and patience when it takes time to measure progress. It is important that we are willing to recognize the Lord’s hand in our life and honestly measure progress in the areas that matter most.