Tag Archives: joe and heidi

Being Crushed

This scan report is heartbreaking.

Heidi’s cancer has progressed everywhere: lungs, bones and most dangerously, in the liver. This afternoon they start Heidi on Taxotere. She is so brave.

Thanks for helping us get through this. This week’s going to be really tough, getting used to the bad news and also Heidi’s new side effects with Taxotere. — at SCCA.

Scenes from Our Cancer Battle

I wrote about Joe and Heidi’s cancer battle about a week ago and extended the conversation in a “morning meditation” called Unavoidable a few days later. Today, Joe posted the latest “scene” on Facebook. It was devastating.

I suppose I could do a Google search on inspirational Bible quotes, but that’s not really “me” and I doubt it would really help. Throwing religious platitudes and the same standard Bible verses at people who are in agony is a lot like throwing a pail of water onto the Sun in a vain attempt to quench nuclear fusion.

It was almost four years ago when my friend Dale Stucker said good-bye for the last time to his beloved wife Cyndy. She had fought cancer for so very long, but in the end, it consumed virtually every system in her body. But by God’s grace it never consumed her spirit.

No I’m not anticipating the worst but it’s hard not to think about it right now.

It’s like my thoughts are a little gerbil in a cage running around and around and around trying to get somewhere and getting nowhere. I keep thinking “pray, pray, pray” but people “pray, pray, pray” all the time and other people still “die, die, die” all the time.

This is the part about God that’s really hard for me to understand. I know, I know. For the glory of God, right? Swell. Say that when you have a wife like Cyndy or Heidi who has been fighting a years-long, exhaustive battle and you absolutely, positively can’t do anything about it. Say that if you’re watching it all happen from the outside and you desperately want to help and you absolutely, positively can’t do anything about it.

So what can I do about it. Absolutely, positively nothing.

So what am I doing? I’m writing because that’s what I do when I’m helpless and ineffectual. For me, writing is like praying. Maybe when I’m writing, I’m closer to God than when I’m not. I don’t know how it works.

There’s only one other place to go and it’s been a place I don’t like to go. It’s not that I don’t like going to God, but this is a place where He’s big and scary and He might not give me the answers I want. So I suck up my courage and I walk down that long spiral staircase into the bottom of a big, dark hole in the ground where I can be alone, just me and Him.

Part of me wants to scream at God, “Just what the heck do you think you’re doing? Haven’t you been paying attention? She needs you! She’s dying! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”

OK, so maybe I’m going to hell for that one, I don’t know.

Another part of me wants to curl up into a fetal position and make myself as small as I can make all six-foot, three inches of me, and softly sob into the dirt underneath me, “Please, please, please, if you’ve got an ounce of compassion and caring for this woman, please, please don’t do this to her.”

Maybe I’m going to hell for that one, too.

If there’s one thing I learned from the book of Job, it’s that He who makes the Universe, makes the rules. You don’t talk back to God. But then, I never understood the book of Job, either. In the end, God gives Job back everything he lost, including new kids. Except it never explains that kids aren’t these interchangeable little spark plugs where one will do just as well as another. If one child, one unique and precious son or daughter dies, having another one does not replace the first and it doesn’t make the hurt go away.

So I don’t understand you, God.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. –Psalm 121:1-2

I’m not offering that to Joe and Heidi as some sort of comfort, I’m offering it as a plea to God. I know You don’t have to care, and even if You care, You don’t have to answer our prayers. And even if You answer our prayers, the answer doesn’t have to be what we want it to be.

There is an immeasurable, unending, limitless, infinite, gargantuan supply of human pain and suffering out there in the world and in here in all of our hearts. Just turn on the evening news and you’ll be flooded with it. And yes, I want it all to stop. And yes, I realize it won’t stop until the Messiah returns. And yes, I understand that bad things happen to good people and we just have to deal with it.

But You can’t stop me from lifting my eyes to the hills and looking for Your help.

The most poignant line uttered by Job through his long agony was, Though he slay me, I will hope in him…” (Job 13:15) In the end, when all of our enthusiasm and optimism and strength and even when our prayers are exhausted and we can’t send another syllable into the ear of God, we only have our hope in God’s presence.

In tomorrow’s morning meditation, I’m going to say something about God finally lifting His thumb off my skull and relieving the pressure, but although that is true in terms of one circumstance, the weight of God’s presence in a world where Heidi has cancer is pressing me to the floor, as the Shekinah did to Moses when it entered the newly constructed Tabernacle.

And like Moses and like the Priests in Solomon’s Temple, I am at once grateful for the presence of God and completely helpless before Him, unable to rise or even move.

And like the Children of Israel, gathered pensively with trembling at the foot of Mount Sinai, I wait for God to speak.

Please God, let it be good news. Joe and Heidi are buried under the weight of their sorrow.

Let the weight of Your glory cover us
Let the life of Your river flow
Let the truth of Your kingdom reign in us
Let the weight of Your glory
Let the weight of Your glory fall

-Paul Wilbur
Let the Weight of Your Glory Fall (YouTube)



Flight of the Sparrow

Devastating News Today, darn it!

Heidi’s tumor markers not only went up but doubled. So this new chemotherapy failed completely, like the one they tried in December/January. We will hear what option(s) are left sometime tomorrow.

My own outpatient surgery is tomorrow morning at 8am, another unwelcome surprise.

We’re really grateful to all of you for your kindness and support.

My beloved wife has metastatic breast cancer (spread to lungs, bone, liver). I am a prostate cancer survivor and my bladder cancer is in remission. We are both treated at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. But we love God, we love life’s adventures, we love our family & friends. And will do so until God takes us Home. We are followers of Christ.

-Joe Hendricks
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2012

I’ve never met Joe and Heidi Hendricks face to face. I suppose I could, since we live only about a day’s drive away from each other. However, through the “magic” of Facebook, I have shared the last few years of their cancer battle together. The photo I’ve posted is number 56 in their scenes from our cancer battle.

The most startling thing for me about photo 56 is that Joe and Heidi aren’t smiling. No, I don’t expect them to smile after such terrible news, but if you go through their “photo album,” even in the most dire of circumstances, they’re always smiling and joking and pressing on through adversity. Humor is almost the last tool to fail when all other tools have long since burned out in the course of such a tremendous physical and emotional drain. I must admit, mine would have been shot through like swiss cheese in a hail storm long before this. But Joe particularly always makes me laugh.

But not today.

Besides their sense of humor, the thing I admire most about Joe and Heidi is their faith. A lot of Christians say they have faith and trust in God…that is, until something really bad happens. Then it all goes flying out the window and it’s “Why did you let this happen to me, God?” and “How could you be so cruel to me, God?” I’m sure I’d be among that group if I had to face the scenes from Joe and Heidi’s cancer battle first hand.

But no matter how grim it’s been for them, they’ve always grasped tightly onto the hand of God and never let go, just as love has bonded Joe and Heidi together and the never let go of each other.

I’m angry. No, not at God…well, not exactly. I don’t who or what I’m angry at. I think it’s that I feel really helpless and frustrated. Sounds strange, eh? There is horrible tragedy happening all over the world. Every day, someone suffers. Every day, someone dies. Every day, some act of injustice is committed, the helpless are victimized and have no defender, the innocent are made to pay for the crimes of the oppressor. It’s a broken world.

But in the face of all that, I’m angry at the news of Joe and Heidi’s cancer battle today. I know the world isn’t fair, but I’m still angry. It isn’t fair.

It’s like my feelings have mass and can be affected by gravity. It’s like the muscles that hold up my feelings are tired and my sadness is a lead weight, pulling my shoulders down and anchoring me to my seat. I feel as if I’m slowly being pulled to the floor. It’s as if my only light is losing its brightness, and I’m just getting more heavy and silent and it’s getting dark all around me.

The light of laughter is going out in the world.

And where is God?

How many people of faith have asked that question across the long stretch of centuries? How many Christians and Muslims and Jews and whoever else have asked God where He went off to when horrible news, disease, injury, and death stalked us one by one? Is this what ancient man felt like, cowering in some cave in the night, listening to the predators crying out at the moon and declaring to the grey, reflected light that they would find you and consume you?

Is that what it feels like knowing that there is a cancer inside of you and it’s taking over and it won’t be chased away?

I’ve heard the words “God is in control” said countless times in countless church services, but what do the words really mean? God is in control, but people still get sick. God is in control but people still get hurt. We’re alone, and we’re scared, and we need to be able to hang on when our strength, and our stamina, and finally our laughter is dried up like the last drop of water feeding the last wilted flower in the brilliant summer sun baking the vast and endless desert.

I realize that there are forces in the world and forces in our body that we can fight but we can’t always control. At some point, no matter how much you put into the struggle, you (I can only imagine, since I haven’t had to face this) have to let your shoulders relax, let the weight pull you down, look up, put your tiny hand in God’s immense grasp and say, “No matter what happens, please don’t go away.”

I hate crying.

God, don’t go away. Stay with Joe and Heidi, no matter what happens. We all want a miracle, but the greatest miracle is that You even care. If not even one tiny sparrow falls to the earth apart from the will of the Father, then You are mindful of Joe and Heidi, for they are worth much, much more than sparrows.

Stay with them God and, if it is Your will, don’t let them fall. Let them fly.