moment #1: tumor

*This post is part 1 of 7 in counting down the top 7 memorable moments of 2011 in no particular order…  Read here if you haven’t: here

@Chapel.  Sunday, 02/13/11
My tumor continues to grow (it has almost doubled in size) and my back hurts so much even when I’m doing nothing.  I haven’t lifted since new years.  It’s not even about whether I can go to the gym anymore.  Yesterday it was even painful for me to lay down on my own bed.

The surgery will be on the 23rd.  It’s so weird how my back has been hurting more and more as the surgery day approaches; it’s almost as if the tumor knows its imminent demise.

I’m actually starting to worry a bit.  I’m hoping the “thing” on my back is really nothing more than a lipoma and it won’t grow back.
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@bedroom.  Thursday, 02/24/11
Yesterday was my surgery.  My first surgery ever.  I actually don’t remember anything from the surgery itself.   I just remember the cool, chilling sensation of the IV fluids running up my arms and into my heart, some of the pre-surgery “festivities,” and picking up my drugs from CVS after the tumor-excavation.

Eunice was there throughout the surgery to take care of me and I’m glad she was.  Such a good friend.  She even took some videos so that we can all look back on and laugh at my drugged up self.

There is a huge scar on my right shoulder, and underneath is it about a two-thirds of a fist’s size vacancy that is in the process of being healed.  I’m wearing a sling, taking vicodin multiple times a day.  I look pathetic.
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@bedroom.  Saturday, 02/26/11
The nights have been cold, long and painful.  I wake up every 3 hours because the pain killers wear off and can’t get comfortable.  I had my first spiritual attack in years.  

Today I stayed home while all of my friends went to JMU and won the volleyball tournament without me.  I felt so lonely, to say the least.  I hoped that someone would maybe walk into my room with some cards, or even just to talk.  

People like to hate on attention seekers, but I just want to be understood.  I’m finding a deeper longing that’s driving me out of my pursuit of self-image, into a deeper hunger for simply being understood and being seen for who I am.  

… and all this desire just shows my increasing need for Jesus
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@bedroom.  Wednesday, 3/2/11
I am being broken down… God has been stripping me of any identity that I built for myself that doesn’t have to do with the name of Jesus.  Any worth/value/pride I placed in my own abilities, gone out the window.  This season has been a huge down hill since winter break.  God has been certainly stripping me of the things I dearly crave.  It hurts.  But it’s gonna be worth it.

“Joe, are you willing to make sacrifices!?!?  No, I’m not talking about the sacrifices that make yourself famous, but are you willing to make the small, painful sacrifices? You can’t love anything more than God… “

Through my pain I kind of found a joy in observing and serving.  The lesson is simple: I don’t always have to have the ball in my hands.

I spent these past couple of nights watching my friends play volleyball, and making them videos.  It’s been really fun.  Everyone’s playing at their best, and this past game was one of the most intense games I’ve spectated been a part of.  It brought me so much joy to see the happiness in them after the game.
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@present-day home.  Monday, 01/30/12

Almost a year has passed since the surgery, and I’m more or less fully healed.  Not only am I healed of the tumor that I carried for 7+ years, God has placed in me a lesson and a testimony that I can preach to myself for years to come.

I see my scar everyday.  Multiple times.  It’s gotten larger over the months, and as I see my badass-scar that makes me look gangster at my local gym locker room, I’m reminded.

He came in relentless love and left a permanent mark… and I will never be the same.

I’m officially pain free from my post-surgery wounds, but God is still bringing a slow, painful transformation to my heart.

It hurts.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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