Consequences…you can’t escape them

Consequence [kon-si-kwens, noun]: the effect, result or outcome of something occurring earlier.

In the summer of 1978, before my final semester in college, I participated in a Christian summer camp in Northern Michigan sponsored by the Navigators.  It was called Camp Barakel and I learned many things that summer…but here is the lesson that had the biggest impact on me.

About 40 college age kids from various parts of the Midwest participated in the camp and it was led by a man named Don Herr.  Midway through the 8-week camp, we gathered for our evening fellowship but we knew something was wrong.

Earlier in the day, “Lisa” (I don’t recall her real name) had packed her bags and left the camp suddenly.  A couple of the young women got to say a tearful good-bye but no one knew what had happened.

That night Don Herr explained the situation,  “As you know by now, Lisa has left Camp Barakel and I want to tell you why.  This morning, Lisa asked to meet with Jenny (Don’s wife) and me.  Lisa had just learned that she is pregnant with her boyfriend’s child.  She has gone back home and will get married to her boyfriend and they will start a family.”

We all sat in stunned silence but then Don used the situation to teach us a valuable lesson.

“After learning the news, we prayed with Lisa this morning and she asked for God’s forgiveness.   I have no doubt that God has done just that.  Lisa also wanted to ask all of you for forgiveness as well.  I have forgiven her and you should all as well ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’  But here’s another truth, while God has forgiven Lisa of her sin, He will not take away the consequences of that sin.  I’m confident Lisa will be a good wife and mother, but she is embarrassed and knows that she has let down her parents and family.

God forgives our sin but doesn’t take away the consequences became the primary philosophy I used with Zach when he was growing up.  Zach knew that there was nothing he could do that would cause Maria and me to stop loving him, but he also knew that when he did things wrong, there would be consequences.

Thankfully, Zach didn’t need a lot of discipline.  But when he did things wrong, we would sit down and calmly (usually…but not always) discuss the bad behavior and determine what the consequences should be.

Consequences are something none of us can ever escape.  Oh, we can get away with things, sometimes for many years, but they always have a way of catching up with us.

Smoking, drinking to excess, eating too much, not exercising enough (two of my vices) are all things that take a toll on our bodies and almost always lead to negative consequences.

Most of our “weaknesses” have negative consequences but on the other side of the coin our “strengths” lead to positive consequences.  We will never eliminate all of our weaknesses but by focusing and improving on our strengths, we can all lead happier and healthier lives.

Medical/Personal update

I’ve got some Good, Better and Best news!

Good: Maria, Zach and I enjoyed a wonderful week of vacation in Grand Caymen last week.  We soaked up a lot of sun and Zach and I became “certified scuba divers.”  We dove with Living the Dream Divers and the husband/wife owners, Liz and Gary, were great!

In e-mails prior to our trip, I was up front with them about my illness and being on chemotherapy.  I could tell there was a hesitancy on their part as they had never had anyone on chemo dive with them before.  I reassured them that I am feeling strong and was confident that everything would be okay.  I also encouraged them to read “The Last Train.”  Liz wrote back saying “I read your blog.  You have to dive!  The big c…my mom died from colon cancer when she was 55.  I never got to take her diving.  It will be our honor to meet you and show you the wonders of the sea.”

Gary personally was our teacher and took us on our four certification dives.  We dove three more times going as deep as 100 feet.  The beauty of the coral reefs were amazing as we experienced a world we had never seen before.  There was also an abundance of sea life as we got up close views of eels, manta rays, octopus, sea turtles, and more fish than you can imagine.  It was a great experience and something I know we’ll do again.

Cayman Beach BumsDiving Buddies

Better: Just before going to the Caymen’s, I played golf at Pine Valley in New Jersey, ranked by many as the number one course in the world.  Dr. Steve Whitenack was our gracious host, while former Nebraska volleyball coach Terry Pettit (who made the arrangements) and Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles rounded out our foursome.

Pine Valley was as good…maybe even better…than advertised.  The natural beauty and challenge of the course is incredible!  Sandhills in western Nebraska has been my all-time favorite course to play, but now it has some serious competition.  And for my golfing buddies, I shot 81…and lightened Coach Miles’ wallet a little bit!

Pine Valley Golf CrewHole in One
(Left: Jeff Schmahl, Dr. Steve Whitenack, Tim Miles & Terry Pettit)
(Right: Tough tee shot on the famous 6th hole at Pine Valley)

Best: I had my 9th chemotherapy treatment on Monday and got some more good news from my oncologist, Dr. Allyson Ocean.  During my first round of six chemo treatments, my blood tumor marker numbers dropped from 1,772 to 274 and a CAT scan showed a significant reduction in the size of the tumors in my liver and pancreas.

As a result, Dr. Ocean dropped the strongest drug from my chemo regimen because oxaliplatin has a high level of toxicity and can have permanent side effects.  Dr. Ocean wants to save the oxaliplatin for later use if I need it.  So I wondered what would happen with my tumor marker numbers.  They’re still going down!  First to 188 and now 89.  That’s a 95% decrease!  Anything below 40 is considered normal/cancer free.

Dr. Ocean doesn’t try to paint a rosy picture or give false hope but this week she used the term “remission” as a possibility, something that almost never happens with a stage four pancreatic patient.  She also talked about the possibility of going off chemotherapy in the near future if my numbers continue to drop and we get a positive scan report in six weeks.

All are positive consequences of modern medicine, a positive attitude, and especially lots of prayer from the more than 2,000 riders on The Last Train.  Thank you all so much!

Next stop: I’m going to share two positive consequence stories from my days of working for the Nebraska and Texas A&M Athletic Departments that led to some amazing athletic achievements.