Monday, March 31, 2008

Hangin' In There (Part II)

I'm finally feeling well enough to contribute once more to our little dialogue. Did you notice the chains around those elephant ankles that Linda posted? Well, as much as the swelling is disfiguring and disabling (I kind of feel like an elongated water balloon in which you cannot get control of any part of the balloon without the rest of it slipping into the grip of gravity), the worst part of all this experience has been the constraint on my freedom, the chains limiting my sense of control.

While in the hospital, I would drive the nurses crazy by constantly (and at all hours), leaving the confinement of my room and roam the halls, pacing back and forth the length of the eight-bed special oncology unit like a caged tiger. I resented any limitation on my sense of control -- the inability to control the room temperature, the constant interruption of sleep, the limitation of choices with regard to what and when I could eat, the inability to shower, the tethering to an IV pole, and worst, the shackling to a continuous heart and BP monitor during those times when I required pressors to sustain reasonable vital signs.

As I think about it, I have concluded that I am a wimp as a patient. Many of my own patients have suffered far worse when it comes to loss of control. My sister-in-law Genelle has bravely adjusted to the theft of her personal freedoms imposed by a rampant form of multiple sclerosis. My former nurse's husband gracefully suffered the ultimate torture of the progressive loss of all mobility (and the loss of his very life) as Lou Gehrig's disease robbed him of all neuromuscular control.

Have you ever wondered, "Why is this need for control such a powerful force within me?" Clearly it is a potent and universal element of the human spirit -- "Give me liberty or give me death!" I believe it is implanted within us as created beings, made in the image of God. It is a gift of the One who made us to take control of our universe, even as our Creator remains in ultimate control (Genesis 1:28).

I am learning through this experience what a precious and fragile gift it is. When my freedom is limited in any way, my natural tendency is to resist and to rebel. But I am also learning, reluctantly, that ultimate freedom is an internal quality that does not rely so much on the ability to control my external environment as it does on the ability to control my "internal environment" -- my thought life, my moral choices, my attitudes.

When the apostle Paul said in Galations 5:1 "It was for freedom that Christ set us free", I believe it is this kind of liberation he had in mind. The kind of freedom that transcends circumstances and is only realized as I give up control to the One who loves me and has my destiny in His hands.

Learning to relax in my Redeemer,

PS -- Those of you who read the fine print may have noticed that many of my blogs have been published in the wee hours of the morning. This is mainly because of complicating conditions that tend to slow the pace of recovery after each treatment: restless leg syndrome and insomnia. Interestingly, both relate to this powerful innate urge to control. The first arises from a need to control the movement of my legs, prompting me to get out of bed and exercise that control by overcoming the otherwise random restlessness of the lower leg muscles. The other is cured by the process of reliquishing all control of conscious thought -- it's called sleep, and when it comes, it is sweet! Ironically, snoring is the sound of freedom.


  1. Hi Dan & Linda, i just read your latest blog entry and i am so grateful that you could spend some more time sharing with us. i sent you a comment late last night on your last entry before this one. i just got back from the VA Hosp. over in Hampton, apparentely my calcium levels are off the charts as my Doc explained to me, possibly Hyperthyroidism. Anyhow i read your entry about the human spirit being so attached to freedom and how we are made in God's image. I was reading to my little girl (Allison, the 8 yrs old soon to be 9 on the 14th of Apr.) about us being in God's image she was a bit perplexed as i was what exactly that meant. As i was reading some footnotes in our study Bible i noticed a entry stating "Although God did not create us exactly like himself, that we are reflections of God's glory. Some feel that our reason, creativeity, speech, or self-determination is the image of God. More likely, it is our entire self that reflects the image of God. We will never be totaly like God because he is our Supreme Creator. But we do have the ability to reflect his character in our love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and faithfulness. Knowing that we are made in God's image and thus sharing many of his characteristics provides a solid basis for self worth. Human worth is not based on possessions, achievements, physical attractiveness, or public acclaim. Instead it is based on being made in God's image. i know it was a little thick for an 8 yrs. old but when she heard it i could see a light turn on, as well as it did for me. sorry, a little long winded, anyhow i'll close now a let you rest. please say hi to all the members of our care group for me and i'll be praying for you and yours. Reespectfully, john quain & family.

  2. Dear Dan and Linda, Steve and I just recently learned of your journey with cancer. I have read about your amazing journey and thank God that your faith is being strengthened. I am grateful that this trial is being used to touch the lives of many. Have you thought of publishing a book of your insights and lessons? It has been many years since you lived here in Muskegon but you are still in our hearts and prayers. I will continue to follow your updates. You are amazing servants of God. Love, Linda

  3. Dear Dr. Crabtree,

    I continue to be amazed by how God is working in you -- even though I know I shouldn't be. I know in my heart He can do anything, but I, too, have a control issue. I tend to want to have "things" fixed now. And then there's change. I've never been one for big change. Going into my new doctor's office the other day, I was sad. I couldn't see the doctor I really wanted to see (you) in the practice I had grown to love (yours). I was facing change, and I didn't feel I had the control to change to the doctor I wanted.

    But He always knows what we need. After a few tears, I explained to my new doctor that I had to switch because you had a battle to fight. He told me they were all praying for you, and then he told me not to worry because they would take good care of me.

    When I left my new doctor's office, I was upset at myself. How could I be so selfish to worry over my change. I have so much to be thankful for. I am healthy. I have a wonderful husband and three beautiful, healthy children. I have a good job that I love, a comfortable home, and food on my table. There are other people who have so much less.

    Then, my thoughts turned to you and your family. You are fighting a gigantic battle. You had to leave an office and career that you worked so hard to start. I thought about the 4 year-old friend of a co-worker recently diagnosed with cancer. I thought about the homeless men and women that recently came to my church for food, shelter, and companionship.

    I have learned a valuable lesson from each of these events. I wish you weren't feeling so much pain, but I believe that God is using you to teach all of us so much.

    I continue to pray for your complete recovery, and I know that through Him, anything is possible. We miss you!

    In constant hope,
    Jenny Richards

  4. Continuing to pray for strength, peace, healing, and time to enjoy your family without pain. I totally understand the control issue-I'm such a type A! Your blogs are an encouragement to me.