Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In the Eye of the Storm

Do you remember the dramatic scene in The Perfect Storm when George Clooney has just navigated the Andrea Gail through horrendous waves and gale force winds to emerge into bright sunlight and calm seas, only to discover he has simply sailed into the very eye of the storm? Knowing the struggles and danger through which they have just passed, with a combination of resolve and resignation, he steers his craft once more into the inescapable fury that lies ahead.

Our situation is not unlike that of the Andrea Gail. By God’s grace, we have survived the initial treatment phase of high-dose Interleukin-2, have shaken off some residual (and extremely painful) complicating conditions that delayed recovery, and are now enjoying (both literally and figuratively) several days of calm seas, bright sunshine, renewed energy and strength. The nightly bouts of fever, sweats, and bone-wracking pain are gone. The pleurisy-like chest pains and abdominal bloating have disappeared. My appetite is back. I am sleeping better. There are even irrefutable evidences of tumor regression! We are basking in His mercy, love and power to heal. Thank you for your prayers and continued expressions of faith on our behalf.

While enjoying this period of respite from the storm, I have had time to reflect on the bigger picture. Unlike the fate of the Andrea Gail, I have confidence that God is going to carry us successfully through the next storm as well, as we enter the second week of the IL-2 treatment protocol. Looking back (way back), I can see how God has prepared me to be able to weather this, the greatest tempest I have ever faced. If you would like a glimpse into those reflections, I invite you to read the appended portion below – it is my story of faith.

I have no idea yet what He has in store for us beyond the gale, but I know the One who can calm the seas with a word. It is with a combination of resolve and expectancy that we head back to UVA on Monday, March 24. Thanks once more for being ‘on board’ with us through the voyage.

My Story of Faith
As a child, faith seemed easy. I recall a time when I faced almost certain death – I had lost my older brother Jim’s pearl-handled knife. He was sure to kill me! I prayed for help and God miraculously led me right to its location amidst the thick weeds in the alley behind our Detroit home. When, at age 7, a visiting Baptist evangelist offered an escape from hell and the consequences of sin, I wanted that. So I invited Jesus into my life as the One who could forgive me and make things right. He said it, I believed it – case closed! God became my hero, my helper – I could always count on Him.

Then I became a man. I became sophisticated. I learned life was not all that simple. I wondered if it was possible to be cool and still be a Christian, to be a real man and be a Christian. Besides, there are more ideas out there than just those embraced by Christianity. I explored competing philosophies and competing lifestyles, some of which had credible attraction. I really struggled with whether it was possible to be a Christian and not commit intellectual suicide.

I wrestled with these questions as a young man striving to become a respected and competent physician. Married with one small daughter and another on the way, I was in the middle of a rigorous three-year family practice residency at a hospital in southern California. On the one hand I was overwhelmed with the awesome responsibility of making life-and-death decisions about critically ill patients, the need to never make a mistake and to learn all that I could to become the best in my field. On the other hand, I was allured by those colleagues of mine for whom tomorrow did not seem to matter – they were at ease and pursued excitement more than commitment. I was allured enough that I learned to sail, took up scuba diving, and spent every free weekend either at the beach or hiking in the mountains. We kept a frenzied pace.

At the same time I was clobbered by a call schedule that kept me up all night every three days, and found myself increasingly frustrated by my inadequacies as a “part-time” husband and father. Attending church (when that was possible), became a ritual, if not altogether irrelevant.

Christianity was full of promise – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, self-control. These things I was supposed to have as a believer. More so, the preacher urged that I was supposed to convince others that this was a lifestyle worth choosing. But I was miserable. I wanted to be modern, to be broad-minded, accepting and acceptable to others. I was, as the book of James describes, a double-minded man… “like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

One night I lay in the upper bunk of a darkened obstetrical call room, waiting while several women moaned with the pains of labor just down the hall. I was laboring in a different way – I was wrestling with the Holy Spirit over the impotence of my professed Christian faith. Then it came to me, like a light in the darkness of that room. I was reminded of the simple key to happiness I once grasped as a child.

Colossians 2:6 reads: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walk in Him.” I received Him as a child, with the faith of a child. It was by the same child-like faith, that I would learn to enjoy the freedom of a life surrendered completely to Him. That night I got off the fence – I told the Lord I knew I did not have all the answers, but from that moment on I would place my trust in Him no matter what. It was a step in the darkness and it brought me into the light. I did not throw away my mind – I simply surrendered it. I finally began to possess that which before I had only professed.

Since that day, I have learned to rely on the steadfastness of God’s faithfulness. Whenever life’s circumstances have tested the soundness of this reckless surrender to Him, He has brought me through with an ever-increasing confidence in His love. It is with that knowledge of who He truly is, that we have entered this voyage through the eye of the storm.


  1. I have so prayed that this week at home and Easter weekend you would be free of pain and comfortable to enjoy your time at home, with Linda and your family. It is a blessing to hear of your "respite from the storm." Our prayers will continue, and especially through your next week of treatment. God Bless.

  2. Dr. Dan,

    Your story is so touching and so needed by many. You are doing a fantastic job of recording your life's venture. We have been and will continue praying for you as you enter the second phase of your storm. Jesus will bless you!
    Paul & Mildred Cannon

  3. Dr. Crabtree,

    You continue to be in our prayers and thoughts. The kids send their love and special wishes. Each time I read your new entries I am happily reminded that GOD is always with us alls we need to do is stop and pay attention. You help us pay attention to HIS capabilities and love. We will continue to pray for Your continued and growing remission and many more peaceful days ahead for you!!!

    Stacy, Joe & kids

  4. The Holy Spirit, true to his nature and the words of Jesus, is leading to greater knowledge and truth. By taking you back to the lessons of the past, you become less the doctor and more the "Child of Faith". You are exactly on the right path, because God's word, and ALL its promises, including the RIGHT to healing is a light unto your path through the maze of conflicting thoughts and emotions which are the norm for cancer patients, and his Word is a lamp unto your feet to show you just how to walk out of this Valley of the Shadow of Death. The very posting of you thoughts takes you back to your spiritual roots, so that you may move forward. Attaboy! Way to go!
    (Two-Time Recipient of God's miraculous cancer healing.)

  5. Every blog that you put out is a Smart Bomb in the heart of the enemy's camp, and builds your faith. It is an encouragement to the world, to the three Believer groups of people: those who will get cancer in their lives, those who have had it and have been healed of it, but still live with that little (sometimes great) residual fear whenever they get this symptom or that, and those Believers who will never get cancer, but will face some other monumental challenge of faith.
    This is your ministry now, and it is a life-saving ministry, every bit as important, or more than your medical practice was. As you truly give the rest of your life to the Lord's direction, he may resurrect the "Doctor Dan" part of your life, but to be sure, the next phase of your life will be even more fulfilling and satisfying, knowing that you are on "God's Time" now, as one who will not be like the Rich, Young Ruler, who said, in effect, "Lord I want to go, but I have too much to give up." God is up to something tremendously awesome with you, and I am excited to just cheer from the sidelines!

  6. I think of you now when ever i hear the song from Casting Crowns, "Praise You in this Storm.
    I too am facing life's storms not even close to your storm but I thank God that he has given you such wisdom, and when you share this wisdom i am being blessed also. I thank my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ for his perfect will.

    The lyrics may not be exact but nevertheless it reminds me daily what to do.

    I was sure by now / That You would have reached down / And wiped our tears away / stepped in and saved the day / but once again, I say "Amen," and its still raining

    As the thunder rolls / I barely hear you whisper through the rain / "I'm with you" / And as Your mercy falls / I raise my hands and praise the God that gives / And takes away

    I'll Praise you in this storm / And I will lift my hands / For You are who You are / No matter where I am / Every tear I've cried / You hold in your hand / You never left my side / And though my heart is torn / I will Praise You in this storm

    I remember when / I stumbled in the wind / You herd my cry / You raised me up again / My strength is almost gone / How can i carry on / If I can't Find you

    As the thunder rolls / I barely hear you whisper through the rain / "I'm with you" / And as Your mercy falls / I raise my hands and praise the God that gives / And takes away

    You Dan, You can hear His Calling and it's glorious and loud and clear. I want that and your being used as a vessel of Jesus Christ to help me find it and keep it.

    John Quain & Family

  7. Dan
    Bob and Lu Rosencrants here been a long time brother living back in Muskegon taking care of parents, lost my mom to cancer last week she was 82 found Jesus at 76 cancer got her along with alot of other things. Lus mom and dad are in nursing homes we no longer could care for the 91 and 86 they are. I say all that just to say this you are a, and always have been a blessing in our lives and we are praying daily for you
    Love you Brother
    your brother and sister in Christ
    Bob and Lu
    our son Nathan was your first delivery in your new office in Muskegon
    this is my daughter e-mail and if you do reply to her I'll get the message

  8. We rejoice that you and your family are experiencing some calm in the middle of the storm. We hope this moment of calm will rejuvenate your human spirit and resolve to continue to allow God's plan to unfold for you through His work in you!

    I never told you this - but I can't stand going to the doctor or taking any medicine at all. I've been accused of having "white coat syndrome"! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to have you administer the physical and spiritual medicine that I needed since we became your patients.

    The Lehnens

  9. I am always uplifted by your blogs, not because your stories are all positive, but because your faith is so inspiring. Your writing has emotion and is a testament every time. It is such a blessing that your pain and side effects have subsided for the time being. I hope Easter brings joy to you and your family. You will continue to be in my prayers throughout next week.


  10. Dr. Crabtree,

    Even folks across the country are praying for you. We are believing God for a miracle.

    So, if we're supposed to call the elders of the church to pray for us when we're sick, do you have to lay hands on yourself??? ;-)

    Sending our prayers your way,
    Drew, Kristen, and Ruth Stapp

  11. Dear Dan and Linda,
    Steve and I have followed your progress via your blogs and are so thankful that you are having a respite from the ravages of the cancer. As a physician, Steve knows all too well what all the side effects can do to patients and, with your amazing faith and the prayers of those who know you (including the two of us), you have indeed weathered this storm. We hope for more good news from you and will continue to send our prayers your way. You are truly an inspiration to all who know you.

    Steve and Marge Schechner

  12. Dr. Dan,

    This Easter will be remembered by you as a true "Eye of the Storm" in that you can identify with Jesus
    and the sufferings both of you have endured. Jesus was victorous and so will you. May you truly be able to enjoy this special time with your family free of pain and able to enjoy some "goodies" as well. We pray for you continually.

    We love you. the Collins'

  13. Wendy/Bill HunterMarch 22, 2008 at 1:29 PM

    Dan - Once more your sharing brings a sense of resurrection to us all!! God is still in the miracle business! The resurrection IS still real!!
    Continuing in prayer for completion of what HE has begun. Bill/Wendy Hunter

  14. Dr. Crabtree,

    I am truly touched by your willingness to remind so many of us of the precious things in life. Thank you for your generosity! I am encouraged and blessed to see you persevere. Happy Easter!

    Erin Collins

  15. Christ has risen! Halleluah!

    It was great seeing you and your family in church this morning worshiping with the rest of the church family. How great it is to celebrate the resurrection - an undeniable truth. Chuck and I will abe praying for you and Linda while you are going through phase 2 of chemo this week. We love y'all.


  16. Hi Dan, this is your uncle Bill from Big Stone Gap Va.
    Your most recent postings moved me to comment. My prayer would be for all to possess the goodness and knowledge of God's will that sustains you. I am honored to be in the same family as Dan Crabtree. As brother Don has probably already told you, I had a bout with cancer, and was told by the attending Doctors, I had only weeks to live,- months if treated. I am cancer free, and recovering from the side effects just fine. I believe with all my heart and soul, prayers from people like your Father and Don were answered.
    I have no idea what weight my prayers carry, but I want you to know, in my uneducated way, I pray for your recovery regularly. I can't think of any answers to your quest that have not been addressed as they should be. You seem to be in capable hands medically and Spiritually. May God continue to bless you. Uncle Bill