Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Medicine or Miracle?

I love the story of Scrooge as portrayed by George C. Scott in the 1984 TV adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Do you remember the scene when Scrooge awakens to discover he has not missed Christmas? He is giddy with gladness, and every human encounter becomes an opportunity to share his new-found joy in living. That is precisely how I feel lately.

Appreciating like never before both the frailty and preciousness of life, I cherish even the most casual relationships and look for opportunities to tell my story. In the past I would assume there was plenty of time to catch up with neighbors, family and friends, to nurture those relationships over time – now I am tempted to hug total strangers! In conversations I now quickly dispense with superficiality, look for opportunities to express in kind the genuine love that I have received, and attempt to direct the dialogue to subjects of consequence.

In the process of sharing my story, I will mention my rapid decline, the delay in starting Interleukin-2 therapy, the remarkable outpouring of concern and prayer by hundreds of people, the awesome goodness and grace of God, and the miraculous and rapid regression of the cancer. I love to watch the response. Some immediately light up, offer praise to the Almighty, and become animated in their expression of joy. Others seem to need more time to process the information, offering their congratulations after a brief (and less animated) pause.

Of course as I ascribe my remarkable recovery to divine intervention, I recognize that some may not draw the same conclusion and need time to process their own ideas about cause and effect. Is it a miracle or simply the medicine? As a physician I have often wrestled with this question.

I like the definition of a miracle found in Wikipedia: “A miracle, derived from the old Latin word miraculum meaning ‘something wonderful’, is a striking interposition of divine intervention by a supernatural being in the universe by which the ordinary course and operation of nature is overruled, suspended, or modified.”

While trained in the scientific method, I am quite comfortable acknowledging a supreme being who is able to overrule, suspend or modify the rules of nature which He created in order to accomplish His purposes, to accomplish something wonderful. In my case, and in many similar cases I have helped manage, the miraculous and the medicine are not mutually exclusive operations – rather I see them as complementary.

If high-dose Inter-leukin 2 were the sole cause of my recovery, then why is it NOT effective in over 94% of patients with stage IV melanoma? Clearly there are additional forces that influence response and outcome. I believe in my case it has been the thousands of prayers that have gone up on my behalf – and a living, loving, all-powerful, transcendant God who has responded to those prayers.

Science aims to explain observable phenomenon, to answer the “how”, not the “why”. It is possible, even probable, that as our understanding of the “how” becomes ever more refined, we may actually peer into ways in which God accomplishes the miraculous. For example, as string theory predicts that within the same space many alternate universes may co-exist, it is not difficult to contemplate how Christ may have manipulated these alternate realities to convert water to wine. A personal, imminent, and good God may intervene in His own creation to accomplish His purposes – to answer the “why”.

I am grateful for Inter-leukin 2 and for the skilled physician who has supervised its administration, fully convinced that God has used this naturally-occuring agent to accomplish a miracle in my body. He is ultimately the author of it all and I celebrate Him!

It’s Christmas morning and I see the day in a whole new light!


  1. Dan

    As usual, awesomely well said! We're in the same boat as we gratefully enjoy the grace of our Heavenly Father who knows very well how to use medicine/miracle to accomplish His purposes and keep us humbly trusting in Him! You're in my prayers every day.

    Dave Sutton

  2. Dan,
    Jean and I continue to pray for your speedy and full recovery. Your faith in God is an assume example of how faith helps cure. God is indeed master of the universe and his intervention does work miracles. Our prayers are with you.

    Carl and Jean Dozier

  3. I completely believe in miracles and feel fortunate to be a witness to yours.
    We keep praying and watching.
    Richard and Lisa Colvin

  4. Not knowing a I could leave you a comment, I would have left one along time ago. You put that so well. God still has a purpose with your life and He is still proving it. I pray for you daily and miss my Dr. very much!

    Ruby Blanchard

  5. Dan,

    You have put it so very well. It reminds me of when the Lord healed me of Hodgkins Disease when I only had a few months to live. I felt the same way and still do after 20 years. Our Lored is so faithful. We have prayed for you on a daily basis from the veery beginning. We appreciate you more than ever.
    Paul & Mildred Cannon

  6. Dan and Linda,
    It was so good to see you both at church today, as we visited from Maryland. What a blessing to witness a miracle in person. We are so grateful for God's wonderful workings in your life and body.
    Marc and Marsha

  7. Dear Linda and Dan:

    What marvelous news! So many people have been blessed by reading about your journey...we thank God for your continued service even during personal adversity. Those strings in the universe remind me of the "physics" of God's love - weaving and binding us in unimaginable ways. Thanks for reminding me to jump --- and that the net will appear! Love, Mary Graham