Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. Ecc 9:9

This past week Linda and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with laughter and tears. This was the anniversary that almost wasn’t – since early on in my diagnosis neither of us expected me to be here through the summer.

We gathered our three daughters, their husbands, and the newest granddaughter (too young to be separated from her mother) for dinner at the Sheraton’s “City Dock” restaurant in downtown Norfolk. Then we all boarded the American Rover for an evening cruise on the Elizabeth River. It was a spectacular evening, complete with a golden sunset, followed by a full moon that kindly framed itself in the forward rigging of this 135-foot schooner as gentle breezes filled the sails and a strolling balladeer serenaded us with some of our favorite ‘oldies’. What a gift!

Speaking of gifts: A remarkable recovery from disseminated malignant melanoma – a gorgeous and healthy new granddaughter – the chance to celebrate 40 years of shared adventures with the wife of my youth – surrounded by three bright & beautiful daughters and their masterful godly husbands… each a reward of worth beyond my deserving. I’m telling you, this life of faith demands unbearable sacrifice! :-)

I have often taught in our adult Bible study class that the life of faith – the life that dies to self and follows Christ with full abandonment – is actually a form of Christian hedonism. It is not a life of selfishness, not driven by self-interest, but one that is rewarded in ways that selfish ambition could not imagine nor hope to gain. Scripture is full of examples (Ps 19:8-11, Ps 37:4, Prov 22:4, Matt 5:3-12, Matt 6:3-4, Luke 6:35, Phil 3:8, Col 3:23-24).

Christ himself is our model: “…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2 The Son of God, who loved us enough to pay the ultimate price, was moved and empowered by the knowledge that, in the end, there would be great reward.

It is ironic that the path to an abundant life requires a conscious choice to die, to surrender my plans, desires and energies to His sovereign purpose. The very things that I hope to gain through my own striving and clever design are ultimately achieved only by putting them to death. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Mat 16:25

I have been blessed beyond belief. This journey, which has taken me to the brink of death and back, has already produced rewards I could not have anticipated, not the least of which is the outpouring of genuine concern and prayers from so many. I am enormously grateful.

But the greatest reward continues to be a deepening relationship with the One whose love and grace transcend this fleeting life – for He reminds me “…I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” Gen 15:1


PS – I cannot overstate the reward Linda has been to me over the past 40 years, and particularly through this most recent leg of our journey together. As a token of my gratitude for her love and faithfulness, I offered the following toast at our dinner celebration, along with the gift of a diamond “journey” pendant.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Final Report (Part II)

We finally received a call late yesterday from Dr Grosh with details of the imaging studies and labs done on Monday -- and it is great news!

The MRI of the brain was reviewed in detail with the neurosurgeon, Dr Sheehan. It shows no new metastases and all previous tumors are either gone or in the process of disintegration from the second gamma knife procedure.

The bone scan, for the first time, shows significant improvement and maturation of the healing process from the previous extensive multiple metastases. No new lesions or signs of active destruction are evident.

The CT/PET scan, which detects any rapidly growing activity of tumor cells throughout the body, was essentially negative. There was one faint and ill-defined area of increased tracer activity in the left hip region, but no corresponding anatomic abnormality there on either the CT scan or bone scan -- so it is thought to be an artifact. There are still radiographic abnormalities in the liver which likely represent residual architectural changes caused by the previous tumor growths there. All labs were normal, including liver enzymes and non-specific markers for tumor activity.

Compared to the devastating images six months ago, this is nothing short of miraculous!

We will return to Charlottesville in late September to repeat these same studies and monitor the progress of healing. Meanwhile no active treatment is planned. We are enormously grateful to you for your prayers, to the physicians who have cared for me, and most of all to our God for His faithfulness, mercy and love.

Basking in His grace,

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Final Report

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on

We have all experienced it – the anticipation (sometimes apprehension) while waiting for the final report, whether that was a grade in a course, a performance evaluation at work, a biopsy finding, or a test result. While waiting, we ruminate on the “what if’s” and the consequences of various outcomes. Our mind takes us down paths that will likely await us depending on those results.

This week has been a week of waiting for the final report on the extensive imaging studies performed at UVA on Monday, August 4. This series of imaging studies included a high-resolution MRI of the brain, a bone scan, and a whole-body CT/PET scan using a glucose-linked tracer called FDG to pick up any areas of high metabolic turnover (such as rapidly growing tumor cells). Having completed the full course of Interleukin-2, the results of these tests should reveal the degree of response and have a significant impact on future prognosis. After a very long day of fasting, poking, prodding, and lying perfectly still on a cold table for hours at a time, we anticipated learning the results when we met with the oncologist late in the day. Unfortunately, none of the final reports on these studies was available.

When we met with Dr Grosh he was able to pull up the images on the computer screen and together we reviewed the pixilated representations of my brain, skeleton, and vital organs. The preliminary verdict: no evidence of new or active tumor growth! But subtle changes here and there, and the possibility that a review by the radiology consultants on their high-resolution monitors could pick up additional findings, compelled him to defer any definitive assessment to those final reports*. We agreed he would call me in a couple of days, once the official reports were available. Although his nurse called to let us know he was pursuing the matter, we are still waiting…

Yep, we’re back in the waiting room (see my blog entry of 7/06/08). It has become a familiar place. We have learned that time spent here can be very valuable. While waiting to hear what the final reports may reveal, we have been listening to what the Lord may be trying to teach us.

During the wait, several thoughts have come to mind. First and foremost: God is still in control. Our future hope is not pinned to the result of some therapeutic agent or study result. Our hope is in Him. Psalm 20:7 puts it this way: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, [and some in PET scans], but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”

Our future is secured, indeed guaranteed (Rom 8:38-39, Heb 6:17-19). We have asked Him for healing and He has given us far more – He has rewarded faith with fruit that cannot be measured in survival statistics nor calculated on a computer screen. Our lives have been unalterably changed for the good; we have a more intimate understanding of His love and faithfulness; and if my prayers have been answered, so have many of you.

Secondly, while waiting for the final reports we have the giddy notion that, precisely because God is still in control, the details of the results will not matter. Not that I will ignore the results, nor fail to act on them according to sound medical advice – but it will not alter my confidence in the One who knows my end from the beginning. In practical terms, even if the radiologist should report heretofore unrecognized new metastases in the brain or elsewhere, God’s eternal plan will not be altered.

In the Old Testament story of the men sent by Moses to spy out the promised land, those who understood the power of their God rendered a final report that was far different from those who did not. While both groups observed the obstacles to victory, those who knew the faithfulness of a covenant-making God reported “we will surely overcome” (Num 13:30). Their enemies, though formidable, would become their prey (Num 14:9). Regardless of any possible disparaging news in our final reports, any residual cancer will find itself in the cross hairs of a powerful and faithful God. All fear is eclipsed by God's lovingkindness. (1John 4:18)

Finally, I realize that there is ultimately only one final report that really matters. That is the report that I will receive when I enter into the presence of the Lord. C.S. Lewis wrote: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” This body, though very much cherished, is destined to fail me some day. The report that matters is the one that assesses the status of my soul.

A good friend and outstanding Christian leader entered into God’s presence yesterday. Howard Douthit, fellow elder at Tab Church, beloved husband to Ramona and father to Nathaniel, Joshua and Jonathan, succumbed to complications of cancer after a prolonged battle during which he inspired many of us with his courage and unflagging devotion to God. I am confident he has received his final report: “Well done good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matt 25:21)

That is the final report I look forward to.

* Please understand that the preliminary results of the tests done on Monday are extremely encouraging. My clinical exam is essentially normal, my weight has stabilized, and I have reached an improved level of strength. My progress has exceeded most optimistic expectations and we are rejoicing in what the Lord has accomplished. I will update you once I receive word on the final reports.