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.

1 comment:

  1. Dan, I continue to be both encouraged and challenged by God's workings in your life and your families as well. I join with you in praising God wildly for his life being so marked by our LORD's fingerprints, for his victory, and for the overflowing peace in knowing that all that is painful here and now will then be beautiful, is now made beautiful. I have moments where something reminds me that he's gone, and while there is grief and pain, it's so insignificant, absolutely dwarfed by His peace. From beginning to end, God knew what He was to do. But He used that time, gave that time to us. Let's take the lessons he gave us and be faithful to them Let's take heart in his victory, be comforted by his love, and keep on running. I'll look for you at the finish line.