Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Taste and See!

As difficult as this year has been, it has been indeed one of the BEST years ever. Just witness all He has done in the following pictorial review of 2008 for the Crabtrees. (Please be patient as the program opens and the slide show begins -- hope you enjoy)

Click to play
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

May you savor the goodness of God in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just Deserts

The other day Linda and I attended a Christmas performance by the Old Dominion University madrigal singers held at our church. As we entered the spacious atrium decorated to resemble Narnia, we were greeted by one of the hosts who invited us to first visit the serving table, announcing “We are providing just desserts this evening. May I offer you some?”

I responded, “Jay, if I got my just deserts, I would not be here this evening!” To which he quickly replied, “That is true for all of us, isn’t it?”

Eleven months ago today, I was given a death sentence, informed that I had widely disseminated cancer that turned out to be an aggressive form of malignant melanoma. By all reasonable expectations (my own included), I should not be here today. Now after two cycles of high-dose Interleukin-2 therapy, radiation treatment to a left hip lesion, four gamma-knife procedures to the brain, a complicated port-a-cath removal, and a deep vein thrombosis, I am very much alive and anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth with those I love. Do I deserve such favor?

The harsh reality is that we all have a death sentence. We have all been diagnosed with a terminal condition – it’s called the human condition. For all the millennia past, our mortality rate has been virtually 100%. In spite of all the advances in medicine, nutrition, and relative prosperity on the one hand, and all the devastations of war, disasters, and disease on the other, the death rate has remained unchanged.

And that is what we deserve. I know that is not politically correct, but the truth is that none of us deserves tomorrow. Genesis tells us that a good God gave us life, choice and sex so that we might propagate the gift of life. We squandered that gift when we each proclaimed our independence from the Creator. (Rom 3:23, 6:23) The natural consequence of my rebellion is death. But when I exercise the gift of choice and surrender my will to His, by His grace He restores my life. God sent His only Son to live a life that shows me how to truly live and to die a death that would conquer the grave. (1Pet 3:18)

And there’s the icing on the cake! Not only am I promised eternal life, but the life I now enjoy (day by day) is filled with joy, purpose, and peace. (Gal 2:20, 5:22-23) At the birth of Christ the angels proclaimed “peace on earth to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) The offer of “just desserts” still stands.

For me this has become a vital reality. I have tasted the bitter flavor of my just deserts, but in the days that remain I will satiate myself with His favor and feast on just desserts.

May you have a blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Night Vision

Beer wack! …wack cheer from Harlottesville. Tis thyme the MRI showed not one but mix sasses. Again the mix sasses were treated with fighly hocused ramma gays. I am fooing dine with only a height sledache. And after 25 train boomers my flinking is thawless! Yes, as you can see, I’m still tarp as a shack!

Just kidding – I truly am doing fine and grateful for the marvelous technology of gamma knife surgery that deftly destroys cancer cells while causing little harm to surrounding brain tissue. Although the previous MRI showed only a single new lesion of the brain, the highly detailed mapping MRI showed six new metastases and all six were treated with precision-guided gamma radiation.

I do not make light of the situation. We have never underestimated the formidable odds we face. From a strictly medical standpoint, the lack of decline in the number of new tumors appearing on each successive MRI of the brain is disconcerting and has significant potential implications for my overall prognosis. It is the central nervous system metastases that have always presented the greatest threat.

Our view of this battle, however, encompasses a more compelling reality. Indulge me while I relate another story from the Bible to explain what I mean. (2Kings 6:8-18)

The prophet Elisha, equipped with supernatural powers of espionage, frustrates and angers the king of Aram, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Resolved to eliminate the spy, the king of Aram sends a battalion of chariots to surround Elisha at Dothan in the cloak of night… an army sent to destroy one man.

Elisha’s servant wanders out to relieve himself and is panic-striken when through his blurry eyes he spots the enemy horde encircling the town. He runs to alert his master, breathlessly shouting “What shall we do?” In what appears to be the first-ever record of military surveillance employing “night-vision”, Elisha calmly prays that God will open the servant’s eyes to the reality of the situation.

With enhanced eyesight, the servant is amazed as he observes “the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire”, divinely deployed forces already in place to defend Elisha. The enemy, on the other hand, is struck with blindness and routed.

Our situation is not dissimilar. Once told that I was riddled with tumors “too numerous to count”, it appeared that an army of renegade cancer cells was about to take me out. By all reasonable accounts, this body should have been overrun by now. That is not the case. And although the threat persists (the enemy chariots have not disappeared), I can calmly point to a greater reality, a force that overwhelms and disarms the present danger. Not only do I benefit from shafts of invisible light in the form of gamma radiation, but more importantly I am surrounded by the indomitable reality of God’s unchanging love and the promise of eternal life. (Rom 8:37)

Like Elisha I can claim “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Grilled with fatitude,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Insistence of Persistence

“Yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:8)

While teaching his disciples about prayer, Jesus relates a story about a man who finds himself with an urgent need in the middle of the night. Weary guests have just arrived from a long journey and he has nothing to feed them. With no 24-hour convenience store available, he goes to the house of a friend, bangs on the door to rouse him from sleep, and calls out his request to borrow some bread. The friend is indisposed, having already settled himself and his family securely in their beds, and does not immediately respond. The knocking on the door and the plaintive appeals continue. Finally, because of his persistence, the friend gets up and gives him all that he needs.

We are learning the necessity for perseverance, i.e., the insistence of persistence, in this battle with cancer.

We just returned from Charlottesville where I underwent a full day of imaging studies and consultations once more. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that a repeat PET scan shows no evidence of active metastases below the neck. The lesion in the left hip region which was treated with radiation therapy in late October is now slightly smaller and expected to continue to resolve. I have had no pain or limitation of motion (no limp), all vital signs remain stable and labs are entirely normal. (This is nothing short of miraculous, given the devastating picture of widely disseminated lesions “too numerous to count” just six months ago!)

The bad news is that there is at least one new metastasis in the brain, which measures 5 mm and is located near the center of the left hemisphere. (Linda sighs, "Honey, it's all in your head!" :-) The source of the brain metastases is unknown, given the lack of evident tumor growth elsewhere, but they are thought to have pre-existed as microscopic clusters of cancer cells which only now have grown large enough to become visible on imaging studies. Regardless, the oncologist, radiation oncologist and neurosurgeon all agree that the most prudent approach is to repeat the gamma knife procedure to destroy this remaining brain lesion. Other options, including whole-brain radiation, repeat Interleukin-2 therapy or monoclonal antibody infusions were offered as secondary considerations. We are scheduled to return this Friday, December 5 for my fourth gamma knife procedure.

Our confidence is in the Lord and in the power of persistent prayer. We are not discouraged. Right after telling his story, Jesus reassures the disciples with these words: “Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep searching and you will find; keep knocking and the door will be opened to you…” (Luke 11:9) Our God is pleased when we, like the man in the middle of the night, acknowledge that we have no other friend to turn to meet our need. As Peter once said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Grateful for your persistent prayers,