Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Dr Dan sports a turban in the aftermath of a gamma knife procedure

I am happy to report that we have survived yet another gamma knife procedure (#6). On Monday, 4/20/09, Dr Sheehan focused ionizing radiation on ten lesions located in the right cerebral hemisphere. All told that amounts to 43 times that metastatic deposits in my brain have been placed in the cross hairs of the gamma knife device (some of them requiring more than one treatment session).

Perhaps because of the sheer number of lesions treated, or because of the close proximity to the previous procedure, this particular session proved to be the most challenging one yet. Having your skull suspended by four screws inside a titanium frame for hours at a time while high-energy gamma rays are destroying space-occupying lesions in your brain can produce a headache that crescendos to explosive proportions when the frame is removed.

During these sessions I have tested an age-old approach to pain management that I have found to be very effective. Let me share it with you. It is a method advocated in scripture and now touted by modern psychology as “cognitive therapy” – the power of positive thinking. It is the biblical antidote to depression and distress outlined in Philippians 4:8 “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

When in distress (physical, emotional or spiritual), I always have the choice to engage my mind in the prescribed pattern of this verse which I elicit with an acronym “THERRAPPY”. While I lie immobilized inside the gantry of the gamma knife machine, even while ionizing radiation is traversing my brain, let me invite you to listen in on some of my thoughts that were:

True – “There is no doubt that God loves me... This is truly wonderful technology…

Honorable – “What an honorable and brave man Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama must be to offer himself as hostage to the pirates in place of his crew…

Excellent – “Dr Sheehan and his staff are excellent clinicians… What an excellent experience to have participated in the baptism of ten new believers on Easter Sunday…

Right – “I certainly made the right choice in choosing Linda as my wife… I am so proud of my son-in-law for taking a stand for what is right…

Reputable – “When I grow up I want to be like my friend Hap, with a reputation as a passionate follower of Christ…”

Attractive (lovely) – “I am truly blessed to have such a beautiful wife… who surrounds me with beautiful things…

Pure – “What do I know that is pure? Ah yes, Jesus’ life and His unfailing love!... and I remember the pure delicate flavors of the gelato we enjoyed last week with friends…

PraiseworthY – I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the prayers of so many, for God’s amazing grace, for the fact that in spite of 43 brain tumors I am still able to praise Him!

While not refusing the blessings of modern chemistry (e.g., intravenous fentanyl), I have found this prescription for the mind to be truly therapeutic. You can try biting your lower lip, humming The Battle Hymn of the Republic, or screaming if you like, but this really works! Next time you are down in the dumps or distressed, try this mode of THERRAPPY. When taken with a generous potion of prayer, the outcome is guaranteed: “...And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

Dr Dan

PS – We will return to Charlottesville in two months for repeat imaging studies to assess the effectiveness of these recent procedures.


  1. Wow :)! Thank you for sharing.

  2. I will remember that during the birth of my next kiddo! I'm a drug-free gal, so I could use a little THERRAPPY. :-)

    May God bless you.

    Kristen Stapp

  3. Dr. Crabtree,
    You are a remarkable man!!! God bless you! Thank you for sharing your life...you are truly an inspiration to others.

    Cathy Ballard (a past patient who will never find another doctor like you)

  4. Dan,

    This post is exactly what I needed to read tonight! I was out at the NIH this week for three days and have been diagnosed with an active brain met. I will be doing SRS (Sterotactic Radiosurgery) on May 8th. Dr Kevin Camphausen will be presiding.

  5. Dear Dan & Linda:

    Bob Fentress signing in. Over and over again I have such amazement at your strength. I will cheer you on in my mind forever. Your kindness to me in the midst of such challenges in your life is so much appreciated. Saturday, April 25th, was Marilyn's and my wedding anniversary. I handled the memory very poorly and I am so blessed in my life compared to the challenges you great friends are enduring.

    Of note is that I am now volunteering to help out Lee's Friends by working charity marathons and driving cancer patients to doctor appointments or treatments. I now have two occasions of driving a lady in Willoughby to dr. appointments and I worked at the Chesapeake Bay charity run last weekend. Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 29, the lady I have driven faces surgery of many hours to remove her left jaw and other facial areas.

    At this moment I am embarrassed at myself that I feel so depressed and hopeless, and you, Linda, and so many others have so much more in their lives to beat them down, but you persevere.

    Bless you


  6. Dan You are and have been an inspiration. I wish I could get you with our medical students to encourage them and send them into their Boards, clinical rotations, and into their residency positions with a new and energized outlook. You know that we are praying for you and Linda. Thanks for a great vacation and reconnecting.
    Abe and Sharon

  7. Dear Dr. Crabtree,

    There are often times when we feel overwhelmed with life and how to handle everything around us. Thank you for reminding us how to be thankful for all He provides all of the time. We read our Bible the other night looking for verses to help understand how to better handle our stresses. Thank you for providing a wonderful suggestion. I will mark it in my Bible and refer to it whenever I need to remember to think positively!

    I'm praying that the tumors will shrink away to nothing and that you will return to full health.

    News from the Richards Family... Sam graduates next weekend from Regent University with a Master's Degree in Education and Samuel graduates from high school in June. He will be attending Christopher Newport University in August.

    We miss you and think of you often! Keep up the positive thoughts!

    Praising Him,
    Sam, Jenny, Samuel, Kathleen, and William

  8. Dr. Dan - this is Emilyrae Helfen. Although you were never my Doctor, you were the Doctor for my husband Bill, my son Eric Markland and his wife Mary. I remember the kindness you always showed toward them - even going out of your way to come over to our table when we dined in PF Chang's. I have read and kept up with your blog - it is such an inspiration and you are touching the lives of so many people - GOD bless you and I will keep you in my prayers.

  9. Dan,
    Continue to pray for you. Please pray for my mom's soon homegoing.

  10. Dan,
    You are a remarkable man! Jean and I continue to check on you to see how you are. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Your strength and faith in the Lord are an inspiration. May God continue to lay his healing hands upon you.

    God's Blessings,
    Jean and Carl

  11. Greetings Dr. Dan and Linda!
    I am Wanda Sanders of Muskegon Heights, MI. I was once a patient of yours along with my family: Carolyn (our Mom)and sibs: Denise and Willie "Jason".
    I am currently employed with GE at Johnson Technology. Your brother, Jim, works there also. I was using the phone while Jim worked near me. For the first time (in years), I recognized the name on his badge!
    I asked him if he was related to you and that's where our jouney began. I was so happy that he was able to give me an update and contact information.
    My mom was so excited!!! She is collecting current pictures of our family to send to you. I was instructed to give you her love and our email information. If you don't mind us sending a card or ecard along with our photos, please send your personal contact information to the email addresses enclosed.
    Please take care!!! Our prayers of strenghth and encouragement are with you.

    The Sanders Family.

    Carolyn and Denise Sanders
    @ meebred05@yahoo.com

    Wanda Sanders
    @ supasanders@msn.com