Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sufficient Grace

Is the glass half empty or half full?

The way I answer that often depends on what is in the glass! I recall gagging down two very full glasses of liquid chalk (unsuccessfully disguised as a peppermint shake) in preparation for a contrast-enhanced CT of the abdomen... ugh! Examining the small amount that remained in the Styrofoam container, the technician chided me with a malicious smile: "Ah, but Dr Crabtree, you know you must drink it all." Chugging the last remnant of this awful concoction seemed an impossible task.

When Jesus faced the unimaginable horrors of the crucifixion (and the imminent separation from the Father) He implored "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me... if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." (Matt 26:39, 42) Fortunately for us He found the strength to drink the full cup to the dregs.

Then there is the apostle Paul who speaks of a "thorn in the flesh". (1Cor 12:7-8) While Bible scholars debate precisely what physical disability Paul suffered, it is clear that in this regard he was running on empty and he desired to be full -- i.e., to be whole once more. Three times he asked the Lord to remove this ailment. (Hmmm, only three times?) What really intrigues me is the Lord's response...

Whether faced with a bitter cup of suffering that must be drunk to the full, or drained of strength and longing for a full cup of refreshment, our Lord assures us "My grace is sufficient for you." (2Cor 12:9) Nice words, but what help are they really? I am learning the liberating reality of what these words reveal about the life of faith.

Regardless of my circumstances (no matter what is in the glass), God's grace (those gifts that attend an intimate relationship with Him, Eph 1:7-14) will literally fill up or overwhelm whatever the need is so that I can declare "I am satisfied" -- it will be sufficient for me. The Father sent an angel to minister to Jesus in the garden and He was strengthened. (Luke 22:43) Paul was able to conclude: "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2Cor 12:10)

I am happy to report that my glass is more than half full! On June 11 we returned to UVA for a repeat PET/CT scan and MRI of the brain. As of yesterday we learned the results: Of the 18 brain tumors that were treated with the gamma knife procedures in April, all but 3 have regressed and there does not appear to be any new intracranial lesions. The 3 remaining lesions are only slightly larger and display some surrounding edema, suggesting positive effects of the radiation. The PET/CT, on the other hand, reveals three tiny new areas of increased metabolic activity, two in the posterior neck region and one in the right arm pit. These may represent newly developed metastases outside the brain. None of them was detectable on physical exam. Aside from some degree of increased fatigue, I am doing well with no pain and no apparent neurologic impairment. My doctors agree, compared to the devastating disease noted when first diagnosed one and a half years ago, I am doing remarkably well.

Dr Sheehan, the neurosurgeon, recommends simply observing the brain lesions for now and repeating the MRI of the brain in two months. Dr Grosh plans to pursue a needle biopsy of the lesions of the neck and/or right axilla, if the interventional radiologist determines this is feasible. Should the results of the biopsies prove positive for melanoma, I may face a repeat course of high-dose Interleukin-2. I will keep you posted.

Although I had hoped for a complete remission by now, I am truly "well content". Filled up by His grace, my glass is brimming with goodness, knowing His faithfulness, refreshed by evidences of His love (powerfully displayed in the love of family and friends), and constantly satisfied with the rewards of walking this journey with Him. Thanks for your continued prayers.

Dr Dan

PS -- Please pray for my sister-in-law, Genelle. For years she has suffered a progressive neurologic condition that has left her with extreme weakness so that she is now hardly able to speak and has difficulty breathing at times. Initially thought to have MS, a subspecialist has confirmed that she actually has Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). Her husband, my brother, Paul has been a tower of strength, but I suspect his glass also could use a refill.

7 comments:

  1. I continue praying for you, and rejoice to see you so fully dressed in the armor of God, and so content in who He is and what He is about. Blessings on you and your wonderful family!
    Goree

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  2. Dan

    Thanks for the update -

    Gary

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  3. Continuing to pray for you and your family and will add your brother & sister-in-law to my prayers. It was good to see you briefly yesterday.

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  4. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I will add your brother and sister-in-law to my prayer list.
    Paula

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  5. wendy/bill hunterJune 18, 2009 at 1:40 PM

    One of the best - God's grace. Thanx so much for the teaching we can ALL use. We forget to open this package of His goodness. Will continue to pray for you, the family, Genelle.

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  6. Dan: Neighbor Bob signing in. So glad to read of the latest relatively positive report. Have not heard from you in a while and I was afraid that you were having a rougher time. You continue to be an inspiration and I continue to pray for you, Linda and all your family.

    Love
    Bob

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  7. Hi Dan
    Craig from EVMS GEM'S group (God Empowered Men)
    I have been thinking about you lately. Especially since I saw Pastor Gerry the other day. I know he continues to pray for you and you were in our bulletin the other day so i know people at KGBC are continuing to keep you in their thoughts and prayers. I will update the group on your treatment and if you get a chance to come see us on thursdays at noon let us know.
    In Him
    Craig

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