Saturday, August 15, 2009

Physician, Heal Yourself!

This entry is one of the more difficult ones to write. (No, it is not about the debate over healthcare reform.) For those of you who have been following these writings for over a year now, I am compelled to share a sobering lesson. With each journal entry I have sought to relate some element of truth that our experience has brought to light or perhaps was made more powerful through its practical application in this difficult situation. Each entry has also proved to be a therapeutic outlet for me as it has challenged this left-brained physician to exercise those more creative faculties traditionally thought to reside in the right cerebral hemisphere.

Now after six gamma knife procedures, targeting 43 metastatic deposits in the brain, I am facing the reality that recent studies indicate the persistence (and active enlargement) of at least four of these malignant growths. In addition several new metastases are evident elsewhere in the body in spite of four toxic multi-dose courses of Interleukin-2. We are currently awaiting the collaborative recommendation of my oncologist and neurosurgeon at UVA. The treatment options are extremely limited.

Although I am currently having remarkably few symptoms, I am forced to recognize the very real potential that, with or without further intervention, my faculties may (soon) progressively decline. In the past, as I have witnessed this same phenomenon in my patients (either due to malignancy or other degenerative process), I have been moved to console the family and help them compensate for their loved one's deteriorating mental capacities.

Now threatened with the same potential decrepitude, I am prompted, while I still may, to share with you what many may deem obvious: Worship the Giver and not the gift!

My sincere desire, in offering these biographical musings over the past 18+ months, has been to share some of the lessons learned along this difficult journey with cancer. Your comments, prayers, and heart-felt support have bolstered both me and my family as we have travelled this road together. I also recognize that the very challenge of sharing these thoughts in some creative and constructive way has been a source of great personal satisfaction... and potential pride.

The threat of losing those faculties that have made this creative outlet possible is perhaps the most difficult to face. But as I ponder why this is so, I am forced to recognize that I have subtly arrived at the place where I have worshipped the gift above the Giver. It is far more healthy to hold all such gifts with an open hand. (This is a hard pill to swallow.)

Even as Jesus was consoling Peter who had failed miserably during his greatest testing, He warned him that "when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." (John 21:18) Jesus' love for Peter had not diminished and his future was never more secure. But that streak of independence would yet yield to complete surrender.

Regardless of what lies in our path just ahead, the good Giver has not changed... He will not stop giving all the grace we need for the journey.

Ummm... Oh, yeah, thanks honey... Dr Dan

PS -- I invite you to check out Linda's latest blog. You will find her creative juices still flowing freely!


  1. Dr. Dan:
    Be encouraged that you are surrounded with a multitude of people who love you for who you ARE--you've blessed many people with your gift of YOU. Rest in Him and know you're loved,
    Brian and Mary

  2. Despite my efforts to not do so, this made me cry. Prayers will continue for you, Linda and your family, as well as for your physicians to make wise choices.

    I do look forward to your entries and I know that He will continue to use you to bless others in whatever ways He chooses.


  3. Dad,
    Thanks for your vulnerability and honesty. It's a terrible privilege to walk with you through this as you've walked through tragedies with so many others, including us. We wish we were there and look forward to seeing you soon. The boys and I pray for you every night (courage, comfort and HEALING).
    grace and peace to you!

  4. You undoubtedly have got to be the most positive person there is! you have given me as well as others a great pleasure in reading your blog!You have taught me so much just by listening to you. As I have said before, you are so blessed to have such a wonderful family and I only know this from reading their blogs as well as yours . I am a stranger, but I pray for the right decisions to be made and may you know that all things are possible through GOD! God is so good! You will be blessed!

  5. We thank God for you and will continue to pray! Love you, Kay & Bo

  6. Judy and Teddy RespassAugust 29, 2009 at 4:25 PM

    Thru your struggles and the gift of strength thru this traumatic illness, my family and I have gained thru your journal just how much we indeed need to thank the "Giver and not the Gift". You have inspired me spiritually and physically that God is truly The Master of the Universe and he gives...You are one of the greatest examples. Our prayers continue daily.