Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving "Top Ten"

In this season dedicated to giving thanks, I have decided to share with you my "TOP TEN" pick of blessings over the last year.

#10 -- My father and siblings: Among other challenges faced by my dad, four brothers and sister, my personal encounter with a life-threatening condition has renewed and strengthened a bond of authentic caring, thoughtfulness, tolerance, and appreciation for each member of my birth family that is enormously gratifying. I sense a closeness that we have not known since childhood (and perhaps never before with such quality and genuineness).

#9 -- My church family: A very special group of people who know and love God passionately have been an enormous support to me and my family during this battle with cancer. They have visited, called, encouraged, prayed, sent loads of cards, offered meals, transportation, labor, genuine love and fellowship. Particular gratitude goes to those in our "CARE group" with whom we meet weekly and who have faithfully supported the entire family through this difficult time. Other life-long friends who share the same passion for God have faithfully refreshed and strengthened us along this journey.

#8 -- My physicians and their staff: I could not have chosen a more competent, caring, or thorough-going team of professionals to shepherd me through this battle with malignant melanoma. The team includes Drs Rose, Alexander, Grosh, Sheehan, Larner, Randolph, Gould, Parent, Hood, and a host of others who work in the emergency room, in front of radiology CRT displays, or peering into microscopes. In addition, I am indebted to Dr Glenn Jones for assuming the care of my wife when her "favorite" physician became disabled!

#7 -- You: You who have shown an interest in my well-being and progress over the last 23-month battle with malignant melanoma, who have followed this blog regularly, who have commented, encouraged, sent cards, challenged, and prayed for me. Many of you are former patients. You have sustained me, strengthened me, motivated me, inspired me and truly overwhelmed me with your thoughtfulness and genuine concern.

The Crabtree Clan at Thanksgiving

#6 -- My grandchildren: Pure delight! Well, maybe not always pure, but always a delight! Morgan, Madison, Matthew, Mark, Asher, Zephan, Evelyn and Adelaide -- each with unique gifts, personal strengths and challenges; each a source of great pride and joy.

#5 -- My sons-in-law: Alan, Matt, and David each have demonstrated dedication to family and to my daughters that has been a source of great encouragement for me. In spite of the demands of career and ongoing education, each has made family life a high priority and each is seeking to honor God in all their endeavors.

#4 -- My children: Kim, Beth, and Christianne have more than accommodated themselves and their families to our situation -- they have leveraged the circumstances to enrich us all with their courage, creativity, and dedication to family. They have not put life on hold, but engaged in activities that reflect their passion for godliness, life, beauty, and love of others.

#3 -- My wife: Linda has been a faithful partner through some very difficult times this last year. Although I have not been bed-ridden as I was off and on during the first six months of this battle with cancer, I have been very dependent on her for transportation, nutrition, companionship, and, at times, as my peripheral brain. I cannot imagine life without her. Armed with a faith that has withstood the test of this trial, she has not missed opportunities to encourage others facing similar challenges.

#2 -- God: This journey with cancer has welded my relationship with God, transforming it from an exercise of initial child-like faith into one of intimate trust and commitment -- paying dividends that include an imperturbable peace, courage, quiet personal joy, and a renewed passion for others to experience the same quality of relationship with Him. My identity no longer relates to what I do, but who I am in Him (transformed from a human doing to a human being, precious to Him).

#1 -- Malignant Melanoma: Ahh, where would I be today without YOU?! I would not have known the richness of these other blessings, nor the preciousness of each and every human encounter, nor the resilience and power of a mature faith in Christ, nor the depth and steadfastness of God's love in the face of enormous challenges. Each of us some day will face death. Whether or not mine comes as a consequence of this malignancy, I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to face head on the implications of my mortality in the light of God's endless supply of love, mercy and grace! (See James 1:2-4, 1Peter 1:6-9)

Recent undoctored image of Dan
(notice absence of stethescope)

As the apostle Paul declares: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)

At this time of thanksgiving, I do not wish you my same journey, but I pray you may know the rewards that come from the same depth of relationship with the God who loves us and supplies our every need.

With an ever-deepening attitude of gratitude,


  1. Dan,
    Thanks for sharing your life, wisdom, insight and faith with us. I always check your website and look forward to your posts. Continuing to pray for your family.

  2. As always you present a thought provoking and powerful message of your journey with cancer. May God continue to be with you and your family.
    Happy Holidays.

  3. God's richest blessings to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving Top Ten...the Dorrell family definitely identifies with those that you have listed...just changing the names and a few circumstances!

    Lois & Woody Dorrell

  4. There is so much to be thankful. It seems the big storms come right when we are enjoying the calmness and what we define as contentment in life. If I was to take the time to reflect on my top 10 some of ours would definitely intertwine or as Lois said be altered by a few names and circumstances. Others would be just as remarkable and life changing. I am not at a place where I can put the "disease" that attacks my safe world as #1, but your words have challenged me to revisit my thoughts and attitudes that I have allowed to be enslaved by circumstances.

    My life has been richly blessed by you, Linda and your children.

    Love y'all!

  5. Dan-
    I read your article in the CMDA journal. I am a surgeon with node positive melanoma. I am greatly encouraged by those who go through stuff and still see God's love and faithfulness. I couldn't help but notice that in your top 10 list that all (except melanoma) were relationship oriented. This speaks loudly to me about what we all should be concentrating on during our remaining days/weeks/ or years.

  6. I am continually blessed by your articulate sharing of eternal truths. Thanks for sharing your struggles with us.

  7. Dr. Dan, I think of you often, remember me, Vanessa from Sentara. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. You were always an inspriration to me back when we worked at Sentara. You always had a smile on your face and always looked at things in a very positive way. You made me feel good when I saw your smile and I was having a bad day. Keep in touch