Wednesday, October 20, 2010

6 - OH!

Today is a birthday that I never thought I would see. Not only is it the 60th milestone, but the fact is that it is "bonus birthday" number four by my count.

Most of you know the story, and I won't burden you with all the details again, but for those who may be new readers - or just surfing by - allow me to recount the main points.

Just after my 54th Birthday, (six years ago) they dropped the bomb on me. Colon Cancer. Metastatic colon cancer. Conventional wisdom was that I may not live to see my 56th birthday. The malignancy had already spread throughout my liver and lymph nodes. Diagnosis was "Stage 4, Incurable". Prognosis was not good. 18 to 22 months average survival time. There was major surgery to remove much of my colon, several other surgical procedures followed. There were two six month courses of hard, debilitating chemotherapy, separated by a few short months of remission. And then... Nothing.

"You will never be cancer free" my doctor told me. "The cancer cells have spread throughout your body through the blood stream, and we will need to monitor it, because it will come back somewhere" he said.

And monitor it they have.

Since my last chemo treatment I make a monthly trip to the Ashland Bellefonte Cancer center to have my medi-port flushed. While there, they do monthly blood work to check the CEA level (those are the bad guys - a marker that colon cancer leaves in your bloodstream) and other basic blood levels such as hemoglobin, white blood cell count, platelets, etc. There have been quarterly CT scans of my abdomen and pelvic area. Every six months I have a PET Scan of my entire body looking for tumors "as small as the head of a pin". I see my oncologist every couple of months, as he looks over all the reports, and pokes and prods me all around the stomach, groin, and under my arms, feeling (I suppose) for swollen lymph nodes or other tell tell signs of trouble.

So far, so good.

The point is this. I should have been dead four years ago. It is so easy to question why I am still here, when others are gone. I have several friends who were diagnosed after me, and have already passed away. I have even officiated at the funerals of two folks with whom I took chemotherapy.


I don't know. But I know that God does. So I will not question. I will feel no guilt. I will take no credit.

What I will do today is to enjoy this milestone that He has allowed me to reach. I will rejoice in each additional day He grants me.

I will rejoice that God has given me more years with my best friend and love of my life, Linda. I will relish the fact that I have been blessed to live to see my grandsons grow and to have time to build a special relationship with each of them. I will be thankful for having seen my sons become men of whom I am proud to have raised, and to see them lead their own families in a Godly path. I will be thankful for a wonderful church congregation that stood by me in my darkest hours, and continue to support me as I try to lead them in my 8th year as their pastor. I will rejoice in each day - in its blessings and its challenges.

I will be thankful and appreciative to Dr. Kirti Jain and the wonderful staff at Ashland Bellefonte Cancer Center, and all of the other medical professionals who have worked with me for the past six years.

But most of all, I will thank my God, who in his Sovereign plan, has not only spared my life, but has redeemed my never dying soul, and has ordered my steps and put a new song in my heart. Let me close with the words of the 40th Psalm:

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,who does not turn to the proud,to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God,your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.

As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! (ESV)

1 comment:

Doug Virgin said...

First let me say "happy birthday". I know you will enjoy this special day because the sun is shining brightly today.

SECOND: We were saddened in our office the day we found out about your cancer and how bad the Dr. said it could be for you. Judy and I began praying for you. She also sent your name out to the many, many friends that we have in KY, OH, TX, and WV for prayer. A battle was raging on your behalf. I had known you for many years and wanted to keep you around for many more. I was encouraged by the fact that Dr. Jain was your Dr. and I know what a good Dr. he is because he took care of my Mom and Dad in their battle with cancer.

THIRD: I was so glad that you had Randy Spurgeon serving with you at Westmoreland. He was such a blessing stepping in when he needed to so he could help you out during that difficult time of treatment. What a man of God!

FOURTH: We now rejoice with you and Linda in the fact that you are cancer free. That is a God thing and nothing more.

Happy birthday Bro.

Serving Christ Always,