Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Report to the Presbytery Nov. 18, 2008

We are all healed in Jesus.

Early on Saturday, October 11 I was making breakfast for our sons, pancakes and scrambled eggs, as usual on a Saturday morning. While cooking I was chatting with both of them as they were sitting at our kitchen table waiting for food. My wife, Kris, came into the kitchen in her bathrobe, fresh out of her morning shower. With a bright smile on her face and in her voice, she said loudly to all of us, “Stop everything; We need to pray. I am done with my tamoxifen. Thank God.” With great ceremony, she slowly pulled open the cabinet which holds our kitchen garbage can, held her hand up high for a moment, and dropped her empty pill bottle into the garbage.

For five years, 60 months, every single day, my wife has dutifully taken her tamoxifen pill. Tamoxifen is a form a chemo-therapy routinely prescribed now as part of the treatment plan for breast cancer. In the summer of 2003, my Kris was diagnosed with breast cancer. Our lives were immediately all tossed up in the air and we landed upside down, bewildered, dizzy and very confused. Her surgery at UPMC’s Magee Women’s hospital in Pittsburgh went “perfectly”; that was the word her surgeon used when he first came out to talk with me in the waiting room. Immediately after surgery eight weeks of outpatient radiation therapy were prescribed. For those weeks, sometimes alone, sometimes with me, sometimes with other friends, Kris made the trip to the hospital for her radiation therapy. And for every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of those eight weeks the church I was serving delivered a full dinner to our home. I challenge you, in your churches, to match that kind of pastoral care.

On the advice of her doctor, after the radiation therapy, Kris started taking tamoxifen for the recommended five years. This past July she went back for her regular appointment with her oncologist. He reviewed her recent mammogram, examined her, then he gave her a big hug and told her that she had “graduated.” She does not need to see her oncologist any more; she is cancer free. Now that last tamoxifen pill is gone also, we are profoundly grateful.

In 2003, when this journey with cancer started, our three sons that year were ages 15, 11 and 3. I remember praying, hard and deep prayers, which I never shared with Kris. I prayed, “Lord, please just give Kris a few more years so we can get these boys a little older before I must take care of them by myself.” Although we always received encouragement, good news and hope, there was always a dark prayer lingering in my heart, expecting that soon cancer would win this fight. But here we are five years later. The empty pill bottle is in the garbage, my dear Kris is cancer free, and we rejoice in the abundant blessings that have been showered on our family.

Everyone responds to these kinds of traumas in life differently. Of course, many, many people do not have the good news which we have had. But everyone can be a part of God’s healing presence. Healing comes from our God in many different ways. I know the journey through breast cancer is very difficult for the women involved. But it is in very significant ways also very difficult for the men, for the husbands and the fathers, and for the children. Of course, it is not our bodies that are involved, but it is our lives. Pastors and church people know all this. Our pastoral care in these situations may be the most important thing we do in the church.

What does it feel like to be healed? What does it feel like to be blessed? By grace, I have had the privilege of walking next to a remarkable woman who has taught me about such things. Healing is always plural. Healing is always shared. Kris is healed, the landmark five year point has been passed. Today’s medical definition of being healed of cancer is real, wonderfully, truly, fabulously real for us. Kris dropped the empty pill bottle in the garbage. So I wanted to share this simple and yet important word with you all from my wife. She believes, as I do also in a new way now, that we are all healed in Jesus Christ.

After dropping the empty pill bottle in the garbage and after Kris led our family in a prayer of thanksgiving, we stood around for a moment chatting, reflecting and eating breakfast. Our now 17 year old son, Michael, asked his mom. “So what does it feel like to have had cancer?” Without hesitation Kris responded, “It has all been a great blessing. We are all healed in Jesus.” Thanks be to God.