View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cancer statistics


Exo 18:5-7 Jethro came with Moses' wife and her two sons into the desert where Moses was camped at the holy mountain. He had sent word to Moses that they were coming, so Moses went out to meet him, bowed before him, and kissed him. They asked about each other's health and then went into Moses' tent. GNB

The above meeting took place about 3500 years ago and just goes to show that some things have not changed. Young couples talk about their kids and/or pets, and old folks still talk about their health, then their pets.

Over the last three years I have spent an inordinate amount of time in doctor’s offices, labs and hospitals. I am starting to feel like Frank Weims, our former associate pastor, who, at last count that I am aware of, has had something like 36 surgeries. He is in a class all his own and I am not trying to one up him, but I am on a trend that is not comfortable.

I am in my second tour of duty at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in Portland and becoming all to familiar with navigating around this huge and complex medical facility. In the process of having pre-operative tests and an MRI, I came across two very young children who were also being poked, probed, examined and just plain frightened. One was a two year old girl with an inoperable brain tumor. I saw her come out of the MRI room, sedated but awake, and even not knowing what her problem was, my heart broke and I cried. Later Jeri told me what the issues were because she had talked with the parents. My question to God was “How can a two year old have time to live wrong and eat unhealthy food and develop the problems she has?” Being an ex-IRS agent, I still tend to ask questions that I already know the answer to, but I asked it anyway wondering if God would give me His side of the story. He didn’t so I am left with the answer being “Because I am God and I know what is best and there is a higher purpose in all of this”. Easy for Him to say!

In dealing with my own health issues and some reluctant research, I have come upon some startling statistics. Some of you who keep up on these kinds of things will not be surprised, but I, in my sheltered little world of oblivion, am.

According to the American Cancer Society’s 2009 report, which covers up through 2006, we all have a better than 99% chance of being alive at the end of the year. Our country, with the lowest death rate in the world, has a less than 1% death rate from ALL causes. Take a moment and savor that bit of encouragement because it is probably the last one you will get in this article.

The bottom line is none of us are getting out of here alive. In all of recorded history, only Enoch and Elijah made it without having to experience death. Lazarus got to experience death twice. Whoopee! Of the approximately 3 million people that will die this coming year, 26% will die of heart disease and 23 % will die of cancer. That is half, folks. Half of everyone we know - family, friends, neighbors, co-workers - who dies this year will succumb to one of those diseases. The other half will fall to all other diseases, infections, accidents, natural causes, you name it. That astounds me and I had no idea.

Then I came across a chart that states that one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetime. Cancer may not kill them, but it will find them. If you have wondered why so many around us have cancer, there is your first clue. Cancer has no respect for age, race, gender or position. It is indiscriminate.

But there is good news! (OK, sorry, I lied earlier about there not being much encouragement.)  While the cancer incidence rate has only slightly increased over the last 50 years, survival rates have dramatically increased. Five year survival rates for prostate cancer have increased from 69% in 1975 to 99% now. Breast cancer rates have gone from 75% to 89%. The reasons for the increase are better detection methods, earlier detection, and more advanced treatment methods. Research is revealing DNA characteristics of cancer cells and pharmaceuticals are being developed that only target cells with those certain DNA, leaving healthy cells alone. Side effects range from none to very minor.
Plus there are things you can do to help the odds of not getting cancer. If you smoke, quit! Thirty percent of all cancer deaths will be from lung cancer and 30 percent of adults over 18 still smoke.

In the age where the PSA test is just a simple and economically feasible blood test, only 54% of men over 50 have one every year. Come on, guys, get with it! Do one every year and keep track of it. Early detection is the key to prostate cancer. That is gospel from the horse’s mouth! And for you ladies, breast examination and mammograms are a must.

In the course of all this, the best news is that we, who know Christ as Lord and Savior, know that Satan is the instigator of all of this and while he thinks he is winning, he isn’t. For while he may make life miserable here on earth and try to destroy our testimony, we will have victory, even in death.

Rom 8:35-39 Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? As the scripture says, "For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below---there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord. GNB

Friday, February 19, 2010

View from the Ridge

Ecc.3:1-3 Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, the time for killing and the time for healing, the time for tearing down and the time for building.

ECC 3:11-13 He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what he does. So I realized that all we can do is be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive. All of us should eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for. It is God's gift. GNB

This has been a busy week but I thought I would bring everyone up to date. Tuesday was doing all the pre-op stuff for Wednesday’s surgery. We first went to the anesthesia wing and they drew blood, did an EKG, and a physical exam to make sure I was healthy enough to undergo surgery. Then it was off to the MRI wing where I spent an hour and a half inside while they did only my head and neck. I knew I was in trouble when they gave me ear plugs. That was the noisiest contraption I have ever been inside of. Most of the time it sounded like there were 2 or 3 guys with mallets beating on wood and iron. There was one period that it sounded like a giant microwave oven was ready to cook me. Then it was back to the surgeon’s office for a final consultation with him.

Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) is a huge facility and walking around trying to find all these places was a challenge for healthy old people. I really don’t know how the sick ones do it. Then I noticed that most everyone there looked sick. I was healthier than just about everyone; yet here I was, preparing for surgery. Each department wanted my weight and blood pressure and what level of pain I was experiencing. Each time I replied “none” and they gave me the “why are you here” look.

I have to tell you that over the preceding weekend, I did not get much sleep. I was so not looking forward to four hours of surgery and then the recovery time and pain. So Sunday, I started asking God for peace because Satan was flooding my mind with every conceivable consequence of this surgery. Monday and Tuesday nights were good sleeping nights because God answered that request and I felt the prayers of all of you asking for the same thing. I started to finally give it all to Jesus and it was a heavy load off of me.

Wednesday started at 8 a.m. with a visit to the Nuclear Medicine department. Here they wanted to inject a radioactive isotope into four areas inside my nose. The blood stream would then take this to the lymph nodes that service that area of the nose. They have a camera that records the flow of the isotopes and then the doctor marks on my neck where these nodes are so that the surgeon will be able to remove them. I mentioned to this one resident doctor that he better not be writing “cut on dotted line”.

When I first arrived I was met by the operator of the equipment and he explained how the procedure would work. He also explained that the shots in the nose would sting like a bee.

I didn’t think much about it until the surgeon arrived to give the injections. He had an entourage of 5 other doctors and residences who wanted to observe this rare procedure where the injection site is inside the nose. So while these guys are all chit chatting about what is going to happen, the burly operator positions himself directly behind and instructs me to relax and lean back on him. That’s when I knew that I was in deep trouble. He clamps his hands on the sides of my head so I can’t move it and the surgeon proceeds with the injections.

Bee stings my foot!! That hurt!! On a scare of 1 to 10, that was a 9.5! Now I know why they only hire big burley guys to run that machine. Yikes!

Anyway, it took an hour but they located two lymph nodes and marked them for removal. While I was going through that, Jeri and Lani went up to admitting and got me all checked in for surgery. Was in the bed by 10:30.

Now, surgery had been scheduled for 11 but they didn’t come for me until 1 p,m, So this young anesthesiologist comes to get me and says she is going to give me something to relax me while they wheel me into surgery. That’s the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery. I started to wake up and the first thing I see across the room is the number 28 and I started to laugh. It is my favorite number and I knew then that everything was going to be alright.

During the surgery they took out a patch of flesh that was 3 inches by 3 inches. That is just out of one side of my nose. I do not have the faintest idea how they could even find that much surface area inside a nose, but they did. The surgeon told lani that he removed the entire inside surface of the left nostril. They then took a six inch strip of skin from my shoulder just below the neck to graft back into the nose to speed the healing process and have as little scaring as possible.

The bad news is that when the doctor turned over the patch removed he could see cancer cells. The cells are a type that travel underneath the skin and do not go deep. He was able to get clear margins but it will be next week for the path reports on the lymph nodes removed. The surgeon now feels that I will need to follow up with radiation to insure that any microscopic cells will be killed off before they migrate to other areas. They do not want to risk any cells migrating toward the brain.

Recovery has been a snap. I have felt good with little or no pain. No one can understand why the lack of pain, except that I have always been numb from the neck up. When Lani saw how long the incision for the skin graft was, she figured that we would be in for 3 days of intense pain. But it didn’t happen. I have never felt this good after any surgery. Our only explanation is that the great physician, Jesus, laid his healing hand upon me. Thank you all again for your prayers. They have been effective and I am eternally grateful.

Monday, February 15, 2010


View from the Ridge

Matthew 6:7-8 "When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him. GNB

So; we have the above verses, and most of us have read and quoted them numerous times, but just how far before the need arises does God provide? In my case, try 35 plus years!

In August of 1970, Jeri and I were blessed by the birth of our third child, Andy. It had been 8 years since the birth of our second child and we weren’t trying to have any more but God in his infinite wisdom knew that in order for us to have a fourth child, we needed Andy. Excuse me, a Fourth?

Well, now we had a dilemma. Do we raise Andy with kids that are 8 and 9 years older, do we have another, or do we adopt? Since Jeri had Rh factor problems with Andy, it was decided that Mikey should man-up and do the right thing and make sure there were no more surprises. Easy for her to say!

And, since Mikey would no longer be planting any seeds, the seed of adoption was planted by the Holy Spirit in our minds. We contacted Holt International adoption agency and started the application process in early 1971. We were told it would take 12 to 24 months for the new arrival to show up. Long story short, six months to the day of first contact with Holt, she was carried off an airplane in Eugene and handed to us. She was 26 months old and her given name was Lee Byung Hee. We named her Lani Jean.

Flash forward to 2006. I have returned from a mission trip to Nigeria and my doctor insists on a second PSA test. It is again elevated, they do the biopsy thing, and it comes back positive for stage 1 prostate cancer. By this time Lani is an RN at OHSU medical center and before we can ask ourselves “what do we do next?” she has appointments with heads of departments who work with prostate cancer. Eight weeks of IMRT radiation and three years later I am free of ---- well, at least prostate cancer.

So now we flash forward to January of 2010, we are just beginning to enjoy the warmth of southern California, when the black bird of cancer flies up my nose and takes root on my septum. Lani, now a PHD student at OHSU, and her husband let us know in no uncertain terms that we will be heading back to Portland because she has made three appointments starting in four days. One is with a prominent Oncologist who has dealt with Melanoma patients and research for 20 years at the Providence cancer center, the other an ENT surgeon who has spent many years working on Melanoma patients at OHSU. I shudder to think how long it would have taken Jeri and me to get doctor appointments – if we even knew what doctors to call.

Lani has been relentless in getting appointments, providing us with information on Melanoma, following up with doctors and secretaries, insuring that everything is kept on schedule and progressing forward as quickly as possible, All this while trying to keep up with her Doctorate studies and caring for a family of five. I am worn out just thinking of all she does in a day.

The gist of all this is that a loving God, who knew what my needs would be before the foundations of the earth were in place, put an abandoned Korean baby in our home so that almost 40 years later she could minister to us and provide the help we needed most at this time in our lives. Was all of this by chance or coincidence? I don’t think so!

Could our other kids have provided the help we needed? Of course! And each is providing support and encouragement. But Lani is in a unique position with excellent connections and a gift for convincing others to change priorities and rearrange schedules to meet our needs.

Whenever a new baby is brought into this world, the parents always wonder what impact this child will have on their lives in the future. There is no way we could have anticipated the blessing that Lani has been to us. Each of our kids brings special gifts to this family and makes it what it is. This is just the story of one. This story also affirms that the Father truly does know before hand what we need even before we know what to ask for. That is why it is so important to pray, even when we don’t know how or what to pray for, because He already knows what we need and the answer is on the way

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


View from the Ridge
Psa 6:9 You have answered my prayer and my plea for mercy.

2Sa 22:7 I was in terrible trouble when I (we) called out to you, but from your temple you heard me (us) and answered my (our) prayer.

This is a thank you note to all those who have prayed and continue to pray for the situation with my health and Melanoma. I was astounded by the numbers when I started thinking about it. Not only did my church and the care groups associated with it offer up prayers, but also the churches and care groups that many of our friends attend. There were literally thousands of prayers sent up on my behalf. I am truly grateful and humbled. I would hope that each of you would copy and print off this article and share it with your church, Sunday School class and care group that prayed on my behalf. I am eternally grateful to each and everyone.

Psa 39:12 “Listen, LORD, to my prayer! My eyes are flooded with tears, as I pray to you. I am merely a stranger visiting in your home as my ancestors did.

Psa 86:1 Please listen, LORD, and answer my prayer! I am poor and helpless.

Psa 86:6 Please listen, LORD! Answer my prayer for help.

In the days before the CT-PET scan and the results, I truly did not know how to pray. In my heart I knew what I and my family wanted, but I have lived long enough to have seen many of my friends go though similar trials, seen their prayers answered with a no and they are with Jesus today. While they may be enjoying Heaven, their spouses and family endured a time of suffering and have a huge area in their lives that is empty. I was reluctant to ask God for special favors, to grant me something that my friends were not granted. I am not a Bible scholar, do not consider myself a prayer warrior, struggle to find time to read my Bible, and do not consider my self worthy of any special favors. Yet God has blessed me with hope for the future. I am not out of the woods yet; this melanoma cancer could pop back up as it is known to do, but for now there is no sign of it.

So now I ask “Why me, God, why me and not those that I loved and cherished as friends?” There is no answer. God is who He is and chooses as He pleases. If I have nothing else going for me, I do know this: I know who I have trusted my life to; the same Jesus who gave His life for my sins and daily watches over me. I do not question His sovereignty or His will. I will gladly go wherever He chooses and endure whatever He allows in my life because I know what Jesus endured for me. I know that He walks with me in good times and bad. I try to be his faithful servant, warts and all!

The following prayer from Psalms says it all. I took some liberties and replaced the words I with we, me with us and my with ours.

Psa 66:16-20 All who worship God, come here and listen; we will tell you everything God has done for us. We prayed to the Lord, and we praised him. If our thoughts had been sinful, he would have refused to hear us. But God did listen and answered our prayers. Let's praise God! He listened when we prayed, and He is always kind.

As I write this and praise God for His blessings, my friends Dick Pogue and Jerry Street are battling the ravages of cancer. Please add them to your prayer list. They desperately need healing. We praise God for the good results of Heidi Routt, a young lady in her 20’s who suffered through breast cancer but appears to be cancer free now. But as many of you who know about cancer, you are never really free of it; it is an insidious disease that is just waiting to expose it’s self again. Pray for Brenda McGirr who is recovering from colon cancer surgery. Each of you reading this more than likely knows at least one person that is battling cancer. Pray for them. We know an awesome God who is the great physician. We need to seek His will.

Psa 118:5 When I was really hurting, I prayed to the LORD. He answered my prayer, and took my worries away.

Psa 119:169 Please, LORD, hear my prayer and give me the understanding that comes from your word.

Psa 138:3 When I asked for your help, you answered my prayer and gave me courage.

In the days ahead I will be undergoing surgery to clean out the area on my nasal septum to insure there are no microscopic cancer cells lingering around waiting to take root. Radiation therapy will most likely follow. And then, as always, it will be up to the Lord what my journey will be and how long He grants me to walk among you.

There is power in prayer. I went to and they list the results of 19 studies that show positive results in patients recovering from heart attacks, surgeries, and cancer compared to those who did not receive prayer. Some of the studies were done without the patients knowing and the people praying only had first names and no information as to the specific needs of the patient. They even did studies with the praying participants being in other countries and of other religions. Studies were done at places like Duke and Yale Universities, the Mayo Clinic and USC medical school. In every study patients that were prayed for required less medication, recovered faster, blood pressure was lower and they required fewer days in the hospital. We need to pray more for those that are hurting. We have a tremendous resource in the power of prayer and an almighty God. We need to be more diligent in tapping into that power.

Thank you all again, and may God richly bless you for your faithfulness in praying for Jeri and I.

Psa 30:1-12   I will praise you, LORD! You saved me from the grave and kept my enemies from celebrating my death. I prayed to you, LORD God, and you healed me, saving me from death and the grave. Your faithful people, LORD, will praise you with songs and honor your holy name. Your anger lasts a little while, but your kindness lasts for a lifetime. At night we may cry, but when morning comes we will celebrate. I was carefree and thought, "I'll never be shaken!" You, LORD, were my friend, and you made me strong as a mighty mountain. But when you hid your face, I was crushed. I prayed to you, LORD, and in my prayer I said, “What good will it do you if I am in the grave? Once I have turned to dust, how can I praise you or tell how loyal you are? Have pity, LORD! Help!" You have turned my sorrow into joyful dancing. No longer am I sad and wearing sackcloth. I thank you from my heart, and I will never stop singing your praises, my LORD and my God.