Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today's P.E.T. Scan News

The Bottom Line:
Good, but not great. 1 small spot (1.5 cm x 1.3 cm) on upper left chest wall. The spot is "easily accessible & easily resectable" which means, "easy for surgeon to get to & remove."

The Plan:
Thus, I'll be back out here mid-May-ish for yet another go-round w/ my old friend Dr. Mehran the surgeon. Will probably be in hospital a couple of days, w/ another 7-10 days of feeling sort of yucky. The expectation is that this surgery & recovery will be more intense than my 2 VATS surgeries in 08, but less intense than the "Adam's-Rib" surgery of last summer (which had a *long* recovery!).

(Seemingly-Trivial Professional aside: it seems I'm just not destined to become a CFA, as this will be the 3rd consecutive year that I'll be bowing out of CFA II because of either actual medical stuff or threatened medical stuff...*sigh*)

The Reaction:
Hmmm...multiple reactions.

1) Obviously not the news we wanted. But when one has metastatic melanoma, such news is never totally unexpected. (Your takeaway point: USE SUNSCREEN!! *smile*)

2) **VERY IMPORTANT--In fact, this is the *MOST* Important One** God is ABSOLUTELY just as good & just as glorious & just as loving & just as worthy of our praise & of our lives as He was after my last scan which was clean! This circumstance does NOT diminish His goodness in general nor toward Mike Madaris & family in particular. The scan result also does NOT diminish His love in general, nor toward me personally.

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?

Job 26:14

3) Dr. Homsi (my medical Oncologist) is very optimistic, as are we, as is the Dr. Mehran the surgeon. Just another bump in the road, Lord willing.

4) It's a reminder that all of us...Every. Single. Person....is, in the words of a dear friend, living in rented apartment space that's wearing out all around us.

5) I have no sense that the time of my departure is at hand. Nor do any of the Drs. involved. (The time of that departure is not ultimately in the hands of anyone @ M.D. Anderson, btw.)

6) A reminder of the importance of prayer.

7) Ditto theology.

8) Ditto praise.

Summing up, I'm convinced that I'm alive today because God providentially led me to MDA/Dr. Homsi/Dr. Hwu/Dr. Mehran. Lisa & I have total confidence in their skills (specifically in Dr. Mehran's as a surgeon @ the moment).

With all of that said, you're a praying type, Lisa & I would welcome your prayers. James & Anne too. And don't forget my Mom & her husband, & my brother & his family.

"Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone and live so all might see the strength to follow Your commands could never come from me. Oh Father, use my ransomed life in any way You choose, and let my song forever be, 'My only boast is You.'" (a *great* song line; a much more difficult prayer goal for me personally right now)

With much love, & a thankful heart, & great hope,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Singing the Gospel to Myself

So, what does one think about when walking to M.D. Anderson for bloodwork & a P.E.T. scan? I'll answer for me: I was singing the two songs below. Please do NOT be impressed with my piety & righteousness. Remember in the previous post where I mentioned my fear? Yeah…singing these songs to myself was me dealing w/ my fear. As my beloved friend & pastor Tony Merida reminds us often, I was “preaching the Gospel to myself". Only in song form, which works very well (as Tony also says). Songs are theology that we can take home. Or into the waiting rooms & scan rooms & Dr. offices of MDA, whichever.

Actually, I was just singing the chorus of the first one over & over. I also sang what I could remember of the second one. The first one is one of Lisa's & my favorite hymns (just written a couple of years ago, btw). Incredible words, & yet another one that tells my own story. We sang it just this past Sunday in church (thanks Paul & choir & orchestra!). Read the words s l o w l y for they are incredibly rich. And VERY timely for me today. I 'spect I'll be singing it again tomorrow too.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Here's a link to a video of the song from a conference a couple of years ago. 6 minutes long; enjoy! (I'll be the one singing along with you...*smile*)

This second one is a long-time fave of mine. Simple, yet powerful words, set to BEAUTIFUL music. In a remarkable "coincidence" (not), my Bible reading plan had me in Psalm 80 this morning. Psalm 80 has these words three times:

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Again, a very timely word for me today. And that word took me once again to PCD's beautiful song. I wasn't in "the darkest night" but I definitely have been there inside of MDA, and many others were there today.

SHINE ON US– performed by Phillips, Craig, & Dean
Lord, let your light, Light of your face shine on us
Lord, let your light, Light of your face shine on us
That we may be saved; that we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let your light shine on us

Lord let your grace, grace from your hand fall on us
Lord let your grace, grace from your hand fall on us
That we, may be saved; that we, may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let your grace fall on us

Lord let your love, love with no end come over us
Lord let your love, love with no end come over us
That we may be saved; That we, may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let your love come over us

And here's a link to a video of this one. (The video is time lapse images with the original song playing.) I just *love* how they add a voice of harmony on each of the verses.) Enjoy this one too! (Again, I'll be the one singing along.)

Please pray for us tomorrow. My appointment w/ Dr. Homsi is at 1:30. The clock...is..... already........slowing..........down.....(or so it seems).

Thanks SO MUCH for your prayers. As I told a friend today, I will never again downplay the significance of the phrase "praying for you." It is so very humbling to know that my family & I are being mentioned in the throneroom of Glory by so many of you.

Humbled, Thankful, & Hopeful,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Off to MDA again...Prayers MOST Welcome!

The plane ticket is reserved. The motel room is reserved. The Super Shuttle from the airport to the motel & back is reserved. The leaving time from James' apt. in Jackson to the airport is decided. A piece of couch @ James' place in Jackson is reserved on the way back to keep from having to drive home late. The appts. for the scans, bloodwork, & the latest most-important-Dr.-appt-in-my-life are set.

Now it's time to wait. And pray. And pray some more. And ask my friends & acquaintances to pray. Again.

Sunday afternoon (3/20) I'll drive up to Jackson & drop my car @ James' apt. He'll run me over to the airport for my evening flight to Hobby Airport. (Flying is a new wrinkle to the MDA runs...with gas prices going ever upward, I'll wind up getting there & back for roughly the same price, and will do so without the 16-17 hrs. of driving time as an added bonus. Flying also adds the new transportation wrinkle of something called "Super Shuttle" that'll take me from airport to the motel & back.)

Monday (3/21), I'll either ride a shuttle or walk to MDA (depending on motivation) for a fun-filled day. Bloodwork & P.E.T. scan. The real bummer is, no food nor coffee until after the scan is over. Do-able, but I'm not happy about it. *smile*

Tuesday (3/22) is the all-important appt. w/ Dr. Homsi to get the results of Monday's scan. An easy day physically. The most stressful day mentally & emotionally by a long way...My BP is managed between meds & Short Ribs the bicycle. But the meds & the biking fall well short of keeping the BP down on P.E.T. scan results day. *sigh* I fly back to Jackson Tuesday night, & will drive back to H'burg Wed. a.m.

Emotions? Yep.

Fears? Yep. (Sorry to disappoint anyone with that confession.)

Faith despite the previous two? Absolutely!!

That faith is what pulls me through the emotions & fears & keeps me looking ahead with ultimate hope.

Trips back to MDA always draw me back to Paul's words in 2 Cor. 4:6-8 & 16-18 (which have become my life verses & life goals over these past couple of years; the last time I got to preach a sermon, this was my text)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair...So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Trips back to MDA also draw me back to Moses' words in Psalm 90:1-3 & 12-17. (One of the wisest men I know quote a good portion of this in prayer when he turned 50 some years ago at one of the most moving & significant birthday celebrations I've ever experienced. I've been captivated by the Psalm since then.)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”...So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

MDA trips also draw me back to Isaiah's words in Isaiah 41:9-10 & 43:1-3a, 10-11. (At my first appt. w/ my local oncologist--who was already a friend--he shared some of these verses with me while telling me, "I am merely a tool in the hands of Almighty God; the outcome of your cancer journey is not ultimately in my hands, but His. Here are some verses I share with all of my patients at the first appointment." Easily one of the most awesome Dr. appts. I've ever had, in the true sense of the word "awesome" as in, "struck with awe.")

You whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand...For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'”...
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you...he who formed you...“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..."You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior."

Thank you SO much for praying for us! ("Us" is the key word; I strongly believe that it's FAR easier to be the patient than to be the loved one of the patient. Thank you for praying for Lisa too! Likewise, the children of the patient...Thank you for praying for James & Anne as well) Would you do it again these next couple of days?

I have no reason to expect bad results. But melanoma is a nasty cancer that is always prone to come back (like mine did). I know that the God of the universe, Who created it all & Who upholds it by the word of his power, Who sees the end from the beginning, Who is outside of time yet is involved in time, Who has gloriously redeemed me & is transforming me into the image of His Son, my Savior...I know that He is well aware of all of the ins & outs of metastatic melanoma & that He is well aware of all the fits & starts & many flaws of Mike Madaris & that He knows with absolutely certainty what the P.E.T. scan will show Monday & what Dr. Homsi will tell me Tuesday.

Here's one more reality check: last Fall, a HS classmate of mine went in for her followup P.E.T. scan. It didn't go well. She went to MDA for surgery in December. Her funeral was this morning. She leaves behind a husband & two sons. THAT is the reality of cancer for so many; I am already a very extreme outlier statistically.

Thanks again for praying!
With love, humility, faith, & hope,

p.s. - for those who are interested, I'll be "live-tweeting" this trip on my Twitter feed (@mmbeachbum), including, of course, the results of Tuesday's appt. Caution: trips to MDA evoke a rather odd & borderline inappropriate sense of humor in me as a fun coping mechanism. You've been warned! *grin*

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our New Small Group

On Sunday evenings this Spring, some 8-10 college students & a couple of recent grads venture over to join us @ the house for our 1st college small group meeting in way too long. Well, except for last night when 100% of the car owners in the group was out of town...

Lisa & I are VERY excited about it! We have dearly treasured small groups & the friendships made there in the past. And thus, we are very much enjoying this group too.

Our official material for this group is a blend of (a) The Bible, and (b) Business for the Glory of God: The Bible's Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business, by Wayne Grudem. (Take a wild guess where I met the folks in our group...*smile*)

It will surprise nobody who's read me for very long that I am a huge fan of Dr. Wayne Grudem's teaching. A major theologian with a great heart for ministry; great combo! Dr. Grudem's undergrad degree is in Economics from Harvard. (His Ph.D. is from Cambridge...which means he has graduated from schools that I'm barely qualified to drive past!) This particular book of his is from a life-long passion he has to see faith integrated into the Business world (a passion shared by me as a Business School professor). Note the subtitle above: "on the moral goodness of Business"...It's his thesis--and mine!--that the business disciplines & practices are in & of themselves morally GOOD according to the clear teaching of Scripture. They are not just morally neutral, and are definitely not morally bad...morally good. (Although certainly--as Dr. Grudem notes--the various aspects of Business offer serious temptations to sin)

And thus, our small group of students who are/were students in Business at my university. They're *great* folks; the kind who continue to give me hope for the future. (Aside: I've said it before, & will again...anyone who totally despairs of the future needs to meet more college students!)

But here's the kicker for this group that just delights me to no end: every single one of them grew up somewhere else besides North America. Rwanda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Russia, Sweden...I've never led a small group like that before, and we are just *loving* it! I am SO thankful for God's providence in my job, that places such great students in my path who are fun to hang out with & who are in a perfect place to try to sort through how their faith intersects their career paths.

Loving God's Providence @ the moment,

(p.s. - Just a short one this time. You're welcome. But be forewarned; the muse has shown up a *lot* recently. You should see the "drafts" folder here. *smile*)

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A Heart of Wisdom (for Gary)

(A re-post from last year; in case you missed it.)

You ever know someone that's nearly perfect?

Someone that everyone gets along with?
Someone who has quietly succeeded in a career without fanfare?
Someone who's a role model for many?
Who pours himself out in service to others, again without fanfare?
Whose face always has a smile on it and is quick to laugh?
Who seeks the good in everyone and who never feels compelled to judge nor to air out dirty laundry about people?

I know such a guy.
Even better, I'm related to him.
Better still, I grew up alongside him.
Even better (well, for me...) I got to room with him in college.

My cousin Gary had a birthday last week. One of those big, change-the-first-digit birthdays...that results in lots of cards & letters from the AARP. I'd mock him, but I had that same birthday last year...

Gary is who I want to be when I grow up, even though I'm 9 months older than he. He's really quite a guy, and has always been quite a guy. Even-keeled...a man with strong convictions who is still friendly with those who don't share those convictions...everybody's friend.

He's an absolute bedrock type guy in our home church where he & his family are members. Serves on all kinds of committees, because he's known as a behind-the-scenes worker bee. Every church needs guys like Gary. Lots of guys like Gary.

But much more, every guy--especially every deeply flawed guy like me--needs guys like Gary as friends. If relatives and friends, well, so much the better. And if relatives and friends and roommates,...that's almost too good!

I moved into an apt. with Gary when I transferred to the U. of Alabama after flaming out in my first attempt at college. Worse for him, I didn't just move into an apt...I moved into his room in the apt.! I'm a knucklehead now, but I was a HUGE knucklehead back then. And yet, Gary showed me nothing but loving grace and patience.

I recently wrote about a couple of Sunday School teachers who matter greatly to me. Well, Gary is not a teacher to me, but rather, an up-close role model & example to me. Those who know my story may connect that I was pretty chapped at God & at life when I arrived @ Bama. In His gracious providence, God moved me in with someone who had experienced the same tragic loss I had...and his Dad died younger than mine at an earlier stage of Gary's life than when my Dad died...and yet, there was Gary, living out a settled, joyful faith in that same God I was so furious about and Whom I so strongly doubted.

I have laughed & said that Gary helped me come to know the Lord and helped me meet my wife, but other than that, he hasn't been all that important to me...*huge grin* Well, both are totally true. In addition, Gary helped me get back on course when our orbits coincided again there in Tuscaloosa.

He never preached to me nor at me...but he lived life before me. There are far too many these days who preach at without living life before. Their message tends to fall on deaf ears.

A word that's in far-too-short supply these days applies: HONOR. Gary honored his mother (who, incidentally, is another hero of mine), and he honored his friends, and he honored his pastor, and he honored his future wife. Most of all, he lived a life that honored his Lord. Our Lord.

And I took note.

And my taking note bore fruit down the road. I trust it still bears fruit today!

So, whenever you pay a tax in Okaloosa County, FL (think "Destin"), that tax will funnel through the county finance office. Which is run by this great guy who graduated from Alabama in accounting, despite having this hammerheaded roommate that he was related to gumming up the works...and which hammerheaded roommate is now oh-so-grateful for what he saw of God's grace lived out on a daily basis in the accounting dude's life. That same grace-filled life is now lived before the locals there back home and in First Baptist Church of Ft. Walton Beach, and is still planting seeds in the lives of teenagers and adults, who may not even realize just how grateful they are to see that life lived out before them.

Gary will be terribly embarrassed at this, for he prefers to be unnoticed & behind the scenes. But his life & faith matter so very greatly to my own life & faith, that I can't not write about him.

Happy Belated Birthday, Cuz! Love you very much. And thanks! As the song says, "Thank you...I am a life that was changed..."


(Some verses that come to mind about Gary...)
I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
Romans 1:8

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus...
1 Corinthians 1:4

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you
Philippians 1:3

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints...For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
Philemon 1:4,5,7

p.s. - Ironically, Gary's Mom & my Mom were also roommates at Alabama before they were sisters-in-law...I've always thought this was very cool that 2 generations were roomies there. But that's another story for another day...