The gift of healing

I suppose it was five or six years ago when Terry returned from his annual physical and told me his PSA test was slightly elevated. The PSA, of course, is the blood test that measures the possible enlargement of the prostate and then the possibility of prostate cancer. But tests are just tests and the level of elevation was so slight and it was inconclusive. In the physical exam, the doctor said he could not feel any enlargement at all.

anhbieutngBut as a precautionary measure, the physician ordered another PSA in six months rather than waiting a year. And so it went for a couple of years. Slightly elevated and then back down. Elevated and not. The PSA seemed to be floating around, fluctuating but never elevated to the point of causing any red flags to pop up (unintended pun). And with each PSA came a physical examination as well. No enlargement.

After two years of tests, the doctor was again conducting the physical exam and he said, “You know, Terry, I think I feel some enlargement, but maybe I want to feel enlargement because the PSAs have been so odd. I can’t tell for certain whether there is any enlargement or if everything is normal.” As a precautionary measure, the physician referred Terry to a urologist within the same hospital/clinic system.

Now, before I go any further, I want to state that Terry and I have the same physician. He is an internal medicine specialist and he is highly regarded in his field rating at the top of internal medicine specialists in our city. Plus, we just like the guy. He is thorough to be sure, but he has a gentleness about him that belies his expertise. You would expect someone with his credentials to have some pomposity about him. There is none of that. He sings in his church choir. We talk of music and art when we are with him. And he is kind. He has experienced personal hurt in his life of which he talks with me a little but not much. I have seen him get tears in his eyes when he has talked lovingly of his wife and some complicating physical issues that she has undergone.

The urologist to whom Terry referred is also at the top of his field and he agreed with our primary physician that if there were an enlargement of the prostate, he could not feel it. He agreed that the PSA tests were inconclusive. But he told Terry that he so trusted our physician that he wanted to surgically remove the prostate just to be certain.

Surgery went off without a hitch. A robotic method was used where the urologist sat on one side of the room and operated the robot that removed the prostate from Terry on the other side of the room. Delicacy is required in this surgery because of all of the other important “stuff” either connected to the prostate or located near it.

Prostate cancer was confirmed. It was thought to be at an early stage and in only one side of the prostate.  The surgeon’s initial report was that he was pretty certain he had gotten it all.

When the final tests the tests came back, they confirmed was that all of the cancer had been removed. But they also showed that the cancer had been found on both sides of the prostate and, what’s more, it was an aggressive form of the cancer.

Yet it was gone. One day Terry had cancer and the next day he didn’t. No chemo. No radiation. Subsequent PSA tests have shown no indication of a prostate at all, let alone cancer. Those tests will have to continue for a few more years to ensure that all is right with the world, but we believe all of the cancer was caught and removed before it was able to spread. And Terry is just fine, thank you very much.

Now, the urologist was good. No doubt about that. But it was our internal medicine specialist, our gentle, kind and thorough primary physician who made the decision that Terry should seek more specialized attention and who personally picked out the urologist who ultimately did the surgery.

On one of my subsequent visits to our doctor, I said to him, “You saved Terry’s life. We both agree on that. Had you not had that feeling that something was going on and he needed more attention, the cancer would have spread and metastasized.”

And that’s when our humble doctor thanked me and then shared something with me I never thought I would hear from a medical professional of any kind. “Gretchen, I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but when I do a breast exam, I close my eyes and I imagine a small angel at the end of each of my fingers. And I ask those angels for help finding anything unusual. When I do a prostate exam, it’s exactly the same approach.”

Medical-Symbol2In this way he has been able to find that which others may have overlooked or been unable to sense or would have just written off. But the point, of course, is that he has humbled himself before God, asking for help to protect his patients, the people he serves. And, I believe, he serves in God’s name.

You know, we all have a calling. When we moved to Wisconsin, it was because Terry had a calling here. People immediately respond to that with, “Oh, is Terry a minister too?” No, Terry works in government. But Terry is aware of God working in his life and calling him to be the kind of executive God wants him to be and the humility with which he must approach that calling.

Our physician knows that God is calling him too. In the way he conducts himself, the way he cares for his patients, the thought he puts into learning and leading, our physician knows that humility before God is necessary to properly serve.

We are so grateful that God led us to our doctor 15 years ago when we moved here and had no clue who to see whether it was for medical needs, car repair, or a haircut.

All of us are called to humble ourselves before God and seek God’s direction so that we might be a living presence of God in this world for others.

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy…. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

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