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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19 comments for “The gift of healing

  1. Julie overman
    April 29, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    I want your doctor.

  2. Susan Hurst
    April 29, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I’m so very glad you’ve found a retirement “gig” (writing this weekly blog) that suits you so well! You are blessed, and a blessing to all who read your “stuff.” Love you, girl!

    • April 29, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks, Susan. I do so appreciate you reading it every week and being such a faithful commenter. Love you too!

  3. Susie Thornton
    April 29, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I think we All want your doctor. What a witness he is!
    I am happy with my internist, but realize she will eventually retire. I just pray that she doesn’t burn out due to the extra demands of our new health care system. (Most of her patients are elderly and on Medicare. Except me, of course. Lol)

    • April 29, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      Reminds me how much our doctors need prayers, Susie. On a side note, when I had my knee replaced, they had rolled me into the operating room and the docs, nurses, anesthetists, etc., had surrounded my table. They were just ready to put me under and I said, “OK, who’s praying?” Dead silence. Finally, one of the docs said, “You are.” I said, “I’ve already done that.” Again silence. And just as I went under, I heard a female voice whisper in my ear, “I’m praying for all of us, Gretchen.”

      • Susie Thornton
        April 30, 2015 at 7:59 am

        Thank God for that nurse! I know for a fact that I’m covered if I end up at our local Heart Center, as the cardio-thoracic surgeon and the Cath Lab doc are from our church and always pray with their teams before beginning any procedures. Not sure about my ortho surgeon…. Hmmmm

  4. April 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks so much for this and each blog. I truly enjoyed working with you back in Pierre and was very happy to catch back up to you in the Badger State. Happy to hear the positive report for Terry and your regular dose of wisdom.

    • April 29, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      And thanks for letting me know you’re reading, Dave. Glad to be “reunited.” It has been such a nice surprise to know you’re nearby!

  5. Barb wales
    April 29, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Oh golly, my years selling oncology products to medical oncologists has given me the opportunity to see God working through our healthcare providers. I hope that my docs know that I try to tune into what’s going on with them personally, as they have to deliver bad or good news to a patient. I can’t tell you how many times I’d come in as their sales rep, and realize that the docs day was going miserably. Sometimes he would want to talk about my products, sometimes he just wanted to brush me off (which I understood), sometimes he need to take a break with me talking about something else, so that he could get his mind back to his next patient. I too felt the blow when one of my products didn’t deliver the response the doc was hoping for a particular patient, or when the toxicities were just too great.

    I had the opportunity to take human anatomy and biology recently — something I’d never done before. I’ve had 25 years plus in the pharma industry with excellent training on the products. I fully believe that when as you understand the beauty and the mystery of the human body as a healthcare worker, you can’t help but be awestruck that indeed God did create something so amazing — the Big Bang just doesn’t describe this creation. When you understand how complicated the human body, and the immense power of healing it holds within itself, you just can’t help but be humbled that God has given you the opportunity to assist God in healing.

    Beautiful blog this week, Gretchen!!!

    • April 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      Thank you, Barb, and for your thoughtful comments. As for the Big Bang…I wonder if we could accept that if we knew that God was behind it, that it was all part of God’s plan for Creation and that God fully intended for the complex human body and its soul were to be the fruition of the Big Bang. I’m no scientist at all. And I certainly don’t have the credentials you do (and thank you for your commitment to both doctors and patients), but I am fully willing to accept that we cannot know the immensity of God’s love and power. That’s a bigger bang than we can even imagine.

  6. Merrie Miller
    April 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Again—so meaningful, Gretchen.

    I just spent the afternoon with a man who told me a story about his prostate cancer that was so similar to Terry’s I was amazed. He too is a very spiritual person and feels he was blessed with a miracle.

  7. Ted Faszer
    May 1, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I so appreciate this column, Gretchen! My story is somewhat similar to Terry’s, except it was my hunch – not my primary care doctor’s -that all was not well. My primary care doc was neither vigilant nor proactive, nor honest with me about the risks of watchful waiting. I probably had prostate cancer for 5 years before being diagnosed, and by then the prostate cancer had already spread beyond the prostate. Thank God the cancer had not metastasized to my bones. And thank God I’m fine now, after prostatectomy, radiation, and hormone therapy. Another takeaway from your column might be that patients who have concerns, need to educate themselves, and become proactive about their health. Please get a second opinion if your doctor’s opinion doesn’t seem right, even if insurance won’t pay for it. It may save your life.

    • May 1, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      So glad you weighed in here, Ted. I didn’t know all of that about you and am so grateful to God that you are all right now. You also remind me that Terry and I are adamant about men getting those annual PSA tests even though there are some in the medical community who claim they don’t work. They do work — at least in enough instances to make it worthwhile to get it done. Again, so grateful that you are with us today and I know without a doubt that Marietta is.

    • Terry Anderson
      May 2, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Not only do I recommend annual PSA tests, but any man dealing with this cancer should thoroughly review Dr. Patrick Walsh’s Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer.

  8. ellen lee
    May 3, 2015 at 5:32 am

    You know I have always loved your writing – there is a peace that runs through that no matter what your topic, I feel engaged, informed, and delighted. This time, your doctor’s words of angels on his fingers delighted me…I have never heard anything like this. Thanks for sharing this story.

    • May 3, 2015 at 8:19 am

      Ellen, how nice to hear from you! And, no, I didn’t know your feelings about my writing before. That makes this note that much more special. Thank you. I am grateful that you were touched by the story (which has less to do with my writing and more to do with our doctor’s humility). Thank you so much for reading and for commenting!

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