May Stories

I marinated in radioactive juice again on Monday (AKA a PET scan). The results are exactly what Sherry and I hoped to see. After three different kinds of cancer in two years, including melanoma that had metastasized to my brain and lungs, it is nice to say that medical science cannot find any cancer in my body! I will talk with Dr. Mashru on May 31 to get his direction for next post-cancer steps.

Sherry and I traveled to Kansas City to celebrate Donn’s 55th birthday with steak dinner, Michael and me doing the grandpa/grandson walk to McDonalds, Michael’s first guitar recital, Breshears boys at Top Golf, Elizabeth’s corale winning gold at a state choral competition and a Sunday evening concert at Redemptorist Cathedral and a lot of family time. Concert 1, Conert 2, Concert 3, Click on the links to see video’s of the concert. Elizabeth is wearing the head covering.

Steak dinner at Hereford Steak House
Breshears boys at Top Golf
Michael and me walking to McDonalds

Spring Celebrations

Cancer Update

In a routine annual wellness check I asked Dr. Wachsmuth, my primary care doctor to take a look at several things, one of which was a node of skin on the corner of my jaw under my right ear. To his surprise, it turned out to be Squamous cell carcinoma – my third type of cancer! Everyone think shaving it off at this early stage is the end of it.

I have had two sets of scans since finishing immunotherapy in October. They searched every nook and corner of my body and failed to find any hint of cancer. That is cause for celebration! I will have another set of scans and a visit with the oncologist in May.

Chinese New Year is an occasion to put blessing banners around one’s door. I have been given banners from Taiwan which I renew each year. It’s a tradition that is receiving blessings from God given through friends which delights me.

One of the great joys of being an old man is that I have long time deep friendships with people who have journeyed with Sherry and me on the Jesus way.

I love to play with numbers. For the last couple of months I have been in “double doubles” that is seven seven and five five. Can you guess what they represent? I will specify at the end of the post.


Sherry and I celebrate the anniversary of the first time we saw each other: December 15, 1967, of the evening she manipulated me to ask her to marry me: March 2, 1968; and the Friday evening we were married, March 22, 1968. That’s 99 days if you are counting, and I do of course! This year our anniversary was also on a Friday which made the pattern work even better. We did our celebration at Ester Lee Motel at Lincoln City overlooking the ocean and dinner at Salty’s on the Columbia. They are pictured below. You can see other pictures of our anniversary celebration in this album.

The double doubles are my age (77) and years married (55). We have aged out as we move to 56 years, but in a year numerology will be back: 5678.

Unusual Thanksgiving Blessings

I had a nasty gall bladder attack very early last Wednesday morning. I was directed to the ER where they found a 6mm gall stone in the neck of the gallbladder. I was admitted to the hospital with surgery to remove my gall bladder on Thursday, which was truly a Thanksgiving blessing, if an unusual one. I certainly don’t want another attack! One friend noted that I was like the Thanksgiving turkey with its giblets being removed.

While I was in the ER, I did my phone appointment with Dr. Mashru, my oncologist. He officially confirmed that I am done with immunotherapy and both cancers (bladder and melanoma). I will continue blood tests and periodic CT scans for a while. One very happy result is that I am no longer on the blood thinner which a couple of small blood clots in my lungs necessitated, so the all to common bruises on my forearms will be a thing of the past – I hope!

I am doing well, by God’s good grace. All my systems are functioning normally. My only discomfort is where they punched the four holes in me and that is minimal. I opted out of preaching at Grace last Sunday which made Sherry very happy. I went back to normal life, traveling to Boise on Tuesday for the last session of that cohort and to visit grandkids. Then I returned home Wednesday for all day classes Thursday and Friday, hosted 5 cohorrt students, went to the children’s musical at Grace Friday and Handel’s Messiah on Saturday.

The other Thanksgiving event was that my niece and nephew, Rashelle and Mike McKim were waiting for their son, Connor, to get home from his station in Corpus Christi. They didn’t get to greet him – he was killed in a head on crash. Sherry and I will go to Austin this weekend for his memorial which will be the family reunion we’ve been wanting but for a very different reason. He was an outstanding young man, baptized as a young adult, an academy graduate, a marine, committed to his family and his girlfriedn, full of life and hope. Connor’s obituary is here.

My Cancer is Gone

Dr. Mashru: “Good news. Pet scan continues to show no evidence of melanoma recurrence”. Looks like I am done with immunotherapy and with cancer. 🙏✨

This summary is from my PET scan on November 2 taken to look for metabolic hot spots. Those spots would likely be active cancer. The tech injected the radioactive material and I marinated in it for 77 minutes and then the full body scan. The technical summary goes like this: “The previously seen hypermetabolic pulmonary nodules are resolved or markedly decreased. No other metabolic pulmonary nodule is present. The previously seen FDG avid nodule near the gallbladder neck is no longer visualized. There is no abnormal FDG uptake in the abdomen and pelvis.”

When I did the same scan two years ago, it pointed to three hot spots: lungs, brain and gall bladder. That is all gone now.

The bladder cancer was removed surgically two years ago. I had some subsequent difficulty with blader infections but none for more than six months.

The scans taken two years ago show the melanoma in my lungs

and in my brain:

The team needed to determine exactly what kind of melanoma I had so they poked a needle into one of the tiny nodules in my lung. The doctor was a straight shooter and hit it but I developed a pneumothorax, air inside my chest, so I had to give up the final day of co-teaching Providence and Prayer with Todd Miles. But when my computer was delivered to the hospital room, I relieved my boredom by logging into the Zoom link, to the total surprise of the class, and taught from my hospital bed. The picture is inconic!

The immunotherapy treatments began with the combination of Opdivo and Yervoy. But after three infusions, I developed major reaction: My liver distress numbers which should top out at 40 were over 400. I had major muscle weakness and ended up with one eye almost closed, my should/neck muscles unable to hold my head up. So I taped my eyelids open, wore a neck brace and leaned heavily on a walker. I did one all day Boise Cohort class my our family room. After that I traveled to the teaching sites in Portland, San Jose, Costa Mesa and finally to Boise. A friend recently told me he was going to call in sick but remembered me and went to work.

After a three month reversal of the immunotherapy with 80 mg. of Prednisone, I restarted immunotherapy with Opdivo only. I have had minimal side effects. That treatment is finished now. I will be doing monthly blood panels and CT scans at 3-4 month intervals.

I am deeply grateful to the oncology team at Kaiser headed by Dr. Mashru and for an uncountable number of people who prayed and supported me.

October Updates

The end of my immunotherapy treatment is in sight! Dr. Mashru has confirmed that he expects to finish infusions as of November 29. The big step between now and then is a PET/CT scan on November 2. Assuming that comes out as he expects, we will stop at the end of two years.

The Nivolumab has been effective to stop the melanoma. We are praying and hoping that it is dead and the nodules in my lungs are just clumps of cells. I will have monthly blood tests and scans every 3 or 4 months after treatment ends.

Men’s Round-Up

David and I have made Men’s Round-Up at Camp Tadmor a father-son event for the last decade. It is a very special place for him since that’s where he met and courted Samantha. This spring, Joy married Nathaniel and Nicole married Colton so this year I was very proud to add two new grandsons-in-law to the event. We had a great time with stories, sessions, disk golf (not me), and lots of food.

After the Saturday morning session, David and Colton were in deep conversation so Nathaniel and I joined them. It turned out Colton was pondering joining in the Sunday morning baptisms! We explored options and he committed. So at 8:30 they were at the lake (sadly, I was teaching my workshop to another 100 men) and David baptized Colton. You can watch the video here.

David sent the video to Nicole, saying “take a look at this.” She opened it expecting some disk golf event only to realize it was her new husband being baptized and promptly burst into sobs of joy. We all joined together for lunch an hour later.

July Melanoma Update

For context (see the April 25 post below), my last CT scan revealed one new small nodule in my lung which the radiologist assessed as a new melanoma nodule. Dr. Mashru was unconcerned, thinking it was inflammation rather than melanoma. I committed to following his lead and wait for my July scan. But there was still the nagging “what if the radiologist is right?”

The good news is that when the radiologist assessed the July scan, he concluded the nodule is “compatible with benignity and likely inflammatory in nature.”

This the radiologist’s summary impression: (1)  No evidence of new or progressive disease. (2)  Stable small noncalcified pulmonary nodules.(3)  Interval resolution of previously-seen right lower lobe subsolid nodule, compatible with benignity.

That is as good as news can possibly be. Dr. Mashru has not uploaded his assessment yet. I’ll edit this post when he does.

Spring Family Events

Our 55th anniversary was the beginning of a series of epic family events. Joy and Nathaniel were married on April 29. David did double duty as the “officiant” as as the Father of the bride. Nicole, soon to become Colton’s wife, was maid of honor (who cried tears of joy through most of the ceremony). I got to do a grandfather’s blessing after they had the first kiss of their marriage.

Donn and Elizabeth flew in from Kansas City to join Cyndee, Sherry and me in the trek to Hermiston. We did a family picture after the cermony, but somehow Joy was a bit occupied. I delighted in their first dance. The videos are here and here

Michael’s baptism was next on May 21 in Kansas City. David joined Sherry and me for the quick trip to join the celebration. Elizabeth partnered with another girl doing the call to worship (video here) and I did the invocation and the baptism was the focus of the rest of the service. The baptism video is here.

It was wonderful to see Michael responding with joy and also with appropriate reverence in the service before returning to a playful 9 year old at the potluch following the service. He made the rounds of the tables greeting everyone and sharing his enthusiasm. The hightlight of the afternoon was a very competitive Mario Cart game! The challenge was to the airport on time for our 7am departure!

Grandpa-Granddaughter trip to Paris and Nicole-Colton wedding posted soon

Commencement & Cancer Update

I had an in office appointment with Dr. Mashru, my medical oncologist today. That’s the first time we have been in the same room in many months. My blood work has been fine for all those months which is wonderful. My recent scans showed one new small melanoma nodule in my lung. That new nodule prompted him to change from pausing immunotherapy after Wednesday’s session to continuing them through the end of June. Then there will be another scan and another consultation.

I am still trying to assess my reaction to this new nodule. It doesn’t really concern me, but any new growth must get serious attention, which Dr. Mashru is giving it.

At Sherry’s request I had Dr. Mashru take a look at a rough spot on my back. He looked carefully, gave a initial suggestion that the skin lesion was a skin cancer of some kind (not melanoma), took a picture and sent it to my Dermatologist. She soon messaged me saying it looks like a “seborrheic keratosis” which is a scary phrase. But she also noted that Dermatologists refer to these benign growths as “barnacles” 😊 So I laughed, thanked her, telling her I am looking forward to my July appointment where she will give me a complet skin check.

I have to admit my bigger emotion is toward Joy Love’s Saturday wedding in Stanfield with Donn and Elizabeth coming from Kansas City and Cyndee coming from Cannon Beach.

My 42nd Western Seminary commencement on Friday and Saturday was a wonderful event. As MABL program founding director, I get to hood all the graduates in the program. There are so many stories in this group of men and women, including two babies born to students this semester. Very productive time.

Anniversary Infusion

We celebrated our anniversary in a different way: I got out of town early so we never talked face to face! We did talk by phone as I headed off to participate in the Exiles in Babylon Conference in Boise, part of the pre-conference conversation on Women in Church Leadership. You can hear my view on Preston Sprinkle’s Theology in the Raw podcast: here. I have a lot of material on this website in the “Exiles in Babylon” and “Women in Leadership” buttons.

We headed to Salty’s on the Columbia for our anniversary dinner as soon as I arrived at the airport on Saturday. It was marvelous as usual, though the rainy day meant no beautiful sunset for our dining pleasure.

We headed to the coast Sunday morning, to the Ester Lee Motel (of course!!). It’s been our spot for many anniversaries. This time they had all the paper work including our car and license plate number already filled out when we arrived! It has a wonderful cliffside view of the rocky coastline and the ocean. The problem is that the ocean is eroding the cliff and I have to wonder how long it will survive (!!)

We did a lot of relaxing as well as looking. I was able to go down to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse tide pools at a very low tide and see the ocean critters – including a bunch of seals who have moved into the neighborhood.

One of the very fun things is to see our name in lights!! Well, not exactly in lights, but out on the main highway so everyone can rejoice with us

We had our special coast dinner at Gracie’s Sea Hag on a sunny Tuesday evening over looking Depoe Bay. It was marvelous. The celebration ended with breakfast at Otis Cafe

Infusion and Cancer Prospects

We drove back to Portland and I went to my afternoon immunotherapy infusion. All my blood numbers were great and the infusion went quickly and without any problems of any kind.

I have an in office appointment with Dr. Mashru on Monday, April 24 and final infusion scheduled on Wednesday, April 26. He used the word “done” in our last conversation. There will be follow up blood work, scans, and appointments. Hopefully they will confirm that I am in the 30% of patients for whom the Nivolumab immunotherapy eradicates the melanoma. In the meantime, I have full energy and strength and love what I do!

Sabbath Presentation

Looking at an invitation to present a paper at the Northwest Evangelical Theological Society meetings last Saturday, I plumbed my pile of “Ponders” and pulled out the topic of Sabbath. It’s the first practice in the Practicing the Way, a ministry I strongly support. But there are different understandings of Sabbath and its role in the Christian’s life. Some argue a 24 hour seventh day Sabbath is “baked into creation” while others see the practices as another form of legalistic works righteousness. There are many views between these poles.

I titled my presentation “To Sabbath or Not to Sabbath: A Covenantal Question”, {footnoting Shakespeare of course). I spent time in the Old Testament looking at Sabbath. The first reason given is that YHWH ceased His work of creating (the verb in Genesis 2:2 has this primary meaning, not rest as is often translataed). Exodus 20:11 says YHWH rested (different verb that Gen. 2:2). Exodus 23:12 has the full command with all three verbs: “For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as the stranger residing with you, may refresh themselves.” [NASB2020]. When the Ten Commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy 5, the reason for Sabbath cnanges to “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to celebrate the Sabbath day (5:15). Exodus 31:13-17 clarifies the Sabbath as a sign for the relation between YHWH and His people, so it is part of the Mosaic Covenant with blessing for keeping it and death penatly for those who profane it.

In the presentation, I led everyone in wrestling with the account of Jesus’ disciples breaking the Sabbath by harvesting (sure seems this is what happened – they are harvesting), leading to Him to declare the Son of Man as Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-27) – the discussion in the room got quite animated!

We concluded with Galatians 4:10; Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:1-9 where both food laws (Kosher) and Sabbath are taken out of the category of “must follow” and put in the category of personal valuation. That is quite a difference from the Mosaic Covenant status of death penalty offense!

My conclusion went to Galatians 3:17-26 which teaches the limited scope of the Mosaic Covenant: it is for the people of God, i.e., Israel, from Sinai to Pentecost. Believers in Jesus, the post-Pentecost People of God, are no longer under the authority of the Mosaic Covenant but are under Abrahamic Righteousness, the moral command Jesus summed up in “love the Lord; love your neighbor”.

Thus I think the work/rest pattern may be properly praticed in many different rhythms ranging from a 24 hour period once a week to a daily/weekly/monthly/annual personally defined pattern.

Two helpful books on the subject are Paul Jewett, The Lord’s Day and the volume edited by D.A. Carson From Sabbath to Lord’s Day

Video and audio recordings of the session are here. I’d love to get your responses via comments on this post.