Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

November 20, 2014

It’s hard to believe that one week ago today I was sitting with a doctor in Pittsburgh learning about the brain radiation surgery I would be having the next day.  But here I am… back in Roswell and ready for Thanksgiving!

As you know, last Friday’s radiation surgery went so well that we were able to spend the day on Saturday enjoying some sightseeing around Pittsburgh.  We returned home on Sunday and I’ve been going full steam for the rest of the week.

Last night at RPC we had our unofficial kick off to Thanksgiving as we enjoyed Molly’s incredible annual Thanksgiving feast.  She and her crew do a fabulous job every week with our meals, but for this one dinner they go above and beyond to make it an extra special evening.  I joined many of you in eating more than I should have!

Molly’s dinner is a great reminder to us that this Sunday in worship we’ll have an opportunity to express our thanks and gratitude to the God who blesses us in so many ways.  It’s one of my favorite Sundays!  (I confess, one of the reasons I love this Sunday is because I love the hymns we sing at Thanksgiving!)

I’ll be wrapping up our three week sermon series on Wonder Women in the Bible by walking us through the story of Rahab from the book of Joshua.  It’s an incredible story of how God uses broken people like you… and like me!  I’m looking forward to being with you on Sunday to share that story.

Thanksgiving is always a special time, and this year brings special thanks from me.  I’m grateful for so many blessings… both seen and unseen… but today I’m especially thankful for the prayers of so many people which have been offered on my behalf.  I can assure you of this… through those prayers, Ellie and I have felt the calming presence of God’s strength.  It is that strength which has sustained us through the roller coaster days we have experienced.  And it is that strength which will continue to sustain us in the days which are to come.

As we head into a time of thanks, please know how grateful I am for each of you.  It is through you that I experience the blessings of God.  What a special gift you have given me!

May God continue to bless us all!


Successful Treatment!

November 14, 2014

The day was a little longer than we were expecting for today’s Gamma Knife radiation procedure, but after a full day at the hospital Ellie and I are thankful for the procedure which successfully radiated all the tumors which had spread to my brain.

Our morning at the hospital began early. I was fitted with a special “helmet” which was used to keep my head immobile throughout the day. An early morning special “mapping” MRI with very intense contrast showed there were even more very tiny tumors which had appeared in my brain. They were all very treatable, but it just meant the treatment process was longer than expected.

My longer procedure, along with the fact that I was the last patient of the day, meant that it was mid afternoon before we returned to our hotel. We’re back now relaxing in the warmth while watching snow flurries fall outside the window. (It’s the sort of snow people in Atlanta get excited about. I’m not sure the Pittsburgh folks even notice that it’s snowing!)

Having just received a life changing procedure, it’s amazing how minimal my side effects are! I have two little bandages on the front of my forehead and a very slight headache that Tylenol has more than handled. It’s nothing short of miraculous.

We’re going to hang around another day and then return to Roswell on Sunday evening. We’ll be flying home filled with gratitude and overwhelmed with thanksgiving.

I’ve been hearing all day about the prayers that so many, many people have been lifting up, and I know it is through those prayers that Ellie and I have experienced the peace and the strength of Almighty God.

We’re going to sleep well tonight… grateful for an amazing day of treatment and healing.

“But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness!” Lamentations 3:21-23


On With The Treatment!

November 13, 2014

Ellie and I arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday just in time to greet the polar weather sweeping in from the north. The drop in temperature has done nothing to dampen our spirits as we prepare for tomorrow’s treatment!

We met with the doctor and medical team earlier today, and our meetings confirmed everything we were anticipating.  I am an excellent candidate for tomorrow’s procedure, and the doctor is quite confident that the treatment will go smoothly and will be a complete success.

The Gamma Knife procedure which I will have is amazing… We go to the hospital at 5:30 Friday morning, and I should be back at the hotel by a little after noon. The side effects are minimal, if any, and the success rate is extremely high. As I have said many times, my current condition is very treatable, and everything we heard today continues to support that.

As we prepare for tomorrow’s treatment, we are humbled by so many, many blessings. I’m keenly aware of the volumes of prayers being lifted up on my behalf, and I am so grateful for the prayers each of you is offering for me and for my family. God continues to sustain us through those prayers.

I’m grateful for the medical insurance which you provide for your church staff through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Nothing has gotten in the way of my ability to have this procedure.

I’m thankful for the incredible staff at RPC with whom I work. During these whirlwind few weeks of my diagnosis, tests and treatment, things at church haven’t missed a beat. I’m blessed to be able to work with such outstanding people.

So many blessings… the love and support and encouragement of my family and friends… but most of all… the strength and peace of a God who sustains us through the ups and downs of life.

Thank you all for your prayers. I wish I had the right words… I’m honored, humbled, thrilled, overwhelmed…

Most of all, Ellie and I are grateful.


Treatment Plan Is Set!

November 6, 2014

(What follows is the current situation with my health… for background, check out the previous posts to this blog!)

Treatment plans are set, and I want to share with you my update. I am blessed with an excellent team of doctors here in Atlanta. Dr. Pradeep Jolly, my medical oncologist, and Dr. Hamilton Williams, my radiation oncologist, have been and are continuing to provide me with outstanding care. I am very grateful.

When my new issue of brain metastasis arose, however, I was very thankful for their support in seeking out the very best place in the country for me to receive my treatment. The best option for me has turned out to be a procedure being done at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. My scans and films were sent to them, and we received word this morning that I am “an excellent candidate” for the procedure.

Ellie and I will travel to Pittsburgh next week. On Friday, November 14, I will spend the morning undergoing a very advanced procedure known as the Gamma Knife. It is referred to as a surgical procedure, however there is no actual incision that is ever made. It is a very specialized, intense series of radiation focused directly on my specific brain tumors.

This was exactly the treatment for which we were hoping, and is a tremendous answer to prayer. The procedure will be completed by lunch time next Friday, and I’m told there are virtually no side effects. We’ll hang around a couple of days to make sure everything is fine and return home after the weekend.

The very good news is that this is a procedure which has an extremely high rate of success. As I have said before, my current condition is very treatable. This procedure will help ensure that future tumors, if they should occur, will be able to be dealt with in a similar manner.

Needless to say, we are thrilled that things are working out this way in my treatment, and I continue to give thanks for my medical team and for the outstanding insurance the church provides for all of its full time staff.

I’ll keep you updated, but I’m looking forward to being with you as I preach this Sunday. We’re launching a new sermon series we’re calling “Wonder Women!” I think you’ll find it intriguing. I will miss next Wednesday Evening Fellowship, but our excellent staff has already put a plan in place for the program. Emily was already scheduled to preach on November 16, and I’ll be back in the pulpit on November 23.

Ellie and I send our heartfelt appreciation for your continued prayers, your support, and your encouragement.


Thank you, Roswell Presbyterian Church!

November 2, 2014

It’s Sunday afternoon and I confess, I’m getting ready to take a nap, but before I do, I want to take a minute and say a special thank you to the Roswell Presbyterian Church.

Today was the celebration of our 175th anniversary as a congregation, and along with the historic festivities you honored me for my twenty years of service here at this congregation. We had banners and bagpipes, glorious music and incredible crowds, wonderful laughter, and, along the way, a few heart felt tears.

I can’t thank you enough for making it such a special day! You honored our heritage, you celebrated our ministry, and you made me so proud to be part of the history of such a wonderful congregation.

Thank you so much for the lovely gifts you gave to Ellie and me! What a special surprise! They were all so meaningful and will always help us treasure this special day. We’ll look forward to making that trip together!

RPC was the first congregation founded in the new colony of Roswell, and in 1854, when the state of Georgia incorporated the Town of Roswell, the original state charter spelled out the boundaries of the town as “embracing an area one mile in every direction from the Presbyterian Church.”  From the very beginning, we have literally and figuratively stood at the center of this community, and I count it a very special honor to be able to serve with each one of you in this ministry.

So many, many people were part of making today special, and I can’t begin to name them all. Please know that from the bottom of my heart how thankful I am.

In the coming days I will be using this blog to keep you updated on my health and on my treatment plan. I’ll make sure you know what’s going on, and I’m so grateful for your prayers, your support, and your encouragement as we travel this road together.

In the meantime, Ellie and I want to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!” We love you all!

I give thanks to God every day for the privilege I have of serving with you.


An Update on My Treatment

October 31, 2014

When I wrote the other day I promised to keep you up to date on my treatment plan, so here goes… (See the previous blog if you need to catch up on the my current cancer news.)

Ellie and I met with the radiation oncologist today and the news was not what we were hoping to receive. Earlier this week I had an enhanced MRI of my brain to assess in more detail the size and location of my brain tumors. It turns out there are several more tumors than they had first seen. This isn’t surprising, since brain metastases with breast cancer often manifests itself in clusters.

The good news is that my tumors are very small, none of them is in a critical location (near the optic nerve, etc.), and this is still a very treatable condition.

The results of this MRI, however, did raise several questions about the appropriate form of radiation that I should undertake. At my doctor’s encouragement, we are pursuing a second opinion to help make the determination of which type of radiation would be best.

My oncologist assures me that while I need to move forward with treatment, this is not an emergency situation, and I do have some time to assess the best plan for treatment.

As I wrote earlier in the week, in the short term my condition is very treatable. We have every reason to believe that I will be tumor free very soon. The issue we’re facing is which treatment presents the best long term plan for my particular situation.

I promised to be open and transparent with you, so that’s where we stand!

Every week in worship we pray for God to “give us this day our daily bread.” Earlier this week I realized that after years of praying that prayer I am finally beginning to experience what it really means. In a very powerful way, God has given to Ellie and me the peace that we need to make this journey one day at a time.

To be sure, we’re experiencing a whirlwind of emotions, and we will continue to do so for some time to come. But each day, God has blessed us with a gift of grace… a bit of “daily bread” to sustain us.

Part of that sustenance has come from the outpouring I have experienced from so many of you. I wish I could thank each of you individually for your cards, your emails, your prayers, your words of support. They each mean more to me that you can ever know!

In the meantime, thanks to the doctor’s help, my headaches have disappeared and for that I am thankful. Sunday is going to be a special day as we gather to celebrate 175 years of ministry as the Roswell Presbyterian Church, and I’m looking forward to sharing in that with you. I’ll see you then!

God bless,


A Health Update

October 28, 2014

Over fourteen years ago when I was first diagnosed with male breast cancer, I promised to keep you updated on my health reports. I made that promise for two reasons… we’re family, and family is a place to share those concerns, but more importantly, I have coveted your prayers for me, for my family and for my ministry. When my cancer returned four years ago in my bones, you were there again to support me and lift me up in prayer.

It’s time to update you again, this time on an unfortunate turn in my health. For about a month I have had a nagging but persistent headache, which prompted my doctor to order a CT scan of my brain. I had the scan last Wednesday morning, and when it showed something suspicious they called me back in for a follow-up MRI. On Friday afternoon I had an appointment with my medical oncologist who confirmed that the MRI showed three small spots on my brain which are almost certainly cancerous. This was disappointing for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I had just had a full body PET scan that showed my cancer was stable. As it turns out, chemotherapy treatments do not stop the spread of cancer to the brain. There is a “blood brain barrier” which prohibits chemotherapy agents from protecting the brain.

While this is disappointing news, my cancer is still treatable. On Monday afternoon of this week I met with my radiation oncologist, and we are setting out the plan for this next phase of treatment. Later this week I will have further tests to determine the exact course of treatment, but given the fact that my spots are very small and were caught very early we have every reason to believe that this next step will effectively treat the current tumors in my brain.

The key, quite frankly, will be 3-9 months down the road. While these current tumors are treatable, the question will be whether or not other tumors will occur in the future. There is no way to predict this, and we pray that they will not return. I am grateful for the incredible medical care I have been receiving, and I have been thankful that the treatment I have received here in Atlanta has been confirmed by my consultations at both MD Anderson in Houston and Sloan Kettering in New York.

I have promised to be transparent about my health, and while I don’t want to be overly alarming I do want to be honest… and I do solicit your prayers!

I continue to be overwhelmed with the blessings of an incredible and loving family, an amazing church family, phenomenal friends, the best church staff in the country, a first rate health care system, and most of all, a God who is with me every step of the way!

This past weekend we were supposed to have gone to New Jersey for my niece’s wedding, but given the turn of events we chose to stay in town. Our son, Daniel, and his wife, Desi, flew in on Thursday night so that Ellie and I, along with our daughter, Ashley, could have a quiet weekend together as a family. Having Ashley, Daniel, and Desi here for the weekend was the best medicine possible!

Thank you all for your prayers, your support, and your ongoing encouragement. We were disappointed, but this fight is a long way from being over!

This coming Sunday, November 2, is going to be a special day as we celebrate God’s work in the life of Roswell Presbyterian Church for the past 175 years, and I look forward to preaching Sunday and sharing in that wonderful celebration with you. I don’t want to steal the thunder from my sermon, but I will tell you that a theme of the sermon is also a theme of my life at this point. It’s best summed up by paraphrasing Isaac Watt’s hymn… which we will sing this Sunday. The God who has been our help in ages past will most certainly be our hope for years to come! It is with this confidence that we live our lives.

Sunday is going to be a special day, and I look forward to celebrating with you!


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