Monday, February 18, 2008

The Only Real Hope

A friend of mine has just discovered that his headaches have been the result of a tumor growing in his brain. He has been diagnosed with a glioblastoma (grade 4, most aggressive type) tumor with oligo features. The surgeon says he can expect 12-18 months with radiation (6-9 without), and possibly a further extension with chemo, but both treatments can only delay the inevitable.

Wikipedia gives the following description/definition: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and aggressive type of primary brain tumor, accounting for 52% of all primary brain tumor cases and 20% of all intracranial tumors. Despite being the most prevalent form of primary brain tumor, GBMs occur in only 2-3 cases per 100,000 people in Europe and North America. Treatment can involve chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, all of which are acknowledged as palliative measures, meaning that they do not provide a cure. Even with complete surgical resection of the tumor, combined with the best available treatment, the survival rate for GBM remains very low.

This friend is about my age (around 50) and he has two teenaged children - one in university and one in highschool (just like my kids). I've known him for almost 25 years and have worked fairly closely with him for the past 4 or 5. I have a hard time imagining how he's feeling. The email that I got informing me of the diagnosis finished with the statement: "The only real hope now is for a miraculous healing."

Isn't that always our only real hope? In our church service on Sunday morning one of the girls from the Philippines told the story of her friend experiencing a resurrection from the dead just this past week. I'm not sure of all the details but I believe it happened in Hong Kong as a group of Philippino domestic care givers were in a refugee area waiting for visas and transport out of the country. A woman died from heat exhaustion and heart failure (I think that was the reason). After the initial shock the rest of the group started praying for her. After not breathing for a long time (an hour?) she suddenly stirred and started breathing again.

That story stimulated a long discussion about why we hear of more miraculous healings in the "global south" (what we have traditionally called the third world) than we do in the Western nations. It comes back to that statement "The only real hope now is for a miraculous healing." Miraculous healing is often the only hope for many in the global south. Sickness is not always accurately diagnosed. Medical care is spotty. Living conditions are detrimental to good health. Nutrition is often poor. But faith is high and miraculous healings are more common.

Needless to say our prayers for my friend that morning were more passionate than normal and our faith was stirred.

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