Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Right Diagnosis....

I've been thinking... and that can be dangerous... 
Most know that 19 years ago my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in stage four and given 3 months to live. (She went on Hospice and lived 6 months).
A few months after she died, I found myself chatting with a woman who, it turned out, was rejoicing that her doctors had found her cancer - also pancreatic - five years earlier by accident. It was stage one at that time and she had just received her 5 year cancer free report.
It sounds like a simple story at this point - one lady lucked out and my mother didn't- instead she had the outcome that many pancreatic patients have b/c the cancer truly is a silent killer.
But it's not that simple.
Four years before she was diagnosed, my mom had three severe bouts with pancreatitis. Each time a young doctor at the med center, a resident or intern, checked her out and told her it was nothing to worry about.
EAch time she was relieved. And in time the doctors discovered the cause of the pancreatitis - she had scar tissue from an ulcer that was causing problems with her stomach. So the doctors tackled that problem and eventually told her she would be fine. Three years later she was back in the ER, admitted to the teaching hospital, exposed to a series of tests,and given an estimated time for how long she had left on earth. In four years she went from, "'You are fine' to 'you are terminal.'"
The young doctor who misdiagnosed mom - to his credit - looked us up in the hospital and he apologized to us as a family. I respect him to this day b/c he acknowledged (without our seeking an apology or any redress) that he had not taken her illness four years earlier as seriously as he should have and that if he had, the outcome could have been different. That took courage.
Everyone makes mistakes - it's not so hard to accept when a teacher loses a kid's paper (and has to have the kid do it over again). Or a secretary temporarily misplaces a file. Or a spouse accidentally backs into someone else's car on the parking lot. It's just so much harder to accept when a medical person does it because they deal with issues of life and death.
AT first I was very angry with that young doctor, but then God clearly spoke to my heart and I knew that this was simply HIs time to take her home. Once He impressed that on my heart -while I was waiting at the hospital for the results of her tests - I never had any anger towards him again - it vanished instantly.
And truly the issues of life and death belong to God and to Him alone. Doctors - most of them - do their best. But they aren't gods; their skills are limited.
But tonight I've also thought about this. When mom was told in 1990 that her pancreatitis was not something to worry about, we were relieved as you can imagine. We rejoiced and she went on with her daily life on the strength of that assurance and the fact that the bouts didn't last long, didn't happen often, and could be handled with a careful diet, etc.
But her emotions and her daily actions - feeling happy, not worrying, getting on with the daily routine, planning for the future - the relief she felt and the sense of security she felt were pleasant. Unfortunately they were not rooted in the truth.
I fully understand that if you fear that you have a dread disease in your body - that you want to go to the doctor and hear good news. But if you actually have a serious disease and the doctor doesn't tell you... or gives you the wrong diagnosis... later you will wish you had gotten the truth from the get go, no matter how unpleasant it might have been.
What is true for the body is also true for the soul.
There are many pleasant teachers and religious organizations that will give you some truth, half truths, or distorted truth. Deceptive teaching always sounds palatable and it usually leads us along pleasant paths where we look good, feel good, etc.
But a life lived on the foundation of spiritual half truths or no truths is the spiritual equivalent of someone who has cancer and has been told they are fine.
My brother once told me: if someone will lie for you, they will lie to you. In other words, if a person or group will lie or deceive in one area, they will do it in another. And if they can take in someone else with their mixture of truth and deceit, they can take in you as well when the time comes simply because you trust them and believe it can't happen to you.
I would encourage everyone who has never done this to set aside preconceived notions and read the New Testament a chapter at a time this year, starting with the gospels. Read the gospels all the way through prayerfully and ask God to show you what is true and what isn't. Don't take someone else's word for it; go straight to the Source.
Because in the final analysis, a life lived on half truths or no truth is really no life at all.

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