As an adjective, Merriam-Webster defines it as “not changing or fluctuating” and gives it synonyms like firm, solid, steady, secure, fixed and strong.
Those words have positive connotations and especially when applied to a disease not considered curable. Like the very large, very rare, neuroendocrine carcinoma of thymus origin lurking behind the heart of my oncologist and dear friend, Dr. Marc Hirsh.
When I got the good news last week that his scan at Hershey Medical Center once again showed the tumor was stable, I was elated! However, as you can see, my text response was decidedly understated. That’s because I was sitting at a nice restaurant with three women who had driven half an hour to meet me and discuss broadening their cancer support ministry–so, it didn’t seem appropriate to be scrolling through my phone for just the right celebratory emoji!
Marc’s Hershey visit was with a new oncologist (his former one retired) who had mountains of records to read regarding this incredible journey which began in late May 2020. Marc was so sick and the prognosis was so poor back then that he immediately closed his three-decade old, solo-oncology practice.
Because no effective treatment was known, Marc devised his own protocol consisting of monthly hormone injections, daily radiation and an oral chemo.
“So far your regimen is working,” the new oncologist told him.
Marc isn’t ready to give the treatment all the credit because he also believes in the healing power of God.
“Whatever the reason (the tumor is stable), I’m just grateful to have the time,” he told me me on the phone.
“I read four or five hours a day–books on medicine, philosophy, science and theology; newspapers and magazines,” he replied. “I exercise an hour or two a day, play piano about an hour.”
Oh, and he’s rereading the entire Bible–something he first did in 1973 at the age of 29 after a good-looking lifeguard at his apartment pool promised him that “if you pray and read the Bible with an open mind, God will reveal Himself to you.”
Marc and the lifeguard have now been married 42 years and shared the ups and downs of life together–including both being diagnosed with COVID-19 in December after attending Marc’s family reunion in New York.
“I had very serious symptoms and was surprised how much pain I had,” he said.
Flat on his back for two weeks, his oxygen levels dropped, but never so low as to need intervention. Both are grateful for vaccinations and boosters, which they feel may have saved his life or at least prevented hospitalization.
Marc admits that he was “slightly worried” heading into this last checkup because of lingering COVID-19 symptoms. But after he and Elizabeth got the good news of “stable” they celebrated.
“When we got home, I poured us each a glass of Moscato (wine) and we danced to some old 45s,” he said. “It was nice.”
Marc, we rejoice with you both that the tumor is “unchanging” and most of all that our God is too.
Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. –Hebrews 13:8
As always, I close with a song by Rich Mullins, Marc and Elizabeth’s favorite Christian artist. This one is called “You’re My One Thing” and based on Matthew 5:8 in the Sermon on the Mount, one of Marc’s favorite passages.