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Archive for August, 2011

The following message was supposed to be put on the blog last week (8/21) but, due to technical ineptitude (mine), it wasn’t. Since it still remains pretty much the status of Gary’s treatment and condition, I’ll post it as is, with this quick footnote. Today, 8/29, was Gary’s 10th radiation session which means that we’re a third of the way to completion. Still not sure what effect the regimen is having, but we’re hopeful.

August 21, 2011    – –         It was a month ago yesterday that we first learned of Gary’s illness and we’ve covered lots of ground – physical, emotional, spiritual – in four short weeks. Gary’s perspective of time has been a bit spotty and he tells us often that it just seems like 3 or 4 days that we’ve been dealing with his tumor; maybe that’s a mercy. The rest of us are tired but still honored and grateful to be carertakers of such a good soul. I played my last concert for awhile last weekend, having chosen to clean the slate so that I can devote my attention to my brother in the next few months. In the concert last weekend, I concluded with a story and song for Gary that we’ll try to post here sometime soon.

Gary began radiation and chemotherapy this past week and, after 4 of 30 treatments, there have been no bad side effects. The daily routine is really rather simple. Radiation treatments take about 10 minutes (the ride to and from town takes much longer) and chemo is simply one pill an hour before the radiation. Doctors and nurses have been more than kind and Gary reminds me often, with reference to the Amos Cancer Center, that “I don’t see this as my place of cure as much as I see it as my place of ministry.”

Thank you for your concern and prayers. We are more aware than ever that there are many, many people who are contending with all manner of hurts, losses, illnesses and challenges. Having you stand with us has been a gift indeed. Thank you. Thank you.

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Years ago, on one of the occasions that Gary was preparing to return to Afghanistan for missions work, a friend gave out small smooth stones, about nickel-sized, to remind folks to pray for him while he was away. The idea was that we’d keep them in our pockets or purses, or on our work desks, and be visibly prompted to remember him. Gary’s name was written on each of the stones.

– – – – –

This past week, on Monday the 8th, Gary, Dad and I went to meet with the radiation oncologist, the doctor who will write and oversee the treatment plan for Gary over the course of the next 6 weeks. When he finally came to the small room where we would have our consultation with him, we stood, introduced ourselves, shook hands. After we had finished telling him our names, he reached in his pocket, pulled out a small stone, smiled, and said, “Yes, I know who you are.”

The choreography of the past three weeks has included moment after moment like our meeting with Dr. Ciuba, and has been filled with reminders that we are in good and loving, if at times inscrutable, Hands. Your kindnesses continue to be among of those reminders and, again, we thank you.

Short version is that Gary is doing well (most bothered by loss of short term memory) and will begin radiation next week – 5 days a week for 6 weeks  — during which time he’ll be taking oral chemotherapy (a pill a day). The hope is that the combination will shrink and fight his tumor into submission.

I’ll be taking Gary to the Amos Cancer Center in Columbus each day and consider it a great privilege to be able to be so close to him for the weeks to come. I know that it will be unpleasant and difficult in some ways, but I look forward to being his keeper. As I heard another say years ago about caring for a sick spouse, “I’m doing it not because I have to, but because I get to.”

– – – – –

Even now, the stones cry out. God is for us. Jesus is Lord.

 

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Update for August 3

Just a quick update to let you know that Gary will begin radiation therapy for his tumor in the next few days. Not sure at present what the regimen will entail or what schedule we’ll keep but i’ve cleared my calendar for the next couple of months so that i can be with him full time. And i feel privileged that i get to spend the coming weeks at his side. …  Do continue to pray that the days move us Christward and that we will have and make the most of opportunities to care for and share with others. …   i hope you are well. every blessing, allen

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An Update on Gary

Friends,
Here are emails from the past week concerning Gary’s illness. They read from most recent back. … Best regards, allen

July 30, 2011 (5:15 a.m.)

Good morning friends,
It’s been a week, a long, trying, emotional week since we learned of Gary’s condition last Saturday. As I write this he is in the hospital ICU recovering from the biopsy that was done yesterday. Hopefully, we’ll return to the farm later this morning after a meeting with Dr. Gorum and, in the next couple of days, meet with the doctor again to discuss possible alternatives going forward.
For right now, Gary is eager to be out of the hospital. Last night was the only night he’s ever spent in the hospital as a patient.
i hope that you’ll not tire of our repeated “thank you’s” for all that so many have done for us. Please forgive me and the family if we’ve not been able to respond personally to your letters, calls and emails. We might never be able to do so, but not because we don’t want to. Gary’s travels as a missionary – 6 months in Jamaica, 1 year in Costa Rica, 6 years in Spain, 2 years in Bosnia, 2 years in Macedonia/Kosovo, 6 months in Peru, 5 years off and on in Afghanistan, and a number of shorter stints – along with a life deeply committed to the community here have resulted in a rather expansive population that knows and loves him. It is more clear than ever that Gary has genuinely modeled his life after that of Jesus: “He went around doing good.” It is equally cleat that a life well-lived returns blessings at a time like this.

So, again, many thanks. We are your debtors.

Live well. Love Christ.

– – – – – –

July 29, 2011
Dear Friends,

Gary had his biopsy done a little while ago and is presently in
the recovery room. The procedure went well, a tissue sample was
obtained, and he’ll spend the night here before heading back home
tomorrow. We will have a meeting with the doctor tomorrow or Monday to
talk about the findings and possible radiation/chemotherapy courses
that would be appropriate for Gary’s condition.
In case my previous emails have been a bit confusing, the
tentative surgery scheduled for Monday at Emory has been cancelled.
Today’s biopsy is the only surgery that we anticipate for Gary.
Thank y’all again for your thoughtfulness. All is well.
Christ’s love, allen

Dear Friends,
It has been a long day and, while the news that we have to share is
not what we would have asked for, at least it is clear and certain.
Gary and i, along with our Dad, met with a neurosurgeon in Columbus
this morning. He was able to communicate directly, authoritatively,
and kindly to Gary’s situation. We prayed for “light,” especially
after the confused and disappointing meeting yesterday, and within
seconds today, there was a sense of light and peace, even as we
received the sobering assessment concerning Gary’s head.
The tumor, which we initially thought to be rather confined and small,
seems to be a fast-growing glioblastoma that is fairly deep in Gary’s
brain and crosses into both the left and right lobe. It is not
operable, as any attempt to remove it would result in unacceptable
damage. We made clear to the doctor that, while the family prays for
and wants a full and complete recovery for Gary, we do not view death
as the end of life, but simply a part of it. He was most gracious in
hearing our perspective and in addressing our questions. We thank God
for Dr. Gorum and for your prayers that connected us with him.
While the doctor is 98% sure that we are dealing with a glioblastoma,
he thought it advisable to do a biopsy so that we might determine
exactly what Gary has in his brain. That information might be helpful
in treating the tumor with radiation and chemotherapy, a course which
we might be initiating soon. Gary’s remaining days, barring an
intervention from God or a good response to medicine, might be short.
But we trust God to give what is best.
The biopsy procedure will take place tomorrow at noon at the Medical
Center and Gary will spend a night there. One special prayer request … Despite, or maybe because of Gary’s faith, he has had some dark moments of the soul where words of
condemnation against him have been in his thoughts. He longs for peace
but has had some anxious periods. Music, especially hymns, and hearing
scripture give him calm. Would you please pray that he can rest and
feel deeply the presence and love of Christ? Holy Spirit, come.
We have had some sweet moments today. My sisters Beth and Linda have
been here and we have laughed, cried, prayed, and talked about real
things together. Sister Laura arrives tomorrow. And of course, you
have been here too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We love you and are grateful for your friendship.

allen, for the family

– – – – – – – – -


July 27, 2011

Dear friends,

First of all, please forgive me for waiting so late in the day to
bring you up to date on Gary’s trip to Emory Hospital today. He and i
have arrived home in just the past few minutes, are very tired, and
simply want to thank all of you for standing with us in your prayers
and thoughts. We feel them deeply and are grateful.
Short version is that we met with Dr. Jeffrey Olson, neurosurgeon, and
still have no definitive opinion as to the thing that is in Gary’s
head. Dr. Olson, as did our local (and beloved Dr. Harris), told us
that the only way to be certain of what we’re dealing with is to “get
tissue,” that is, go into Gary’s brain surgically. We are working on
getting more info and moving forward. Surgery is tentatively scheduled
for next Monday at Emory. We wish that we had absolute certainty about
the condition, about risks involved with the treatments, and such. But
for now, we’re still in the learning process. We do know that the
sooner we can resolve the present questions and move forward the
better. Thank you for continuing to pray.
Gary is tired but trusting that “the Lord rejoices in doing us good.”
He (Gary) is a delight, even in difficult circumstances and even
amidst the tears, concerns and uncertainties of the present situation.
i wish everyone could spend a day with him like the one we had today.

We’ll keep you posted and again are grateful for you.

Love, allen (for the family)

——

A letter from Gary, dated July 26, 2011

“Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.”
I don’t know where to begin in expressing my gratitude for all the calls, notes, emails, gmails, Skype, and Facebook messages that I have received in the past couple of days. I was hoping to answer each of you individually but now see that that might not be possible given the present circumstances. I am assuming that most of you now know that I have been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on the left side of my brain.
Many of you are praying for my healing. Thank you. I am praying for His will, that He will use this for His glory and honor, and that He will draw us all closer to Himself. Selfishly, a part of me is praying to go home. Like yourself, perhaps, I am tired of the struggles in this life, the fight with self and the flesh. Everyday it seems that I am more and more aware of my need and my weakness. I long to see Him face to face, with a glorified mind, soul and body and to be as He is. I’m not sure what will happen but I know the One Who does and I rejoice in the fact that He rejoices in doing me good.
It may seem strange, but I am excited about the possibility of going home soon. My brother wrote a song with the title, “the first of us to go.” We both long to go to our eternal home. I have often felt as Paul did when he wrote that he longed to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. While I struggle with the thought of leaving loved ones that are dear to my heart, I hope that, in each one of us, there is a longing to be with Christ, a longing for home, a longing to be with the One Who loves us more than we can imagine and a desire to be in that place where we will be able to love Him back perfectly.

Life has been good to me in this fallen world, largely because of ones like you, but I know that there is something better and I want to fall asleep and wake up there. What a task and blessing I have now of thanking all of you who have enriched my life by allowing me to see Christ more clearly through your walk. Let’s continue to press on and obey Him until He returns. Your life enriches mine and I am blessed by our paths having crossed. My life and times, like yours, are in His hands. If He chooses to keep me here, I pray that I will love Him more and more, fight for His honor, glory and Kingdom. And if He chooses to take me home, I will praise Him until you arrive.
I love you with the bonds of Christ.
Gary

– – – – – – –

July 26, 2011


Good morning brothers.
First of all, thank you for the prayers which you have prayed for Gary and
the family, and for your kindnessses that prove the genuineness of them. The whole family, but Gary in particular, feels loved, appreciated, strengthened by your thoughtfulness. Thank you, thank you.
i wanted to give you a quick update on where medical matters stand.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, Gary and i will go to Emory Clinic for a meeting with Dr. Jeffrey Olson, chief of neurosurgery at Emory University Hospital. We are assuming at this point that Dr. Olson will be the one doing any surgery to treat Gary’s tumor. We obviously don’t know what the doctor will tell us but are hoping that he’ll give a more definitive assessment of Gary’s tumor (which, at this point, is strongly believed to be malignant — a
glioblastoma), recommend a course of treatment, and schedule surgery if, as seems to be the case, that is the appropriate action to pursue.
Please pray that we will be attentive and able so understand the doctor’s
assessment, that we will know hat he is the best doctor for Gary’s care
(amazing how this process calls upon us to entrust our most treasured gifts to total strangers), that the doctor will be wise, perceptive and, when the time comes, abundantly skilled for Gary’s treatment, and, most of all, that we’ll trust that God is lovingly in charge of all that takes place. And pray that we will be a blessing to Dr. Olson, his staff, and others that we come in contact with.
But pray too that God will be working physically in Gary’s body to heal
him if that is best. We know that God can and that God might choose to do something miraculous to remove the tumor.
A couple of nights ago, after hugging Gary good night, i imagined him sleeping while this thing inside his head, this thing that is intent on hurting him, continued to grow. My prayer throughout the night was “God, please stop it. Wherever it wants to grow or spread or swell, put Your hand around it or in front of it and make it stop. Lord, we are powerless, but Your hands are strong enough and big enough and small enough to reach this thing that is trying to hurt your child. Father, in Jesus’ name, for Jesus’ glory, please help.” That is still my prayer and will continue to be until the tumor is entirely gone.
i was talking to Gary this morning — we’ve had some wonderful conversation in the past couple of days — and he reminded me that, at the end of all this, he is going to be ok. “That doesn’t mean i won’t die, but
i’m going to be ok.” You know Gary well enough to know that he means that sincerely. The thought of heaven is a sweet one and the prospect of crossing over is a welcome one to him. For years, Gary has closed his letters to me with a two word salutation, “perhaps today,” a short prayer of hope that he would soon be with Jesus. For our brother, that is not greeting card
sentimentality, it is the deep longing of his heart. But he wants ultimately what God wants and if that means more days here among us, he wants that. His body is a bit tired, but his heart is strong.
We’ll keep you posted about the outcome of our meeting tomorrow.
Thank you again for all your kindness and encouragement. We love you and thank God for your friendship.
Might we all start this morning with the longing of the saints, “perhaps today.”
Gratefully His,
allen, for the Levi family

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