Ryan's radiation

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Ryan’s radiation

March 21, 2012 - Jim Denison, PhD

The photon treatment unit at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas (Credit: Jim Denison)

Yesterday was a day unlike any I have experienced.  Tuesday began normally–I wrote my morning essay, worked on a research project, went to lunch, and caught up on correspondence.  But then, at three in the afternoon, I went with Ryan to his first radiation treatment.

As many of you know, our oldest son was diagnosed in January with acinic cell carcinoma of the parotid gland, a cancerous tumor below his right ear.  A brilliant surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas removed the tumor, but malignancy remains in a lymph gland and along the nerve.  Radiation was initially scheduled to begin two weeks ago, but the process was delayed as insurance arrangements were made and preparations were completed.

Ryan is receiving six weeks of proton radiation, five days a week, at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  This is one of only a few proton centers in the country, and the first to pioneer an energy modulation technique that “paints” the malignancy and destroys it even more effectively.  Ryan was fitted with a “mask” and mouthpiece that hold his head motionless for the duration of radiation.

This therapy is truly amazing.  The protons move at 125,000 miles per second, two-thirds the speed of light.  From the beginning of their journey inside the generating machines until they are radiated into the patient, they travel more than 313,000 miles.  We know that our son is in the best of hands and that he is receiving the best treatment possible.

Nevertheless, leaving him in the radiation room yesterday was more difficult than I can express in words.  I felt completely powerless.  I don’t know the first thing about this technology and had no way to help him.  As I sat in the waiting room, all I could do was pray.

But then, as I reflected on our situation, I realized that I was wrong: all I need do is pray.  The Great Physician is his doctor.  The One who created the protons that will eradicate Ryan’s cancer is watching over him.  And over me.  A father does not realize how much he loves his children until he has to watch them suffer.  I cannot fathom the depth of God’s pain in watching his Son be tortured and murdered for me.  Now that love is sustaining my son and our family.

There is nothing Janet and I can do to heal Ryan’s body.  We must depend entirely on the skill of those who are able to defeat this disease.  So it is with my son and his Father.  It is not true that “all we can do is pray.”  It is true that “all we need do is pray.”

Are you in a situation where there is nothing you can do but pray?  That’s a good place to be.  Our Lord promises those who cry to him that “before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).  Why do you need to pray today?

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