PASTOR COLUMNS - Psalm 91 offers strength in life, death battles

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D-Day, Seattle, Wash., 40 degrees sporadic showers.

Psalm 91 is the favorite Scripture for all soldiers and Marines going into a life and death battle.

It contains my most fervent hopes and prayers today, as well:

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, abides under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall say to the Lord, ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.' He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter and from the deadly pestilence. He shall cover you with his pinions, and you shall find refuge under his wings; his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day; of the plague that stalks in the darkness, nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day. A thousand shall fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you ... Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation, there shall no evil happen to you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone ...

‘Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him;' saith the Lord. ‘I will protect him, because he knows my Name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I am with him in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him to honor. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.'"

As with all invasions, the months and weeks of preparation are critical to success. We have been about this transplant process since August of last year. We have had some setbacks. Originally, I was to use my own stem cells, but fortunately, they discovered that three-fourths of them have a mutation that would have developed into Leukemia within two years and been the death of me. Back to the drawing board and make a new strategy. Eliminating all of my living nine siblings as stem-cell donors, we settled on my daughter, Hanna, as the donor. Returning to Seattle mid-December, the invasion preparations began in earnest. Tests, procedures, evaluations, all led up to the day we left port and set sail on the destroyers to approach the invasion target. The last six days we have been softening up the beachhead with daily bombardments of multiple chemo agents and a total body irradiation yesterday. The final piece of the transplant puzzle was to resupply all the advance forces with essential donor stem cells. Daughter Hanna, as usual, our eldest and habitual overachiever, not only reached the desired goal of creating 5,000,000 stem cells, she was able to harvest 7,500,000 in one apheresis. It is now 0930 and I am checking all my emotional and spiritual equipment, getting ready to jump into the Ford Expedition landing craft for departure at 1230. We will have a final evaluation and equipment check prior to the landing at 1300 hours. The invasion officially begins at 1400 hours and its out of the landing crafts and into the surf.

You can see the fear on the faces of many of those embarking on this same mission. They can't bring themselves to return any form of communication and isolate themselves in their apprehension. Everyone has to deal with the real prospect of their potential imminent death in their own way. A man I met when I was here in August, died a couple of weeks ago. We all know that 20-25 percent of us won't make it back from this battle alive. Another 25-30 percent will be wounded and their lives limited forever with complications from the transplant battle. For the 45-50 percent who miraculously live through all the horrors of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight, and potentially lethal Graft vs Host Disease; there is the possibility of a cancer-free life and a return to home and work. It may take up to two years for that restoration to fully take place and the readjustment back into civilian life is sometimes as difficult for transplant survivors as any returning combat veteran. I already think about friends who have been fatally wounded by cancer and didn't get to a facility like the SCCA in time for this kind of specialized care. I feel some potential survivor guilt already when I speak to them and pray for them. The biggest danger to our survival is waiting too long to get to a facility that has the expertise and skilled personnel to help save your life. Many wait until they are at death's doorstep and they have lost so much strength and vitality, that they have less of a chance of survival. I am so fortunate that I am strong and emotionally intact to face this battle with a sense of optimism and confidence. The presence and support of my family, friends and all the gracious people praying for me leads to the ultimate source of our strength; God is our hope and refuge. We will jump out of the landing craft at 1400 hours, 1/11/11, surrounded by all of your love and prayers, sheltered under the shadow of God's wing.

I am too focused on getting my game-face on to concentrate on writing anything about the battle of staying together as a married couple that Kriss and I began 40 years ago. It appears the percent of failure for marriages even exceeds that of transplant patients. I will continue that saga in the next installment. I don't know when I will feel like writing again after the invasion. Communication may become more difficult, but I will get back to you all as soon as I am able. - Robin

The Rev. Robin Peterson has been senior pastor at College Place Presbyterian Church for more than 30 years. He is a father of four, a husband, a friend, and profound example of God's Grace to those he encounters. Currently Robin is in the fight of his life as he battles non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and myleo-dysplastic syndrome. The battle has taken Robin and his family to the Seattle and the Seattle Cancer Alliance where he is undergoing a stem-cell transplant - The Rev. Doug Hayes, associate pastor.

Editor's note: This column is an edited version of his blog posting on Jan. 11, 2011 at pastorpeterson@blogspot.com. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at catherinehicks@wwub.com.
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