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Dec. 20, 2015 (Sunday evening)
I am writing to let you know that on Wednesday I saw my family doctor (Dr. Stephen Hoshiwara) with some puzzling symptoms, and he suspected Parkinson’s disease. He referred me to a neurologist (Dr. Nida Laurin), and on Friday, Dec. 18, she confirmed that I definitely have Parkinson’s disease.
This is a progressive neurological disorder for which there is no known cure, but there are medicines that alleviate the symptoms and may slow the progress of the disease. Dr. Laurin started me on one medicine (Rasagiline, made by an Israeli company) that helps some patients and not others. She did not think my symptoms were severe enough to start me on the most common medicine (dopamine), because its effectiveness diminishes over time and she did not want to start it too early.
Starting tomorrow (Monday), we will begin the process of seeking an appointment at Barrow Neurological Institute, which is (according to Wikipedia) “the world’s largest neurological disease treatment and research institution,” and is here in Phoenix.
The symptoms that I have now include a diminishing of fine motor control, so that my handwriting is less legible and more crowded together, and in typing I sometimes hit a key twice or not at all, and my mouse control is not as precise with the computer. It’s also harder to button my shirts, and I sometimes feel a tiny tremor when I reach for things. I can still do all these things, but they are a bit slower and take more concentration. In addition, I seem to be moving my arms and legs more slowly in ordinary daily activities. And Margaret says that sometimes my facial expression seems a bit “fallen,” and I notice that it’s harder to smile. In recent photos my smile has not seemed as genuine or natural, but more forced.
The symptoms and the rate of progression of the disease very widely from patient to patient, and are apparently impossible to predict. Sometimes the progression is very slow, as with Billy Graham who has had Parkinson’s for 26 years (he is now 96). Michael J. Fox also has Parkinson’s, and has continued to function. In other people, however, the disease progresses more quickly.
How are we doing? Margaret has been a wonderful help and encouragement, and she keeps reminding me that “we’re in this together.” She is an amazing, most wonderful wife.
We both feel a deep peace from the Lord about this. King David said to the Lord, “My times are in your hand” (Ps. 31:15), and I truly feel that way. Parkinson’s usually does not shorten a person’s life expectancy very much, but in any case, I’m happy to live as long as the Lord wills that I live, and to keep on being productive for as long as he enables me to do so. “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16).
But I would like, if God allows, to finish my current major writing projects –
(1) a textbook on Christian ethics (which I hope will take me about one more year to finish after the first draft is done, or until Jan., 2017), and
(2) a revised edition of my book Systematic Theology (this should take from 2017 to 2019).
After that, I was sort of wondering what I was going to do anyway. 🙂
I do plan to continue to teach at Phoenix Seminary, so long as I am able to teach effectively. (The seminary will be moving in July, 2017, to a new location in a new building to be built on the site of the old Scottsdale Bible Church chapel on Shea Boulevard – just 12 minutes from our house!)
Here are some other verses which the Lord has brought to my mind a number of times in the last year, and which seem especially appropriate now:
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psa 90:12). (I need to be a wise steward of my remaining days.)
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep” (Acts 13:36). (All I want to do is to serve the purpose of God for me in my generation.)
“And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” (Col 4:17).
This last verse has been especially forceful in my mind for the last year or so – I deeply want to “fulfill the ministry that [I] have received in the Lord,” which I understand to be the ethics textbook and the Systematic Theology revision.
Then on a personal level, I am concerned to make wise plans so that Margaret will be well cared for if the time should come when I am unable to work and to help with ordinary tasks.
Other verses that have become more meaningful in the last two days:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Phil. 3:20). (My hope of a perfect, Christ-like, resurrection body is even stronger now.)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:16). (Parkinson’s is a “light momentary affliction” in the light of eternity.)
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25). (My personal fellowship with God is far more precious than any measure of physical health, and I deeply and truly feel that right now.)
If you think of it, I would appreciate your prayers for the projects I mentioned above, and for continuing good medical care, and also, if the Lord wills, for partial or full healing, whether through medicine or through his miraculous intervention. I am at peace.
(nothing in this letter is confidential)