Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Holiday Message and Theological Response to “The Median Isn’t the Message” from Meso Survivor Pastor Charles Van Kirk

November 30, 2010

By John Caron:

A few days before Thanksgiving, I came back across the insightful and inspirational essay “The Median Isn’t the Message” written by Harvard and NYU evolutionary biology professor Stephen Jay Gould shortly after he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1982.

In the essay, Professor Gould discusses his reaction to the median survival statistics of only eight months for patients diagnosed with his disease. Rather than resign himself to this fate, Professor Gould explained that statistics are merely abstractions which do not encompass the full range of variation and concluded that he should be in the favorable half of the upper statistical range because of his age, positive attitude, early diagnosis and the fact that he received the best available medical treatment. Professor Gould proved to be correct, surviving 20 years following his diagnosis with mesothelioma before passing away due to an unrelated condition.

I thought some of my mesothelioma clients would enjoy reading this timeless and optimistic piece and forwarded it to them along with a Thanksgiving greeting. Once such client was Thurl Charles Van Kirk, Pastor of the Rim of the World Community Church in Running Springs, California. “Pastor Chuck” has himself defied the statistics by surviving almost three years since his diagnosis with biphasic mesothelioma—and counting!

Knowing that Pastor Chuck received degrees in theology before serving 30 years as a Pastor, I was eager to receive his perspective on the evolutionary biology professor’s essay about statistics and survival. Pastor Chuck certainly did not disappoint.

Printed below with his permission is Pastor Chuck’s eloquent and thoughtful response culminating in a timely and valuable prayer for this Holiday Season.

Please enjoy and pass along to others.

Thanks again Pastor Chuck!

Dear John:

Thank you for the article, “The Median Isn’t the Message” by Stephen Jay Gould. It reminds me of a passage in Luke 16.8,

“…There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and
this steward was reported to him as squandering his

And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I
hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for
you can no longer be steward.’

And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,
since my master is taking the stewardship away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.

I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from
this stewardship, they will receive me into their homes.’

And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors,
and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my

And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said
to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’

Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’
And he said, ’A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him.
‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

And his master praised the unrighteous steward because
he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd
in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”

Professor Gould shed some light upon a gloomy topic. Statistics, ah, in college I spent a year deriving formulas by hand just in case our computers crashed. Through all the exercise of tangent and co-tangent, designing experiments and penning down conclusions, never mind their significance; we learned that Professor Gould was right. Statistics can be so stretched. And there is that mystical point where truth gives way to lies and lies fade into truth. “It’s all relative? To what? To whom?” My answers came from the study of theology.

What appeals to me in the above scripture appears in its preface, “this steward was reported to him as squandering his possessions.” Professor Gould dazzles the reader with his understanding and definitions. But the point in Luke’s account is that there shall be a day of accounting where the mean and the median will be required for each of us.

Yes, attitude is everything. At times my hardest struggle is just to get up in the morning. Deep, throbbing pain in my side demands attention. So I pop some pain meds and lay back down pondering what heaven will be like when we receive new bodies that never break down, get sick, wrestle with illness or suffer!

So thank you again. I’ll be seeking to be in the distribution of those who thrive even in the midst and realities of diseased bodies. The steward was wise in how he finally got those uncollectible accounts to pay up. It wasn’t the full measure but something is better than nothing. I suspect his employer had been trying to receive payment for years from his debtors. This shrewd servant found a way to endear himself with his master and those who owed him money.

My prayer for you and yours this holiday season is that you make time to celebrate the little things, the kindnesses and tenderness afoot from strangers, friends and family. Perhaps we as sons of light might advance those in our sphere of influence to reconsider the glory of Christmas, the cheer of Thanksgiving and fulfill the goals our master bids us do in 2011.

God Bless,

Charles Van Kirk

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mesothelioma: A Patient's Road Map

Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma find themselves at the beginning of a journey. Because of the rarity of the disease and the developing nature of the treatments, it is a journey that will take them on sparsely-traveled, out of the way back-roads. The kind of roads that are often difficult to navigate. Difficult, that is, unless you have a good road map.

The Pacific Meso Center has assembled a new brochure entitled: "Mesothelioma: A Patient’s Road Map" to help mesothelioma patients navigate the many roads before them on their journey to proper diagnosis, treatment and coping with their disease.

The Pacific Meso Center is a division of the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute ("PHLBI") which is dedicated to meaningful advancements in the treatment and prevention of mesothelioma. PHLBI is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit institution founded in 2002 by Roger Worthington and Dr. Robert Cameron, head of the Mesothelioma Program at UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Cameron serves as the Pacific Meso Center's Scientific Advisor and is the innovator of the lung-saving pleurectomy/decortication procedure for pleural mesothelioma.

To get your free copy of "Mesothelioma: A Patient's Road Map", please call us at (800) 831-9399 or email us at info@rgwpc.com