On the efficacy of prayers and chemotherapy

My father-in-law, Joe McKamey, was told that if the chemotherapy was working, he’d feel better (despite the chemo itself being debilitating). I will say that when I saw him this last weekend, had I not known he was sick, I don’t think I would have been able to tell — he played drums for three hours at a church picnic on Sunday, and it was only at the very end that he flagged at all.

So, he had bloodwork done on Monday to see how things were going — and the good news is, the chemo is working very aggressively and his body is responding well. At this rate, they think the treatment will get all of it. They’re now talking about having years left, not months. The other side is that while this is a form of pancreatic cancer which is more treatable, it is also prone to recurrence, so he will need to be vigilant moving forward.

I know Joe’s been prayed for by a lot of people. Has that made a difference? As a Christian, I certainly am inclined to think so — and there have been other cases involving prayer, involving my mother, for example, and other people I’ve known, where what seemed to be an open-and-shut scenario turned around remarkably quickly. My sense of things is that when doctors get confused by a recovery, probably there’s more to what’s happening than meets the eye. Joe’s is not necessarily one of those cases, but I will say that he went from having 3-6 months and his wife talking about planning his funeral, to having a more treatable form, to the current state of things within about ten days. No matter which way you cut it, that’s a dramatic reversal.

What are we to make of that? I don’t know. I believe we’re supposed to pray for the sick as a matter of faith and believing that God can work miracles, but I also believe it’s presumptive to assume that He will. The prayer of a righteous man availeth much, but that doesn’t mean it’s a magic spell which binds a supernatural entity to do our bidding, in other words.

All I can say is, I’m mighty thankful, both for everybody’s prayers and the chemotherapy, and I’d say that both are still needed.

All ye saints, pray to God for us!


2 Responses to “On the efficacy of prayers and chemotherapy”

  1. 1 Kelly 11 September 2008 at 11:14 am

    I stumbled across this entry and your blog, and I believe you got it right. I am a three-year cancer survivor and Christian presently going through chemo for the third time, but my husband and I have seen miracle after miracle during that time. My Jewish doctor has even had to acknowledge that something or someone else is at hand. No one disputes that for every living creature, death is ultimately inevitable. But in between the time we are born and the time we perish, there is a lot of room for God’s glory to shine through us.


  2. 2 Richard Barrett 13 October 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Kelly —

    A bit over a month late, thank you for that fantastic comment. I’ll keep you in my prayers as you continue to survive.

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