Archive for the ‘cancer’ category

The Folly of Forgetting in Times of Tranquility

November 29, 2013

Two years ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer. One year ago, at Thanksgiving, I gave thanks that my colon cancer surgery had been successful, my six months of chomotherapy had ended, and there were no signs of cancer in my post treatment blood tests, CT scan and colonoscopy. Last week I had my latest check up, and there continue to be no evidences of cancer, for which I thank God. The Lord has taught me much during my pre-surgery, surgery, and treatment times.

Everything has gone very well for me. The surgery went well; there were no complications in the days and weeks afterwards. The chemo treatments went well, and I did not experience the more unpleasant side effects. However, regretfully, over some of the intervening months, I found myself casually, and a bit materialistically, thinking, “You have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well.” Such thinking was foolish, naive and presumptuous! [It doesn’t necessarily follow that “you have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well” — as many can testify! ]

Recently I was convicted by a passage in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter eight.* In a context that emphasized evidencing fidelity to God by obedience to his commandments, Moses cautioned the Jewish nation to “remember,” and not forget God’s commandments, and what God had done for them. Three times, Moses told them that God had intentionally “humbled” them and “let them be hungry,” while at the same time meeting their actual needs of food and clothing, so that they would learn that those seemingly needful “things” of life were not needed as much as they needed God (vv. 2-5, 16).

Then they were reminded that the blessings of tomorrow would come from God (vv. 5-10). But they were also told not to forget God when they had “eaten and were satisfied” (v. 12-14ff.), and not to presume that their fruitfulness was solely the result of their efforts (vv. 17-18).

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth . . . .”

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 [ESV]

These verses convicted me of my foolishness, naiveté, and presumption. I do not live in the physical world solely by my strength, or abilities, . . . nor by what medical science can accomplish in its strength. It is all of God. The outcome of my surgery and chemotherapy treatments were all of God, and my good checkups are all of God. Just as it was God who gave me strength while going through the trial (cf. Deut. 8:2-6), it is “God that gives power” during later times of blessing. Whether to be fruitful in one’s life, or to be healed, it is all of God (cf. Deut. 8:11-18).

In a sense, it was easy for me to trust in God as I was going through the diagnosis, surgery, and treatment periods. God was humbling me and putting me in a position in which I had no alternative but to trust in Him. But as the days, weeks and months of good checkups went by, my initially theocentric (God-centered) perspective was subtly influenced by a materialistic one, one that contemplated, “You have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well.”

I realize, in consequence, that times of blessing can be more dangerous than times of trial because, like the warning for the Children of Israel, in times of blessing we can “forget God,” think that the present tranquility comes from the power of our own hands, and forget that all blessings come from God and that “He gives the power.” For a while I was, in a sense, tripped by the “folly of forgetting in my time of tranquility.”

Thank you to all who have prayed for me and my health situation over the last two years. God has graciously chosen to bless me with healing. I pray that in all my ways I may “acknowledge Him,” whether in times of trial, or times of tranquility. Moses’ warning was insightful. It is so easy to call on God when in trial, but to attribute success to material efforts, when really, all successes come from the hand of God.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him . . . .”

Proverbs 3:6a [ESV]

*Deuteronomy 8:1-20 [ESV]

1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.
2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.
5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.
6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills,
8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey,
9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,
12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,
13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,
14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,
15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock,
16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
20 Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

When We Get Our Friends and Enemies Confused

August 28, 2012

As I am approaching the end of my chemo regimen [one infusion remaining! (September 5-7)], my wife mentioned that we should pray that this last treatment is successful at wiping out any remaining cancer cells that may have survived the first eleven treatments (in other words, any tough, chemo-resistant cells).  It made me realize that while I have been dealing with the side effects of chemo, I have unconsciously transitioned into thinking of the chemo as my “enemy” because of the unpleasant side effects.  After Patty’s comment, I was reminded that chemo is not an “enemy,” it is a “friend,” a tool being used against the real enemy: cancer.

This made me begin to think about the “tools” God uses in my life.  I generally greet unwelcome intrusions into my copacetic routines as “enemies” to “my peace.”  They mess me up.  They make me uncomfortable. They are irritating.  They are not “fun.”  And yet these “intrusions,” these events and circumstances, like chemo, may actually be the very means that God is using to accomplish a “greater good” in my life.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s comments in 2Corinthians 12:7-10 where he asked God to take away a “thorn” in his flesh.  He was told that God would not take away the thorn because it gave opportunity for God to show His grace in Paul’s weakness.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited . . . , a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

And I am reminded of James 1:2-4 where the Apostle James told his disciples that they were to rejoice at their trials because those trials would be a means by which they would grow in maturity.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete [mature], lacking in nothing.”
James 1:2-4

Now, as I think of my chemo, I have to think of it as a tool, a means to an end.  It has its unpleasant side effects, but ultimately it is supposed to be for my good, to knock out the cancer cells, which are far worse and potentially deadly.

I am therefore reminded that God works in my life, providentially using events and happenings that I may not care for at the time, for my good.  As I think about my last chemo regimen I know that I must accept it as a tool, a “friend,” and not an enemy.  And I must, by faith, give praise to God for the various “tools” that He uses to accomplish His work in my life, even if they are, for the moment, unpleasant.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:1-4

“Dear Lord, please help me to remember your providential use of ‘tools’ the next time I mistake them as my enemies.  Convict me of my  presumption that things should always go ‘smoothly,’ or ‘pleasantly’ for my present comfort.  Let me, instead, humbly recognize Your use of ‘tools,’ to accomplish Your greater good in me, recognizing that this ‘earthly tent,’ will one day pass away when, ironically, this mortal body will be swallowed up by life.  Please keep my eyes focused on that which really matters, which shall never pass away.”

Carpe Horam — Seize the Hour

July 21, 2012

It has been several months since I have completed a new post for this blog.  It has been during these months that I have been receiving my chemotherapy.  There is a direct correlation between my “silence” and my treatments.  While I am thankful that I have now completed eight of the twelve bi-weekly infusions, I have been challenged by the various “demands” which the infusions bring on my body.

My infusions are on Mondays at the Regional Oncology Center and take most of the day.  At the end of my infusion on their pump, I am hooked up to a portable pump, which continues to give me more of one chemo agent for forty-six hours.  Two days later that infusion ends and I am disconnected.  On that day, day three of my chemo cycle, I find that I usually am very fatigued, and need to take a couple of naps during the day.  The same is true on day four and day five (and sometimes day six) of my cycle.  Consequently, on five out of the fourteen days of my chemo cycle, I really can’t “count” on getting very much done.

This means that in each two-week cycle, I have nine out of fourteen days to get done whatever I need to do for work, home maintenance, etc.  But, on those remaining nine days, I can also have fatigue or some other chemo side effects that “sideline” me.  This is the primary reason why it has been a while since I have written another blog post.  I am much pressured to get done what is absolutely necessary each week during my good hours (preparing for speaking and preaching) and find that my writing is getting “squeezed out” in the process.

Although many people have heard the expression, “Seize the Day” (from the Latin: Carpe Diem), I find that the expression, “Seize the Hour,” is more fitting to describe what God is teaching me now.  I have come to realize that I can treat my “good” days very presumptuously.  That is, I’ve found myself thinking, “I can’t count on getting anything done on my first five days, but I can count on getting things accomplished on my nine good days.”  Upon reflecting on this thought, I have been convicted by James 4:13-16.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’  As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”

James 4:13-16 [ESV]

I have learned that I don’t know what tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or the day after that, will bring.  In fact, even on my “good” days, I find that I can have a productive morning, but then be overwhelmed with fatigue in the afternoon and accomplish nothing.  Let alone tomorrow, I don’t even know what the rest of today will bring(!), and I must not be presumptuous that I will “do this or that.”  Instead, I find that only if the Lord wills, will I “do this or that.”  Which means that I can only count on “this hour.”  This is the hour which the Lord has given me.  I can use it wisely, or I can fritter it away.  But if I do “fritter it away,” I am acting presumptuously that the Lord will give me a later hour for that which I could or should do presently.  This has led me to try to remember to Carpe Horam, “Seize the Hour” — to do, in the present hour, as wisely as possible, what God would have me to do.

I understand that Horace, from whom the phrase, Carpe Diem, “Seize the Day,” is quoted, didn’t have the same perspective that I have.  In fact, he used it in a context to emphasize that since the future is uncertain, one should put a minimum of trust in the future, seize the day, and enjoy its pleasures.  Instead, I am being challenged to make the most of the present hour, for I cannot, without presumption, count on a later hour.

The Illness Idol

April 16, 2012

There are many books, articles, websites, resources and suggestions made available to cancer patients.  Some are helpful; some are not, but all take time!  More than once, I have become frustrated with how the “cancer issue” has rudely thrust itself in front of me.

Illness is an idol that can engulf all my waking time and attention.  It can breed self-absorption and suck up all of my limited strength, attention and energies.  It entices and lures me with different voices.  It challenges me to study it and figure how I can increase my odds at “beating” it — while bankrupting my attention to the One Who is worthy of all praise, and distracting me from His work.    It suffocates and would choke-out my interest and desire to serve God with my limited strength.  This has led me to the following prayer.

“God, deliver me from this preoccupation.  I want to be a wise steward with the life and breath that You so graciously give, but I don’t want pursuit of life and breath to dominate my life.  My life is Thine.  You are in control and will preserve my going out and coming in, according to your will.  My efforts to micromanage my life in an attempt to preserve it are of no avail — unless You so choose to deliver me.  Keep me constantly in your care.  Preserve, or take my life, as You so choose.  May I not be unwise or a poor steward, but please deliver me from preoccupation with trying to preserve my own life.  May I seek You alone, and your will.  Please, please, put in perspective the amount of attention I should give this albatross, and don’t let it take from me waking hours that should instead be focused on You and your will.”

Future Looking Decision Making

March 29, 2012

We have been on the market for a new van for a number of months.  The repairs on our old van were getting more frequent.  However, for us, the decision of which van to buy was not intuitive.  It would be a major expense, and we knew that we would have to live with the consequences of that decision for years.   Last Saturday we bought a new (to us) van in Pennsylvania.  We chose to buy it in Pennsylvania because it would not have been exposed to as much metal-eating salt as New York vehicles face each winter.   We looked seriously at about two dozen vans in the Lancaster area.  We considered their age, condition, features, mileage, economy, anticipated future repair costs, and price.  Ultimately, we decided on a 2006 Town and Country with 41,000 miles, but it wasn’t an easy decision.   It was complex; many interrelated factors had to be addressed.

Over the last month, we have also been addressing another complex, future looking decision about chemotherapy.  I had an uneasy feeling about the decision because chemotherapy is a process.  It is a long, demanding and debilitating “process”  (and I have a harder time with processes than events).  You don’t just receive anesthesia and wake up six hours later with it behind you.  Although I understand that chemo affects patients differently, NONE of its side effects were appealing to me.   In addition to chemo, we considered alternative approaches.  As we wrestled with this complex decision, we asked ourselves, “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”[i]

Careful decision making is a task that I wanted to teach each of my sons as they were growing up.  In the year that each turned twelve years of age, I took them hiking.  Although we go on hikes from time to time as a family, this hike was intentionally chosen to include a mountain climb with a panoramic view from the top. At the top, I encouraged my sons to think of the view as the future. From the mountaintop you could take in not only the nearby hills, but also the distant valleys, and mountains.  As we looked out over the other mountains, hills, valleys and countryside, I challenged each of my sons to be a “mountain” man.  Not a “mountain man” in the sense of the hunters and trappers of the nineteenth century, but a “mountain” man, as opposed to a “valley” man.  I want my sons to be men who will consider the distant consequences of decisions they make in the present.  On the other hand, a man in the valley can only see what is immediately before him. If he makes decisions on the basis of his view, he will be shortsighted, only considering the immediate, the moment.

Future looking decision making is often involved when one is deciding whether or not to date someone seriously, or consider marriage, or adoption, or a home purchase, or a business venture.  Such decisions often weigh the long term, future benefit, versus the probable negative consequences or problems.  When we decided on the van, we tried to make our decision in terms of what would be best for our family over the long haul [no pun intended], and when we were weighing the decision on chemotherapy, we tried to evaluate the options in terms of their potential long term consequences.

It seems so natural to consider whether a car will meet our needs and will last into the future without needing expensive repairs,  or to consider whether option A versus option B is more probable to give us a longer life after cancer.  But future looking decision making really needs to be applied to the choices we make in the present for the distant, distant future.   Some people give more thought to their ride — which will likely be scrap metal in twenty five years — than they do to their eternal destiny.  It would be wise for them to consider the helping question, “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”

“As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”  Hebrews 9:27

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

_____________________


[i] Decision-wise, we decided to go ahead with chemotherapy, because based on my situation, chemo seemed to be the wisest choice, especially as we asked the question, “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”  However, my future, medically speaking, or my life in general, is ultimately in God’s hands.  The outcome of the chemo, and my future life will all be up to Him.  Yesterday I had my first chemotherapy infusion at the Cancer Institute in Buffalo.  I am now back home and wearing a chemo infusion pump which will continue to dispense additional chemo agent into me today through tomorrow morning.  Then it will be disconnected and I will have about a week and a half off before I begin cycle number two of twelve two week cycles.

Solving a Maze

January 16, 2012

The last couple of weeks have been interesting.  It has been very much like trying to figure out a maze on paper.  With a pencil one tries different paths and then finds that one after another, each path seems to be taking you to a desired end, but instead leads you to the same place, a dead-end.  In diagnosing medical conditions, doctors need to rule out improbable causes from probable ones.  It is interesting when you are the patient.  Each test could lead to an answer to the puzzle of what’s wrong with you.  As you go through each test you weigh all the “what ifs,” both good and bad, for what that test could reveal.  You don’t want to become too “invested” in the results of any particular test because you know that another test could invalidate any earlier conclusions.  This is the maze that I have been living for the last couple of weeks.

Many paths have been tested; but the results have been inconclusive.  After my colon cancer was diagnosed on December 15 I had a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread to other organs.  Good news, it hadn’t.  Then a second pathologist interpreted the biopsy.  Bad news, confirmed, it was cancerous.  Then I was given a blood test to see if there were any indications of cancer.  Good news, there weren’t.  Then I had another (abbreviated) colonoscopy. Good news(?), the ulcer was not found.  Then a PET scan.  Good news, no cancer found.  Then I was given a DNA test to see if the biopsy was someone else’s.  It was mine.  The sequencing of all these tests was giving the impression that there definitely was cancer in my colon on the day of colonoscopy #1 (December 13), but the cancer seemed to be off the radar from then on.

With each test, I couldn’t help but “imagine” what results (a) versus (b) could mean.  Naturally I was thankful for every result that indicated “no cancer.” But the seeming contradiction between the initial diagnosis and the follow-up tests was hard to reconcile.  On December 15 I became aware that God telling me it was time for a detour from the predictable (see “Detour Ahead, Exit Now,” below).  My mind was racing, thinking of all the ways my life could go with a cancer diagnosis – Metastasis? Chemo? Radiation? Surgery? Numbered Days?

First I wondered about metastasis and very numbered days, then I wondered about errors, “Whose biopsy was it?”  “Did the doctor make an error? Or the lab?” Then I wondered if God might have healed the cancer.  The result of every test could have been (a) versus (b) and it was hard to not reach premature conclusions whenever a test result came back.  I was wrestling with the questions, “God, what are you doing?”  “What’s going on?”  “God, have You, in fact, healed me? Or have You not, and would I be foolish not to pursue the recommended medical advice?”  “Or if God really had healed me, would I be foolish to let them remove one side of my colon, as a precaution, ‘just to be sure?’”  [I certainly didn’t like the last idea at all!]

I knew that when King Nebuchadnezzar threatened Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego with death they acknowledged that God could deliver them miraculously, if He would so choose, but they didn’t know if God would (Daniel 3:17).  Similarly, I knew that God could have healed my cancer after it was first diagnosed, if He wanted to, but I didn’t know if He had.  Many people were praying for me, and I would imagine that some were praying for God to heal me.  However, from the beginning of this journey it has been my prayer that God would do according to his will with the result, not necessarily of my healing, but rather with the result that He would be the most glorified by what He would choose to do in my life.

I knew that the Bible recorded that God used hardship in the lives of many of his servants for his purposes, even though his purpose was often hidden from the view of the particular servant.  I wondered what God was going to do in my life.  Would I know his purposes?  I had many questions, and no idea of what the doctors were going to conclude, or if God was doing something miraculous, or where God was leading.

However, last Friday (January 13) I had colonoscopy #3.  It was a full colonoscopy, and myRoswellParkdoctor was able to find the ulcer this time.  After the procedure she said, “I found it, it is small, and that is good – but it needs to come out.”  Then, all of a sudden, it became clear to me that the other “paths” in the maze, some of which had appeared to be very appealing, were dead-ends.  God now seems to be showing me, “This is the way, walk in it.”  So, in this I will rejoice and continue to pray that God will do what He will so that He might be the most glorified.

“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Habakkuk 3:18

Decision Helping Questions

January 8, 2012

It is now expected that the results from a DNA test on my biopsy will be back the first of next week.  Until then I am in a waiting pattern.  When the results come back it is possible that I will be faced with a difficult medical decision with no clear-cut obvious direction to go.  A couple of times I have asked a wise friend for suggestions of questions to ask doctors at difficult decision points, such as this.  The questions that have been suggested to me have been very helpful and I have decided to share them.  I have reworded them so that they all refer to a “treatment” or “procedure.”  This could be major or minor, in-patient or out-patient surgery, or some other treatment plan.  Feel free to use one or more of these as a starting point if you have to talk to a doctor about a difficult medical decision for yourself or a loved one.

As a pastor I have met with many families who have had loved ones facing decisions about medical procedures and treatment plans.  Sometimes the families have been well informed of their options, sometimes they have not.  Some have done exactly what the doctor has recommended; some have explored other possibilities, and taken slightly different routes.  Neither is necessarily right or wrong.  I know that I want to be as well informed as I can be before I make major medical decisions.  I certainly want to encourage others to be as well informed as they can be too before making (sometimes) irreversible decisions.

Regarding the current situation:

  • You may want to begin your discussion with your doctor by saying something like:  “I hope to learn from you my medical condition and its prognosis, along with all the possible treatment choices and your recommendations for which of them to do and in what order.”
  • “Do you already have all the information you need to make those determinations, or will you want any other tests?”
  • When the doctor discusses your prognosis, both in terms of the underlying disease and in terms of specific courses of action, ask him/her to please put numbers on the probabilities.*
  • “What are the risks, statistically, if I do have the treatment you are recommending?”
  • “What is the range of effects I might experience if I don’t have the recommended treatment?”
  • “What are the treatment alternatives, and their respective risks?”
  • “What might happen if I don’t do anything?”
  • “What are the risks, statistically, if I don’t do anything?”
  • “When and how might I become aware of physical effects?”
  • “If you do the recommended surgery (or procedure), what are the possible ‘surprises’ you might find, and their probability?”
  • Before any surgery or extensive treatment program it is often considered to be wise to get a second opinion from a specialist not affiliated with your doctor (in other words, not his/her partner, or in the same medical group).
  • Your meeting may end with your being faced with a decision on what to do and where to do it.  It may be helpful to make it a rule to try to never make medical decisions without having a chance to talk privately, without medical personnel present, with your spouse or other family member(s), or close friend(s).  Where possible, it would be good to have at least an overnight period to discuss and ponder, but that can’t always happen.  You almost always can go into another room with your spouse or family members or friend and talk (and pray) privately and then come back and give your answer.
  • A question to ask yourself:  “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”

Regarding post-treatment:

  • “What effect will this procedure have on my future overall medical condition?”
  • “What effect will this procedure have on my lifestyle (for example: diet, exercise, mobility, health, etc.)?”
  • To the doctor:  “Based on your experience, do you already know what the probability is that I will be needing any particular treatment following the surgery (e.g. chemo, radiation, physical therapy, etc.)?”
  • To the doctor:  “What, if anything, can you tell me now about those post-surgical treatments and their impact, frequency, duration?”

Neither I, nor the person who gave me these suggestions, is licensed to practice medicine.  Hopefully these questions will help you get helpful information for your decision making process from those who are.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7


*  Please note that statistical probabilities are never “guarantees.”  In asking doctors about statistical probabilities you must understand that no doctor can guarantee any particular outcome and any statistical probability could be way off in any individual situation.  You must carefully weigh the answers you receive against ALL of the other options.