The following is taken from an email from Dr. Bill, one of our senior missionaries who has served in both Africa and Papua New Guinea. It is a great illustration of the heartache of missionary doctors. We cannot save every person and it is more of a struggle in developing countries – but it is the heartache that is part of the call of God – to do what can be done and show love and demonstrate hope to the hurting…..
Dear friends, Grace and peace to you in full and sufficient measure. So why resume writing after these years of silence? I do not have the full answer but here is my poor attempt to explain the little I know. Looking toward the completion of our missionary journey, as rich and meaningful as it has been, there is something still unfinished. That is where you and these Notes come in. I am seeing the apostle Paul’s exhortation to Archippus “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord”, and sensing an application for Marsha and me. To complete the ministry I have been given, what would that look like? Is it enough to see my patients, provide care, trying to honor Jesus in doing so, as I have attempted to do these past 30 years? I’m thinking it isn’t. If I fail to honor the sacrifice, service and support that you all have so generously provided throughout the years, then I have dropped the ball. So bear with me. You don’t have to read my notes, but I must write them.
Robin Roman is a seven year old boy with an incredible smile and eyes that light up at any excuse. But the source of his joy is within him and not without challenge. Robin has a baseball size mass in his left neck, causing pain with every turn of his head. He lives 3 jolting pot-hole riddled hours away, in the Eastern Highlands, outside the provincial capital of Goroka. For the past eight months, he has been going to the large hospital in Goroka where he has been receiving treatment for tuberculosis, TB being a possible cause for his neck mass. But the tumor has continued to grow in spite of the treatments and Robin’s doctors recently concluded that in fact this wasn’t TB, and informed this family that there was nothing else they could offer.
“Nothing else to offer” was a message too grim for this family to accept and so they made the arduous trip to Kudjip. In truth, Robin probably has cancer, most likely lymphoma. If he were a child of the developed world (i.e. USA), he would have a good chance for a cure and a long and healthy life. But he isn’t, and the more likely scenario is that someday too soon we will hold Robin’s hands and shed tears and provide pain relief as we say good-bye to this beautiful boy. It is a scene I know far too well, have lived too often, so much so that it threatens to rob today of its potential and peace. But despite all the obstacles, the disease, the distances, lack of resources, my limitations, this boy and his family need our best efforts, and so we enter the struggle.
Dr. Ben Radcliffe, missionary kid and now missionary surgeon, cut out a portion of Robin’s neck mass so that we could find out exactly what we are up against. That piece of the tumor is currently in flight to Texas, on its way to Dr. Terry Bell of International Pathology Services (IPS), which provides incredible support to us and to mission hospitals around the world. The results of that biopsy will guide our decisions about future treatments.
The morning after the biopsy, I gave Robin a first round of intravenous chemotherapy, according to the best of my knowledge, my judgement, and the resources available. He tolerated the treatment well, maintaining his joy, and returned to his village home. We will see him again in three weeks. Thank you for your prayers for Robin and for us.
God bless you richly, Bill and Marsha McCoy