What the hell are YOU praying for?

Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on March 17, 2010

I spent almost five hours Tuesday at the MD Anderson Cancer Center for my bi-monthly MRI scan and doctor’s appointment. The news was just as good as it was back in January: No recurrence of tumor, no other changes, and I appear to be good to go for quite some time. My doctor — George Bobustuc — remains optimistic that the Temodar chemotherapy capsules that I’m taking five days each month will be effective in keeping the cancer in check for the indefinite future (at least 12 to 18 months). He said only about 1 in 4 patients with GBM tumors respond this well to the standard treatment regime. Many of the others, by this point in their treatment, would be forced to try other medications, move to experimental approaches in clinical trials or face the prospect of more surgery. Not me. Nearly eight months into my diagnosis, I’m still putting one leg ahead of the other and moving steadily down what looks like the happy “long-term survivor” trail. That means I could wind up in the small percentage of folks who live with this disease for as many as five, 10 or even 15 years. Sure, that prognosis could change at any time — but I am still going to count my blessings while they last.

Speaking of blessings, this ordeal has taught me a lot about something that comes naturally to most people: How to pray. How to make it about ‘listening’ instead of ‘asking.’ When I’m getting stuffed into that MRI tube like some sort of hot dog or promotional T-shirt that’s about to be shot into a crowd of spectators at the Brain Tumor Destiny Bowl game, I’ve learned not to pray for any particular outcome. To me, asking for “no recurring brain tumor” is about as crass as asking for a million bucks. It seems kind of selfish and reduces what is supposed to be sacred to the level of a commercial transaction. I think lots of people make that mistake when they approach other important areas of life as conditional transactions: (ie., “I’ll be good, IF…” or “I’ll love you…IF”).

So instead of asking for stuff,  I just pray for the ability to understand and deal with whatever outcome presents itself.  Once that prayer gets answered, it makes the clang-bang-boom inside the MRI tube a whole lot less scary. Then when the particular outcome happens to be positive — like it was again for me on Tuesday — it’s like swimming in gravy.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


19 Responses

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  1. Charlotte said, on March 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm


    You came to mind this morning as I was replying to Judy Doyle’s letter. As I read your post, the words I often shared with my daughter Malea (as she tried to create a foundation for understanding Katie’s cancer and death), came to mind.

    “The winner isn’t necessarily the one who lives the longest.”

    The light of spring is in full force here in Indiana, with crocus blooming their little hearts out with pure joy. IF ever I come to FL to visit Judy, I will call and take you to lunch…. to contribute to your celebration!


  2. Keith said, on March 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm


    This is amazing news. Keep up the excellent results…it give hope to all of us.


  3. Ann Hellmuth said, on March 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Wonderful news. I’d been wondering all day while I was teaching whether you had the results. Imagine how thrilled I was to arrive home, logon and get the good news. No better way to celebrate March 17.

  4. Craig Dezern said, on March 17, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Really great post, Sean. That’s true wisdom.

  5. Jim said, on March 17, 2010 at 8:08 pm


    Perhaps your headline could have read “Finding Grace.” Great post (and great news). Your blog is inspirational.


  6. elaine Kramer said, on March 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Geez, now I know why I kept thinking about you today — you had a scan. I’m just mystical enough to believe I was thinking about you for a reason. Haven’t been on FB for weeks, but today you were on my mind all day, so I logged in to see what was going on with you and saw your post. So happy to read this news, Sean.

  7. Damron said, on March 17, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    With this sweet news, you just pushed this devout atheist down a buttery chicken wing sauce river on a blue cheese float. I’m so psyched! Can’t wait to hang again.

  8. patebooks said, on March 18, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I’m with Elaine in that I had been thinking about you. Maybe scan, maybe St. Patrick’s Day. Lovely news. (I told you Edisto Methodists are good pray-ers!)

  9. Lois Grebowski said, on March 18, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    awesome news! So wonderful to hear!

  10. Theola said, on March 19, 2010 at 6:36 am

    great news. I have been watching your blog nearly everyday as I knew it was about time for MRI and was hoping that I would see such a report. I’m so happy for you and all of your family and friends

  11. Steve Doyle said, on March 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Great news, Sean.
    I check the blog and had been wondering how things were going.
    Your note is about the pureness of reality and an inspiration for all of us.
    You may have just learned the “why” of all of this.
    Hang in there.

  12. Lisa said, on March 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I am so glad for your news. I am preparing to teach my Sunday school lesson for tomorrow … I think I’ll just scrap the lesson plan and use your post.

  13. Mike Weatherford said, on March 22, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    You have always been a voice of reason/sanity and I am continually glad to see it unshaken. Why, looking at today’s headline I suddenly remember talk of the miraculous DawgTrack 2000 and a Sean Holton response of, “You know, the Year 2000 is only like 14 years away” … and the subsequent conceptual drawings of the dome and floating space-dogs:

  14. sturgeone said, on March 25, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Great work, Sean……..ya done good……

  15. Pat & Becky said, on March 28, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Excellent news. Keep doin’ what yer doin’, sean!

    P & B

  16. Mrs. Pookie said, on March 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Thank you for the lesson on prayer. Your timing is perfect. Love to you!

  17. Mike Oliver said, on April 2, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Hey Sean,

    Thinking of you.

  18. Kathy Green said, on April 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Hey, Sean, I am hopping right in there with you. I just got diagnosed with metastatic cancer; they think it is ovarian, which would be good because it is “very treatable”. Of course, if it is not, that is another story. BUT, I see why you started this blog; I don’t know what I would do without the support of my family and good friends. It has made all the difference. Just when I would think I couldn’t get through another test, I would think of all of them, and that gave me strength to survive the hospital’s attempts to kill me. I start chemo on Tuesday, then surgery later. My email is : John has taken this very hard, so pray for him; I have gobs of support from the doctors, but he doesn’t. We certainly don’t know what is out there waiting for us, but as Rita says”We are only a doctor’s visit away from disaster.” So true. So, Sean, I love all the Holtons and hope they can give me a little boost. Glad you are doing so well, hope I can follow suit!! Love, Kathy

  19. pearls4me said, on April 4, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    My husband was diagnosed w/a glioma in early 2008 and passed away on March 12, 2010. When I cleaned out his office, I found your Death Bird post taped on his file cabinet. On the bottom of the post, he had written in red letters: I love the Death Bird.

    Your writings are insightful, provcative, and beautiful.

    Take good care –

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