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In the early hours of November 4, 2019, David Beck ended his fierce battle with pancreatic cancer and entered his eternal home with Jesus Christ. He passed quietly, surrounded by his children, siblings, parents and his wife Susan, an unwavering warrior who fought alongside him every step of the way. Throughout his ordeal, David used his disease to deepen his relationship with God, remaining grateful even as he suffered. While David will be dearly missed, his loved ones can rejoice that his pain has ended and his new life has begun.
David Beck was born on May 30th, 1961 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri to Tim and Doris Beck. His father was a minister, so David was given a solid Christian foundation. As a boy, he was fascinated by World War II which he quietly fought each Sunday by drawing war scenes during his father’s sermons. He was also crazy about sports, avidly collecting baseball and football cards. In high school, he excelled academically and later attended Ball State University in Indiana where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree.
Pastor, author, missionary, David earned his Master’s Degree at Fuller Theological Seminary and his Doctorate at Southern Methodist University. He served as an Associate Pastor at Kings Harbor Church and Life Covenant Church in Torrance, California. David was also called to teach and was invited to conduct classes in several seminaries. A particularly cherished memory of David’s ministry was his mission work in Haiti. David developed a lasting love for the children he met there. Hard to tell who ministered to whom in that moment. David then went on to become senior pastor at Sanctuary Covenant Church in Sacramento, California and Newport Covenant Church in Seattle, Washington. Along the way he authored numerous articles and two books, “The Holy Spirit and the Renewal of All Things,” and “Luminous: Living the Presence and Power of Jesus.” David was intellectual yet practical, passionate about what he called, “the simple way of Jesus.” Through his ministry, he touched the lives of thousands with the peace and hope of Christ, planting seeds that will bear fruit long after his time on earth.
Like his namesake, David was blessed by a wide emotional range. He was generous of spirit, fun-loving, energetic and empathetic. He experienced God in community, nature, the healthy body he once had. He cared deeply about his family and the people he met. David was a man of honor who lived a life rich in relationship, permeated by laughter and steeped in love.
He is survived by his loving wife, Susan; children: Lauren, Spencer, Nathaniel and son-in-law Ryan; grandchildren: Paxton, Ashlynd and Desmond; his father and stepmother: Tim and Dabney; his mother and stepfather: Doris and Jerry; his brother and sister-in-law: Jonathan and Tina; and his sister, Diane.
Celebration of Life will take place Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. The service will be held at Newport Covenant Church, 12800 Coal Creek Pkwy SE, Bellevue, WA 98006. Donations may be made to NWP pastors fund http://pacnwc.org/giving/ or GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/f/1sz65p5hs0?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet
At home, I can sit in my favorite chair (thank you, people of Newport!).
At home, I can lay on our couch and watch sports and Netflix. And take naps!
At home, we can make our own food.
At home, I get to sleep in my own bed. (BTW, last night I slept 9 1/2 hours. That's restorative! It's also amazing to me, because sleep become ever more elusive as we age.)
Most of all, at home, I get to see my family members as they come and go. That's priceless!
I am in a deeply depleted state. Two health crises and two hospital stays have taken a great deal out of me.
Hospital stay #1: I was in the hospital three weeks ago for an infection near my pancreas. The situation turned septic, which is when the infection gets into one's blood stream and starts attacking internal organs. It is a serious condition. If not treated promptly, it can even be fatal. So sepsis was the reason for my first hospital stay, which included 2-3 days in the ICU.
Hospital stay #2: I came home from that hospital stay very tired. The doctor said it would take at least a couple of weeks to recover. I was home for two days and started taking blood thinners again (people with cancer are prone to clots). What began as a slow drip of blood from the area around my tumor became a major hemorrhage, necessitating a hasty return to the hospital. Again I found myself in ICU as doctors and nurses worked worked hard and eventually got things under control.
The great news is, we think the bleeding may have stopped. (Here's something to pray for!)
The infection is gone, and we're hoping for an end to infections (another prayer need).
Now at home, I'm focusing on listening to my body and letting each day unfold as it does. I've been incredibly tired -- probably not too surprising, given the last month. Although there are ups and downs, for the most part I am regaining strength little by little.
My doctors are trying to help my digestive system reset itself. That's a process. But things are better than they were before I was treated for the infection. I'll take any progress we can get.
Absorption of food (another prayer need) is high on my priority list. Since coming home from the hospital, I am on a plan to regain some weight. I'm at least 20 pounds down. So, with my doctor's encouragement, I developed a plan to injest a lot of calories. I started tracking calories with the help of MyFitnessPal, a really good app for this purpose. I've tracked calories in the past when I was trying to align nutrition with my fitness goals. Now I'm using it for a whole new purpose: to put on weight. I have a target of 2450 calories a day, and so far I've hit or exceeded my target every day. If I'm metabolizing food, I should gain at least a pound a week. Hooray!
God has reminded me so many times and in so many ways of this basic truth: "He's got this." We don't need to worry. Our place is to trust him. Our activity is to pray aggressively for God to do everything he wants to do through this cancer; and to worship God, thanking him for "every good and perfect gift" (James 1:17) he gives us to enjoy, including the ones like healing that we haven't seen yet. There's something powerful about thanking God ahead of time.
So that's the overall picture of where things are at. Months ago, Susan and I planned vacation time for the second half of August. Turns out this is exactly when we need to have nothing to do. We are both recovering. So are our kids. We are thankful to have a home and some time to rest.
Resting is not something we do well in our go-go-go, overly caffeinated culture. Honestly, it feels weird to take multiple days and do nothing. But I'm getting used to it. Maybe it's when you are forced to rest that you learn how delicious rest is. And to think, God designed rest into our weekly rhythm. He's always ahead of us!
There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I've been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me
There is another in the fire
- That the doctors would have wisdom.
- That all infections would be cleared up.
- That my body would rebalance itself in blood pressure, electrolytes, fluid retention, and so on.
- That the Beck/Anhalt family would bear up under the stress.
- That God would work his unique plans through this situation and demonstrate his goodness and power.
News flash. After 16 months with Dr. Picozzi, we have moved to a new oncologist and cancer clinic. I’ll describe why we made this decision and what makes the new oncologist’s approach different from Dr. P’s.
First off, let me say that we connected well with Dr. P, and he literally saved my life. The median survival of pancreatic cancer is 3-6 months, and I’m about to hit 17 months. That’s a lot to be thankful for!
However, there have been indications that the standard chemo approach isn’t working for me. As I have learned lately, there are two approaches to chemo. The standard approach is called “maximum tolerated dose” (MTD). That means giving a patient the highest doses of chemo without killing them. The protocol I went through this spring with Dr. P was like a sledgehammer. When I completed that protocol, I had to take two months off of treatment. I’m still not recovered from it.
And therein lies the problem. With a particularly aggressive cancer like pancreatic adenocarcinoma, taking those two months off gave the cancer all the opportunity it needed to advance and become stronger. As one fellow cancer patient said the other day, the statistics would seem to indicate that standard approaches simply don’t work well for pancreatic cancer.
All this means I was getting pretty concerned about things.
As a result, I read a half dozen books about pancreatic cancer and cancer in general. The one I found most helpful was Radical Remissionby Kelly Turner. She came across first one and then hundreds of instances of people who had been cured of stage four cancers of various kinds. She traveled the world interviewing people, and her book consists of the nine most common measures people leaned on in their remission stories. She doesn’t write about chemo or western medicine. The book is about lifestyle changes.
Several of the chapters were things I was already working on – flushing negative emotions, cultivating happiness and joy, exercising a healthy spirituality, and so on.
The chapter that really caught my attention was on listening to one’s intuition. Often our bodies know what they need. All we have to do is listen.
As I tuned in to my intuition, two things became clear. First, Susan and I both felt like we had reached a crossroads with Dr. P. We felt stuck. Second, I wanted an approach that was more holistic and less strictly limited to western medicine. We were ready for a second opinion.
On the recommendation of a local nurse, I got the name of Dr. Ben Chue here in Seattle. He is our new oncologist!
Dr. Chue has been one of the pioneers of the second basic approach to chemo: metronomic or “low-dose” chemo. The idea is to deliver less chemo with no breaks between treatment regimens. The side effects are supposed to be much more manageable. Low-dose chemo is definitely the minority approach, but it is gaining ground in the medical community.
It also helped that I talked to another patient of Dr. Chue, a woman who came to him with stage four pancreatic cancer. That was twelve years ago, and she’s still doing well.
I’ve been with Dr. Chue for three weeks, and I’ve noticed that his small clinic is populated almost entirely with patients who have been through standard treatment and went looking for something different. So far the people I have talked to are all stage four of one sort of cancer or another. They come from all over the USA and Canada because they feel Dr. Chue offers something unique.
I mentioned that I was looking for a more holistic approach. One of the things I like the most about Dr. Chue’s practice is that there is a full-time naturopath on staff. This is a real departure from Dr. P and the system at Virginia Mason Med Center. When I asked for a naturopath recommendation, they basically had nothing for me. I much prefer the integrated approach at Lifespring (Dr. Chue’s clinic).
An integrated approach means the doctors at Lifespring want to work with my immune system. Standard approaches to chemo radically suppress the patient’s immune system. I would much rather operate on the assumption that my body wants to heal, and it’s looking for help.
When Susan and I left our initial visit with Dr. Chue, we both felt it was the right thing at the right time. Intuitively it feels like a “yes.” And spiritually, we sense this is where the Spirit is leading. So, we follow. Just keep swimming, right?
What does perseverance in the face of hardship look like? What frame of mind helps us keep going even when life has gotten us down? I want to draw on two voices to help answer this question: Jorie and Dory. One is an observant poet, and the other is a forgetful fish.
For my birthday my sister sent me a book of poetry by Jorie Graham. Jorie is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and when my sister was earning her Masters degree in poetry, Jorie was her mentor. I read the first poem, entitled “The Way Things Work,” and spent some time meditating on it. It ends with: “The way things work is that eventually something catches.” As I reflected, the poem made me think of perseverance in the face of weariness.
Lately I have struggled with lack of energy. Physically I have had a recurring case of anemia (low blood counts) since I underwent that harsh treatment regimen in January through March of 2019. Anemia means anything beyond basic functioning takes extra effort. With anemia, you can lay on the couch and watch tv. However, you may never leave the couch. You might well feel like you’re velcroed to it! Anemia is the main reason I haven’t posted in a while: I’ve just been tired.
As I’ve written recently, there’s an emotional dimension to the weariness. Over time, cancer induces something like anemia of the soul. I just get tired of being sick. My body acts up constantly. I have few moments when I don’t feel sick. Feeling somewhat normal is like looking at a rainbow. Take it in now, because it will be gone in a few minutes.
I get tired of being sick. And yet I often recall that there are a lot of people a lot more sick than I am. I feel deeply for those folks.
God has met me in the midst of the fatigue. Lately I have heard God encouraging me to trust that “eventually something catches.” Just stay the course. Something will catch. Or, as Dory puts it in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Swimming. Swimming.”
And then there’s the New Testament version of “just keep swimming”: “Let perseverance finish its work [in you] so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”(James 1:4)
Toward the end of the poem, Jorie mentions some things she believes in. In a nutshell, she believes in the tools we have at hand. She believes in “the hooks.” Keep using them, and eventually something will catch.
I believe in the tools we have at hand as well. In my case, the uber-tool I trust implicitly is the Simple Way of Jesus.
If I live the Simple Way of Jesus in my relationships with people, “eventually something catches.”
If I live the Simple Way of Jesus in my leadership of Newport, “eventually something catches.”
If I live the Simple Way of Jesus in my journey with cancer, “eventually something catches.”
In all this, I hear a liberating, peaceful message: I don’t have to need a particular solution to work. Even within the Simple Way of Jesus, there are multiple tools – forgiving, trusting God, reconciling quickly, rejoicing, praying, loving all people, and so on. Just keep applying the tools, and "eventually something catches." Something! And it may not be what caught yesterday.
You and I can let go of any one solution. In letting go, there is freedom and peace. It’s the opposite of having “control issues,” where we have to have things our way because we are locked in to one way forward.
Letting go, combined with a commitment to “just keep swimming,” brings us to a place where we are truly able to facilitate God’s kingdom.
I want to fulfill my calling to have a close and contagious relationship with God. Living that way will ensure I have the main tool – the Simple Way of Jesus – and keep becoming more skilled with the tools the Simple Way includes (forgiving, trusting God, etc.). As I live with Jesus, his ways will be tools I have personally worked with rather than tools I’ve merely read about. What God calls you and me to is not much more complicated than that. Use the tools God gives you in the Simple Way of Jesus. Keep using them. You will know these tools inside and out, because over time, they will become part of you. When you live the Simple Way of Jesus and the storms of life hit, you’ll be able to say, “This changes nothing.”
So, here’s the message I took from Jorie’s poem: “eventually something catches.” When we shift from Jorie to Dory, the advice is consistent: "just keep swimming."
By the way, God doesn’t require perseverance of us alone. He takes joy in practicing it. In his dealings with you and me, he has to keep nudging us toward a way of being that is a smidgen more Jesus-like today than it was yesterday. For God too, “eventually something catches.” Even God, in his gracious commitment to keep us and raise us as his children — even God has to “just keep swimming.”
Next chemo treatment is tomorrow, Feb 26, at 11:00 AM. I am being treated at Virginia Mason Hospital, home of one of the world's foremost pancreatic cancer treatment centers.
I have much to tell you about the path leading to the diagnosis, how I became connected to Dr. Picozzi at Virginia Mason, what life looks like for me these days, how the good people at Newport Covenant Church are supporting me, my prognosis, what God has been saying and doing, and so on.
Will you walk with us on this journey? We want to do this in community with you!
Site created on February 25, 2018
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. In January 2018, I started as Lead Pastor at Newport Covenant Church in Bellevue WA, and I was diagnosed with stage 3 (possibly stage 4) pancreatic cancer. God is doing something highly unusual... but what? That's what we will find out as we all take this journey together. The Becks are using this CaringBridge site to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support, words of hope and encouragement, and prayers. Thank you for visiting!
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