Thursday, March 31, 2011

31st March Chemo Day 38

For sure Jane has turned the corner today; she has been quite bright all day although still very weak. The real give-away was when I served her evening meal and she pulled a face! She’d asked for fish and chips and as she’s rarely finished even the smallest meal for several days I gave her only a slightly generous portion, not nearly enough. Most encouraging… although it cost me a few chips before the meal finished. Maybe we can fill the gap with strawberries and cream in an hour or so?

It’s funny but really Jane is only slightly improved and yet it feels like so very much more. It seems such a long while since she was anything like normal even though it was only a week ago when the chemo cloud descended. Without God these past few days would have been impossible and I’ve been thinking again how privileged we are… we have so much support in such a difficult time, surrounded by caring family and friends, and compared with many in the world we live in  the greatest luxury. Having spent time in an undeveloped part of Africa our 3 bed semi is almost palatial and really we can choose to eat just about anything we can imagine. The Lord has truly favoured us with his blessing and given us a wonderful life.

Psalm 23:5 ‘You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30th March Chemo Day 37

Jane remains totally wiped out with occasional hot flushes and waves of ill feelings adding to her malaise today. It really takes the greatest effort to do anything and her sense of taste and smell have changed somewhat complicating things further when trying to eat. It’s now around 7.30pm though and Jane has only just felt the need to use oxygen and it seems she is less and less dependent as the days pass. This has to be encouraging as relieving coughing and improving breathing is hopefully a sign that lesions are shrinking… but the price is high. We should get a clearer insight at next Monday’s consultation as Jane has a CT scan this Friday. Getting her to Nottingham and through a scan would be almost impossible today so we have to believe she’ll recover somewhat very soon. 

We continue to keep our eyes fixed firmly upon the Lord despite being so very weary. This morning we enjoyed a good time of worship and found an interesting Bible story to think about. 2 Kings 20 tells the story of King Hezekiah who was deathly ill possibly with something like shingles. The Lord told him to set his affairs in order as he was going to die. He refused to accept this, even though it was the word of the Lord, and so he pleaded with God reminding him of his faithfulness and service. God’s response was to change his mind and grant 15 more years to Hezekiah’s life. He was healed using the medicine of the time. Nothing is set in stone. We know what the doctors are saying… the real question what is God saying about Jane’s life?

Matthew 12:15 ‘ …many people followed him. He healed all the sick among them’ (NLT)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

29th March Chemo Day 36

A really difficult day for Jane. She’s been so exhausted she can hardly move and even eating has become a real challenge. There’s no way she can finish even a cup of tea let alone a meal at the moment although at least she needs very few calories for the little activity she does do. Somehow we need to increase her energy food intake which might help a little. She’s still fighting a number of hopefully minor problems but at least her sore mouth is very slightly improving. We have to keep a careful eye on her problems as there is potential for a more serious condition to develop needing professional help. There has to be a turning point very soon when she’ll start to regain strength and recover from the side effects. This is no way to live.

Without the Lord to carry us through this I think we would just give up. It’s too hard. Somehow though we will persevere and reach our destination walking with God by our side no matter what is thrown across our path. It’s wonderful having such a close friend in Jane as when one of us wavers the other is there to encourage and support. We still continue to debate some of the issues of the day and take close interest in world affairs at the moment. I find it quite intriguing comparing for example Russian, Israeli and some Christian news sites with our very own BBC. We certainly don’t get a complete picture of what’s happening.

Psalm 28:7 ‘The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.’ (NIV)

Monday, March 28, 2011

28th March Chemo Day 35

It’s been another very difficult day for Jane, battling several small problems alongside extreme fatigue; she survived by dozing in her recliner for a few hours before settling on the sofa for an afternoon nap. Survival with an on-going hope of recovery seems to be the order of the day… the main symptoms of chemotherapy should pass and Jane should be beginning to feel stronger and brighter soon. This evening she’s begun to wake up for the first time today and is almost cheerful as we watch Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets. Then again food is one of the great loves of Jane’s life and never fails to please.

In a general sense we’ve lived quite spontaneously for several years now whilst we’ve both been battling with ill health and we’ve been forced to remain very flexible when making plans. But at the moment it’s not possible to look beyond today and indeed in one sense ‘today’ is all there is. Whether we have a little or a lot we have to make the most of what we have each and every day.

Matthew 6:34 ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ (NIV)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

27th March Chemo Day 34

Another challenging day as Jane has felt totally exhausted again, so much so that we had to limit a visit by our two youngest grandchildren. It was not that long ago that she persuaded me to cook play-doh for their visit whereas today 20 minutes without moving from her recliner was about all she could cope with. Jane’s spent most of the day dozing, sleeping off the worst of the chemo side effects, though it’s strange how even the simplest of ideas can put a smile on her face; she’s had a really sore mouth again today and had been struggling to cope with drinks until I produced a glass of sparkling grape juice which she loved. Of course that meant another quick shop to stock up for a couple of days!

After many years of zero interest Jane has finally succumbed to the lure of a hand-held games machine… she’s appropriated my Times Crossword game along with our son’s DS and will not get out of bed each morning until she’s finishes at least one. And yes it does have a cheat button to speed things along! Living through chemotherapy is a bit like working out a puzzle. New complications seem to occur quite regularly and we have to continually work things through to find solutions. Juggling different medicines, exploring all sorts of aids and reorganising our home to make Jane as comfortable as possible means she is coping much better now than previously. Quality of life is seriously degraded and so we do everything we can to help her get through this as best as we can.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’ (NASB)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

26th March Chemo Day 33

At least we’ve got a pretty good idea of what is causing some of Jane’s problems today and we can expect them to pass in fairly short order. Chemotherapy is a quite horrid ordeal and today has been quite rubbish although, undergirding Jane’s current problems her breathing and coughing continues to slowly improve. She didn’t bother with oxygen for an extended period again this morning which is encouraging, if only she didn’t feel so ill and so absolutely exhausted! A new problem with a really sore mouth is most unwelcome…

Sometimes we reach the end of our own ability to cope with things. Jane basically needs 24/7 care now and while that’s no real problem I don’t feel that I have any spare capacity for anything more. I know that whatever the need God is the answer but I wonder if I’m setting aside enough time to seek him in prayer… I’m just so glad he not only understands our weakness but even carries us through them.

Psalm 18v16 ‘He reached down from heaven and rescued me.’ (NLT)

Friday, March 25, 2011

25th March Chemo Day 32

We enjoyed several hours in the garden today, this weather is most welcome! Jane is suffering quite a bit now from the chemo she just had but she remains very positive and we are praying that the side effects will pass over the next day or so. We have a reserve oxygen cylinder which was ideally suited for garden use and that helped ease Jane’s discomfort outside. It really does make all the difference when she’s feeling so ill.

I sometimes wonder about those who seemingly turn away from their faith journey when faced with disappointments that life so often brings our way. So often people put the blame for their hurt and pain either on God or perhaps religion and that makes no sense to me. This world is a complex place though I have no doubt that God created the world as perfect as perfect could be. He gave man complete and absolute authority over everything and we messed up… big time! It’s not good enough to blame the devil either as man is the major influence on how we live. When things go wrong it may not necessarily be our personal ‘fault’ but if not that then I reckon there is usually some sort of corporate failing to blame. This whole planet and the society we live in is pretty well messed up… there’s no way we can be immune from trouble. But God has a way forward and hopefully out of trouble. He shows us how to live in a way that can be an influence for good.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ‘Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.’ (GNT)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

24th March Chemo Day 31

It’s been wonderful enjoying the sunshine today and Jane felt well enough to sit in the garden for an hour which was great. We had our first outdoor meal of the year and it’s only March! Unfortunately Jane then began to feel the onset of chemo side effects although so far she still seems rather stronger than previously, but still very weak and can only walk a few steps. Having a double infusion this week makes it particularly toxic and therefore challenging, but this time around we have more support with a supply of oxygen as well as a better routine using morphine at night which helps with sleep. It’s quite probable Jane had some sort of lung infection last time which antibiotics seem to have cleared up and hopefully a timely use of injections to boost her immune system will prevent a recurrence of that problem. We need to be so careful not to be exposed to anyone with a bug as this could cause a serious problem.

We recently started using a set of daily readings which is not something we normally do. This morning it was talking about how sometimes there is a set time for God’s favour, a set time for deliverance which is a concept I’ve occasionally wondered about. We have to keep believing in the favour of God for our lives and persevering through this particular trial makes much more sense if we can keep a hold of the hope of restoration in this life and not just in the one to come. We pray every day ‘Let your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’, knowing full well that there is no sickness in heaven so let there be no sickness in this little part of the earth!

Deuteronomy 28v6 ‘Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed’ (NLT)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

23rd March Chemo Day 30

And yet again another good day for Jane… she continues to do more and more and seems much stronger than at any time over the past month or so. However previously, some 48 hours after each of the past chemo infusions she’s started to feel really ill and severely fatigued. I guess we ought to expect more of the same but who knows what God might do? If we keep praying and rejoicing in the goodness of God he might yet reveal his mercy and deliver Jane in some way from this ordeal. At the very least her increasing strength ought to moderate the toxic side effects of chemotherapy.

Jane was just saying how peaceful our home feels at the moment as though the presence of God himself is with us… which it is of course! I know he’s always caring for us and in a very real way he is carrying us through this trial but those special moments when the manifest presence of God is revealed remind me of our future destiny. One day we shall be with him, we shall see him face to face and we shall enjoy his pleasure for all eternity. There will be no more sickness, no injustice and no more sin… the world will become the perfect place it was ever intended to be.

Nehemiah 8v10 ‘Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (NLT)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

22nd March Chemo Day 29

It’s been Jane’s best day for quite a while with no need for oxygen all day despite being quite active getting to Nottingham hospital. I’m feeling rather tired as I woke about 3am with a migraine and was unable to take painkillers due to a fasting blood test I needed to have at hospital… anyway I take far too many and need to cope without them somehow. Life is real fun sometimes!

It seems to me that Jane’s breathing continues to improve and her cough is much better. She’s a lot stronger now than after chemo last Tuesday even though it’s still a 7 hour round trip to the clinic. We did manage to escape for an hour to a hospital garden where we enjoyed the spring sunshine whilst waiting for blood test results. Basically all went well and Jane managed the ice cap again with only the briefest of silent wincing as it froze her scalp for the next two hours. She’s a tough one is my Jane!

Psalm 143v1 ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my plea!’ (NLT)

Monday, March 21, 2011

21st March Chemo Day 28

Jane continues to improve so very slowly. She gets a little stronger every day, her breathing is becoming just a little more normal and the cough is vastly improved compared with a few weeks ago. She’s also been able to leave the oxygen switched off a couple of times today which has to be good but she’s still very tired. It’s a shame that tomorrow Tuesday she’s back in hospital for the double infusion chemo session which pulled her right down 3 weeks ago. Hopefully though, the better symptom management using oxygen, morphine and a corrected post chemo injection regime will give her a much better experience this time. We still trust that the benefits from lesions shrinking and relieving coughing and breathing problems will outweigh the detrimental side effects caused by chemo.

It’ll be a long day tomorrow as I have an 8.30am x-ray to check out the persistent cough I’ve had since December. The last thing we need is any more health complications… though since I went to see my GP the cough seems to have disappeared!

Romans 15:13 ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ (NIV)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

20th March Chemo Day 27

No real change today… Jane still feels pretty grotty! It’s been another really slow day, interrupted with a special treat as our two youngest grandchildren came for lunch. They’re great and mum’s a rather special cook as well. I was surprised this afternoon as after I’d set Jane up to go window shopping on the internet I settled in to read my book, and then well over an hour later I realised she was still wide awake and quite happy browsing. But this is not life, certainly not our idea of living a full life. Long term illness is quite horrid; it drags you down and tries to distort every activity. There is another way of seeing things which we need to keep hold of, the Bible talks of us being seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, seeing as he sees from the position of perfect understanding. It talks of God working for good in every situation that we find ourselves in. It talks of the joy of the Lord being our strength… and we need to always fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith.  

As always it’s hard to measure but it seems that Jane is very slowly making progress, even if sometimes it feels a little like a roller coaster ride… with probably a few more ups as in uphill ups than downs.

Psalm 102v13 ‘…it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come.’ (NIV)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

19th March Chemo Day 26

Children truly are a gift from God. In our hour of need they gather round and look after us in a way that only close family can. Last night I really felt far too tired to start cooking and then our eldest daughter called round for a brief visit and immediately offered to cook, so I raided the larder and she produced an outstanding tuna bake… quite a treat! Today our youngest prepared a very tasty veggie roast and tomorrow our other daughter has promised some sort of Loughborough fish special... accompanied by two grandchildren. Oh and I nearly forgot our son produced the most amazing Victoria Sponge a couple of days ago as well. Jane fancied Thornton’s chocs today and lo and behold they have a special offer… the cheapest box turns out to be the largest box on offer with a 50% discount. Food makes our world go round at the moment.

Life for Jane remains incredibly slow and she continues to struggle with heavy fatigue. Oxygen remains very helpful alleviating her coughing and breathing although encouragingly she was quite comfortable not using it for a couple of hours this morning. Last night she had really good night’s sleep which has to be good.

Psalm 102vs1,2 ‘Hear my prayer, LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.’ (NIV)

Friday, March 18, 2011

18th March Chemo Day 25

Getting on for twelve years ago I went on holiday with my family. At the time I was particularly busy working more than 50 hours a week in my job, helping to lead a weekly small group at church and regularly organising a team of musicians to lead Sunday worship. I enjoyed regular games of badminton and on one surprising occasion, actually on holiday, I totally overwhelmed my much younger and very fit son-in-law playing a game of squash. He’s a great footballer not really a racket person but who cares… the old man beat him. We had four children to care for and relate to in different ways and Jane’s elderly mother was also living with us. Life was very busy with many responsibilities and I needed a holiday.

I caught a cold on that holiday and it developed into some sort of flu or so I thought at the time. I had M.E. and over the next year or so I had not only lost my health and then my job but also my role in playing with a band…  a particular pleasure I’d enjoyed since being a young teenager. Nonetheless life was pretty good; we had our children and eventually grandchildren and have enjoyed all sorts of experiences since then. Life slowed right down and everything demanded the most careful activity management. But we still lived and enjoyed so many of the normal pleasures of life albeit in moderation.

Today is very different. Jane is totally unable to engage with any sort of normality for more than the briefest period of time. Today she is severely fatigued and I know how she feels. She says the supply of oxygen she’s tied to is wonderful but what a way to have to live. We reckon that she is very slightly improving with her breathing and coughing but she has such a long way to go. We still see and enjoy our family but otherwise my only connection with the outside world is travelling to hospitals or Sainsburys… oh and the dad’s taxi thing now and then! We long for a move of God in our lives.

John 3:30 ‘He must become greater; I must become less.’ (NIV)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

17th March Chemo Day 24

We’re on a roll… another quiet day. Jane remains completely exhausted though and can hardly walk as it seems Tuesday’s chemo is now beginning to show its teeth. She’s found using an oxygen machine to be a very workable alternative to morphine during the day and it’s been running continuously for 24 hours now. We have to trust that controlling Jane’s coughing using oxygen therapy and other medication will promote some measure of healing from the damage caused by the cough itself. But really only the chemo is designed to cause the cancers to shrink enabling Jane to regain some measure of good health. Three weeks ago Jane started her first chemo cycle and saw how it affected her as it did its work. Significantly after about a week her breathing and coughing improved quite substantially and so it would be good to see that again only this time without the subsequent reversal.

Jeremiah 33v6 ‘I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.’ (NIV)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

16th March Chemo Day 23

It’s been a day of recovery, quite chilled out and much needed respite from recent pressures. Jane remains massively weakened and unable to walk even a couple of steps without becoming breathless and she soon starts to cough. But she perseveres with the occasional small chore to keep moving as best as she can. Learning to live very slowly is the order of the day and the gentle purring and popping of the oxygen machine our constant companion. Although hard to measure it seems to me that Jane’s overall condition is somewhat improved compared with the past couple of weeks, but whether that is purely down to symptom management as compared with a real recovery I couldn’t  really judge. Week by week she’s adding to the list of prescription drugs she needs to either take or have available… chemotherapy really does result in having to manage all manner of potential and real problems. It’s sometimes quite a balancing act and we try and use diet to help as much as possible particularly with digestive problems. Jane’s appetite and enthusiasm for food remains quite unaffected!

She avoided taking morphine this morning and that certainly improves mental alertness right through the day. A couple of days after each of the two infusions of the first chemo cycle Jane succumbed to extreme fatigue and horrible ill feelings. Wouldn’t it be good if she were able to avoid that tomorrow?

Isaiah 56v1 ‘This is what the Lord says: “… I am coming soon to rescue you”’ (NLT)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

15th March Chemo Day 22

Another long day at the hospital. But a relatively pleasant environment in the chemo day unit helps the time to pass in quite a peaceful although usually frustrating way. It remains baffling that from our experience no hospital seems capable of providing a timely appointment system which does no favours to seriously ill people. I understand doctor patient interviews will always be irregular time wise but chemo is in most cases easily calculated. How come I telephone just before leaving home and am told appointments are on time so we immediately travel and have to wait 2 hours before being attended to? Patience is a Christian virtue that is certainly being tested in me, although Jane is marvellous and she absolutely refuses to let me complain to the reception staff who are on the front line of organising this. I felt a little better after pacifying another patient who was beginning to get quite worked up with his identical problem. We remain massively grateful to all who work there despite these complaints and suspect that if I were doing that job even longer delays would result… it’s always easy to complain from a position that lacks a full picture of what’s really happening! 

Anyway all went well with hopefully a good result maybe even better than the first cycle as a couple of corrections have been made to the way treatment was administered as staff did not diligently follow an unusual and new procedure detailed on the prescription as they should have. Jane’s doctor exercised his authority to ensure things were done right this time but apparently no harm done and indeed a passing comment by a nurse today revealed that Jane’s blood test was not just OK but actually gave a good result now. This was an area of concern as she had also been given wrong instructions, despite us querying them, as to when to take injections to boost her white blood cells… 7 days later than she should have. These are responsible for the immune system and could explain why Jane has possibly got a slight infection in her lungs which is being treated with antibiotics.

We really do need to pray more about some of these quite minor details as there is no need for these unnecessary complications. Even one of the oxygen machines delivered only yesterday malfunctioned! This chemotherapy is currently the only medical treatment offered for Jane and we need to make the most of it.

Galatians 5v22 ‘But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’ (NLT)

Monday, March 14, 2011

14th March Chemo Day 21

An exhausting, highly stressful day. But a day of some good news… sort of. It feels a bit like taking the first step on a journey to climb Mount Everest, a few inches seems little progress on a 29,000 foot climb. But it is progress. Jane had an x-ray today which unfortunately was mostly unclear because she was unable to take a deep enough breath to provide a comparison with previous x-rays. However there was one particular lesion which could be compared and which her consultant was absolutely sure had shrunk. He qualified this by saying that this did not automatically translate to shrinkage in the other growths but nonetheless this is good news and after careful assessment of Jane’s condition he recommended that the next cycle of chemotherapy should continue tomorrow, Tuesday afternoon.

Our wonderful eldest daughter persuaded her kind boss to let her have half a day off work to come with us to Nottingham. How thoughtful and a marvellous distraction wandering around different departments for three hours or so. Tonight the ‘oxygen’ man delivered machines and gas bottles to provide Jane with as much oxygen as she needs and hopefully using that and medication in a more informed way will improve Jane’s symptoms.

Sometimes it seems that whilst our faith in God and his goodness is totally secure our hope for Jane’s healing in this lifetime is rather more wobbly. It remains very difficult to step away from the very loud voice of our circumstances and listen to the still small voice of God. Faith is a gift from God but we very much have a choice in how we exercise it. Nothing is impossible for God… he delights to bless his children; he delights to heal and restore.

Matthew 17v20 ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ (NIV)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

13th March Chemo Day 20

A fairly good night’s sleep followed by a reasonable day and life feels much easier to cope with. Indeed, this afternoon Jane made a passing remark that it had been an almost ‘normal’ day! I have to disagree as she had me cooking home-made play-doh… an activity far removed from my idea of a normal day. Anyway I was able to escape modelling the stuff with our youngest grandchildren when they arrived; Jane loves that sort of thing whereas I prefer to reserve my energy for scraping it out of the carpet before it gets trampled!

Jane still has a bad cough and some breathing problems but medication and careful activity management seem to bring some sort of control and quite a lot of relief from the worst of her symptoms. One more night to get through and then Monday afternoon she’ll see her doctor for an informed assessment with an x-ray. She needs a good outcome from this and blood tests in order to get the go-ahead to continue chemo on Tuesday.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever. (NLT)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

12th March Chemo Day 19

The storms of life continue to shake us. Another difficult night left us questioning whether we should consider talking to the hospital which would probably mean admission to a ward again. A single minimum dose of morphine and careful activity management seemed to bring things under some sort of control quite quickly and so Jane has had a peaceful day in the more comfortable surroundings of our home. If she can continue like this until Monday an assessment from her oncologist who understands her history would be simplest, but we continue to monitor the situation very closely.

We continue to pray at every opportunity for Jane’s full recovery, for immediate relief from pain, for no cough and for clear breathing.

Psalm 27v1 ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?’ (NLT)

Friday, March 11, 2011

11th March Chemo Day 18

We feel much better today.  A pretty good night’s sleep is always welcome and as best as we can we’re working on managing Jane’s symptoms to help her get through the present difficulties. She’s coughing rather less than before which is helpful but the actual cough is still very nasty and she’s become a little breathless again today. Helping her to avoid coughing as much as possible is a priority as she has quite a bit of chest pain from this. But she’s not needed morphine today which has to be good.

One of our regular walks last year was around the grounds of Calke Abbey and as recently as last October I remember we had quite a long walk around the grounds. At that time Jane was probably stronger than me! Today Jane was determined to try and get there again which was amazing. She is really very weak and incredibly slow doing almost anything. She needed a 15 minute rest simply after getting ready to go out and when we arrived an almost painfully slow walk took us a very short distance straight to the coffee shop. Going so slow sort of suits me but it’s not the best way to stay fit. For both of us it felt very strange indeed to be out in the big wide world but in a very real way we had our taste of normality which was most welcome!

Psalm 103vs1-5 ‘Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.  Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!’ (NLT)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

10th March Chemo Day 17

So tired, so very tired. Last night was really difficult with Jane coughing and in a lot of pain until the early hours when morphine helped her to a fitful rest. Today has been more under control but again only with the help of morphine and it’s pretty horrid side effects. Our GP practice proved themselves very capable once more in shortening a two day repeat prescription service to a couple of hours for the seriously ill. Jane really has a horrible cough which is very concerning and yet we are determined to cling to hope. She’ll have tests before she sees her oncologist on Monday and needs some good news by then to continue to the next cycle of chemo. It is puzzling how Jane’s symptoms improved quite markedly after the first chemo treatment and now have worsened again, and I have a similar though less severe cough which has been coming and going for 3 months now. But we’re not doctors.

Maybe tomorrow will be better… we long for just a taste of normal life.

John 10v10 ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (NIV)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

9th March Chemo Day 16

A really difficult night left us feeling quite low almost defeated. But not quite. I sat down this morning for breakfast asking myself ‘where is God?’ and then feeling quite deserted I wondered how long must we endure such tortured circumstances. Instantly I realised that there are so many who are in a far worse situation than us and felt a little guilty about my self-centredness. We are surrounded by loving caring friends and family, we have each other and so many who suffer have none of this. But that still left me with the question ‘where is God... has he deserted us?’ You see I absolutely believe in the goodness of God and yet I really did not feel favoured indeed I felt a little empty as though God had left me. So I quietened my thoughts and looked deep within to consider my true feelings and found love. Yes my heart cries out with love for God; no matter what this world may throw across my path I cannot deny that all my hope and trust is in Jesus Christ. He is my Saviour, my Redeemer, my Healer, my Provider and so much more. And then I realised that my love for God could not possibly be, without the simple fact that God first loved me! He has not deserted us, he cannot desert us. The love that fills my heart is ample evidence of that, so despite the daily torture of ill health and despite not understanding the continuing ordeal I know that God is with us and for us and one day in one way or another will restore us.

Despite the difficult night and I have to say somewhat surprisingly Jane has had a really good day. Until late afternoon she hardly coughed at all and even felt strong enough to venture out to purchase a cross-stitching kit to occupy herself creatively. We have to live with hope and persevere through whatever trials are set before us. This evening her cough is problematic once again… it’s so hard to work out what might be done practically to help her. In a very real way prayer and faith in God are our only hope. Medicine has real but limited and incomplete resources… science still has many mysteries to unravel.

Romans 8v38-39 ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (NIV)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

8th March Chemo Day 15

I’m just so glad Jane has a week off from chemo now; I don’t think I could have made it to Nottingham today. We both feel really exhausted at the moment though I have to say that Jane is again just slightly brighter than yesterday. Continual difficult symptoms are very draining and for some reason Jane has been coughing a little more this afternoon which is not good. But again and again we have to remind ourselves of how severe Jane’s situation was less than two weeks ago when she first started chemo. She was really struggling to breathe in a fair amount of pain and coughing at the slightest exertion or even when trying to talk… we even had oxygen on order to provide support when needed. I’ve been able to suspend this delivery with a four hour option for supply if needed which I trust won’t be! Although extremely tired and fairly uncomfortable Jane’s condition is not quite in this category at this time, but we really do need to see more improvement right now. Continually battling simply to get through each day is quite distressing and in itself can lead to deterioration in health.

On the plus side we’ve been looking at the recommended chemo diet which suggests energy foods such as honey, treacle, double cream and trifle which can’t be too bad can it? Our eldest daughter turned up with grandchildren after school and made a very tasty spicy (vegetarian) meat ball and rice dish. We even persuaded our son to cook pancakes and what a good job he did too. God has blessed us with some wonderful children!

Another little bit of good news my 11 year old car passed its MOT needing only two new wiper blades which is a relief.

Psalm 127vs3-5 ‘Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!’ (NLT)

Monday, March 07, 2011

7th March Chemo Day 14

Slow progress, but Jane is persevering on her journey towards health. I find it quite upsetting watching her suffering so much and yet there is encouragement in seeing some good improvement and real change in breathing and coughing compared with around a week ago. Nonetheless she still wakes up coughing each day apparently with fluid on her lungs and continues to suffer some chest pain particularly when moving suddenly. Minor digestive problems and threatening headaches alongside continuing fatigue add to the struggle and we are praying that this will all improve and the chemo will shrink the growths very quickly. Her hair is intact and appetite and taste buds remain good and daytimes are not too bad, although Jane seems to sleep quite a bit and almost any activity is quite difficult. It’s a shame not to be out enjoying the sunshine for more than a couple of minutes... I heard my first bee of the year this afternoon, spring must be on the way!

Life continues to be very cloistered with little external stimulus. Our window into the world is a mixture of 24 hour news channels and Christian TV. Revelation TV has many live programmes each day showing well connected interviews and commentary on world affairs with the ability to interact via e-mail. They are shortly to record an interview with Richard Dawkins which should be quite fascinating when aired. We have a steady trickle of phone calls and visitors most days and these people are life-savers! It’s wonderful how folk put themselves out to call on us carrying flowers to make sure we never run out.

But the repeated activity of the day is prayer. Very simple repeated prayers… ‘Can you pray for me Dave?’, ‘pray for the pain’, ‘pray for my stomach’, ‘pray for my cough’, ‘pray for the migraine’.

Luke 18v7,8 ‘So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly!’ (NLT)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

6th March Chemo Day 13

Late afternoon and a very special moment… Jane woke up! Let me explain, she wasn’t actually snoozing but to all intents and purposes for the past three days she’s been feeling so very poorly and totally out of it that she may as well have been. This morning I got up and in the back of my mind wondered if I might make it to church today; Jane got up very slowly and before long it was ‘give me a hug… don’t leave me’. I’m sure she wasn’t even thinking about church. It’s a wonderful privilege being asked for such simple comfort by someone who is so really poorly… reminds me of so many occasions when our children fell over and needed a kiss and a cuddle to mend their poorly knee or whatever. Anyway it seems that this afternoon the worst of the ill feelings have just very slightly begun to lift… and I have my wife back! We all have times when we need someone to help us, maybe a simple hug maybe… whatever! Sometimes we need to ask for help, sometimes we need to respond to a plea for help. I do not believe that God ever intended us to be totally independent of other people. Even God himself once needed help.

Matthew 27v32 ‘Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.’ (NLT)

Saturday, March 05, 2011

5th March Chemo Day 12

A slow day! Again it feels like nothing new is happening and the day drags on, and yet at the same time I know that every day is a unique day, a gift of life to be treasured. Jane and I spend so much time together that at times we have very little to say. We share almost every conversation every activity together so there’s almost nothing we don’t know about each other and I have to say I love it! It might sound like soppy romanticism but I love this woman more than words can say. One day I trust we shall resume a more normal and healthy life, each of us engaging in different workplaces and we’ll have loads to talk about but until then we simply enjoy each other’s company.

I used to love coming home from work when the children were very young and hear about Jane’s day, sharing in her enjoyment of the numerous childhood landmarks such as first steps, first words and even potty training! I know that in some ways motherhood can be a very challenging and quite lonely experience but she was so enthusiastic and I was always so proud of how she coped. This was in marked contrast to my own experience in the workplace in which I was never happy and often came home quite miserable and massively stressed. Somehow Jane carried both the children and in some ways me through the challenges of life with a smile on her face and always with real encouragement to reach out to God in prayer and action. I’ve been quite seriously ill and off work for almost 12 years now and for all of that time Jane has supported me wonderfully, especially in not putting up with any nonsense such as accepting the condition. At the moment it’s my privilege to give her what support I can… though she’s set the bench mark by her example rather high!

Although rather slow it’s been quite a nice day as first my sister and her daughter turned up on the doorstep with both a gift of flowers and words of encouragement… it’s wonderful that people are so kind and put themselves out to stand with us at this challenging time. Then one of our daughters and her boyfriend cooked us a superb and quite professional Spaghetti Bolognese for a late lunch! I love the debates we have on world affairs, today briefer than usual but at least we avoided conspiracy theories and global economics. Jane continues to feel really ill after the double chemo on Tuesday, but she does say that there is a very small improvement upon how she felt yesterday. It would be great if the ill-feelings were to pass very quickly and then she might recover strength before her next cycle. She has a week off from hospital now and then another x-ray and blood tests before being given the go-ahead for more treatment. 18 weeks of treatment plus recovery time is a real long slog… we need to keep praying about both side effects and severe fatigue.

Philippians 4v8 ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ (NIV)

Friday, March 04, 2011

4th March Chemo Day 11

Walking… something about walking. Not running. Not standing still but walking.

So often just recently we’ve found ourselves waiting in hospital waiting rooms and that’s fine because we know the appointment will happen and treatment either offered or not offered. Analysis and accompanying explanation helps us understand the reality of our situation and get some sort of a handle on the way forward… there’s always a way forward no matter what the challenge, no matter what doctors have to say. We’ve found Jane’s current doctor to be highly trained, with a highly sensitive, supportive and very friendly manner. He’s always prepared to give as much time as we want in consultation and as far as we can see he offers the very best advice and the very best treatment options… but there is a limit to what he can do for Jane. Current medical knowledge has its limits; some conditions are outside of its understanding. But… do we accept the doctor’s report as final or is there another report, the report of the Lord that we need to pay attention to?

There’s a great story we read in Luke 4 of Jesus being attacked by the religious leaders of the time. They were offended with his message and so drove him out of town and took him to a cliff edge intending to throw him off. But the Bible says he simply walked right through the crowd and went on his way. Do we seek to run away from our problems perhaps by denying them or pretending they don’t exist? Do we accept them as unchangeable and give up? Or do we face up to the challenge and walk through it as Jesus did? We have a choice…

Jane has had quite a difficult day health-wise; it seems that post-chemo there is some sort of a pattern developing. Maybe a couple of quite good days followed by some really ill feelings which we believe are caused by the chemo drugs. We hope and pray that tomorrow will see a recovery of Jane’s sense of wellbeing; she is really very weak today although again the specific problems caused by the cancer growths remain substantially improved! We did have some lovely visits today first from a friend of Jane’s bearing a gift of a CD recording of a concert she’d performed playing Chopin. Quite delightful and very relaxing! Then some friends from church called with a rather splendid orchid plant as a gift from the church prayer group. People are so kind!

Luke 7v22 ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.’ (NLT)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

3rd March Chemo Day 10

I’ve always felt that ill health is a complete waste of time, obvious really but of itself it has no purpose whatsoever. Of course God can use sickness for his purpose, teaching us patience, encouraging us to draw close to him, building trust and so on, but of itself what’s the point? Some might say it’s a curse upon mankind as a consequence of wrong living by ourselves, by those living around us or by our ancestors. Others see sickness as a punishment from God or even an attack from the devil. Over the past few years we’ve asked the question ‘Why are we ill?’ many times, seeking to perhaps resolve the problem in some way and though we’ve tried just about every trick in the book we still have got no idea whatsoever!

So of course we persevere in prayer and continue to seek God for his word, his favour. We engage with most of what the NHS has to offer and we guard our health as best as we can but that then leaves us with the challenge of making sure that this season of life is not a waste of time. Of course it’s always encouraging being able to help other people or even just enjoy their company but that’s not always possible. Some days, like today, apart from some encouraging phone calls we see no one and nothing much seems to happen. That’s probably good for we both need to rest and recover after the intensity of Tuesday’s hospital visit for Jane’s chemo. I like to think though that every day, no matter how uneventful, has something of value… no matter how small and then we should give thanks to God for that! Today for example I decide to give our motorhome a little run as it’s been standing for too long now. I didn’t get very far before I realised that the speedo was completely malfunctioning. I stopped off at the garage and after being jolted at a potential £600+ replacement cost decided to have a go myself. I stripped down the dashboard, disassembled the speedo and repaired the thing myself in around thirty minutes for free. Turns out the damage was probably caused by allowing the battery to flatten and then charging too quickly messing up the electronics… I need to watch that next winter. Having a go at something you’ve never done before can really pay off sometimes.

Although Jane is gradually improving as regards her cough, breathing and pain she still has to be very careful. Chemo can cause all sorts of problems which need attention… so today whilst Jane felt quite a bit better she decided to try a very small shopping expedition. No problem but stamina is very limited and within a few minutes she was ready for home. It seems that Tuesday really was a big day and time is still needed to recover. We are very hopeful for something good coming out of this step of faith. Happiness is not all that illusive; it really helps doing something constructive be it in the big things like going through chemo or the little things like repairing a broken speedometer!

Psalm 37v23 ‘The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives’. (NLT)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

2nd March Chemo Day 9

Just been thinking it’s all a bit much… I guess sometimes it’s not that anything particular is happening it’s just that the on-going pressure of continual stress for the past few weeks sort of piles up and really is too much! It’s been quite a good day for Jane and yet I feel totally exhausted. Aaaarh I reckon I feel a dose of the Poor Old Me’s coming on… not a good plan! How to escape? Does God ever feel down? Do you think he could ever feel miserable? About me? With me? No way! Maybe I should blame it upon M.E., an old and tired excuse, but I really don’t think I should allow an illness, any illness, to become bigger in my life than God himself. Surely if I were close to him, I mean really close recognising his presence, his power, his compassion, seeing as he sees, understanding as he understands… all would be well. More than well, perfect.

So let’s think about who God is. This world says that the universe was formed in some sort of mysterious Big-Bang. Scientists spend billions on instruments designed to replicate the supposed first moments of the universe… fair enough if we are to value scientific progress in that way but what was there before the Big-Bang, and if we answer that, what was there before that? All very complicated and some very clever people construct suitably incomprehensible theories in the field of quantum cosmology constructing an understanding of the ‘space-time’ continuum whilst blinding us with the sheer power of the intellect. At root though I believe they simply try to convince us that God does not exist. In my eyes they fail miserably. I prefer to recognise a simple God truth… no-one fully understands God, his ways are not our ways, and I actually believe that in him is a remarkably simple explanation of how it all started. God is bigger than the physical universe and bigger than time itself. He lives outside of the physical and outside of time and so in one sense has always existed except that phrase only makes sense in the reality of time itself which he is outside of! Anyway he chose to create the physical reality we live in, started the clocks of time and designed every tiny and massive detail of the universe. We cannot begin to imagine how he did this but surely this explanation of how we came to exist is the only logical one!

I feel much better now… I always find it exciting when I consider the nature and work of God! It works a treat and always helps me get my tiny, tiny world and its little problems into a proper perspective. I find it awe inspiring simply looking up at the stars when I can get out of town away from the street lights. Aren’t there a lot! Back to the real subject of the day now… Jane has had quite a good day after quite a good night’s sleep. She’s enjoyed doing a few chores, possibly one or two too many as she’s quite tired now but really she continues to improve despite having chemo yesterday. We have to trust the chemo is beginning to damage cancer cells and not having a seriously adverse effect on Jane’s overall health. She had a lovely chemo flush on her face this morning and continues to take all manner of anti-sickness, indigestion and steroid pills but basically she’s doing good! Thank you Jesus.  

Psalm 139v13 ‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (NLT)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

1st March Chemo Day 8

Into the fiery furnace once again and indeed we did walk with the angels! Yes the chemo clinic really is a place where the heat is turned up and yet the staff are so friendly and caring, the other patients so brave that it really felt like God was truly with us fighting this battle for life. Although a very long day it all went well for Jane. We were asked to attend 90 minutes early for tests to ensure Jane was well enough to proceed and yes she was which was a relief, but not really a surprise as she has continued to grow stronger each day. Her coughing and wheezing is much better compared with a few days ago which is so encouraging and pain seems to be improving as well. We trust that the chemo she had last week is doing its job and beginning to shrink the tumours.

Although I’ve suggested that the heat has been turned up in one sense the opposite is the case. Jane was able to endure an ice cap for a couple of hours whilst she received the chemo drugs in order to try and prevent hair loss. We should know within a couple of weeks or so if it has succeeded. Another bizarre side effect of chemotherapy I’ve realised is that Jane has unusual cravings for food… perhaps comparable to when she was pregnant many years ago. Last week a day or so after having chemo around 8pm one evening she suddenly decided she needed trifle! My son and I were dispatched on a trifle hunt, quite successful and prompting my son, a few days later, to construct a much healthier home-made version. Today was much, much stranger for those who really know us… she asked for a late lunch at MacDonald’s whilst we waited for results from blood tests. I could never have imagined visiting such a place without grandchildren accompanying us and still feel a little wobbly after the experience!

We were encouraged by having opportunities to share our faith journey with different folk and it’s a real privilege to respond to some quite tragic stories that we’ve heard today. There are some very special people around going through some truly horrible experiences. We all need a touch of God in our lives.

Looking forward to tomorrow and a much more normal day.

Daniel 3v27 ‘… the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their head was singed, and their clothing was not scorched.’ (NLT)