Well, the last week hasn’t only been eventful for Queen, country and commonwealth; it’s been a fairly full and good week for me and my household too!
Once again, the absence of a blog post over the last week has been an indicator of a better and consequently fuller week. In terms of Annie’s physical health, it’s been very uneventful but that’s a good thing because the unexpected surprises and visitors in that area are usually unwelcome and unfriendly intrusions! It’s been a week of relative stability for Annie. She continues to have her meds delivered through the syringe driver she is attached to which is the vehicle for her anti-sickness (cyclizine) and pain relief (morphine). Each day the nurses arrive at around 11am and commence the hour-long procedure of detaching and dispatching the daily load of drugs which the driver slowly discharges into Annie’s body over the following 24 hours.
One of nurses recently disclosed that her co-workers vie for the visit to our home! Perhaps that’s the closest we’ll get on this earth to feeling like royalty! The nurse we see the most is one whom we have known since Annie’s first diagnosis in 2007. She’s a Christian and another one of those many Christians in the health profession whom God selected and directed into our lives during each significant stage of Annie’s illness since she was first diagnosed 5 years ago. Each one of those encounters were powerful (we’d go as far as saying ‘miraculous’) God-and-God-only-appointed-and-directed encounters that have given us that wonderful (and often needed) comfort and assurance that Jesus is leading us through this valley.
Although Annie remains frail, she’s enjoyed a much better appetite and has been remarkably less sleepy compared to recent weeks. She is eating three small meals a day and keeping them down. Like clockwork there have been morning and evening spells of retching; it’s not quite vomiting because for the most part she is able to maintain some control and keep from bringing up food. Doctors and nurses remain baffled on this matter. Apart from when calcium levels are high, they’ve never really known what is causing the nausea and vomiting and they certainly have no idea why it should occasionally voluntarily subside. We don’t know but we know God does and consequently we don’t feel like we need to know. We just know God is in control and He loves us and we give thanks for the food we are about to receive with deeper gratitude and thanks than ever before!
Good appetite and nutrition afford Annie the rare commodity of energy and – although still frail and mostly bed-(or chair)-bound – she’s putting the new fountain pen to great use! Each time I walk Milo it’s rarely without a diversion to the nearest post box to dispatch batches of coloured and adorned envelopes embracing Annie’s handwritten letters to friends and family.
One thing that she is finding difficult recently is reading. As she reads she finds that the words and lines begin to blur and merge together making it very difficult to focus. Figuring out what this could be is difficult because there are so many variables; it could be any of the medication she is on or tiredness; but of course, it might also be some effect of the cancer in Annie’s body. That is always one area that concerns me the most; the encroaching of the cancer into Annie’s head.
It’s incredible how much the rest of Annie’s body can take. One of the nurses recently told me that in her experience, the duration and extent to which Annie has suffered is as rare as it is brutal. Just the other night Annie asked that I would give her back a scratch. To say that she appears to be nothing but skin and bones would not be an exaggeration; the skin on Annie’s back is corrugated by her ribs and spine which protrude outwards and her shoulder blades look like they might just tear the surface if I scratch too much. Over six months ago the oncologist showed us the scan images of Annie’s full skeleton on a computer screen; now, I am able to almost see it and touch it.
We’re now into the second week of June, beginning month nine of Annie’s six month prognosis. Just yesterday the hospice nurse said to Annie “You know, if you’d had chemo, it would have killed you by now.” Such a contrast to what the oncologist said to us back in September, last year. I distinctly remember that little room in the hospital as the three of us sat looking at the scanned images of Annie’s cancer-scarred lungs and skeleton on that computer screen. We asked about the options and the oncologist told us that without chemo we were looking at a six month life-span and with it, perhaps just a few months more. So when the hospice nurse told Annie that chemo would have killed her she simply responded in testimony “Well, we prayed about that decision and God made it for us.”
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. – Psalm 20:7
Seeing Annie so frail and yet three months past the prognosis actually causes us to once again praise, rejoice and thank God for His Sovereignty. Don’t get me wrong; our story so far is not one of ‘God vs Medicine’ or ‘God vs Science’; we are daily thankful to God for the many doctors, nurses, pills and potions that tend to Annie’s medical and physical needs. Rather, we hope that ours is the continuing story of loving and trusting God by listening to and obeying Him. This blog is not about rejecting or resisting chemo. It’s about acknowledging, accepting and desiring the Sovereign will and grace of our Father God through His Word, through His Son, through The Holy Spirit.
This is our story: God speaks today; God leads today; God cares forever.
For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die. – Psalm 48:14
As I write this blog on Saturday, June 9th, 2012, I am once again reminded, assured and comforted that all of our days on this earth are in His hands!
Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. – Psalm 139:16
The past week has been eventful in many other ways. Last Saturday, with a team of helpers from our church family, I was (or rather, ‘we were’) able to do some much needed ground work for one of our neighbours, R. Please pray for R. She’s a very elderly and very bitter woman. Whenever we speak, she rarely has a good word to say about anyone – including herself. If (as Jesus asserted) the mouth is the overflow of the heart then R’s heart is mangled with hate and regret. I met her just the other day, a few days after we had done some ground work for her. It was wet and windy and she was waiting at the bus-stop (‘stop’ being the operative word because you never get anywhere fast when you wait for a bus in our neck of the woods!). R had lots of options for complaining. But instead, she smiled and was full of thanks for the work that was done. She had even called her daughter over to come and see the garden. Whenever she’s mentioned her family to me before it’s always been poisoned with resent.
Annie has told R about the love of Jesus many times. The last time Annie talked to her about Jesus, R shared her fear of death and feeling of unworthiness. I know that Annie continued to point R to the cross of Jesus as the place where her fears would be allayed and feelings transformed by the hope that Jesus brings to those who trust Him.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. – Matthew 13:45,46
I hope to go and do some more work in the garden one evening next week and maybe the opportunity will come again to share Jesus as she asks me about Annie. Please pray that R would come to put her life and trust in Jesus so that by name and by nature she would know how precious she is to God.
And to finish with…from one precious pearl to another…
On Monday our dear sister, Philippa came especially from the mission field in South Asia to spend a couple of weeks with us. It’s a great blessing to both of us and when you live life cherishing each day, we know that we have plenty to cherish, rejoice and thank God for over the coming days, Lord’s willing.
And to stay on the subject of precious gems, Mom Ruth arrived yesterday afternoon following a short break that she gets in between her course of chemo. It’s lovely to have her back with us too!
If you’re reading this, you live close enough and you’re free this evening, you are welcome to come and join us for a time of praise and worship at our home. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed for times.
I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. – Psalm 13:6