Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Health update Feb 2017

A number of people have asked why I haven't given any updates on my health - well the main reason is that there isn't much to say! I have already lived one year beyond the original prognosis, which is pretty amazing.

So to clarify
- I have been back on chemo since September, and apart from what's left of my hair going very white, I am not suffering any significant side-effects.
-  My general health is excellent. My energy levels are less than they were, but then I'm getting older!!
- I am suffering only mild pain. I have been on the same amount of pain killers since June 2016, which is unusual, as normally the body becomes tolerant to it, so dosage needs to be increased.
- I am having weekly blood tests and occasional scans. Generally these are positive - the previously identified tumours seem to be shrinking, but a possible new one has developed. My kidney function is pretty stable, and my cancer markers are down.
- Medically, it is a case of "as you were." My oncologists say I am terminally ill
- The miracle goes on. My oncologists have little or no idea why I am still alive - if they did, they'd be selling books by now.
- We have big pans for this year, including a trip to UK in April for a Church Army International Leaders' Conference, and a possible visit to Malawi to deliver some Church Planting Movements training, plus loads of stuff in New Zealand.

Keep praying - you are helping the miracle to continue!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Best oncology visit so far!

As I am currently back on chemo, I get to see an oncologist every three weeks. Recently I seem to get the Head Oncologist each time, maybe because I am something of an enigma!

Yesterday was my three-weekly visit, and it was of particular interest as I recently had a CT scan. Sure enough, it was the Head Oncologist who summonsed us into his consulting room, with his usual serious face. "I have mixed news" he said, "the scan shows a build up of fluid around your kidneys, lungs and heart, so I was going to recommend that we stop chemotherapy, and insert an external drain." (Meaning that due to risk of infection I would not be able to have any further chemo, so this would be bad news.)

His face clouded over as he continued, "However, your blood tests are completely contradictory. They show that your kidney function is better than it has been for months, your anaemia is much improved, and even your cancer markers are extremely positive. This is all very unexpected, and to be honest, doesn't make any sense!"

He then proceeded to give me a physical examination, which confirmed that there is no fluid on my lungs. He concluded, "I propose that we continue with chemotherapy for now, as we really cannot explain what is happening with you." Monika interjected "prayer," "God," "a miracle" a number of times, but he wasn't having any of that!

So what do we make of the consultation? Well it was a good exercise in holding back laughter! But more seriously I came away with two contrasting thoughts. One is that my life is still very precarious, in that a kidney failure is still a distinct possibility - a case of 'when' not 'if' for the doctor; the pressure on my heart if fluid builds there is dangerous in the extreme; and fluid on the lungs isn't a great option either!

Secondly, the contradictory tests merely exemplify the two worlds in which I have lived for the past few months. One, the medical world, is hope-less and utterly negative. The other is the world that God sees, and defines, and this is the world in which I have been living mostly. It is filled with hope, because God is in control ultimately. It is the world which has seen me visit Australia and Thailand and spend a month in Europe against medical advice. It sees me eating well, sustaining my weight, and with good energy levels. And at the end of this life, it will see me walk into eternity with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

2 nights, 2 hospitals

I have an oncology appointment every 2 months, just to keep an eye on things, and blood test beforehand. This week's tests showed my kidney operation was only at 20%, so I went to our local hospital. A scan revealed that the lymph nodes were pressing on the tubes between the kidneys and the bladder, and restricting urine flow, meaning my kidneys were unable to function. So, a night in Middlemore hospital.

Middlemore doesn't really do urology, so I was transferred to Auckland City hospital. They inserted two plastic tubes into my ureters, which involved the one medical procedure I have been dreading the most - gentlemen, feel free to cross your legs at this stage! Anyway, the operation was successful, so I am free flowing once more.

Other god news - they have booked me in to have the two tubes replaced in 9-12 months time. By which time I'll be over a year beyond my original prognosis!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My cancer story

On 24th April 2015 my life was turned upside down and inside out. I went from 5th gear to reverse, with no gear changes in between. I was diagnosed as having oesophageal cancer, which was widespread and therefore inoperable. There was absolutely no possibility of a cure, so I was offered palliative treatment - effectively "we will try and give you some quality of life, and help you die well." My life expectancy was 6-9 months (deadline day is 24th January 2016.)

I underwent radio therapy, then chemotherapy, which nearly killed me, as I was in the verge on kidney failure. I had a five day stay in hospital as I was badly dehydrated, and my weight had gone from a chunky 90kgs down to a skinny 60kgs.

Fourteen weeks ago I came home and cried my eyes out as I told my family that I wanted to die. I could not eat solid food and was being fed entirely liquid nutrition through a tube which went down to my stomach via my nose. I had constant diarrhoea. Going to the toilet was an enormous effort, so I waited until I was desperate. Drinking a glass of water a day was in the "too hard" box. I could hardly walk, so started using a wheelchair. Seeing people for longer than 15 minutes utterly drained me. Life was simply too much effort, and I genuinely wanted to die.

Since then I have been put on a different chemotherapy regime. Today I am eating proper food again, and the nose tube has been removed. My weight has shot up to a healthy 73kgs - very unusual in cancer sufferers. My bowels are functioning normally. My kidneys are no longer on the "at risk" register! I returned the wheelchair, and walked a half-marathon a few days ago to raise money for the Cancer Society.  I attended a Conference which Church Army NZ hosted recently, and even managed to speak at one of the sessions!  I don't know if this improvement is mainly due to chemotherapy or prayer - I suspect both - but either way God is deeply involved.

So what exactly is going on?  My chemotherapy nurse today said "you are a completely different person. It is like a whole new life for you." But I have not yet been cured of cancer. I had a CT scan on Monday, and my oncologist told me the results today - all positive, the cancer is responding well - but he would not say WHAT it is responding too, chemo or prayer! He was not willing at this stage to change my prognosis - officially I have a maximum of 7 weeks left.

I do not know when I will die, but I have faced the reality of my own death, and I am at peace with that reality. I have enough faith for today. I have a far greater awareness of and appreciation for the tiny things which make up my life on earth - people (family, friends and strangers) food, drink, walks, meercats (courtesy of Emily and Auckland Zoo), good books, being able to poo properly, doing the ministry I love so much, bird song, the affection of pets, the incredible depth of my relationship with Jesus...I love life here and now, and I long for it to continue for a good while yet! I desperately want many more people to know and experience the love of Jesus which has sustained and upheld me during the darkest days, and which enables me to live life to the full now, a multi-coloured roller coaster adventure which contained moments of deep stillness and contentment.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Medical update 10th June

After further consultations with a chemo doctor and a radiology doctor, I begin radiation therapy this Friday (12th). The hope is that 10 treatments on consecutive days will reduce the primary tumour so that I can eat solid food, for the first time in months!

The, after a break of around 3 weeks, I would begin chemotherapy. I have to be honest and say that I didn't really want to undergo either, having never been too keen on pumping poison into my body, but I was advised that without treatment I have only weeks left to live - not a great option!

We continue to be immensely grateful for the prayers, messages and chocolates being sent our way! It is deeply humbling to be so deeply loved.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Monday 11th May

Today we received the news we did not want to hear. The PET scan revealed that the cancer has grown around my aorta, and spread into my kidney and abdomen, so is now completely inoperable. All they can offer is palliative care - slowing down the growth of the cancer, and reducing my pain. It means I have maybe six months left on planet earth. We are absolutely in "only a miracle will do" territory.

We have been overwhelmed with all the messages, love, support and prayers we have received - thank you all so much. Sorry I haven't been able to reply to each one individually.

We will meet with some oncologists in 2/3 weeks to discuss palliative care. My brother and two of my sisters arrive in Auckland from UK on Wednesday evening, for what will hopefully be a wonderful week.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Friday 8th May

I had my PET scan this morning, took about 2 hours in all, and was completely painless! The results will be back on Monday afternoon, and all being well I will have the laparoscopy on Tuesday.

So thankful for the medical help which is available, and the overwhelming love, support and prayers flying in from all over the world!