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!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Medical blog

To save endless emails and answering the same questions repeatedly, I am using my blog to update everyone on my medical situation.It will enable many of you to pray more accurately and purposefully.

On Friday 24th April I was told that I have a cancerous tumour in my oesophagus. Oesophageal cancer is particularly aggressive. If it has spread to the extent that surgery is impossible, I have 6-9 months to live. If an operation is possible, and successful, average life expectancy is 18 months. Either way, the prognosis is pretty grim! We immediately asked for prayer from loads of people.

To determine whether my cancer is operable, there are three tests. I had a CT scan on 29th April, which suggested that the cancer has NOT spread significantly - great news!

I will have a PET scan on Friday 8th May, then a laparoscopy on Tuesday 12th May. If these both show that the cancer has not spread too far, I will start with chemotherapy before the operation to remove my oesophagus and part of my stomach - a more serious operation than open heart surgery!

So there you go - if you haven't already started, get praying!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Timothy Church

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul writes, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others". Do you see the process? Paul encourages Timothy to teach what Paul taught him to reliable people who will in turn teach others  - 4 generations!

I recently heard about the concept of a "Timothy Church" - one in which that same idea of generational growth (and therefore multiplication) is part of its DNA. It could also be called a training church, but that suggests we will be sitting in a classroom discussing Church Planting theory. Far from it - in a Timothy Church we learn how to plant multiplying churches by being a multiplying church. We don't talk about what a multiplying church might look like, we model it. So what will we do?

Initially we learn some vital skills - how to connect with people in our neighbourhood - those we know well and those we don't know at all. We learn how to identify "people and homes of peace" - God-prepared people, and how to share the Gospel with them. We learn how to train others in these same skills, and how to gather new believers into new churches.

As we meet as a Timothy Church, we learn by experiencing what someone recently called "Missional liturgy" - which includes worship, a time of mutual care and accountability, inductive Bible Study, practising what we have learned, then goal setting and prayer - a formula which has proven to be effective in aiding multiplying church planting movements across the world. I anticipate we will meet fortnightly, with the alternate week being spent out in the harvest. 

So what are we trying to achieve? Imagine six of us gathering as Timothy Church, and after a few weeks we have each planted a church in the homes of people we meet - six new churches. A couple of months later each of those churches has in turn planted a new church, and one has planted two - 13 new churches. In addition between us we have started a couple more Timothy churches, which plant six more churches - we are up to 25 now! Over time the multiplication DNA continues to be passed on - some people leave Auckland and move to other parts of the country or overseas, where they plant churches. Our vision for New Zealand is 2020 new churches planted by 2020 - and it has to start somewhere!

We will gather on Wednesday evenings - come any time after 5pm for food, then we'll dive into the serious stuff at 7pm. First one is on 18th February, then 4th March, 18th March, 1st April etc. If you have any questions, ask away. But don't come to just have a look - only come if you genuinely feel called to church plant, and to equip others to do the same.