Archive for August, 2016

Day 31 – Still Not Out

dv2181054I know that I expected many days ago to be discharged, but there was a couple of hitches which mean I’m still in hospital, and wasn’t in a condition to be blogging. Even now I feel weak compared to how I did  many days ago. The two biggest hurdles have been diarrhea and a blood complication that has been destroying my red blood cells. The diarrhea has settled down a lot now, although initially it was quite severe. The blood complication has been related to different drugs that are necessary for the transplant, and working through the side effects of those drugs until they’re out of my system. The hope is that I’ll be able to be discharged once the blood counts settle down. Engraftment of the stem cells has gone well with neutraphils above 8 and white blood cells above 13, both of which are good numbers. Now we’re just waiting for the cells that produce red blood cells and platelets to multiply more so that I’m less dependent on blood products from hospital. It looks likely about another week or the best part before I’m out. Please pray that it’s the shorter end of that timeframe.

Reflections on Luke 18:1-8 Read the passage

The point of this passage is often misunderstood, I suspect. God is not like the unjust judge who must be continually harassed in order to get justice. He is the opposite of the unjust judge. So we pray to God with confidence knowing that he will respond quickly to our prayers. That’s why Jesus says that God will give his chosen ones justice and quickly (v8). The hallmark of our prayer life isn’t that we repeat the same prayers over and over again. The hallmark of our prayer life is that we bring everything to God in prayer, anticipating that he answers prayers. Sometimes we may not like the answer, but God is not slow to answer prayer. He isn’t like the unjust judge.


Day 23 – Discharging Tomorrow

hospital_3_tnbWell it feels like it’s come around quick, but I’m discharging tomorrow across the road into some units, where the rest of my 100 days post transplant I’ll receive treatment as an outpatient. It’s been good for  the last couple of days to get out with Simone into the unit that’s been wonderfully provided by Bone Marrow Donor Institute Rotary House so that we can be close to the hospital. The unit is spacious and exactly what we needed and I’ll stay with my parents there. Simone will come visit and sometimes bring the kids.

A lot of the symptoms have now gone, though I still feel low in energy some days, particularly today. I’m told it will take many weeks to get my old energy levels back, but thank God that so far things have gone relatively smoothly. I’ll still go into hospital three times a week for clinics where I’ll be checked out by doctors and have blood tests etc., but the rest of the time I’ll be free to try to return more to normalcy.

Reflections on Luke 13:10-17 read the passage

Jesus deliberately, publicly heals on the Sabbath, confronting again the hypocrisy of the Sabbath interpretations that the Jews had made to protect them from breaking the Sabbath. Unusually, Jesus makes no claims here about his superiority to the Sabbath rules, which he often does elsewhere. He shows, however, that care for people is more important than legalism. That’s why Jesus has only 2 laws: love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself. Love God. Love others. Far more challenging than all the rules of the OT. In fact, Jesus says this sums up the OT. It also shows we can never meet Jesus’ rules and must relate to him continuously through forgiveness and grace. Afterall, who ever loved everyone perfectly, even for an hour, let alone a day. Praise God that we can live in his grace, loving him and loving others.

rising-sun-pictures-20It’s been quite a few days since I last blogged, and probably haven’t been capable before now. What’s happened in the mean time? I spent many more days like day 9 I think it was, just struggling to get through the day. On day 12 I got the first indication of white blood cells (0.1), but it wasn’t until day 13 that the first neutraphil arrived. None of that made a great difference to how I was feeling at the time. But gradually things have improved in the last few days: days 14-now have seen a steady improvement in my sleeping and in combating the amount of fluid I’m retaining. I’ve a a red rash spread over my whole body (probably engraftment disease), but over days the redness has gone down with the use of some steroids. My white cells are now 1.1 and my neutraphils are 0.6. Above 0.5 is needed to leave the hospital and they’re talking about sending me across into units as crazy soon as the start of next week. That feels very early compared to previous cycles, but we’ll see how it feels when we get there. The end of the week could still be a long way away. Praise God that, so far, this has been a very cruisy run compared to what others have gone through.

Reflections on Luke 12:22-34 read the passage

Jesus here teaches against one of the greatest obsessions of modern culture: food and clothes. Especially food in Australia, which has raised expectations since reality TV shows like MasterChef have created a climate of expectation about food. Jesus is talking to a different culture, one that is obsessed with getting enough food to ear, quite a lot poorer to ours, but his advice is good to both. Don’t obsess over food, just trust God and get on with the work of the kingdom. God has certainly been good to us as we’ve rejiggled how to make ends meet and we are not in need during this cancer thanks to providential provisions and people’s generosity. Ironically I’m having trouble with food right now, having irrational aversions to eating too much lest I vomit and creating mental pathways to vomiting that seem to be independent of actual eating. I’m Praying God will take that away and that I can have a casual approach to food once again.

sleep-deprived1It’s been at least four nights now since I got something even vaguely like reasonable sleep, so I’m feeling very tired and can hardly see out of my eyes. I asked Simone to come and stay for a while for moral and practical support and her mother was very gracious in letting that happen. We’ve also been very blessed by the Bone Marrow Donor Institute granting us an apartment for free in BMDI house, which makes it easy for Simone and shortly for my parents as well to stay locally. It’s also where I will go in a few weeks time when my stem cells engraft and I have an immune system again, although a shaky one at that stage.

I won’t lie, it’s hard. Perhaps this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m certainly not sailing through it and it’s taking all your prayers and all God’s strength to stay on track. Sleep deprivation is probably the worst of it and a sense that I’m caught in a goundhog day that’s slowly getting worse. I’m told there’s another week or two before that trend changes. Please pray that God will give me what I need to keep going, and I’ll use the energy and opportunities that I do have to serve others.

Reflections on Luke 9:10-17 read the passage

Wedged in Luke 9 between a report of Herod and a discussion of who the crowds say Jesus is, this passage speaks to the kind king Jesus is. Even though the crowd are uninvited they are taught, healed and fed. Jesus cares for his subjects and he can really provide. Ultimately we’ll see Jesus’ greatest provision for his subjects on the cross, where he fulfills the teaching of the kingdom and provides his very life that we might live.

Where do you see yourself in relation to Jesus? Are you one of the crowd, or just hearing reports from a distance. Do you come to Jesus with your lunch packed – self-sufficient before him, needing nothing and therefore offering little. Or are you hungry and he feeds your soul. We have a king who meets our every need, how could we not give him our everything?

Day 6 – Fevers

feverHaving been given wonderful relief from relentless diarrhea thanks to a drug called Gastrostop, I’ve now started on the fever roundabout. It’s been about 3 straight nights of fever now, only usually spiking in the evening, hitting around the 38 degree mark. Fevers are the first indicator of an infection and so are important warning signs for probably my greatest danger at the moment. The doctors put me straight onto a suite of antibiotics and pull heaps of samples, blood and others, in order to try to work out what the cause of the fever is. In my case it’s a gut bug (ecoli) which has got into my bloodstream, probably thanks to the radiation treatment. They continue to tune the mix of antibiotics until they find the best combination for fighting the infection, since my body isn’t able to fight it, me having no immune system and all. What it means for me generally is less sleep at night and a sensitivity to temperature, but we continue on in the path the Lord has laid out for us. I’m continually reminded by staff that the worst is yet to come, but as I open the Bible each morning I’m reminded that I have a good and loving God, which the joy of knowing far exceeds the pain of life’s journey. Please pray that the fevers will settle down and that the current and future side effects will be mild.

Reflections on Luke 8:40-56 read the passage

The main message of this sandwich passage is ‘don’t be afraid, believe and you will be saved.’ This comes out in both the bread passages – Jairus and his daughter – and the meat passage – the bleeding woman – which is sandwiched in the middle. The old woman comes to Jesus filled with fear (v47) but is told ‘your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’ (v48). In the face of fear, faith brings salvation and peace. Only two verses later Jairus is told ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’ (v50). The word healed in both instances is the same word as ‘saved’. So there’s a double entendre at play here. Exactly to Jesus’ promise, he goes and raises the girl, saving/healing her as promised.

I can’t help noticing that Jesus has a little fun along the way. In a crowd pressing in so hard it makes English soccer fans look mild-mannered, Jesus asks, ‘Who touched me? (v45). Walking into a house of mourning Jesus yells out, ‘Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep.’ (v52). Of course she was dead, but for Jesus waking someone from death is as hard as waking them from sleep. I can imagine the cheeky glint in Jesus’ eye as he says these things. He certainly knows how to get a rise out of people.

This message (do not fear, but believe and be saved) is great news to us, who live with the shadow of death cast over our life since birth. Australian society does all it can to pretend that’s not the case, but you can’t mask it in a cancer ward. Death haunts the halls here and is a real component of many people’s prognosis. But what’s true for a cancer ward is just a microcosm of all of life. We all die, we can hide it away but we can’t keep it away. Have you come to terms with your approaching death? Jesus offers peace in the face of death through eternal life. Will you trust Jesus with your death?

Jesus also shows us how important it is for what we believe when it comes to anxiety. Our fast-paced modern world is filled with anxiety, yet anxiety achieves nothing and does great physical damage to our body. How do we escape anxiety? By believing the truth. Are you anxious that you’ll keep your job? Believe in the God who provides all  we need. Are you anxious your kids will struggle through life? Believe in the God who governs not just our lives but the lives of our families as well. What you really believe really matters, and it will show up in anxiety levels. Theology is deeply practical.

Day 3 – Groundhog Day

bathroom door signWell, back to groundhog day it seems, with the last three days looking very similar. Not that I’m complaining, as they have been relatively plain sailing, praise God. Everyone seems to have agreed now that my reaction on day zero was from the preservative used to keep the stem cells alive. Now the waiting game is well underway and will be for a few more weeks yet. The next event to happen will be that my immune counts start to increase. Right now they’re on zero. That will indicate that the stem cells have engrafted and have begun to act as my immune system. Until then I’m told to expect worsening side effects which they’ll help me tolerate using the marvels of modern medicine. So far the worst I’ve been dealing with is diarrhea, which has been a constant companion for days now, but nothing that can’t be handled through the God who strengthens me, and a whole lot of incontinence products!

I’ve discovered one work around for the fuzzy head I find whenever I start to read a book – sit on the seated-bike and slowly turn the pedals to keep me awake. God willing it’ll help me keep my brain active when it seems to be limited by fuzz.

Reflections on Luke 8:1-15 read the passage

The first thing we notice is just how crucial the women were to Jesus’ teaching mission. They traveled around with the men and financed the costs out of their own pocket. Some truly amazing women! (v3).

This is a famous parable but I think I’ve said before, poorly understood. The whole point of the parable is to make Jesus’ teaching more confusing (v9-10). By itself the parable was bizarre and worthless. What was needed was Jesus’ meaning, supplied only to those who were willing to come and ask (v11). Jesus makes the Father clear, but he does so on his own terms. Likewise Jesus does not appear today in a NASA laboratory or in giant form at the front of an atheist rally to confirm his existence. Those who want the truth must turn to Jesus and seek it from him, on his terms. They must have ‘ears to hear’ (v8). The meaning of the parable is not about determining what soil you are to see if you’ll make it into the kingdom of heaven. It’s a challenge to be the good soil – to so take onboard Jesus that you have the depth to stand when trials come, and so that you are not deceived into life’s worries, riches and pleasures. Both good things and bad things can make us unfruitful. What we need are good ears to hear Jesus and be fruitful.