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Day 59 -Still eating, still inside

I continue to slowly struggle through this new thing called eating. My stomach has shrunk considerably after not being used for  such a long period of time so it’s easy to feel bloated all day. I find I have to eat small amounts. I’ve been disconnected from the pole for a few days in a row, so that’s given me some freedom to go back to the unit with Mum and Dad. My sister arrives today for a week, which is a an absolute treat, so I’m really looking forward to that. It’s a long road but I continue to walk it knowing my loving Father who has set it before me for my good. Thanks for all your prayers. Please pray that my gut will settle down well and tolerate this food.

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Day 52 – Turning a corner?

It’s early days yet, but perhaps the new drug is starting to have an effect. I’ve started with the very mildest of attempts to consume food – just a spoonful of jelly at each meal to test out how the gut is going. So far so good. I also had a good night sleep last night using a new sleeping tablet which feels like it’s transformed my life. It’s amazing how sleeplessness saps your will and a good night sleep brings a whole new lease on life. I think I’ve been suffering from sleeplessness for many days now, given the new energy I have today. So today is a good day and God-willing we’re turning a corner. Thank you for your prayers and pray that this new drug is kicking in and countering my GVH. Praise God that he is in control and all things happen in his timing. We take it day by day in the footsteps prepares for us.

Day 49 – GVH still going

My Graft Vs Host Disease (GVH), where my new immune system is attacking my bowel, continues and hasn’t been controlled by the steroid treatment, so now we’re moving on to a more specialized drug that specifically targets inflammation. It’s quite expensive, so they’ve left it till last and it may take a week before we know if it’s been effective. The main symptom remains diarrhea which continues, although the amount has reduced. I tried a clear fluid diet for about a day and a half but it became obvious that the bowel was not tolerating any food or drink and so had to stop again.

This is obviously disappointing news, but we take the good with the bad all from God’s hand and continue to praise him, taking it a day at a time. Nothing much has changed for the day to day life in the hospital. Tomorrow will be half way to the 100 day mark when I can go home. Despite all that’s happened it feels like it’s gone quick. Please pray that I can continue in a positive frame of mind resting on God’s strength and goodness, and pray that the new drug will have a decisive effect quickly, effectively blocking the GVH effects on my bowel.

Day 45 – Still In

They continue to treat what’s called graft vs host disease (GVH), where my new immune system is attacking my bowel, causing diarrhea. I haven’t eaten for over a week, being fed through IV. Each day is the same and has been a challenge to fight the hospital boredom. I have some pain from stomach cramping but the staff do well to help with pain relief. This is certainly the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I spend most of my awake time now reading or watching TV in order to fight the boredom. I feel weak, but I know God is good and is seeing me through. Thank you for you prayers. It looks unlikely I’ll be out of hospital inside a week, but I’m learning patience and humility as I wait for the process of treating the disease to be complete. The good news is that my blood counts are strong now and I’m only receiving the odd blood product. Please pray that they find the right mixture of medication to counter the GVH and that I can have patience in the face of this boredom and weakness.

Day 35 – Counts Improving

yyyThere’s two things keeping me in hospital at the moment. The first is diarrhea and the second is low counts. But my counts have begun to improve. The immune related counts have already been going well, but it’s the blood counts that are turning around, meaning less blood transfusions and making the case to go home stronger. They’ve decided to do more investigation with the diarrhea, so I’m lined up for a colonoscopy on Monday morning,  which hopefully will give them the clarity they’re looking for in regards to the source of the diarrhea. The risk is graft versus host disease, where my new immune system attacks my body, in this case particularly my gut. They want to know for sure if that’s what’s happening. In the meantime I continue in the hospital routine, whiling the time away, trying to use my time as effectively as possible. Some days are better than others. Please pray that they’ll get some clear answers and that I’ll be able to leave hospital soon.

Reflections on Luke 14:15-24 Read the passage

This parable is about the surprise nature of who will be in the kingdom. Given that Jesus’ is at a Pharisee’s house it’s ultimately about the shift from entering the kingdom because you’re Jewish, to entering the kingdom because of your connection with Jesus. The expected guests of the man didn’t value their invitation and come up with comical reasons for why they can’t come (v18-20). Angered by their rejection the man calls in everyone who will come, including the most surprising members of society (v21-23). The Jews, and particularly the Pharisees expected to be in the kingdom because of their heritage and good works, but they rejected Jesus, the king of the kingdom. So now the kingdom is open to all. Have you entered the kingdom through faith in Jesus? Are you trying to welcome in anyone who will come, like the servants of the host?

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.