Tag Archive: counts


Day 139- Improving

My apologies for how long it’s been since my last post. Things have been steadily improving since then. I went home for the weekend and slotted back into my old roles and responsibilities reasonably well. Though I was physically limited it didn’t seem too hard to be helpful around the house, especially with looking after the kids. Every now and again I accidentally found one of those physical limitations, though. We were playing cricket in the back yard and I was trying to take it relatively easy. One of the kids threw the ball to me but it went wide and I instinctively stepped to the side to catch it, but my leg muscles were not strong enough to support my weight and I went down like a sack of spuds. No injuries, but very embarrassing and a reminder that rehab is a long and slow process.

I got caught outside the unit block in Melbourne the other day with a roller door coming down and threatening to lock me out, so instinctively I tried to run. I forgot however that I can’t run and so fell over immediately. Needless to say I didn’t make it back in time and had to buzz my way back into the building. Thankfully there weren’t too many witnesses. On the other hand I feel myself getting stronger in some of the small things. It’s easier to stand up now from a sitting position. I can walk faster and further than I could before. My blood counts have stabilised above the levels where I need transfusions. These are all good signs and represent progress. The doctors tell me I’ll go home in late January or early February, but I’ve given up putting much stock in doctor forecasts, as none of them have turned out to be accurate so far. Instead I’ll keep visiting home and wait patiently for the day when the doctor sends me home permanently, whatever day that may be.

It’s amazing how far God has taken me on this cancer journey, and he’s been with me all the way. I wonder if you had to walk a similar path who would you rely on? If you don’t know Jesus let me encourage you to take another look. You might start with a website like this one: http://christianity.net.au/. Or you might start just by picking up a Bible and beginning with one of the biographies of Jesus, like the Gospel of Mark. It’s a short read (about an hour) and will give you all the important details of Jesus life as well as the central message of his teaching.

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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.

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.

A Slow Start

racing_turtleIt’s been a leisurely start to this transplant process so far. I’ve had my first dose of chemo: fludarabine. So far no side effects and it’s generally known to be a mild drug. My counts are still up so I got out twice yesterday to go into town, which was nice. I’ve already run into some Christian staff, which was encouraging and already had a visit from a good friend.

I’m still trying to work out the meal menus here. I’m missing the big omelettes of St. V’s. Breakfast feels a little underdone. I ordered ‘assorted muffins’ this morning, expecting English muffins, but instead got a chocolate muffin. Not quite what I expected. Overall, though, the food seems tastier. Having said that, last night I went out for some delicious Indonesian, and if my counts are high enough I’ll probably try to get out again tonight.

Reflections on Luke 4:31-44 Read the passage

We see here a reflection of Jesus’ ministry: healing, casting out demons and teaching. But which one is key? Is Jesus primarily a healer, exorcist or teacher? Jesus himself tells us in 4:43 “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Jesus is primarily a teacher. He leaves behind the crowds of sick and demon-possessed to go into other towns to preach the gospel. This is why God sent him. Ultimately Jesus would fulfill the good news he was preaching by dying on the cross and rising again.

This has ramifications for today. There are teachers in every generation who talk about the ‘full gospel’ or some addition to the gospel that the churches have neglected. Vast ministries are built around healing or exorcisms, while those who lead these ministries claim that the churches have neglected these powerful and important gifts that God has given to spectacularly grow his church. Now there’s no doubt that God can still heal miraculously today, and that demons are real and can be driven out of people. But the focus of Jesus’ ministry was preaching the gospel. That is why he was sent. And just like he was sent he sends his followers to do the same. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus sends his disciple to make more disciples by teaching, not by healings or exorcisms. When we add to Jesus’ gospel healings or exorcisms to make it the ‘full gospel’ we show that we don’t really believe in the power of God which is at work in the gospel (Rom 1:16-17), and that’s a shame.

Mountains then Melbourne

halls gap panoramaWe had a great fortnight in the beautiful Grampians. It’s the first time we’ve been there and thoroughly enjoyed it. We managed to get a few good walks in and I managed to achieve equal worst fitness level with one of my kids, which is a significant improvement. We also enjoyed the company of my sister and brother-in-law and their kids for the second week, which made for a special time. It was cold and rained for some of the days, but overall it was well worth the trip.

split fallsFor the last week I’ve been in Melbourne with Simone going through a week of tests at RMH. Although I arrived with a cold I’ve been given a clean bill of health. I’ll need to be careful for the next two weeks though before the transplant. Any sickness will delay it, as the transplant will strip my immune system and leave me vulnerable to any virus or bacteria I’m carrying. Apparently I sailed through the tests and everything’s looking good. My counts aren’t hugely high at the moment, even with a month out of hospital, but at the moment everything is still on track. Please pray that this stays the case.

Reflections on Luke 3:23-38 read the passage

It seems strange that Luke would break into a genealogy of Jesus here. Genealogies were very important to the Jews because they established their ancestral heritage. Here Luke traces Jesus’ heritage all the way back to “Adam, the son of God” (v38). Why would Luke do that? One reason may be that he wants to connect Jesus with Adam. The very next thing Jesus does is go into the desert and be tempted by the devil. Where Adam failed the devil’s temptation while living in paradise, Jesus stands up to the devil’s tests while starving in the desert. Jesus is truly the son of God, obedient to his Father and bearing his image. Better still, he’s the obedient son on our behalf. His obedience qualifies him to sacrifice himself in our place. Unlike Jesus, we have all succumbed to the devil’s temptations and we all share in Adam’s sin. But Jesus is uniquely able to pay for our sin because he was without sin. His perfect obedience is substituted for our disobedience on the cross so that we can be right with God.

Also, Jesus is the picture of perfect humanity. He shows us what it’s like to be truly human, without the dehumanising effects of sin. To be a real man or real woman is not defined by our culture but is to be like Jesus: without sin. To err is not human, but to be perfect in sinlessness is to be human, and Jesus truly shows us what that’s like.

And the Answer Is…

This is my last round of chemo before the transplant. Great news. And my counts have started going up, so I could be going home very soon. But I’m a little skeptical that I’m at the end of this cycle yet, since I only just got off the steroids yesterday, which artificially inflate the counts. But the news is good. Not long now till I say a (hopefully) permanent good bye to St Vincent’s.

abouttheprogramIn many ways that’s a joyful idea, but it’s also a sad idea as I’ve got to know the staff and some of the patients well since I’ve been here, and they’ve been terrific. The nurses have taught me heaps about what it looks like to really care for people, not just do your job, and I’ve found that challenging to the way I think and act toward people. There is a team culture here as well among the staff, where they genuinely help each other which has been so impressive, and their professionalism is outstanding. In some ways St V’s has become my second home this year and it is the staff that have made me feel that way. I will miss them. Please join me in thanking God for the news on chemo rounds and also for the amazing staff here at St V’s. Pray that I’ll use my last few days effectively for God’s kingdom.

Reflections on Mark 14:1-11 Read the passage

I’ve heard many good sermons on this passage over the years and even preached one myself, but as I look back at the account of the woman with the perfume I think Mark sets it up to make one strong point.

It’s been pointed out that this passage teaches that Jesus is more important than the poor (v7). That’s true, but I don’t think that gives us licence to neglect the poor, nor do I think it’s the main point of the passage. Others point out that the woman gives something really expensive because she thinks Jesus is worth it. She certainly does that, but I don’t think it’s the main point either.  To work out the main point we need to see the big problem in the story, and how Jesus resolves it.

The big problem is the accusation against the woman by people at the dinner. They start by arguing about the waste among themselves (a years wages – v5), but their arguing eventually spills over into outright rebuke of the woman. The question in this story is, should the woman be rebuked? Has she done something wrong?

Jesus takes the opposite position, the woman has in fact done something good, not something wrong (v6 – The NIV’s use of ‘beautiful’ instead of good is a bit weird and I think hides the point of this passage. NASB uses good, which is the usual translation for the word). So what makes her deed ‘good’ instead of ‘wasteful’? Timing. She has poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ head in preparation for his imminent burial (v8). We just saw in ch 13 that Jesus’ death is imminent (13:14), but she is the only one in the room that gets it. Jews were in the habit of saving up extremely expensive perfume for use in burial preparations. Though not rich, it was considered very important to use the most expensive of perfume mixes once a loved one had died. So her ‘waste’ is justified because she alone sees the timing involved in the dinner – Jesus is going to die soon. She will never be forgotten because, unlike this room filled with self-righteous men, many who’d heard Jesus predict his death three times, who’d just sat through the Olivet Discourse, who could not read the times (13:28), she, with an expensive jar of perfume, knew what was coming next: Jesus’ death.

But how will this happen? Judas will set it off. v10-11 join this link for Mark into the Passover feast. The two dinners are joined by Judas’ betrayal, but both dinners are about Jesus’ immanent death.