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.