Jeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they taJeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be with his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they take this painful and unexpected journey.

Welcome to something of my new world. Our new world.

As I post this, it’s now nearly three weeks since I sat in the small room at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital with Sandra, the multi-disciplinary lung team nurse. I guess I knew that the news wasn’t going to be great. The first sign that something was amiss was a cough I developed in Brazil in early July. I was there ironically because of our son Ben’s health. He’d collapsed on his way home from work one night and was left unconscious for two days with convulsions. He’s made a good recovery and is now fine, albeit on medication for life.

The cough though continued once I was back in the UK, and was accompanied by temperature spikes every 7- 10 days – shivers or heavy, heavy night sweats. After some badgering from Catherine, I headed off to see my GP on Sept 1st….he then sent me for a chest x-ray.

The X-ray showed a shadow on my lung, but he felt it was nothing more than a swollen node. To be on the safe side though, and because of the possibility of some tropical illness, I was referred to the hospital Respiratory Team who ordered a CT scan. I was told, “If there’s nothing untoward, you’ll not hear about the results for a week. If there’s anything of concern, we’ll call you within 48hrs.”

The call came 24hrs later. I had just finished chairing a wonderfully encouraging meeting of the Exeter Evangelical Partnership, with many of my fellow church leaders there.  It was Sandra on the phone. “So sorry, Jeremy, but something’s definitely come up on the scan and we need you in again for a broncoscopy. Could you come in tomorrow?”. I received it with a certain sense of unreality.This feels serious. I was grateful for my colleagues who hadn’t yet left the meeting and who immediately gathered around me and prayed.

The following days came so quickly. The broncoscopy – a camera down my throat –  and then a biopsy went OK. A friend’s birthday party and harvest festival all provided things to be getting on with, but whether or not it was the effect of the biopsy disturbing something, I was pretty unwell for the next few days.

Then Wednesday. Wednesday 8th October. There sitting in that small room at the RD&E Hospital with Sandra as she very carefully and gently told me. “I’m sorry. It’s a tumour. It’s cancer. It’s either lymphoma or melanoma and the tumour is a secondary. It’s not clear yet where the primary is. I’m really sorry”. She explained the implications. But I knew already in my mind it was melanoma, and I knew the implications. Back in 2002 I had a large piece of skin removed from my leg because of a stage two melanoma. I knew what she was was saying and I understood melanoma at this stage was beyond cure.

It was one of those “world stands still” moments. This is someone else’s news isn’t  it? This isn’t the sort of news I hear? Questions I had, so many questions. Sandra carefully and gently walked me through what had been found. It was a 6.7cm x 4cm perihilar tumour and she explained what was likely to happen from here.

My head kept whirling. Catherine….and the children. I could just see Catherine’s crumpling face – Ben, Simeon, Tom, Josh & Lydia. My mother and father – what parent should ever receive news like this? Sisters, brother. Having told Catherine that it’d be better if she just went to work as usual, with Sandra sitting next to me, I called her on my phone. “It’s not good”, I said. I handed the phone over to Sandra to explain it all to her. She was breaking on the other end of the line. I was breaking for her. It was all so unreal.

But it was at that moment, something gentle happened. It was something that both just settled and welled up from deep inside. It was a feeling of deep peace. Christ. Right from when I first came to know and trust him at the age of 19, I’ve occasionally experienced times when I’ve known his closeness and presence in a particular way. Now was one of those times. As my mind was whirring, something started to grip me. Over the years, the Bible’s descriptions of heaven and what God promises beyond the grave, have increasingly held me with a growing intensity. I’ve loved teaching and preaching on it. Pictures started to fill my mind. Words started flooding into my heart….“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who die will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”. Or Paul’s “To live is Christ and to die is gain”. Peace…and joy. If Jesus Christ had risen from beyond death, I was safe with him – he’d conquered it. It’s not to be feared. And if he had conquered it, and I had repented and trusted him, I was safe with him no matter what. I was safe with him now. I was safe with him into the future, come what may. Catherine and the family were  safe with him.

Arriving back with the family an hour later was a precious & painful time. It turned into an afternoon of hugging, crying, laughing and praying together. At one point as Josh and I sat arm in arm on the sofa, he having suggested we pray, through tears, burst into a beautiful prayer of faith, asking Father for strength and help for us all. But it was also an afternoon of painful phone calls to New Zealand and other places.

The following days saw the melanoma confirmation from the hospital and a visit to my GP who very quickly suggested that he would be contacting the Hospice team to be in touch with me. Having it framed like that brought back the stark reality of what we were facing – that any chemotherapy on offer was not curative, merely life extending and that the hospice would need to be involved soon. We left the surgery crumpled and in a fresh daze. But for that peace.

In the days since I let wider family and friends know, we’ve been overwhelmed with such love, encouragement and the promise of much prayer. Amongst the messages was one from an old friend whose daughter had been diagnosed with a similar melanoma and who was considered beyond cure. She had been put in touch with Professor Christian Ottensmeier at the University of Southampton, a man evidently at the cutting edge of research into treating advanced melanoma. Having emailed him early one evening regarding my situation, I was amazed when he emailed me in reply and then almost immediately phoned me to talk. He not only gave me some key questions to ask of my consultant, but in an email 15 minutes later, summarised his points but gave us encouragement by saying how fine the oncology team at Exeter were.

When on Thursday 16th October, we finally met the consultant, we were encouraged to discover that Professor Ottermeier’s approach was theirs also. Dr Goodman helpfully described how rather than chemotherapy, he was planning on using the new immunotherapy approach. Chemo targets the cancer; immunotherapy, on the other hand, acts to enhance the immune system. In my case, he was recommending a new drug called Ipilimumab (or ‘Ipi’) – the same one Ottermeier had suggested. Ipi works by attaching itself to normal immune cells and changes the way these cells work and helps the immune system destroy cancer. Up until this point, Ipi (largely due to expense @ £90,000 per session!) had only been used as a second line drug – where all else failed. Just this week – some might say it was a co-incidence – it had been licensed in the NHS for primary use. I would need 4 sessions, at 90 minutes each, spread out over 3-weekly intervals. I’m now booked for my first session on the 6th November…but with the clear understanding that there is no promise of cure, only buying time, and then, only in 20% of cases.

The Sunday after the diagnosis, as friends were praying for us, one said, “I believe God has called you to walk this path”. I immediately felt a deep resonance inside me saying, ‘Yes…he has’. He hasn’t caused it, or made it, but he wants to use it to show us more of Himself and bring us closer to Him. Our family prayer is that through it all, no matter the outcome, “Father, glorify your name”. Through the tears & laughter, through the endless hours of talk and thought, Catherine & I with the children know the score. We know we live in a tension. We know and love a saviour who can do ‘immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’, and so when Josh and his teenage friends pile into the sitting room and lovingly demand to pray for me, when friends, when the church come to pray, asking for healing, we say “yes, please….Amen….Jesus you are our healer”. But we also know his path might lead us through the “valley of the shadow”. So, we live with realities and possibilities.

Through the weeks ahead, we’re seeking to “trace the rainbow through the rain”, and know always that with Jesus, the best is yet to come.

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Comments on: "Hearing the news…how it all started" (24)

  1. Kate Woolven said:

    What a wonderful photo of you both.

    I do believe God is going to use you all in a way that is beyond our imagining and will glorify his name during this time. The Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-77), popped into my mind as I read your words, particularly;

    And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
    to give his people the knowledge of salvation…

    I pray that God will bless you all richly, richly, richly.

    Like

  2. Bless you for allowing us the privilege of journeying with you. x

    Like

  3. Jeremy none of us would wish to be on the journey you are currently going through – you and Catherine and family are very much in our thoughts and prayers – but if we were we would hope we could face it with such faith and courage! Your honesty is inspiring and your blog is going to continue to inspire and help many people, perhaps others too going through similar trials. We are not promised an easy ride – but as you say, we are promised that our God will never leave or abandon us and His purposes stand. Heaven waits for us all.

    Like

  4. Rob Sharp said:

    Praying for you and your family Jeremy. Although we’ve not spent loads of time together I’ve been encouraged by every minute. I continue to be inspired and encouraged by your courage and faith.

    Like

  5. Elizabeth Butler-Sloss said:

    I shed a tear as I read it but felt eventually that Jeremy and the family are walking with God in a way I had no thought of before. It is extraordinary and very moving. Elizabeth

    Like

  6. Paul Ramsbottom said:

    Jeremy, it is a privelege to join you on your journey, along whatever paths God has set before you. I am sure that He wants your ministry to flourish through your story and draw us all closer to knowing Christ as Lord, saviour and friend. Like when Jesus walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaeus, their hearts were inspired. I pray that you Catherine and the family will be similarly uplifted, in the full and certain knowledge that Jesus is by your side and will be carrying you at those most difficult times. Always in our prayers.

    Like

  7. Anne Thomson said:

    Beautifully written Jeremy, we will continue to lift you in prayer.

    Like

  8. Julia Green said:

    Your words are inspiring Jeremy. So humbling and moving.

    Like

  9. Ruth Prince said:

    Your words are inspired and inspiring,hugely moving,beautifully courageous and faithful. God bless you and your family constantly. Ruth.

    Like

  10. Gina Johnston said:

    Big hugs and lots of love to you and your wonderful family.
    Jesus is Lord, and He is with you through this. He will guide you and you will not stumble.
    We are praying for you, and will continue to do so. Your faith and trust are an inspiration to all and your words are testimony to the love relationship between you and Father.
    God bless xx

    Like

  11. Dianne McGahran said:

    Such love, such strength, such courage, such faith……… you and your lovely family are all truly inspirational.

    Like

  12. Liz Morris said:

    Liz Morris(David Morris’s wife) – I so understand when you say “So, we live with realities and possibilities.” Your grace and faith shine through your words. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers as you walk this journey together. In New Zealand we sometimes get double rainbows I pray for one of those for you

    Like

  13. Sarah Pollard said:

    Beautiful & difficult writing for you Jeremy ,
    ……Think of Footprints 👣 poem & I will be praying for that ………

    Love the title ” Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain ”
    ……..& as wisely said above , I will be praying for the double rainbow 🌈 too .
    Love Sarah xx

    Like

  14. Gill Brown said:

    Everything that can be said has been said above in the Spirit and with great eloquence. However as I read your words I could see Jesus holding the hands of each family member; He is walking the journey in a similar way to the ‘footsteps in the sand’ analogy. He will carry you as you have need.
    ‘If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm
    though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with his hand’.

    Like

  15. Your words are inspired and inspiring,hugely moving,beautifully courageous and faithful. God bless you and your family constantly. Thank you that through your words my faith is growing more mature I have shed tears trying to understand but God never leaves us, in my heart and prayers and much love to you all Ruth

    Like

  16. David Williams said:

    Dear Jeremy, Its a privilege to join the “cloud of witnesses” who have commented already. Thank you so much.

    Like

  17. The sun has to shine to cast a shadow. Thank God for his Son.

    Like

  18. Dave Saunders said:

    Where does my strength come from… it cometh from the Lord.Psalm 121
    Jeremy; Kimberly,me and our church here in Oklahoma USA are praying for you and the family. Thank you for the beautifully written blog.
    Dave Saunders

    Like

  19. Steven Kenyon said:

    How beautiful Jeremy, Your family are continuing to paint a beautiful rainbow through the sunshine and rain. I was particularly touched by your ‘something gentle’ experience of Christ who is and will continue to be closely by your side. Love Steven x

    Like

  20. Roger and Ann said:

    First the shock, then the emotion, We shared the tears,asked why and how you would tell others. Then came your feeling of peace and calm which gave us all strength and inspiration. Love Roger
    Thank you Jeremy, what a wonderful example of true faith,strength, love and courage you are giving by writing your blog and encouraging scriptures.
    God bless you, Catherine, Ben and Dabi, Simeon,Tom Josh and Lydia, Love Ann

    Like

  21. It really is a privilege to be able to share your thoughts, Jeremy.
    Continuing to pray, as is the Church here at St. George and in St. Ouën.
    Your choice of hymn to express your feelings is my favourite hymn, a very
    special one which has sustained me over many years, rejoicing in His bosom.
    Thank you.

    Like

  22. Privileged..that is the word we feel in knowing you! We needed to see you, to be with you, hoping to somehow comfort you. Instead I feel we were the recipients of the larger blessing. I wish we lived closer. I would be happy to bring you gluten free food each day. But we are here and so happy you are in our lives. You not only show us all how to live and how to die but simply how to live. God’s presence and God’slove and grace shine so brightly through you. Thank you for being His vessel. You are in our thoughts and my prayers. We love you lots!

    Like

  23. Chris Goswami said:

    Thank you for talking openly about the things that really matter … to all of us. Wish I had found your blog sooner, but am feeling blessed by your sharing while looking through it now.

    Liked by 1 person

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