It’s now four days until I start my immunotherapy on Thursday. We’ve had a good half term break, with so many friends and family visiting. Seeing them has been great….sharing stories and memories, shedding a tear with some, but laughing with all. I’ve been humbled by some of the things said. Over the years, as a friend of Jesus, I guess I’ve only ever sought to bring my equivalent of the five loaves and two fish to the table, but if Jesus has made more of them, I’m grateful. Sometimes we simply never know what, by the grace of God, we plant in people’s lives.
It’s a strange thing, this illness. Physically, I’m feeling OK. Even the cough that I first had, has lessened. I am finding that a rest most days is necessary and I’m suffering from a slight breathlessness if I push myself, but to look at me, you mightn’t notice any difference. On the recommendation of a few friends, I’ve adopted an alkalising diet which is more or less vegetarian and certainly very good for this doughnut-loving kiwi. For us as a family, the reality of my illness has settled home in as far as it can at the moment. Ever since the diagnosis, we’ve been “putting it all out there” with each other in terms of the reality we’re facing and the way we’re each feeling; we’re well down the road of planning and decision making for the future, whatever the outcome. We’re so looking forward to seeing our son Ben & beautiful daughter-in-law Gabriella as they have now packed up their home in the south of Brazil, are currently in São Paulo and will be with us by mid-December. But we’re conscious of Tom in his first few weeks at Uni in Cardiff, and Simeon living independently in Exeter. It’s a tough call for them, my parents, sisters and brother not with us day by day, unlike Josh and Lydia. The hardest times for Catherine and I are the few moments before we go to sleep each night holding onto each other and waking up, side by side. It brings us into a repeated conversation that is sometimes too hard to bear.
The sobering reality we live with is that there could be a change in my condition at any time. That’s the nature of advanced melanoma. It brings so many questions to mind. But just two days ago, we were visited by wonderful Pippa, the Hospice-Care community nurse. Her time with us was so helpful, allowing us an opportunity to ask questions and discuss. It did remind us that really it’s a “day at a time”. That’s no bad thing as it makes me both open my eyes and value those people and things that are most precious. Even as I write this, a friend has emailed me reflecting on the fact that all of us are granted only one day at a time by God to live—and we should not expect a tomorrow. He included words from Proverbs 27:1 ‘ Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring forth’. He continued, “In a sense we all need to live on the edge of eternity and ready to move to our new home”
So, the treatment starts on Thursday. It’s a 90 minute IV drip and will be administered to me every three weeks. The oncologist, Dr Goodman, has explained that there is a risk, minimal as it is, of early death because of this treatment, so I’m looking at Thursday and the days & weeks ahead through a set of spectacles that I’ve never had to consciously wear before. But that ‘peace of God that passes understanding’ remains. The name I gave to this blog (Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain) is a line of an old hymn that I first came across years ago, O Love that Wilt Not Let me Go. That hymn and its title, along with the repeated words of scripture point me to someone who is stronger. Yes, I have (and am going to have) my moments, mainly for Catherine and the family’s sake. But as our five churches gather for time of prayer for me and others on Wednesday night in our village parish church, I will bring myself back to these words of Jesus – ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God: trust also in me…Peace I leave you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ .