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.

Facing treatment

Today’s the day I meet ‘Ipi’ – the day of my first immunotherapy treatment. As I’m lying awake, I’m aware that there’s a certain “well, this is the day” feeling. I’ve not been this way before. I’m not sure how my body’s going to take to this. It’s a relatively new treatment with apparently few side effects, but they’ve warned me there have been some major ones in a few cases.

Earlier in the week, I had an opportunity to have what they call a “Chat on Cherrybrook”…it’s the introduction to the oncology ward at the hospital. It was a helpful session with nurse Amy, who talked me through the way the ward worked and what would happen each time I came in for my treatment sessions. Telling me about the possible side effects, she gave me my new ‘Blue Book’, with all I need to know and what to look out for. I have a feeling it’s going to be a closely read document over the next few weeks.
Amy showed me around the ward. Wherever we went, people were sitting in armchairs attached to IV drips. What struck me was that it all looked so ordinary…there they all were, reading magazines, listening to music, chatting to a family member. So ordinary. And yet each person sitting in one of those chairs has a story, a diagnosis that’s probably rocked their world. That there have been feelings, emotions and shockwaves that have engulfed each of them, families, friends; the numbness, grief and fears that many would be harbouring. Each of those armchairs and their occupants represented a unique story. And yet there they all were, levelled by their illness, all together attached to what might bring their cure. But for some, it probably wouldn’t.

I suddenly felt very alone. I felt myself plummet. Their situation was now mine. I was going to occupy an armchair. Me. Sure, I’m surrounded by my family, friends and church family, but it’s me who’s going to walk into this next few weeks, me they’re going to treat, me who is facing perhaps the biggest thing I’ve had to face in my life. Me with an apparent terminal diagnosis. Maybe it was a moment of self pity or my mind playing catch-up with all that’s happened, but I suddenly felt my body react, and it was all I could to stop the tears. I’ve shed them before with Catherine, the children and a few others. This however was coming from a different place and for a different reason. But as quickly as the moment arrived, something quietly, gently blanketed me again…comfort, peace. There it was again. There He was again.

Thinking about what happened, my mind went to the 23rd Psalm. Part way through, the old familiar words speak –

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Your rod and staff comfort me. “

Those last few words refer to the shepherd’s tools – the rod used to protect the sheep and, at times, prod them, awaken them; the staff to rescue. But in both cases they’re for the sheep’s comfort. And the word ‘comfort’ literally means ‘to strengthen’. He’d done that in Cherrybrook. I know that, at times, I might feel alone, but keeping company with the shepherd, practicing his presence, in those dark moments is going to be vital. Sometimes it’ll be a prod; other times it’ll be the staff pulling me up from a hole. I suspect those moments are probably going to come and go as the weeks move on. It’s going to be part of a deepening inner journey – but one on which I’m not abandoned to walk alone. And then there’s Christ’s family, his 1 Corinthians 12 body here on earth. I’m really not alone. Last night, we had an evening of prayer, with folk from various places coming to pray for us. It was such a tangible expression of the body, of the shepherd’s arms wrapped around.

As I’ve been thinking about how I gird myself, I know a good place to be is in the Psalms. I’ve often been strengthened in the past by Psalm 42 where you see David (the same one of ‘David and Goliath’ fame) having an internal dialogue – “Why so downcast, O my soul, why so disturbed within me?” It’s a gentle self-interrogation to help himself understand what’s wrong, whether it be that thing that’s crept up on him or an overwhelming sudden rush of despair. I’m helped by what he does next…he kind of preaches to his own soul. He tells himself, “Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God”. As I read it, I see the hope. It’s right there in the trusting “I WILL YET praise him”…he acknowledges the darkness he’s experiencing, but “hey, soul, if you can just hang in there and trust Father in the middle of darkness, morning is coming”. The Psalms have a wonderful ability to pick up every human emotion – from disappointment to contentedness, despair to relief, anger through to sheer joy. I sense that the Psalms will be a good place for me to live over the days ahead.

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Comments on: "Facing treatment" (10)

  1. love and prayers for you in what this day holds.x

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  2. Thank you for your testimony on Sunday praying that the Shepherd will be close today

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  3. Hayley Salter said:

    Thoughts and prayers with you and your family xx

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  4. With you and your family in thoughts and prayers today x

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  5. Dear Jeremy, Thank you for that insight into how you originally felt, as you sat contemplating the treatment ahead, like all the others on the ward. But then came your wonderful reminder that you are his and he is yours.  Praying for you as you are treated with this relatively new treatment, may it work in the core of your body and not harm you.  The Psalm mentioning through the valley of death, has come time and time again to me, but I couldn’t bring myself to use it as it’s not what (we) want. It’s hard this Jeremy and I am only on the fringe, but we can at least pray, THANK GOD!!!! Much love Yvonne. X

    Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

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  6. Gina Johnston said:

    Love and prayers for you and your wonderful family.
    It is wonderful that you are able to share your journey with us, this very precious walk with Father where your love relationship goes deeper than you have ever been, and He is literally holding your hand every step of the way. It is as if you are living your faith in ‘ glorious technicolour’ , with the reality of His presence with you so tangible.!!!
    What a great God we serve!! Xx

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  7. Brenda Lockett said:

    I hope you have someone with you on Cherrybrook this morning it can be a lonely business. Although Jesus is with you it’s good to have someone to support you in the flesh as it were. You are in the thoughts of many this morning no doubt including me God Bless you and your family xx

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  8. Tracey Wallis said:

    Thinking and praying xxx

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  9. Liz & Ron Hay said:

    And during the night time hours, when things may sometimes be the darkest, then there are Kiwi friends awake and praying in New Zealand. May our God go before you, Jeremy, and prepare you; may He be with you, alongside, encouraging you, and may you and yours find live ‘under the shelter of His wings…’ With our love in Christ

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  10. Val Parkinson said:

    You are in our thoughts & prayers everyday, may God keep you right in the centre of his mighty hand I am remembering your sermon about the wasp sting, praying God will take this sting for you now. Loads of love God Bless x

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