We’ve entered a strange land over the last few days. It’s a territory that perhaps some will find hard to understand.
In just over twenty four hours, it’ll be two weeks since I had my first treatment with Ipilimumab. Thankfully, thus far, there have been no side effects whatsoever, and I’m due my second session in just over a week. It’s been great spending time with one or two friends who’ve come in to see me, including Chris, an old school friend, visiting the UK from New Zealand. I’ve been avoiding both being among groups of people and a lot of raw foods because of my neutropenic state, and I’m still at a stage where there could be problems with my organs playing up. As I’ve been reading more and more of the success stories of Ipilimumab online, I’m increasingly conscious what a revolutionary drug it is and how it’s changed the landscape within the treatment of metastatic melanoma. The success rate is still only a sobering 20% – the stories of the other 80% aren’t so obvious on Google – but there are many tales of how people who’d been given a melanoma death sentence have seen tumours shrink or disappear; there are others who’ve gone on to live with their melanoma as something akin to a chronic, but manageable condition.
All these anecdotes, combined with the fact that I’m feeling so well, have left us in a strange place, almost a place of confusion. It was made so clear by various health professionals early on that this cancer was one from which there was no escape, no cure. And we’ve known God’s peace with that and we’ve gone a long way down that road with plans that we’ve set in place for Catherine and the children.
Maybe it’s just that we’re both control freaks who like to know what’s going on, but what do we plan for? I’m honestly just so peaceful with both living or dying…but is it the relatively quick exit that melanoma often delivers, or is it a new world of possibilities introduced by Ipi? And which expectation do we build today on, this week on? Perhaps it’s no more or no less than what we can ever plan for even in the best of times?
Then there’s the whole question of what Father God might do…either directly, through Ipi, through my diet, or a combination of all three. Some years ago, a friend of mine wrote a book entitled ‘My Reasonable Expectations’ after he nearly lost his small son in a domestic accident. As a committed Christian, he raised and wrestled with real questions about what we could expect from God. Over the years, Catherine and I have seen God do some amazing things – healing people, changing lives sometimes even in dramatic ways, wonderful and amazing answers to prayer etc. But we’ve also seen many people, for example, who’ve been ill and for whom we’ve prayed, who have not recovered and then died. Now in our circumstance, what should we expect, what should we ask for? It’s a question that has led some people to say to me, ‘Jeremy, you need to decide what you want’. But what say I’m just content to say, ‘Father, your will be done’ ? Sure, I’ll seek for God to heal me – I value my life and I love my family, friends and those around me who I serve and live among. But as someone who has a wonderful and ever-good master named Jesus Christ, I won’t push for it. It seems to me that leaving my situation ultimately in Jesus’ hands is the place of greatest peace. Some people suffer from what I’ve come to refer to as an ‘over-realised eschatology’ – an unfounded expectation that God will do far more NOW than he’s actually promised to do this side of Jesus’ return one day. Sometimes that involves an over-expectation of healing, as if that’s the only way God shows his love and where we can see the evidence of God’s presence and power in a situation where there’s illness.
But what I’m witnessing in myself is the amazing presence and power of God in the middle of what may just be my dying. And it seems that Father is touching and reaching people through this in a way that is both amazing and humbling me. And so I’ll happily go and receive prayer for healing, happily take my four doses of Ipi, but I’ll contentedly pray in faith, with trust and confidence, ‘Father, your will be done…and through my living or my dying, glorify your name’.