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.

Joy that seeks through pain

Sun obscured by cloudsIt’s now over six weeks since Ben was hospitalised. In so many ways, he seems to have plateaued with his progress over this last seven days. He had a few hours with us at home on Saturday, but the day before he had a seizure whilst on a treadmill with the physiotherapist, one from which he ‘self-recovered’ after some time. But it shook him – limbs were hurting, with continual shakes and he needed a wheelchair to return from the dining room. Earlier in the week on Tuesday, just before I arrived to visit him, he felt a seizure coming on and managed to contain it himself.We’re understandably disappointed and feel Ben’s confidence in himself is slipping.

Epilepsy is still at the top of the list as a possible diagnosis, although there’s still talk of something else with it. The trouble is, we know so little about it all and perhaps we need to understand that it’ll take time for the medication to be correctly identified and adjusted so as to suit his needs.

Meanwhile I had my latest CT scan on Friday and the results come next week when we visit my oncologist. At this visit, the expected news is that my tumour has reacted angrily to the assault launched against it by my ipilimumab-super-charged immune system. But it’s next month’s scan that’ll provide the crucial state of play….whether the tumour has remained at status quo, enlarged or is showing signs of shrinkage. That’ll then help us make decisions as to the times ahead, conversations that Catherine, I and the family have been having for the last few months.

It’s strange to catch myself describing this growth in my chest as ‘my tumour’ rather than ‘the tumour’. It’s an odd thing (and I guess some might find hard to understand) particularly when I say I’ve almost befriended it. Its arrival has brought so much into my life I could have never expected. On one level, becauSevern Bridgese it’s considered a terminal diagnosis, I’ve never been offered so many things ranging from free prescriptions, parking etc – I can now even get over the Severn Bridge into Wales for nothing – but on a deeper level, there’s been such an outpouring of love, friendship, care, encouraging words, prayer and practical help, we feel so upheld. But even more precious have been the intimate encounters with God I’ve experienced as I’ve stood, sat, knelt or lain prostrate in worship alone or with others. It’s as the old hymn puts it,

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

This weekend, singing When I Survey the Wondrous Cross at church brought tears running down my cheeks – tears of wonder and joy. I’ve had simple opportunities to sit and read the scriptures and pray, as I’ve also had time also to think, to blog, to write letters to precious ones, so often experiencing Spending time with Godthat fresh and real touch of the Holy Spirit as I do so. Intimacy and eternity. I said to a friend some weeks ago that if Father was going to take me home, I wanted the transition from this life to the glorious one that scripture promises Christ has prepared for me, not to be a massive graunching of gears and huge surprises, but more a seamless transition into His amazing eternity. What I understand and experience of Him in this life will of course never be as good as when I see Him face to face, because it’ll always be limited by my mortality…it’s as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly” or “through a glass darkly”. But even with that limiter, what we can experience and know now can be life-changing and times I’ve had with Father, through the direct access given by the Son, lifted by the power of the Holy Spirit, have nonetheless been rich. I was deeply encouraged as I read this week from Isaiah 30 words found in the middle of a warning to God’s people, but words which promise something real…

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’  (v15)

‘Yes’, I quietly agreed. And then I think of those promise-packed words describing life after the Christian believer has been bodily raised at Christ’s return, from the book of Job, words made more famous by Handel in his Messiah

   I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God  (Job 19:25-26)

But also because of this tumour – no, because of Christ who indeed lives – I’ve had so many unexpected opportunities to share with others the reason for the hope that’s within me. It’s like one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread. Bread that lasts. The Bread of Life. Jesus himself. There’s no greater joy than knowing Christ and sharing Him.

As Dabi, Catherine and I, with my ever-loving parents-in-law, gathered with Ben late last week on Dabi’s birthday, we all prayed together as we read Psalm 40…

Psalm 40 - 1-3

As an old friend of mine from North Devon used to say regularly after a problem was identified, “But God”. He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask, hope or imagine.

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Comments on: "Joy that seeks through pain" (10)

  1. Yvonne Howarth said:

    Sitting with tears trickling down my face. Tears of amazement at your strength, hope, belief, love etc, etc. My prayer for you all that God keeps filling you up to overflowing and that he keeps reminding you all, but Ben especially that he’s in control. Our God is a great big God and he holds you all in his hands. God’s blessings faithful servant, hold on tight. Much love Yvonne. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruth Prince said:

    It is totally wonderful that you chose to set up your blog,Jeremy,and thereby reach out to limitless numbers of people,many of whom might also be threatened by a malignant tumour or other incapacitating problems,giving them such hope and reassurance that,at all times,they are held in God’s arms. Love and God Bless, Ruth.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your faith amazes me Jeremy – what a comfort it must be to you all. We are praying regularly that your tumour will have shrunk. We are also praying for Ben & Catherine also the rest of your family. Thank you for your blogs I find them very helpful. Thoughts and prayers be with you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this Jeremy. I feel so privileged to share in reading it. May God continue to be so close to you and draw you ever closer. It is so good to be open with each other as we journey in this world. As a pastor also, I feel our people need to know some of how we feel as we live our lives in the gaze of not just our congregations but the outside world. It is the best way for them to learn from us that Jesus is real, He changes lives and we can go through anything with Him at our side. Praying for you and thank you again. Grace

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michael and Marion Andrews said:

    Thank you Jeremy. Our love and prayers with you all

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Chris Saunders said:

    Thank you for Isa 30:15 – a word at just the right time for me. Continuing to pray for you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Heather Wheeler said:

    Thank you Jeremy , it’s a blessed thing to be able to share your heart as you do, I am a bad correspondent but will write soon, your words inspire and encourage and penetrate the hearts of so many, sending love to you all and praying each day. Know our Father’s embrace around you all as you read this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jenny loveless said:

    Thank you Jeremy, you are such an inspiration to me. I wish I could have met you after my husband died so suddenly 2 years ago. My love and prayers to you and your family. X

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dave & Carol Jewison said:

    Continuing to pray healing for you and Ben and God’s provision and favour for your family. Thank you for your upfront honesty and openness Jeremy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. David Williams said:

    Wondering how to respond to this, another painfully moving episode, my eye caught sight through the window of a pair of buzzards wheeling high in the sky – not unusual over Wirral these days. A simple step to Isaiah 40 where they who wait on the Lord renew their strength and soar like eagles. That’s our prayer for you all, dear Jeremy, Ben and Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

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