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.

Returning to the Valley

into-the-dark-valleyThe news is not good and my mind is both a-whirr and awash with thoughts, feelings and emotions. I’m writing this in the wee, small hours of 9th September in our darkened bedroom.

Yesterday afternoon, Clare – one of the very supportive specialist nurses at the hospital – rang and asked if I could come into the Oncology Department at 4.15pm. My MRI head scan results were back. I sensed it wasn’t great.

So, taking our long-standing friends and former neighbours at college in Auckland, Tim and Kathryn Handley, currently staying with us, off I went.

Dr Goodman asked how I was. “Generally OK, but aware of fresh small lesions/tumours appearing under my skin on my upper body.”

“Well”, he replied, “I’m afraid I’ve not got good news”. He then went on to describe that my head scan late last week showed multiple tumours in the brain, and whilst generally in the left hand side, were somewhat spread out. It seems that the pembrolizumab (aka Keytruda) is having little or no effect chasing melanoma secondaries in the brain. He’s also concerned that the drug is showing signs of increased ineffectiveness in my body generally. It’s either holding things, or the melanoma is now advancing again.

He asked if I’d seen any signs of effects on the brain. No headaches or dizzy spells, but I guess I’d been aware of an instance a couple of weeks ago, talking with Catherine, of a strange speech episode where, mid sentence, I’d started making an elongated “uuuummmmmmm” and couldn’t produce any words. Then some ongoing, occasional inability to string a sentence together.

They’re all possible symptoms of something going on.

My clarifiying questions were many.

Apparently the brain is a very good gate-keeper and works hard to keep out infections, so good that it can also keep out the drugs like pembro that can help get rid of tumours like this.   

exeter-oncologyAs we talked, Dr Goodman was clear that we’ve now reached a particularly serious stage from which it is difficult to return. Medically, some small hope is offered by five short doses of radiotherapy to shrink the tumours.But because the tumours are relatively spread out, they can’t be targeted by a specific beam and so it’ll have to be general radiotherapy to the brain. This can have its own consequences in the form of possible memory loss and an increased inability to concentrate, something which could then further deteriorate with time. I’ll also lose my hair.The positive effect of the therapy is that it may “bump start” the brain into accepting the pembroblizumab/keytruda in. But, he emphasised, it’s only a slim chance this will happen.

I start the week after next, and for the next few days, I’m on a course of steroids as part of the procedure. He also told me that the presence of the tumours means I’m prevented from driving from this point on.

We’re left as a family, once again, rocked. Whilst news like this has always been a possibility, it’s news that we hoped nonetheless we wouldn’t hear. As Catherine and I gathered the children around the table when I got home (ironically 23 months to the day since my original diagnosis) and I walked everyone through the scenario, there were plenty of questions, but plenty of tears. “I hoped you all wouldn’t be facing this so soon after losing Ben”, I struggled to say. Together, we considered many things, both practical arrangements and then who is getting what support from where, at least for the next few days and weeks.

There’s no idea of time. I could suddenly deteriorate. The fact I haven’t had a seizure with the number of tumours present is a good sign, showing they’re currently in more low risk areas. But the fact that I’m now barred from driving shows the risk of further development is nonetheless high. But God. And His praying people.

Where do I go with all this and what do I feel? Internally for me, fresh anxieties and fears have surfaced – I’ve always felt particularly bothered about any of this ever affecting my brain. But once again, where countless others might currently want to say to me, “Where is your God?”, I find myself drawn back to the One who walked on the waters as Lord of all creation – and the One who now comes and walks on the waters of my troubles and fears. The One who alone has the words of eternal life. The One who returned from beyond death. And the One who is Life, even in the face of death. And so already, in the hours after this news, whilst I’m conscious of a big emotional tsunami rolling in, I can sense His promised peace. None of this I say glibly because “Well, he’s bound to…he’s a vicar-type”…no, I say it based on years of seeing the promises and power of His Word ring true through all the circumstances of life and then seeing Him at work in the most profound and life-changing ways in both my and others lives. 

And so as I sit here writing this in our darkened bedroom, I’m encouraged as I read these words of Jesus spoken to His disciples who were about to face the most brutal persecutions and difficulties –

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16)

That encourages me as I face today. We’re going to face this a day at a time.

We sense we’ve got a dark valley ahead of us, but as Catherine and I lay on our bed together last evening, we joined in a brief prayer, “May we know you near us, Lord”

Advertisements

Comments on: "Returning to the Valley" (148)

  1. Thinking of you in these darker times. With love Rachel and Spencer

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thoughts & prayers

    Bosco

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thinking of you and found memories of your BIble study at out kitchen table at the farmhouse in Ide❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sending love your way. Your courage and clarity continue to be inspirational. Take good care of each other x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t physically be with you on your journey, but am with you in my love and prayers. However, we know there is one greater who IS walking with you every step of the way both in and out of your valley and hilltop moments. God bless you, Catherine and the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Andrew Gill said:

    Hi Jeremy, words seem to fail me at the moment having read this…..

    You and Catherine are 2 people that I look upto with admiration for your grace, your faith, your trust, your relationship with Jesus, your patience, your honesty and your strength.
    From when I first met you you have always had this ‘sunny’ outlook on life,that can only be attributed to the joy you have in the Lord,and even in these times, these times of real trial, it is still there! I thank God for you guys and your witness to all.
    I will continue to pray for you and the whole family.
    It blows my mind that even when we are in our hour of need and our weakest, God still uses us. You guys are testimony to that. And I know that God will and is using your testimony as you are living it,to bless others and encourage others.
    Bless you mate.
    Peace and joy in Him, who has defeated even death that we might live!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Andrew…your words so bless me and bring tears to my eyes. Your heart for God even as a teenager and now married and raising your family, really encourage me. May the Lord Jesus Christ become more precious to us all each day.

      Like

  7. Alison Taylor said:

    Jeremy and Catherine, our love and continued prayers are with you and your special family at this challenging time. May you know the peace of the Lord and His everlasting arms surrounding you. Much love, Michael and Alison. Christchurch, NZ.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I wish you well Jeremy for now and always. I am truly sorry that I’m not there to talk with through this bad news and tough times.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris Saunders said:

    Continuing to pray for you each evening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Thanks, Chris & Kaye.with the Handley’s staying with us at the moment, we’ve been talking about old times. You were so part of God’s face to us at college. Thanks. And for your amazing part in helping Michael be at Ben’s funeral last year, if I haven’t thanked you properly or already, THANKS!

      Like

  10. Jenni & Peter said:

    We pray for you all every day and will keep doing so – I was recently reminded that it is in the middle of suffering that God is present – not outside looking in. I pray that you will know his nearness at all times. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mark Perkins said:

    Prayed for you much today. May God Almighty strengthen, uphold and guide. What a good and gracious God we have!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yvonne Howarth said:

    Ohhhhhhhhhh 😓😓😓😓, sorry Jeremy and Catherine but this is so sad. I’ve only just read this latest blog and feel overwhelmingly saddened.
    God sure knows what’s what I realise that, but how much more I find myself asking. You have all been such a blessing to so many and seeing you recently it seems hard to understand all that’s going on.
    Thankfully Jesus is in the centre of it all and is providing you with arms that are lifting you up and keeping you steady.
    My prayer tonight is that you carry on feeling, that as a passenger in this flight, that Our God still has the controls and even as you somersault and climb, drop and level, he’s got this. He does indeed reign and will forever and ever.
    Hugz for you all.
    Much love Yvonne. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Liz and Ron Hay said:

    Dear Jeremy, may you know the love and peace of the One who is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” Much love, Ron & Liz

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Ron and Liz…thanks so much for this. For you, I hope that the ongoing opportunities you have to speak about your book are giving wonderful opportunities to share Christ.

      Like

  14. Harold and Gwynneth (Whitty) said:

    Praying for you and Catherine, Jeremy, and for your family. As always, you are very honest about all that is happening and how you feel. We hope that the radiotherapy really helps. “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” – Psalm 16:8 (NLT). May that be your experience as you navigate this valley.
    With our love, Harold and Gwynneth

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lynda & Paul said:

    Hi Jeremy and Catherine and family, the congregation of St Stephen’s Shirley prayed for you at our Sunday Service yesterday as I was leading the prayers. Love to you all, Lynda xx

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Meryll Waters said:

    Jeremy I feel so sad for you and your family. Please know you are in my thoughts as are Nick and Trish, who we will stay close to. With love, Meryll

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ruth Prince said:

    So so sad for you,Jeremy,Catherine and family but even ‘in the valley of the shadow of death’ you need ‘fear no evil’ because He IS with you to hold and comfort you. Love Ruth

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jeremy, thank you once again for being so transparent with us and unflinchingly honest in the face of this latest development. I’m reminded of the lyrics from Oceans (Where Feet May Fail). May you find the grace to trust this new step into the unknown, because you are known and loved and surrounded. Much courage and peace to you all. Ka te karakia matou ki a koe – We will be praying for you. xox Melissa & family

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Diane Fraser said:

    Dear Jeremy & Catherine Our prayers will continue to be with you. Only this weekend we heard a talk from a vicar who himself is battling the spread of a secondary cancer. This was (like you ) full of faith in a loving & caring Almighty & amazing God -& the theme!! — Jesus walking on the Water & then Peter!! -with admonishments to keep his eyes on Christ -our God is definitely trying to tell us something May you know His Love Peace & yes even Joy

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Dear Jeremy and Catherine,
    Deeply concerned for you all with this news. Huge hugs and know we love you and I hope to see you soon.
    Lots of love
    Jo with Mike
    PS He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. He is faithful, He does care and He loves you more than we do.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Robert Askey said:

    My late wife had MS (which also affected her brain) for a quarter of a century & was severely paralysed for the final decade, dying aged just 40 in 2009. Our three Daughters were in their teens then. Then 2 days before Christmas last year my eldest daughter’s second child age 4 months died an unexplained cotdeath. I say these things so that you know I don’t write glibly and I am acquainted with severe disability, very long term chronic sickness and death. I read your posting on the recommendation of my good friends Rob & Ros Weston and have said it to them and will say it to you that I will pray for you and for your family. Though you walk thru the valley of the shadow of death please fear no evil for God’s rod and staff they comfort you by protection and direction. May our dear Lord Jesus grant you Peace. Bob A. (in Seattle)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Thanks, Bob for your words of encouragement, spoken from one whose walked this path. They’re such a timely reminder, as we confront realities and possibilities, that the resources we find in Christ are more than a match for anything.

      Like

  22. Peter Martin said:

    Sorry to hear this news. As always you are all in our thoughts and prayers. Love to all of you. Peter, MarianLydia and Isaac xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  23. David & Ruth Williams said:

    “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, that’s what we see as we read your blog, Jeremy.
    Tonight we prayed for you all in our homegroup (in Meols). We had been discussing the disciples on their walk to Emmaeus and how, in their despondency and grief Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.
    Love, David & Ruth

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Lisa Smith-Paterson said:

    a few days later I finally get to read your blog and my heart and prayers are so with you all. Please try continue to update us as many people around the globe thinking & praying for you. love Lisa in Durban

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: