Life… slows down

As I sit to continue writing this I perused the web for an apt quote about life and death but, you know, I think it is most apt to say that, as a believer in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection,

Jim was not afraid of death.

In fact, he often told people so – people he met in hospital whom he felt were concerned for him and his shortening life. He was told by hospital staff one time that even nuns and priests often feared the end as they were unsure if they had “done enough” to live with Jesus forever.

Not so, Jim.

I wish I could think of the scripture Jim would tell me that is most appropriate here but, I have not been blessed with a memory of scriptures as he was, so let me just direct you to 1 Corinthians Chapter 15…

…and John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

But I digress… another stay in hospital before Christmas resulted in words and a discharge note that explained that there was no further treatment available and Jim probably had 3 to 4 months before the cancer took over completely. We still hoped for a miraculous healing … why didn’t that happen? …Only God can answer that and, no doubt Jim has the answer, but the rest of us will have to wait a little longer…

So as we approached Christmas “Merry Christmas” were not words I spoke or wanted to hear as I knew it was not that! And “Happy New Year” was even worse…

Home for Christmas but no celebrations or fancy food… back in hospital for New Year’s Eve; home on 4th January… some days okay, some not… some food eaten, other days very little… visitors came and went; district nurses, paramedics, then back to hospital with pneumonia…

Gosh, this is hard reading my diary and remembering these days… I do notice that I occasionally posted prayer requests on facebook and my diary entries following showed wonderful answers to prayer in that Jim would be free from pain and discomfort for a while and even manage to eat something a little more substantial.

But, days pass slowly and Jim, I believe, grew tired of just coping and not being able to enjoy much at all. I know he was also concerned for me and the stress he could see I was under even though I denied it, of course. When someone we love deeply is suffering and we are not able to do anything about it to ease that suffering there is no doubt that we are, both mentally and physically, stressed….

Life… battling on…

With Jim feeling a little better after his pneumonia, a very serious virus and radiation we decided a little holiday to visit some friends was in order. Four days away from home was enough before Jim’s next appointment with his oncologist.

I was expecting the oncologist to tell us “the worst”.

But he was very positive as Jim’s bloods were okay and a scan showed that the radiation had “done its job”. The weight loss and lack of appetite was probably due to the pneumonia and blood infection. “Eat more and gain some weight!” were his final instructions.

So what happened over the next month…?? The district nurse told Jim that it wasn’t surprising he felt so low after pneumonia and everything else his body has been through. A close friend told Jim to plan to live for the next five to ten years, and I read these words from 1 Kings 2: 1-2 “…be strong – show what you’re made of! Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you. Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts.” (The Message)

I can’t blame Jim… his body just kept “rebelling”… bleeding from bowels, sore neck and throat, more hospital visits, more tests, another operation…

At the end of November I wrote in my diary, “How much more can we take, Lord? Just when we seems to be getting over one hurdle, here comes another one…”

More visitors came to stay – some positive, some not, but I think Jim was pleased to see them all.

An appointment with our GP left us feeling quite positive about Jim’s recovery. However, he (the GP) has since told me that he could see Jim wasn’t in a “good place” physically.

This is not easy to confront and write about now…

… not just because of the memories of the difficult time Jim went through and for me having to cope with so much of a roller-coaster ride, but also because I really had little idea of what Jim was thinking and going through in the recesses of his mind. We had an amazing relationship – he was my best friend, my soul-mate, someone I could confide in and discuss anything with… but he wouldn’t or couldn’t talk about what he was feeling deep inside.

I wonder if the Lord had told him his “promotion” was drawing near… or maybe he just didn’t want to worry me about his personal concerns as well as his physical trauma. It saddens me now as I think about it, but I do think he was probably protecting me. My logical mind tells me that he knew I was under pressure and quite stressed with being a “nurse” to him – something that was definitely not my within my sphere of giftings!

Life… good days and …

So, where to from here?

Frosty morning in Arrowtown.

My diary records good days and not-so-good days; days of positive reports after radiotherapy and days when Jim just slept the hours away. Some days he was able to cope with visitors and even do some jobs around the home; other days he felt unwell and barely got off the sofa all day.

I was a busy beaver… looking at my diary I now wonder if I did too much and should have spent more time just sitting with Jim… no point beating myself up about it now… I guess I kept busy to keep my sanity and because it is who I am!

It is sad to say and makes me quite sad even writing this now, but I kinda knew that Jim wan’t going to “bounce” back to his normal self.

How did I know?

I asked the Lord… and where previously he had told me that Jim would get better, I received no such assurance this time.

How long?

That I wasn’t told specifically, but I had a good idea and I was keen to be wrong. In fact, medical staff were very positive all along so Jim and I were also.

Oh gosh, this is hard…

We were both so positive and Jim kept helping get our home in order by doing little building things for us … but then he would have a bad day where he would feel weak or ill or just plain tired.

How does one cope?

Me? I took each day as it came… plenty of activity, exercise and visitors. Quite a few tears as well as I walked and I expressed any frustrations in writing (I certainly hope I didn’t share those with Jim!)

Why am I telling you this?

Because you may have been through it too. Because you may be going through it right now. Because you may need to know that you are not alone..

And looking back to my diary, I see that Jim had his first bout of pneumonia … a couple of days in hospital on intravenous antibiotics … and then he was so much better. Over the next few weeks he did some paid work, helped others as we shifted dirt around our section, and enjoyed the company of close friends who came to stay and bless us with practical help.

So my hopes were raised even though Jim’s weight continued to drop, his clothes became looser and baggier and he rarely ate a meal with the gusto and relish he used to….

Life… though sickness… (2)

Have you lived though the roller-coaster ride of living with someone through serious illness or even terminal illness?

Did you wonder if you were “normal” with the emotions you experienced from cruising through life and wondering why you weren’t more worried … wanting to throw it all in… ready to battle the illness and the authorities … anger… ?

Join me as I walk through my journey with my husband and best mate, Jim…

There was excitement and anticipation in our home – our new home. We moved in in mid- August 2018, with much-appreciated help from family and friends. Jim didn’t have his usual strength or energy levels but we hoped and prayed that it was just another passing phase and he would soon be back to his old high-energy self.

reflections

Life was a wonderful assortment of boxes, new furniture, visitors, sorting and sifting, high and low energy levels for the next three weeks. The landscaping of the section was in front of us but we had the rest of our lives to organise that and summer was coming…

Then…wham! …. Jim was in pain, not able to swallow, and sleeping as much as he was awake. A trip to hospital led to promise of more tests. The next few days for Jim were variable… a spurt of energy…. a lot of sleep… a little task achieved… then along came the coughing.

I carried on with my life doing the things I would normally do – tennis, walking, women’s meetings, coffee with friends, sorting things into our home, appointments… I did this partly because it is who I am (pragmatic… “life must go on”) but also partly to keep my sanity.

With Jim… more hospital visits, more treatment…

For me… more hospital visits, more waiting, hoping, believing this radiation would blast the cursed cancer cells away…

Reading my diary I feel the pain of it all once more…

Did I too much? not enough? … Should I have spent more time helping him? just sitting with him?

The answers are “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “possibly”… but actually it’s too late to analyse anyway so why bother?

Through all the trauma was one undergirding truth in our lives… our relationship with Jesus.

I am so aware that my situation is far from unique. Most of the rest of us have been through or may be, in fact, going through, sad or traumatic or dramatic or life-changing experiences. If you have a similar experience you have been through or are going through and would like to share it, please do… and I’ll continue my story as I am able…

PS Just in case you wonder… I took all and any photos included in this blog unless otherwise mentioned and they have no particular relevance to anything except reflectiveness or paths or streams that lead eventually do lead somewhere.

Life…

“We read to know we’re not alone. That has been my own experience. It’s through books that people I’ve never met have reached out to me, saying, ‘This is what matters most to me. Does it matter to you too?’ This feeds something very different to the appetite for entertainment. It feeds, I suppose, the hunger for meaning.”

William Nicholson (used in CS Lewis “Shadowlands”)

And as I researched the origins of that particular quote I came across this one: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

Alan Bennett in “The History Boys”

It has been quite some time since I wrote a blog post but the time has come to share once again… so you know that you are not alone…. that others have shared your journey. The experiences I have recently travelled through matter to me and as do your experiences.

I don’t know that we’ll find the “meaning” of all or, in fact, any of it. However, we can reach out, take one another’s hands and, though sharing, maybe grasp a greater understanding of one another’s journeys.

I invite you to read with me to know you’re not alone.

This current journey is actually a continuation of my last blog post written on Christmas Eve 2018. I see that I got as far as Jim’s stem cell transplant in 2013/2014…

Now I am going to skip a few years and pick up the journey in about August 2018….

Jim and I were staying with friends.  

We had sold our renovated home in November 2017 and moved in with my son and his family while our new home was built.  After several months my son and his wife found they needed to replace one bathroom so, logically, decided to renovate the upstairs one at the same time.  This left the family of five, plus Jim and I, with one toilet and no bathroom…

Jim and I were so pleased we had wonderful friends with an ample home whom we could call upon to host us…

Hair- raising…. not quite! and stem cell implants…

Here I sit on the eve of another Christmas Day.  I have just a small glass of wine for company as hubby, Jim, is watching “Home Alone”. Now that takes a bit of figuring… 1. it’s really not his type of movie… 2. I’ve seen it at least twice… 3. he’d usually rather we watched something together…. mmmmm… oh well, I’ll go with the flow and enjoy some solitude…  And, actually, I rather hope you’re not reading this on Christmas Eve or even worse, Christmas Day!! Tomorrow will be different which is why I’m quite content sitting here alone… we will spend the day, or as much of it as we chose, with family and extended family… 18 or so, I think I counted. What is nice is that we can come and go as we chose… eat some, open some prezzies, have a drink or two, come home for some peace and quiet, play some games, eat some more…

 But I digress… I was writing about Jim’s and my journey dealing with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

If we ever mentioned Jim was not well, or receiving treatment we talked about him having lymphoma, not cancer. I think, then, folk just presumed it was something like diabetes or arthritis, rather than the “big C” – scary! I read the books we were given and checked with Dr Google but we were advised not to spend too much time consulting him as “he” could come across quite negatively.

So life carried on with regular check-ups, more chemotherapy drugs, a bit of radiation here and there and a ” we’ll just go with the flow” attitude. One lot of chemo drugs did promise to leave Jim hair-less but before I shaved his lovely locks he noticed they were falling out of their own accord. He was working in his office one day when things were getting a little stressful. He leant over to his co-worker and said , “This is so bad I could pull my hair out!” as he did indeed do so! And I guess that’s Lesson No 5: Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humour.

And then in 2013 Jim was offered a supposed reprieve – a stem cell transplant. I won’t bore you with details but simply, his bone marrow cells were “harvested” and frozen; he went through a serious course of chemo before being admitted to hospital where his immune system was “killed” and the harvested stem cells then re-introduced into his body. There are plenty of risks in this procedure but we had complete confidence in the hospital staff – and they were in God’s hands!

Now all this happened at the time my Mum passed away back in New Plymouth… and then Christmas was upon us (here in Christchurch) while Jim was having the actual stem cell implant – his own cells implanted back into his body.

So Christmas and New Year 2013/2014 were spent in an isolation room in the hospital… visitors were okay as the room had air constantly passsing through sterilisation but, of course, Jim didn’t feel like “entertaining” anyway so we told minimal people where he was “holidaying”.

Well, it was worth it for a good five years to follow… we hoped!

Some things don’t need to be told… and other lessons

Some folk draw or paint, others sing or play musical instruments, still more take it out on their bodies with strenuous exercise …. me, I find that expressing myself in words releases that “energy”… so, with hubby still in hospital, here I am releasing my stresses for the day…

In my last blog a couple of days ago I explained how it was revealed to us that Jim had lymphoma – not very tactfully! However, we got over our little “panic”, saw an oncologist who explained that the lymphoma was indeed treatable and, in fact, wasn’t likely to kill him – he would die “with” the disease rather than “of” it.

Jim attended several chemotherapy appointments in the day ward at the local hospital. He was very chirpy through this whole experience, chatted to fellow patients, read books and did Sudoku and similar, and returned to work in the afternoon if the session was in the morning. He also didn’t lose any hair.

And here is…

Lesson number 2: There are some things folk just don’t need to know. We never mentioned the word “cancer” to anyone (have you noticed that it has immediate negative conotations in people’s minds?) and we didn’t tell anyone about the “chemotherapy”… after all, life really didn’t change much at all.

Which leads me to …

Lesson number 3: Keep life rotating as normally as possible. I understand that some treatment is more restrictive and debilitating than others but, as far as Jim was concerned, this was just a “blimp” in his life, so why disrupt anything more than necessary?

Over the next few years, which included a move to Christchurch, Jim received radiotherapy treatments, a little surgery to remove lumps and still more chemotherapy. He did lose his hair on a couple of occassions which, of course, drew some comments but it grew back each time and folk soon forgot the bald head – anyway, men commonly shave their heads now, don’t they!

The attitude that defined Jim each and every time was…

Lesson number 4: Be positive! People live with diabetes (as did Jim), mental illness, missing limbs and innumerable other physical disabilities. What separates some from others is attitude. Jim’s attitude was always one of hope and a positive future.

So the years have ticked by (too quickly) and other lessons have been learned along the way… we’ll  discuss another one or two next time…