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!

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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…

Gently, gently…

Gosh, it has been a while…

…over a year in fact…

Facebook keeps diligently prompting me to write… “your readers haven’t heard from you in a while…”

Why?” I ask…  (note: I’m sure you couldn’t care less, in spite of FB’s promptings!)

Well, lots of reasons, actually… and I’m not going to bore you with any of them!

But, I am back… with one post anyway.

And what has prompted me (as well as Facebook, of course) to put fingers to keyboard?

Probably, at this particular point in time, lack of a husband to talk to … you see, my husband, Jim (who wrote a couple of posts on my blog a while back) is in hospital… again… 5th time in the last couple of months, actually.

First visit: Pneumonia; second visit: pneumonia; third visit: serious blood infection/virus (the same one that causes meningitis); fourth visit: an operation to give him a voice back (that was only a day trip);  fifth visit: The man has given up on food (not willingly as anyone who knows him knows he actually loves his food!) and when he tries a little it just comes right back at him (or preferably into the ever-handy receptacle!)

But, let’s back up a little…

Nine years ago when he fell off some scaffolding (not from a great height) and cracked a vertbrae in his neck, it was discovered, after further tests, that he had Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

A lump the “size of a grapefruit” was found in Jim’s abdomen and a biopsy had been taken and examined. We were directed to outpatients in the local hospital – supposedly to discuss surgery to remove said lump. The surgeon we saw took one look at the x-ray and said,

You’re in the wrong place.  I can’t operate on this, it is cancer and I can’t remove it.”

And here lies lesson number one (this one for doctors and medical professionals)…

Break the news of a serious illness to the recipients gently!

We had not been informed in any way at that stage that Jim’s lump may be cancer – of any sort. Imagine hearing “that” word thrown at us with no compassion or concern of any sort!

We were both rather devasated to say the least, as I’m sure many of you understand!

Well, we drove to a local beach and sat and looked out to sea.  I don’t know what was going on in Jim’s mind but my head was thinking, Three months (not that that time had been mentioned)… Christmasthe house (we had not long begun building our ‘dream home’)…” It is interesting what goes through one’s mind when presented with a crisis!

Well, as I said, that was nine years ago (September 2009 to be precise) and Jim is still here with us….

Next post:  “Lesson number two”…

Fitzroy Beach, New Plymouth

“Mud in the eye” – “When the time comes…”

(Jim’s second blog.)

After the experence in Te Anau (previous blog) I became friends with a Dutch guy, Hans, at night tech college. We needed to swat for our finals so Hans invited me to his flat one evening to go over some notes and ask questions of each other.

After about an hour and a half we tired of the questions and swat so we went into the living room where I was introduced to another flatmate who was watching TV.

As TV was a new medium in the 60s and my parents could not afford such an expensive luxury (the same price as a second hand car) I was not familiar with the faces or newsreaders on the one local TV station. I was glued to the screen.

We watched a documentary of a small town in Canturbury, NZ, high-lighting different occupations and trades – butcher, baker, candle stick maker – and including the local church. Staight away Hans spoke to the flat mate and said, “This is Jim’s thing – the church.”

John (not his real name) said, “What do you mean?”

Hans passed it off with, “He’s a Billy Graham man or something.”

John then started to ask me questions about me being a Christian. We talked about the universe and that science was a fact but it cannot deal with the supernatural power of God.

(Note: Asking Jesus to come into your life is a supernatural experience. Being born again is the most life-changing experience you will have in a life time.)

The most amazing thing that was happening to me was that every time John asked a question I answered but I knew logically and from learning I actually didn’t know the answer proving …..

Mark 13: 11 …do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

We debated and talked till 2 in the morning. John invited me over for tea that night and we talked and debated again until 2 the following morning.

John then asked to come to church. We sat at the back and all my friends were “oohing” and “ahhing” because John was the local TV news reader, whom they recognised.

John commited his life to Jesus and started a life work with a Christian mininstry.

This is the second time in my short life that God used me simply because I was willing and available. I was amazed at the answers that I could give as needed to convince “John” of the existence of a real and loving God and his son, Jesus.

Do you have a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it.

Next time… God uses broken people.

Just wondering… and pondering…

Do you ever wonder..? just wonder…? Things like…

What are you here for?

Why do you love to do certain things?

Why…??

What…??

As I sit at my desk watching the world go by I realise it is a while since I have written a blog post… So why should I write one now?  Why not just sit and ponder?

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So easy to sit here and just watch the world (and tide) go by…!

…Because I realise that I love to write… and I love to write not just for myself but to inspire others in some way … if possible.

…And then I start thinking about my other passions… photography, reading, travel…

Why photography?  Because it helps me capture things I am passionate about… God’s creation, family, friends…

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Why do I love to read?  Because that is my “escape”… I delve into someone else’s world and hide from the reality of my own… books I read must be “easy-reads” – nothing too detailed or descriptive and I generally only read before sleep at night so I don’t want to be stimulated… boring, eh?!

Why travel? Because there is a big wide world out there and much of it is so beautiful and waiting for me to photograph it! I don’t like cities or shopping (though this hasn’t always been the case and I concede that it may change again…) and I’m past the age where I will risk physical injury unnecessarily (adventure tourism-type activities), so my “bucket list” includes trips to such places as Scotland and Nova Scotia (chasing my heritage) rather than London and New York, for instance. Until the doors open for travel to such distant places I am happy to continue exploring the “corners” of New Zealand.

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One of my favourite “corners” of the world!

Now, I know I have many more years behind me than are before me but I keep quoting (to myself as much as to anyone else) CS Lewis: “You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.”

So, I encourage you to activate your dreams, follow your passions and move forward… You are on this earth for a reason.

You have gifts and talents (probably those things you are passionate about).

You are able to inspire, bless and encourage others… do so with excitement and joy and purpose…

And do let me know if I have triggered “something” in you… cos then you will bless and encourage me knowing you have read this little blurb…

“Mud in Your Eye”

This is an experiment on networking through my website and Facebook…

Jim, my husband, is keen to start a blog with the above name “Mud in Your Eye” (the reason for this name will be explained if this goes ahead.) But before he does this he is keen to see what sort of discussion he generates by posting his first blog on my site… i.e. he would love any response/questions/comments … Interested?  Read on…

Can your dreams come true?

Let me tell you about a dream I had…

It was Queen’s Birthday weekend, 1969. I was soon to celebrate my twentieth birthday and had recently completed a building apprenticeship. I took my car (Mark 1 Ford Zephyr) and three friends to my sister Heather’s place in Te Anau. We stopped for a feed of fish and chips on the way and arrived fairly late in the evening as we travelled after work that Friday from Dunedin (New Zealand).

I bunked on a couch in the sun room. The others were scattered throughout the house.  It had been a long day and immediately I fell asleep.

Before dawn I started to dream… I saw myself standing at the edge of Lake Te Anau baptising a person in the water. Next I saw myself speaking in a church. I woke from the dream with a feeling of peace and well-being. I kept this dream to myself.

That morning we all took a guided tour to the glow worm caves across the lake. On returning my sister introduced us to a guy named Peter (who worked for Telecom). Peter spoke of making a commitment to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in Carisbrook, Dunedin, two weeks previously.

Peter asked me to water baptise him in the lake as his church, or anyone else for that matter, did not perform the ceremony (my dream temporarily forgotten).  I immediately said that he would need to come to Dunedin where a pastor would perform the ceremony. Peter said, “The Bible does not qualify who baptises. I would like you to baptise me in the lake.”  (Having been a follower of Jesus Christ for the last 4-5 years I realised he certainly had a point.)

We then proceeded to the lake with towels and swim wear. With 3 or 4 people looking on, Peter spoke about his commitment to follow Jesus Christ. I then immersed Peter under the water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus.

As soon as I lifted Peter out of the water the dream came back to me. I still kept this to myself as I realized I could be speaking at the Presbyterian Church, which Peter attended, the following morning.

Peter invited us to attend church with him…  I spent a nervous night wondering what might come to pass!

We arrived at the church just after 11am next morning. I was thinking “it” was not going to happen.  But Peter came running out of the church saying that I would be speaking as the minister had the mumps and the Sunday school teacher said I could speak instead.

The small church was full.  What a challenge to say the least!  The only thing I could think of was to repeat Billy Graham’s word from two weeks previous – a message of salvation. 

I spoke from the heart with a clear voice.  I had an interesting experience while delivering the message – I saw people with their arms up around their faces and the Lord said to me, “They’re fighting what you’re saying” because my words were relevant to their lives.

Was this a call for me to ministry? It certainly was a very actual realisation of my dream – both the baptism and the preaching. 

So, tell me, have you had prophetic dreams which have eventuated? 

(Joel 2:28 ….Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.)

Mavis

Earlier this week an elderly friend of mine passed from this life. Mavis wasn’t a close friend and I hadn’t spent a lot of time with her. However, I certainly did consider her a friend, not simply an acquaintance.

Why? Because when I saw her, usually weekly, she greeted me with enthusiasm, a smile and a hug. She enquired about my health, that of my husband, and anything else of pertinence of which she was aware in my life. She listened to me, encouraged me if and when necessary or relevant, and simply added a positive and generous dimension to my life.

As far as I am aware Mavis didn’t reach any public acclaim in her life (but maybe she was too humble to share of long-ago achievements) but she did touch many lives in many ways and most of us, including me, may never, this side of heaven, know of these acts of kindness and generosity.

I will miss my friend and her bubbly, joy-filled face… but I will remember her. Even though our relationship wasn’t long or deep she has left a legacy – a legacy of hope in eternal life. A legacy of a relationship with a very personal friend – Jesus.

Jesus was her constant companion. Someone to turn to in a time of need and someone to share the joys of life with. Mavis was an intercessor, a pray-er. She knew that Jesus was “just a prayer away” and called on him constantly, usually, I believe, on behalf of others. Most of these “others” probably don’t know of and will never be aware of the prayers prayed for them. But I must believe that these prayers made a difference in so many lives… and because of this Mavis’s legacy lives on.

It is always worth considering what sort of legacy each one of us will leave when we are called “home”. Will we be remembered for the successes we achieved financially, academically,  in sport or any number of social or public spheres? Or will our legacy be one of sowing good, joy, comfort, encouragement into people’s lives? How will our children and grandchildren speak of us?  What will friends and even acquaintances say about us?

We may not achieve “great things” (most of us don’t!) but we can still always share encouragement, joy, comfort, peace, love whenever we have the opportunity and leave a lasting legacy…