Well my final chemo cycle has been dispensed. Below, for the sake of tradition, is me on a drip (the drug is hidden under the green bag) with the very lovely Cate.
It was pretty undramatic in one sense whilst being a tad traumatic in another. Undramatic in that nothing really happened, I felt ill for a few days before recovering as is the normal way. A tad traumatic in that it was the last cycle, and that has implications. Those of you who have known me for a while will remember in 2014 I was diagnosed and treated for bowel cancer. That’s why my nickname is Lucky 😊. I had surgery followed by several courses of chemotherapy to treat and cure that. I remember receiving and completing the final cycle and feeling so relieved. No longer would I have to feel ill every fortnight (the chemo cycles were every 2 weeks) and hopefully I would regain some strength that had been sapped from me over the approx. 6 months of treatment. More importantly I had the rest of my life to look forward to and everything I hoped that would entail, maybe even grandchildren at some distant point in the future. This time it’s so different. The future is considerably shorter. The chemo has definitely helped with my breathing. It has allowed me better health than I would have had it’s pretty fair to assume. Please humour me and look at the graph below which helps illustrate my point. The engineer in me loves graphs.
On the X axis is time and my nominal ability to breath is on Y axis. Please bear with me as the graph is just a big approximation. The blue line represents the historical timeline up to now. The traumatic parts are the red, green and purple lines and their behaviour. What fall off will there be, (A) exponential, (B) polynomial or (C) linear? One for the maths lovers there. Or none of the above, I haven’t drawn the miraculous healing one on. Of course, me hypothesising over this isn’t actually going to make a difference. Only One is in charge of the destiny of our lives and beyond, and that is almighty God. Everyone knows this deep inside whether they choose to acknowledge it or suppress this truth. If people genuinely believed there wasn’t a sovereign being, a God, then we would live our lives in a different way that didn’t conform to the God given morality of conscience and community.
At the moment I feel a little bit like a ship pushed out to sea. Previously it was a ship that had some broken bits and only one engine working properly. But now we know it’s going to crash and I’m concerned how rough the seas are going to be. Will it be dashed apart on the rocks or slowly sink as the hull fills with water. However, the one thing I hang on to is that the Captain has stayed on board. Jesus Christ is who he says he is and like a good captain he’s not into abandoning ship. I want to hang on to the hope he offers and let him guide me to the end and beyond to eternity.
In family life we had a few days away at half term in a place just North of Bridlington on the North Yorkshire coast. Many thanks go to my Brother in Law, Pete, who has a static van up there. It really is quite a home from home and is lovely and toasty warm with full central heating. To be fair it had to be as the weather was …erm … bracing, as one might expect in February. However, as Cate and I learned from our time living in Norway some years ago, they had a great phrase, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.’ Therefore, we wrapped up nice and warm and got ourselves down to the beach for some walks. There is something which is intangible about walking by the sea that brings great satisfaction. We also had a trip slightly further north to Filey to repeat the exercise. It was proper cold there, and wet!
Whilst there we watched live, in the car, on a phone as Elise Christie crashed out of the 500m short track speed skating at the winter Olympics. How technology has come a long way since my childhood trips to the seaside. Both Cate and I have quite a soft spot for the Winter Olympics probably due to our time in Norway where the kids are born wearing skis. To be honest I think I prefer them due to the adrenaline rush. Let’s face it there’s not many sports at the summer games where if you fall over it hurts a lot. At the winter games falling over always hurts and then some. It was great to see Lizzy Yarnold defend her skeleton bobsleigh title, the first Brit to do so. Gold medals for Brits at winter Olympics are as rare as rocking horse doo doo so we have to glory in the one we have.
Whilst away we also watched a couple of films, Dunkirk and La La Land. Obviously different films, but I liked the latter a lot more than I thought I would and I can see why it won so many awards. The cinematography is superb. For the uninitiated, Dunkirk tells a version of the evacuation of approx. 330,000 British and French troops from the Northern French coastal town of Dunkirk in 1940, during World War 2. It was helped by many private small boats assisting the Navy to get closer to the beaches to pick up the troops. This has coined the phrase ‘the Dunkirk spirit’. On the other hand, La La Land is a musical that tells the story of a wannabe actress and a jazz pianist, come would be jazz club owner, as they make their way in the Hollywood/Los Angeles entertainment industry.
Not only are the film genres and stories so different, so are the messages. Dunkirk is effectively a grim and grimy film about death which has salvation at the end. It’s also a story about community, about sacrifice and the greater good. La La Land (spoiler alert) is a film full or vibrant colour yet about the individual. Its message is one of putting your career ‘dream’ over that of relationship, that of the individual’s pursuit rather than that of sacrificial relationships. One film left me with hope, the other left me feeling slightly empty (that’s not to say it’s not a very good film/musical). I think in western society the individual, and ‘what I want’, has trumped (no pun intended) community. It’s often about ‘my rights’, not ‘how we can help each other?’ ‘I’m alright Jack’ is the oft used phrase to describe it. As part of our church we meet regularly as smaller ‘house’ groups and we are looking at a course about basic Christianity called Life Explored http://www.life.explo.red/ . This week the bible passage we looked at was from Luke Ch.19 about a chap called Zacchaeus. He was the model individual, out for himself, who kicked relationship into touch, that is until he met Jesus. The text is below;
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” ©biblegateway.com
Let’s be clear, Zacchaeus was about as popular as a poo in a swimming pool. Not only was he working for the occupying Roman army collecting taxes, he gained his wealth by over taxing people to cream off the excess. When Jesus wants to be friends with this ‘bad’ man everyone is shocked. And after meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus is a changed man. As Jesus says, he has received salvation. It’s the same today. We think we have to be good to know Jesus, yet it’s not until we realise how bad we are, spiritually bankrupt so to speak, that we meet Jesus …. And he welcomes us. It also shows the same truth today, that it’s not religion, it’s relationship. Jesus isn’t a power, a force, a theory, but a person who we can know.
Back to the film, it did have a great line that made me laugh. One of the main characters, Mia, can’t find her car and the other, Seb, shows how if you point the locking remote control at your head it amplifies the signal and unlocks the car. Seb then says “You find your car quicker but it does give you cancer”. I’m finally seeing the link.
Whilst away it was great to see one of my old uni mates, Paul, who made the trip over from Bradford. An even more impressive effort given the amount of fuel a 4.6 V8 Range Rover uses. It doesn’t half sound good though! Good to have some banter together and laugh at the trauma of sorting children out with dressing up costumes for World Book Day. I think his 3:30am finish is a new record.
We also had UK staple of fish and chips. Fish and chips taste so much better at the seaside and it’s the law in the UK to eat them whilst at the coast. I enjoy them with mushy peas. On our way home we called into to see Cate’s family for tea where we had the northern favourite (and one of my favourites) of meat pie and mushy peas. Mushy peas twice in a week was well over my safe ration allowance.
My garage clearance continues apace. Ebay have made a health profit on the back of this so let me encourage you to find value in the clutter. One mans junk is another man’s treasure…..or woman’s. On discussing the emptying of the garage, one of my pals, Steve, who helped clear a lot of the wood (into his garage ha ha), carried on the black humour theme. “If Jesus gives you a miraculously healing you’re going to kick yourself.”
My cousin Rachel and 2 of her girls came up from East London to visit us. It was lovely to catch up on each other lives. Rachel’s dad, my Uncle Dave, passed away when she was 19 yrs old and she shared with us how she became a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, the very night it happened. I’d not heard her testimony of those events before. We were all in the room listening including my Dad who was best friends with Uncle Dave. They then prayed for me. It was a sweet, precious time and we’re thankful for that.
I watched the last half hour of The Brits this last week with my daughter. For non UK readers The Brits are the UK music industry awards. She updated me on youth culture that has passed this old man by. I hadn’t even heard of Dua Lipa. I observed a couple of things. Rita Ora (who I have heard of) performed with curly hair wearing a jump suit. Both Cate and I commented she looked a bit like Janet Jackson or even 5 Star. Google it kids.
The other part which sparked my attention was Stormzy receiving his award for best album. Now what I know about ‘Grime’ you can write with an oily finger on the back of a fag packet. Never the less, he started by giving the glory to God. Nice one Stormzy, he obviously realises who gave him the talent and work ethic. See blog No.3.
My son and I managed another trip to Kenilworth Road, this time with my Dad. The game was largely entertaining, with Luton, having bossed the majority of the play, coming from 2 goals down to draw 2-2 with Cheltenham. It should have been 3-2 to Luton but the referee, who was wearing a Cheltenham shirt under his kit, disallowed the goal by failing to play advantage and pulling the play back to award Luton a penalty kick. Bizarre. Some of our fellow fans were rather upset. The penalty was saved, and pandemonium broke out. Football does have the ability to send the average person apoplectic with rage.
Finally, in my now seeming regular who’s died recently section, we note the death of Billy Graham. For those who don’t know, he was an evangelist who preached the message of Jesus to hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Even the BBC and the Guardian Newspaper gave him a glowing obituary. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13374487. Many quotes have been attributed to him and I guess we have to trust the sources that they are true. Here are 3 favourites I’ve read over recent days.
His first is probably the most important. “I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Saviour, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins.” If you’d like to know more what Mr Graham meant by that see https://stepstopeace.org/?utm_source=bgea%20facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=wp&utm_content=wp&outreach=wp%20memorial%20link The video is a bit ‘cheesy’ to a UK audience, but the truth remains the same.
Secondly, a quote which apparently Mr Graham took from a 19th Century evangelist called DL Moody. “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
The final quote speaks to me as we’re currently looking at the last book of the Bible, called Revelation, at our church. “I’ve read the last page of the Bible,” he once said. “It’s all going to turn out all right.” This is so true if you’re on the right side. If you’re not, it’s more than worrisome.
I’m not sure how I’m going to start my next blog. It won’t revolve around treatment cycles but I should have the result of a CT scan. I’m not quite sure what we do with that result but I’ll let you know all being well.