3rd March

Posted on March 10th, 2010 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

3rd March 2010

I can’t comprehend the enormity of the last month or so. Therefore, my attempts to record them will be feeble to say the least.  There has certainly been a wide range of emotions at play including despair, the excitement of hope and the seemingly endless mental torment that reeks havoc on my mind.

I realise my condition is placed in a Western, middle-class context. But to me, at this time and place, I have never had such desire to remove myself from this earth coupled with the hope that there is a God who longs to be gracious to us, yearns to show us his goodness and mercy, and wants to bring healing to our broken lives.

For someone like myself, who has the best medical care, a loving family and incredible friends, and access to every human comfort known, my difficulties seem miniscule almost. For each individual however, their circumstance can be overwhelming no matter how they compare to others’. Sometimes this is a result of our choices, sometimes it is what we get dealt with. Either way, it is how we interpret, process and respond to each circumstance that makes the difference.

In my head, I picture my life coming back together knowing that there is that hope in Christ – I have seen it before and am convinced God wants what is best for us – whether it is what we think is best for us or not. Then I see the opposite happen at times, or I make choices that contradict my beliefs. It is very difficult to make positive decisions when physically my body points to a future of difficulty.

In the last couple of months, I have gone through another set of breakdowns, resulting in shutting down parts of my life in order to survive mentally. Relying heavily on my amazing family and friends to keep me going has been life saving, literally. On many occasions I have seen and heard myself in such hysterics I have never witnessed before in myself. The torment in my head has at times been too much to bear, and only been helped by prayer or massive doses of painkillers to send me to sleep.

I have learned that there is a sound that comes from us that is reserved for the deepest expression of grief – a sound that is primal, uncontrollable, and involves silence as much as it does a combination of hideous groaning and shrieking. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, either to endure personally or to observe. But I have experienced it on numerous occasions now. Each time it leaves my body without energy yet anaesthetised from the rush of endorphins, adrenalin and whatever else gets released during this time.

I am currently weening myself of morphine-based painkillers, which hasn’t been easy emotionally. I have used them largely for emotional stability, along with anti-depressants. I have become physically addicted to them, as well as mentally addicted to them. When I have an emotional breakdown , which has been daily at times, I have taken these painkillers to take the edge off the emotional pain. In the past, ten milligrams was enough to do this. Last week Libs told me that 10 milligrams would be enough to knock her out into a sound sleep, so my admission that my three-hundred milligrams per day wasn’t really scratching the surface for me anymore rang some alarm bells for her.

Cutting my dose down hasn’t been easy, and even last night, after numerous sleeping tablets, it wasn’t until I topped myself up with pain-killers that I was able to find refuge from emotional torment in sleep. It is a terrible feeling also when you wake up crying, and you realise that your body has continued to grieve even when you think you have been giving it a break with a sleep. That is just how it is at this time, for many reasons.

Two weeks ago today, my friend Tim died from complications post-surgery for a brain tumour. Tim and I became quite close since meeting about a year ago at the Chemo Gym. Having similar beliefs, we would often pray together for each other’s healing. He was the same age as me, was a doctor at Princess Margaret Hospital, and leaves behind his wife and 3-year-old son. I witnessed his gradual loss of speech in recent months, then the rapid loss of health post surgery until his death two weeks ago. It was confronting to say the least to see someone I had become close to go through those difficult months and weeks. I couldn’t help but think that could be me, will be me, will be all of us at some stage – I just don’t want it before my time, most of the time.

Amongst my closest friends are Keith and Christine who live in London. They looked after me when I was living there 12 years ago and became family. Keith has been battling lung cancer since early last year. It has been on my mind for some time to head over there to see him before he passed away. Not being able to travel safely myself, Libs graciously took a week off work and proposed she come with me to make sure I made it back in one piece. Within a few days of thinking about it, we were on a plane to the UK. We had a very precious time with Keith and Christine, as well as other great friends. It was, again, very confronting as I saw Keith being nursed so lovingly by Christine. His legs had withered away to nothing, he gasped for each breath, most things he ate would be vomited up minutes later. We continued to pray for his healing and his comfort.

It was really difficult to know what to pray for in that situation. Keith was as close to death one could get while still being able to walk and talk, but his discomfort was obvious, and both death and healing seemed as attractive as each other for relief. Again, as with Tim, we pray and pray and pray. Keith is well known for his faithful support of missionaries and he, together with Christine, has been an inspiration to so many. Countless people would be praying for him daily from all over the world, yet he is so close to death, and is in so much pain. I left Keith with the parting comment, “Whatever happens Keith I will see you soon.”

Both Tim and Keith have been faithful followers of Christ and had their hope in Him, yet they have still suffered under the effects of a broken world and broken bodies. The hope that they had, and have, is the hope shared by myself for my healing, for restoration in other areas of my life. It is so discouraging to see my close friends pass before their time, under such discomfort, under such frustration also when it seems like God is not hearing our prayers.

In the discouragement of what seems like a futile battle against a hideous disease, I still count it a privilege to be given such hope that I have in Christ. I know that God is able to heal me, in each area of life. But if he doesn’t I am assured that eternity is waiting for me and I am excited by that. Sometimes I wish it would come sooner than later, especially when things get tough. I admit that I don’t understand why people like Tim are taken before their time, or why it seems our prayers aren’t answered as we want them to be. Tim, like me, was constantly trying to work out God’s mind on his situation, I suppose mostly to work out what could be done to survive. The list of questions I have for God when I see him seems to get longer rather than shorter.

The London trip was a real highlight for me, just in being able to have a precious week with Libs. Any time spent with her is a life highlight. Always has, always will be. Shopping for shoes, eating porridge each morning, stumbling onto Buckingham Palace (“What’s that building there?”) and almost missing flights (which has been our custom) – all go down as being great memories packed into a short, spontaneous trip. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Now, being back into the real world, each day requires decisions of how to handle each situation that comes up. I struggle with the reality that each situation has so many variables and depends on my health that is largely unpredictable each day.

As far as health goes, I have increasing peripheral neuropathy (numbness/nerve damage) in my back, feet and hands. This is largely degenerative and irreversible. My protein counts are still good, but I still have traces showing up in my urine, which is not a good sign. My concentration is minimal, largely due to large quantities of morphine. There is a cracking in my back, which is also not great news. Night sweats, muscle cramps, emotional breakdowns etc can also be affected by coming off medication.

For now I reside on the family farm in York, but will be moving back to the city in a couple of weeks.  It will be my 5th or 6th move over the last year, but hopefully the last for a while.