Postponed Pleasure

In the midst of our cold, long winter, we received a happy email from a dear friend. He and his family had been praying and felt God was telling them to use some cash they’d set aside to give us the gift of a Caribbean holiday at an all-inclusive with them. We felt overwhelmed with gratitude for this great offer, and really hoped we’d be able to go.

My oncologist said to wait until after the chemo was done and I’d had a bit of a chance to recover. There were delays to the chemo and uncertainty about how many rounds I’d go. Our generous friends were fine with the plans being delayed and the last-minute uncertainty. We waited…

Finally the decision was made regarding the end of chemo and the doctor gave us a date for booking the trip. Our friends were looking at the Dominican Republic, but my oncologist wasn’t keen since the medical care there is not as good as elsewhere. He would have preferred that we went somewhere safer.

Because it was so last-minute, there weren’t loads of options, and as we prayed about it we were ok with the risks of going to the DR. Our friend booked a great place with a water park nearby and a kids club – looked fantastic! We had our tickets and were ready to leave Easter Saturday.

Good Friday I awoke with a fever. If you read my previous post about chemo and fevers, you know that this meant an immediate trip to Emergency because chemo patients have compromised immune systems, so a fever can mean a life-threatening situation. A good friend drove me there and stayed with me throughout the day, while doctors and nurses came and went. She even read aloud to me, until my snoring drowned out her words! 🙂

Tests revealed I had pneumonia and ruled out any possibility of travel the next day. Cancer in my left lung, pneumonia in my right: no wonder I felt tired and my breathing was laboured! The doctor wanted me to stay in hospital overnight, but I insisted on going home. I really wanted the rest of my family to go on holiday the next day, and I didn’t want to miss out on time with them before they left.

Naturally I was disappointed to not be able to fly out with them, but all along I’d had the attitude that being offered the trip was a very real part of the gift, and I received that with joy and gratitude. I was hoping that I might be able to travel a few days later, but had no idea if I could get a flight, or how much it might cost, or if I’d be well enough …

Jono & the kids left, and I was so happy for them. I was also very happy to go back to bed! Friends brought food and checked in on me several times a day. I was in good hands, and grateful for the opportunity to be at home and sleep. People were praying, and every few hours I noticed that I felt considerably better than I had earlier. On Easter Sunday I wasn’t well enough to go to church in the morning, nor even across the street to the neighbours’ for brunch (they generously sent food over for me to enjoy at home!), but by dinner time I was up for dinner at other neighbours’, and stayed much longer than I’d planned since I continued to feel better throughout the evening. (Can any of you imagine me perking up during dinner conversation?)

On Easter Monday I felt well enough that I called the travel agent to inquire about flights. I learned that flying out on Tues. was quite pricey, but Wed. wasn’t so bad. I booked a flight for Wed. with hope and excitement, glad for an extra day of recovery. Other friends even gave us cash which covered the flight and a few other costs. We felt so blessed.

Snow still covered part of our backyard the day I left for the airport. The view of the DR from the plane was amazing: too bad I didn’t have a camera with me! (But I’m glad for the great photo’s Jono & the kids took before I arrived!)

I was so grateful to be able to go on this holiday – even if only for part of the week. It was relaxing to not have to think about cooking or homework or music practice. I enjoyed watching the kids play and reading and hanging out with everyone. Many smiles and much laughter! By the end of my time there, I was playing with the kids in the pool and feeling pretty well!

What a good gift from God and from our friends … and may I add that we are very thankful for the timing of my fever: had it occurred even the next day, while I was in the DR, that would have been at the very least a lot more complicated. Pneumonia can be so serious, and I am thankful for the good medical care I received here, including effective antibiotics.

I am also so grateful for the good gifts of friends who prayed and contributed together to care for me here and give us this great, relaxing trip. I can’t tell you how much that meant to us. What a beautiful grace-filled oasis in the midst of a long and difficult winter!

Watching peacocks and peahens

Great View from the shade!

Chemotherapy has its privileges

Chemotherapy has its privileges: you get to carry a special IMG_9471card. Not a gold card, but a red and white “fever card” which reminds the patient to “seek immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital” if one’s temperature is at or above 38 degrees C (100.4 F). “This may be a cancer EMERGENCY”, it declares in bold letters.

We get regular reminders that we are to check our temperature daily, and I usually do it in the evening. Friday morning, though, I awoke feeling quite wretched, reached for the thermometer and discovered my temperature was 38.1 … wishing it was 37.9 didn’t change the reading!

So I went downstairs to tell Jono (my husband), who reminded me that the car was at the garage for repairs. By the time I’d jumped in the shower, dressed and grabbed my bag (which was already packed since I was scheduled to spend the afternoon having chemo), a lovely neighbour was arriving to drive me to the hospital. (Jono picked up the car and met me there later.)

I didn’t have to wait long before they brought me into my own special isolation room, with a warning sign posted on the door. I didn’t even know they had these private rooms in emerg – kind of like being in a hotel with my own attached powder room! Few people were allowed to enter, and they had to be dressed up with special masks etc. to protect me from further infection.

“Febrile Neutropenia” they call it. I think it means that the chemo significantly affects one’s ability to fight any infection. At certain times of my chemo cycles I have virtually no white blood cells (nor red ones nor platelets for that matter). The timing of this fever couldn’t really have been better for me – praise God – because my blood test numbers were good and I was due to have chemo that day.

They ran a bunch of tests: more chest x-rays, urine tests, blood tests (three pokes and two new bruises), etc. but couldn’t find any particular infection. I slept most of the day while they loaded me up with fluids and two different IV antibiotics. They considered admitting me, but I was so thankful they let me go home around dinner time, with a prescription for yet another antibiotic … covering all the bases!

I napped on the couch all evening, then a quick dinner and straight off to bed where I slept really well. Amazingly well, in fact! I slept EIGHT HOURS STRAIGHT, which I hadn’t done for six months! Normally I awake about every two to three hours – generally because I’m uncomfortable. Since August, I can only lie on my right side or else I cough. I could not believe that I woke up at 9:00 am with the glorious sun shining so high in the sky!!

Saturday I felt so much better. Sunday better still. This morning it occurs to me that the fact that no one has pumped my body full of toxic chemotherapy chemicals since February 4th probably has something to do with me feeling stronger and more energetic.

… But I want that chemo to kill more of the cancer … and I need to get in to see my oncologist before they will schedule me for more. I was feeling a bit frustrated that the long week-end delayed my regularly scheduled Tuesday chemo date, and now I’m chomping at the bit to get back on track! (… and desperately trying to not succumb to the control-freak part of my nature!)

I’m also very aware that so many of you are praying powerfully for me and I can’t tell you how much that means to our family. I feel your prayers and the presence of God powerfully, and I know that your prayers are making a huge difference. Thank you!

I’ve been reading the gospel of Matthew lately, and healing was such a big part of Jesus’ ministry. Chapter 8 tells how he healed a leper, which was the big “incurable” disease of the day. The leper knelt before Jesus saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him (a cultural / religious / medical no-no of the time), saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus heals a Roman Centurion’s servant, commending the Roman for his faith (we are all welcomed – praise God!). Then he heals many at Peter’s house, including Peter’s mother-in-law. Chapter 9 describes Jesus healing a paralyzed man when he saw the faith of his friends, then a woman who had been suffering from bleeding for 12 years, a little 12 year old girl who had died, two blind men, a mute demoniac, and the list goes on…

What I find so exciting is that Jesus goes to all the cities and villages. He teaches, he proclaims the good news of the kingdom, he cures every disease and every sickness, he has compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd … and he says to his disciples,

The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.

Jesus then summons his twelve disciples, gives them authority, and he sends them out to do the same things he has been doing … good news!

You, through your prayers, are written into this story, sent by Jesus to do his good work of love and compassion. Thank you for being labourers in his harvest, and for the difference it is making for us.

Please do keep praying – not only for me, but also for my family. Being a caregiver / supporter / loved one is hard work! My husband is tired; my kids can be scared / grumpy / angry / etc. We all welcome your prayers.

We also greatly appreciate all the warm thoughts, cards, help and gifts we are receiving. It is so encouraging knowing that so many people are standing with us and supporting us in so many ways, and believe me: this all makes a HUGE difference to us. We can not tell you how much it means to us. THANK YOU!