Monthly Archives: December 2008

What if you knew you had a short time to live?

What would you do if you were told you had a couple of years left to live? What would you drop from your life and what would you refocus on?

These are questions I asked unemployed youths, retrenched adults or people who had reached an impasse in their lives. The echo of those questions has returned to me. It is no longer hypothetical for me.

As I confront the cancer and negotiate the medical acrobatics, I am fast discovering that one’s hope can never be in science, no matter how treatments have advanced in recent years. Being well intentioned but finite body mechanics, their counsel is often contradictory and always hedged to protect their backs from giving anyone false hope. My hope is in the Lord, my maker and Saviour, and I am seeking prayerfully and practically to push the boundaries on my prognosis.

Nevertheless, the question remains: What would YOU do if you knew you only had two years left to live? Or if you knew you had two years before economic disaster hit? (Warnings of the present financial morass have been sounding for many years. Who has heeded them?)

Often our lives get so cluttered with urgencies, administrative ‘necessities’ and trivia that we lose sight of what we are really called to do. To help answer the question, here are some matters to consider:

  1. How are your financial, legal and business affairs? Would an administrator or an executive have difficulty sorting things out?
  2. Have you honoured your covenant of companionship to your spouse? How are your relationships with family and friends? Are there unresolved conflicts that need to be rectified? Do you need to seek forgiveness? How do you want to be remembered? “Dad was always too busy”; “She was a good kid, but …”
  3. Will others have regrets? Did they look for something from you such as trust, security, love, companionship, communication, or performance of promises and not get it?
  4. What fears do you need to address? Sometimes we can avoid dealing with fears by drowning them out with activity and busyness. Even the way we pray can mask a fear of death. We are all dying; it is just the appointment time that varies. Are you afraid of failure? Of what people will think of you? Of pain? Of financial ruin? Of losing your home or family?
  5. What are the most important issues of life? How do you need to re-order your priorities? None of us is indispensable. Life will go on after we shuffle off this mortal coil. Many of the things we think are important will not be carried on by others. They will lapse. Work out now what is lasting and focus on that.
  6. Do you have a workable succession plan? Joseph had a vision that outlived him. He was convinced God would restore his father’s posterity in their own land and so he “gave commandment concerning his bones”
  7. How is your relationship with God? Perhaps this should be number one? Do you snatch moments here and there? Is your relationship actually a con job in that  you seek Him for what He can do for you? Or do you desire obedience so He can be glorified through you in any situation?
  8. Are you sure you will have the physical and mental ability to perform your primary objective if you postpone the really important issues while you clear the present clutter, or wait for the favourable year? What if you suddenly get sick, or your financial reserves haemorrhage drastically? Too many people end up with regrets. “If only I had done it when I could.” “I knew I should have …”

It dawned on me as I started weighing up these considerations that we are supposed to live in the light of these questions all the time! We must continually evaluate and re-evaluate our lives and priorities in the light of eternity. This is what Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross daily and follow him.

I am not prepared to concede to cancer. It is not the way I would have chosen to exit this world. If my life was to end tomorrow I am not sure I could say with Paul, “I have finished the course”. I would feel my life had been cut short. I am also aware though, that many of the things that have consumed my energies are not as important as I imagined. Some have been my good ideas and not necessarily what God purposed for me. As God strips those away from me, I trust I will have the energy and the time to complete all God purposed for me (Psalm 57:2).

Whether you are 30 or 80, plan as if you have 100 years: live as if today could be your last.

Year follows year. Some things change, most things stay the same. We get lulled into a sense of predictability. And then suddenly …

… along came 2008!

Who would have imagined 2008 would have ended in international turmoil, both economically and politically. Riots, bloodshed, economic meltdowns, and predictions of doom and gloom.

James wrote in his epistle that no-one should boast about tomorrow. When we make plans we have an expected outcome in mind. Then God reminds us who is in control.

May the joy of the Incarnation and the sovereignty of Jesus Christ our King give you peace this Christmas season, and may He bless your work in 2009 as you increasingly implement His reign in all your affairs.


Posted by on 23 December, 2008 in Devotional


Rescheduling is difficult

As a ‘busyness exponent’, the most difficult task I have in managing my treatment is rescheduling my life to be less busy.
When you are raised having the good old Protestant work ethic drummed into you, it is difficult to amend the habits of a life-time.
My doctors, oncologist and other advisors all stress that I must look after myself now to ensure the greatest chance of extending my life-span. When other’s needs arise and there are responsibilities to discharge it is difficult to say “no”, yet that is what I know I must do.
Pain is a great adjuster.

With the low-level pain from the cancer plus the gastritis I am now suffering, I am having to treat my body with more respect. Pain has a great way of helping one rationalise what is necessary and what isn’t: whose expectations I will have to dash and whose I will meet.
It also helps overcome  the guilt feelings of turning people away!


Posted by on 22 December, 2008 in Medical


You have to be your own doctor!

I’m back to normal after my 7 days as a radio-active liver. But frustration builds upon frustration.
I was supposed to have chemo on Friday but my platelet levels were way, way down. Platelets affect blood-clotting and according to the Oncologist suggest I have been bleeding somewhere.

There are two possibilities: One is that I lost more blood than usual having the procedure in Auckland, or that I am bleeding internally.  I have gastritis and possible ulcerated stomach as a result of the the Auckland Hospital medics not prescribing the preventative medication I was supposed to be given on discharge. That is in spite of returning to the hospital because of stomach pain towards the end of my sojourn in Auckland.
I will not be too hard on the hospital staff. They are fallible mortals trying to do their best and they have the added stress of living in, and getting around Auckland.
The Christchurch Oncologist cannot understand how the oversight occurred as it is documented in the patient information sheet that prescription of this drug on discharge is part of preventing side-effects of the procedure.
In future I am going to be more diligent in researching proposed treatments for myself and running checklists. More than 75% of the procedures I have had so far have been accompanied by ‘medical misadventure’.


Posted by on 22 December, 2008 in Medical


Lack of touch can kill!

While I am learning what it is like to be a leper (albeit only for 7 days) I remembered reading that touching is essential for life.

Lack of touch can kill – chilling tales

A tragic fate befell a group of babies in the 1940s. At that time, when the theory of disease being spread by contact was novel, psychoanalyst Rene Spitz gathered a group of babies from orphanages and those separated from their mothers who were in prison, to conduct an experiment to see whether reduced human contact could reduce the incidence of disease. The babies were fed and clothed, and kept warm and clean but they were not played with, handled, or held. Spitz thought that human contact would risk exposing the children to hazardous infectious organisms. But what happened was that while the physical needs of the children were met, they became withdrawn and sickly, and lost weight. A great many died. 

In tragic irony, the babies exhibited a vast number of infections .. in one institituion the mortality rate to measles was 40% compared to the national average was 0.5% … and in the cleanest and most sterile institutions the death rate was above 75%. 

Spitz had rediscovered that a lack of human contact and interaction is fatal to infants. We need touch, just as we need love.

Seven hundred years earlier, Frederick II, a thirteenth century Holy Roman emperor and king of southern Italy unwittingly conducted the first study of human bonding and the importance of touch. He spoke several languages and wanted to discover the inborn language of mankind by raising a group of children who would never hear speech. The children were cared for by foster mothers and nurses who were allowed to suckle and bathe the children but not to interact with them at any other time. All the babies died before uttering a single word.

Marriages and friendships die the same way!

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Posted by on 14 December, 2008 in Devotional, Medical


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The power of touch

All you stoic, non-‘touchy-feelly’, hide-your-emotions, males out there. Reach out and touch your wives and children while you can. I am serious!

For the past several days I have been radio-active and no-one is allowed to stay close to me for more than a few minutes and then can only come within 2 meters of me. Children and pregnant women cannot touch me at all.

Have you ever tried to mime a cuddle?

Groucho Marx said, “he who blows kisses is hopelessly lazy”, and “he who says he can see through a woman is missing a lot!”. I’m beginning to understand what it was like to be a leper in Bible times. Bronwen and I went for a walk along the beach last night and out onto the Cornwallis wharf to enjoy the sunset. Prince Phillip has to walk one pace behind Queen Elizabeth for protocol. Bronwen had to walk and stand 2 meters behind me for safety while we enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the moment. To be able to just drape around her waste or shoulder and to incline our heads together enjoying unspoken thoughts is precious. Do you know what it’s like not to be able to communicate through touch at times like that?

And then with the pain. I have experienced increased pain since the procedure and consequent feelings of awareness I have a supposedly incurable disease. Bronwen has times when the tears flow so easily and I cannot take her in my arms. Such times make touch a necessary crutch for emotional strengthening. And we can’t get it or give it.

Don’t take your relationship for granted. Don’t be an unfeeling monster. So you’re not tactile! It’s not about you. It’s about the ones you say you love. Love is more than words. It includes touch as a vital component.

Do it now! Touch a shoulder, a knee, a face, a hand as part of a conversation, or just as you pass by. Even if you have trouble verbalising “I love you”, say it with a touch. It doesn’t have to be all gushy, mushy or sensual, but don’t make it a ‘wet-noodle’ cuddle either where you just drape your arms around the shoulders and hang off the one who needs the cuddle. Put some spirit into it and enjoy it while you can.

And think about the single people around you. Especially those who have experienced the loving touch of a spouse but have lost it through death or divorce. I am sure they still long to be touched without having to feel someone is ‘coming on’ to them,

You don’t know what you’ve got until you can’t get it. For me its only been a few days and in a few more days I will be able to cuddle and be cuddled. I am learning a valuable lessen in the power of touch in the meantime.

And Jesus reached out and touched him …!


Posted by on 14 December, 2008 in Devotional, Medical


Radioactive spheres inserted

On Wednesday I had the spheres inserted into my liver. There was a slight hiccup from the week before with one of the embolisms ‘leaking’ so they had to plug that artery further. There was another artery that also needed embolising so that was done as well. Because some other vessel was misbehaving the Radiologists had to revert to Plan B which was to insert a catheter and divide the spheres between both lobes of the liver. Apart from my heart rate dropping drastically at one point (bradychardia), the procedure was otherwise uneventful and virtually painless. 

I returned to my ward where I was isolated for 36 hours. Bronwen came to visit me but was not allowed past the door. Nurses coming to take BP etc spent as little time as possible in the room.

Bronwen spent the night in the Cancer Lodge just over the road from the hospital and received a visit from Alex and Rosemary (one of my bros and his wife) which was very nice.

The spheres are quite radioactive for 7 days and reduce over the next 3 weeks to have finished their work in 28 days. It will be 4 – 6 weeks till I know if they have had a positive effect upon the tumours. I have been told 25% of the liver is affected but neither the radiologist nor the professor heading the trial seemed to think that was extraordinary!!!

Bronwen and I are staying at Alex and Rosemary’s house in Cornwallishaving a quiet few days together, though apart. It is frustrating not being able to cuddle and kiss your spouse in such idyllic surroundings when there are only the two of you – completely alone. (I will have to channel my romantic urges into creative writing!!!)

Cornwallis beach just below house

Cornwallis beach just below houseÂ


Looking west towards Manakau Harbour entrance from behind house

Looking west towards Manakau Harbour entrance from behind house





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Posted by on 11 December, 2008 in Medical