Monthly Archives: August 2009

There, but for the grace of God …

I received word that the lady in the Hanmer Springs church I pastored until April, who was diagnosed with secondary cancer last September, at the same time as I was, passed away at 4.50pm today.

I shared communion with her Sunday week ago when I was in Hanmer and that was very moving. Many people expected me to go first because her secondaries were not in any major organ compared with the state of the secondaries in my liver. Her passing is very sobering for me and a case of “there but for the grace of God go I”.

As I promised her, I will conduct the funeral on Friday afternoon. I may have to rearrange some of my own radiation treatment times though! She was only 59, a solo mother with children and grandchildren and was a Christian at peace through her final days. Sadly, her family are not presently believers and it won’t be the easiest funeral I’ve taken for obvious personal reasons.

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Posted by on 31 August, 2009 in Personal


Little things people do to bless others

Before we left Nelson to come to Christchurch for my five and a half weeks of daily radiation therapy, one of our dear friends, and an old friend of the Duncan family, gave me a notebook of daily verses she had selected and painstakingly written out for me to meditate on each day that I am having treatment. 28 verses for the 28 days of treatment.

People pray daily and that is a comfort; others send cards and emails. It is humbling to receive all these indications of support and concern from people who have so many other things to occupy their time. There is no way to adequately express our gratitude for these blessings. God is good – all the time!

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Posted by on 28 August, 2009 in Uncategorized


Do you know anyone who has cancer?

If so, you must buy or hire a copy of the DVD “Jonna’s Body, please hold” to share with them. It is poignant, relevant and funny. It is described as a “cancerous dark comedy”. Jonna Tomases is a triple cancer survivor and she performs a one person play in which the various organs of the body call in to “telephone central” as her body reacts to both cancer and the treatment. Jonna recently visited NZ and performed her award-winning play in Auckland, Wellington and Nelson with all the proceeds from ticket sales going to the Cancer Society.

The review of the Wellington show can be seen on the NZ Theatre Review site. Bronwen and I went to the show and we both laughed and cried as we related to various incidents and comments. It will buck anyone’s spirits up. We were so impressed that we bought an extra copy of the DVD and donated it to the Christchurch Cancer Society Jonna did not visit that city so they missed out.

Now that I am having daily radiation therapy, I find myself remembering the DVD version (which has numerous characters playing the parts of the body). As I lie on the table with the machine buzzing its rays into the affected area, I like to think I can hear those rogue cells screaming at the bombardment and cursing their fate. All the time I think to myself, “Die you rogue cells, die”. Other names for these ‘motherless children cells’ come to mind but I prefer not to use them!

Visit Jonna Tomases’ site. She is an amazing woman and the movie version of her show has won numerous awards. Get a group of cancer sufferers and survivors around and have a group viewing in your house. They will be glad you did and you will make some wonderful friends out of it.


Posted by on 28 August, 2009 in Humor



Started the radiation treatment yesterday (Tuesday) and so far so good – well, this early you wouldn’t expect anything else would you. Before the first bombardment I was given an education session where everything was explained in great detail again (to cover their backsides!)

The first four sessions are accompanied by x-rays to make sure everything lines up properly. It all takes about 5 minutes at this stage but should get quicker when they no longer have to do the x-rays.

I have been given a list of all the appointments and they are at all times of the day. The earliest will be at 7:50am in the days they do maintenance on the machines.

I am having chemo (FU5) by tablet concurrently. I know I’m not a great fan of socialised medicine but when I can get a $900, 21-day supply for $3, I’ll shelve my principles and be a hypocrite for a month or two!

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Posted by on 26 August, 2009 in Medical


Right by Christmas??

Went to Christchurch last Monday (10th) to be ‘lined up’ and marked for my course of radiation. It was called a radiation planning session. I was placed on the bed under a CT scanner and they lined my body up, measured distances etc, focused the camera guns on the tumour area, then tattooed me (I’ve now joined the ‘tattoo cult’!). When I return for my first treatment on 25th August the radiation gun will aim at the tattoo marks – one on each hip and one on the front. The treatments will be 5 days per week so according to my reckoning the final treatment will be on 1st October. I’ve been told it takes 4 – 6 weeks for things to settle down after that.

The next day we had an appointment with the Nelson surgeon. He will be informed when my last radiation session has been completed and will then slot me in for surgery 6 – 8 weeks later (around mid-November by the sound of it). I will be in hospital for 10 – 14 days after that.

The surgeon also gave me the photos, in technicolour, of the tumour as viewed through the sigmoidoscope. Very interesting to see the tumour and its reach but for obvious reasons I will not post the pics on my blog!

All sounds like fun but at least I should be able to dance again by Christmas. I’ve been told I’ll be able to play golf when its all over – that’s excellent, because I was no good at it before!


Posted by on 13 August, 2009 in Medical


Once more into the fray …

On Tuesday we kept an appointment at Christchurch Public Hospital with the Radio therapy Oncologist and my main Oncologist about how they propose dealing with my cheeky Primary growth in the rectum.

The procedure is as follows:

Next Monday we will fly to Christchurch for the day for a Radiology Planning appointment. This is where they do a ‘dummy run’ with me as the dummy. (they don’t even need to give me a psych test to determine that!) They will use a CT scanner to line up the rectal tumour and surrounding areas. I will then be marked with ‘tattoo spots’ in the front, rear and both sides where the rays will be centred. No radiology will be performed on this trip.

Bronwen and I will then return to Christchurch for the first of 28 daily (except weekends) radiation therapy appointments from 25th August. I am told the effects will be cumulative and that I will probably feel quite uncomfortable towards the end of the six week period (probably a typical British understatement!) – the result of sunburn where the sun doesn’t normally shine! The radiotherapy will be accompanied by daily chemo for the 5 weeks as well. Because my liver is in such good condition the medicos are treating the primary cancer as if its a new one and will through everything at it.

By my reckoning the radiation should finish on 1 October but we will probably stay in Christchurch for a few days as I don’t think I will immediately fancy a 5 hour drive back to Nelson. I have been told it will take a few weeks for the area to settle down so it will be around the end of October that the offending area will be excised under surgery at Nelson Hospital.

We’re fastening our seatbelts for this next ride down the rapids, although I think that particular analogy is a bit painful!

The medical team in Christchurch and our local GP seem pretty up-beat about my prospects. I am fortunate that my whole body is being monitored for metastases as a continuation of the liver trial that I was on. Even if new metastases appear in the liver, its condition is so good that surgery would be an option in dealing with such an eventuality.

Any sort of invasive treatment such as radiation and surgery carry risks and are pretty drastic. The surgery will mean I will have to have a permanent stoma, however, as my GP lightheartedly commented, “Better a bag than a coffin!”

I will continue to watch my diet and persue natural foods that fight cancer, enhance liver, bowel and immune function, but our trust remains in the Lord to rule and over-rule and work through whoever and whatever is best to complete His will in our lives. God has been generously gracious to us this far. We have no reason to doubt His continuing faithfulness and tender mercies for this next leg of the journey.

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Posted by on 7 August, 2009 in Medical