2 Cor 12v9

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

What Wasn't


As I wrote two posts ago, it’s been a strange few months in the Scholes house, with Richard struggling with lots of back pain, and visits to the doctors and physios to try and find out what’s happened. All his symptoms pointed to a slipped and ruptured disc in his back, which we anticipated and were trying to plan how we would manage church and family during the surgery and recovery time afterwards.

We were pretty thrown then, when he went for the scan and the nurse came back in a few minutes later, as we were about to leave, and said “There’s something unexpected on the scan, we’d like to do some more please.” An all-too familiar feeling rose into our throats as we looked at each other, pretended to be fine, and said “Of course, that’s no problem.” He went back into the MRI machine, this time with dye in his blood and for a longer amount of time, and then we saw the consultant who confirmed that although the discs were fine, something unusual was happening at the base of his spine. In the next few days, blood samples were taken, phone calls were made, high levels of protein were found in his blood, and a biopsy, which involved something like a hammer and a chisel akin to a mediaeval torture method, was taken. More scans were done, over every major bone in his body, and a blood clot was found in his leg. Nothing was left but to wait.

This is what we were waiting for: a diagnosis of myeloma. All the symptoms pointed towards it; there wasn’t anything else on the table. Myeloma is a rare form of bone cancer. It is less aggressive than other cancers and is ‘treatable’ – meaning the symptoms can be slowed with medication, and even virtually halted with a bone marrow transplant, but it is terminal. It always comes back, and the life expectancy once diagnosed is up to about seven years.

So the last few weeks, it has felt like someone punched us in the stomach every morning when we woke up. We've been chatting about ordinary things, like trips and meetings, then wondering whether we’ll get to do any of them or whether we’ll be back to living with suitcases by the door and emails from hospital rooms and never knowing what we’re going to do even a week in advance. We’ve had conversations about life insurance and mortgage payouts, and shed tears when we’ve talked about the kids’ educational future and holidays we want to do with them before it’s too late. He’s been thinking about who to train up to take over the church leadership from him, and he started giving his three year old daughter tips on how to pick a future husband.

And of course, we have prayed like the clappers.

Today, I had an amazing conversation with someone in our church who was waiting for medical test results and they had come back totally unexpectedly clear. I was crying and thanking God and whooping down the phone at the good news. When I hung up, I saw a text on my phone from Richard. All I could see were the words ‘myeloma in biopsy’ standing out to me from the middle of it. My heart went cold as a realised that this was what we were waiting for – the actual confirmation of the actual disease that was going to steal my husband. I read it again and was confused by the other words around it. After some of the slowest few seconds of my life, I realised that in front of the word was a big fat NO. No myeloma in biopsy.

No. Myeloma.

Now, I’m very aware that if it’s not myeloma, it’s got to be something else, and that my husband is still in a lot of pain, with something wrong with his spine, and a large blood clot in his leg, and too much protein in his blood – BUT right now it’s NOT terminal cancer, so, like my brother-in-law, who yelled so loud when he heard the news that most of Morecambe must have heard him, today we are celebrating that our future together looks set to go beyond the year 2020 and that it seems like we have just had a death sentence lifted from our shoulders.

We still don’t know what the future holds (and we are really glad for the clarity that has come to us in the last few weeks, asking ourselves where we would go and what we would do if we only had a short time left, and finding out that the answers were ‘right here’ and ‘exactly what we’re doing now’), but we now know what it doesn’t hold anymore, and that’s good enough right now.

And for whatever we do end up facing, this is what I wrote last week, when we were sure the worst was about to be confirmed:



Maybe.
It's time to do battle again. Not that we ever stop - life is a battle from birth to death - but sometimes the battle crosses from the internal and the unseen to the glaringly obvious, where the stakes seem higher and the end result more frightening. In reality, it's probably no worse or damaging to our future than what goes on inside of us everyday, but when the symptoms go public, so does the fight.

What do I mean by doing battle? Realising that there's a much bigger picture than the physical one we see in front of us, and that every thought, attitude and condition of the heart matters. It's not denying the reality of the frightening situation in front of you, but it's knowing that every tear cried does not go unnoticed, but is counted in the price of staying by your post when you feel like crumbling. It's not feeling strong all the time; it's allowing your frailty to drive you towards the ultimate stronghold, Who protects and comforts at all times. It's not claiming that everything in your life ought to be perfect because you're a good person; it's deciding (and redeciding when you feel like changing your mind) that it doesn't actually matter what happens TO you at all - it's what you allow to happen IN you in the meantime that counts. 

So we will fight again, despite feeling battle-weary, because we’ve now seen what God can do in the worst time, and that victory is not all we expect it to look like. We will do whatever it takes to stand firm and keep going, even if we have no idea what will happen in the future. What else is there? Really? Nothing that I want. So bring it on - we’re ready.

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12 

8 comments:

  1. Oh my! We have prayed for you guys for so long now - we don't know you but remember you often in our prayers and tell others of your story. As I began to read your blog my heart was so heavy but then I read on. We continue to pray for you all but especially Richard. Sending love

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  2. You have my love and my prayers, as ever. Stay strong and know that I stand beside you.

    Mars xxx

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  3. The enemy really hates you but I praise my God for loving you more. Xx

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  4. praying once more as a warrior....for my "son" richard....

    Lord, you have made this man a miracle...you have caused his heart to be pure again ...you have given him words of life for others....you have blessed him with a family awesome beyond belief...you have given him a wife...who like his mother has stood strong and led a family to the love of the LORD....

    Now, Lord, we boldly ask for healing for Richard.....so that he can complete the jobs you have laid before him....

    thank you JESUS....that you are in the midst of the ills, the tests, the pain, and the clot even....and that you will use this time to your GLORY as you walk them thru these days....

    cause all your prayer warriors to stand strong for and with this precious family again....

    amen and amen.....

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  5. Oh WOW Esther ~ WOW to your incredible strength ~ and WOW to the diagnosis NOT being Myeloma! I will be praying ~ for a quick diagnosis that means Richard can get sorted and out of pain, and continued strength for you all as a family. Much love. xxx

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  6. Was reading your blog and this song sprang to mind, think it's the worship leader in me.

    Hope it helps. The words speak for themselves.

    Keith

    I've had questions without answers
    I've known sorrow, I have known pain
    But there's one thing that I cling to
    You are faithful, Jesus You're true
    When hope is lost
    I call You Saviour
    When pain surrounds
    I call You Healer
    When silence falls
    You'll be the song within my heart
    In the lone hour of my sorrow
    Through the darkest night of my soul
    You surround me, You sustain me
    My defender for ever more
    When hope is lost
    I call You Saviour
    When pain surrounds
    I call You Healer
    When silence falls
    You'll be the song within my heart
    And I will praise You
    I will Praise You
    When the tears fall
    Still I will sing to You
    I will praise You
    Jesus praise You
    Through the suffering
    Still I will sing to You
    When hope is lost
    I call You Saviour
    When pain surrounds
    I call You Healer
    When silence falls
    You'll be the song within my heart
    I will praise You
    I will praise You
    When the tears fall
    Still I will sing to you
    I will praise You
    Jesus I will praise You
    Through the suffering
    Still I will sing to you
    When the laughter fails to comfort
    When my heart aches, Lord You'll be there
    When confusion is all around me
    And the darkness is my closest friend
    Still I'll praise You
    Jesus praise You

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  7. Your testimony is so amazing. I love your response to these hard times. I pray God's protection over you. May God be glorified through you and may you and your family be richly blessed xx

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