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An encounter with cancer

 

BJ News (13th June, 2014)

Dear All,

As ever a big 'thank you' for all your prayers and love. The 3 B's are alive and kicking and doing okay! I'm just about at the end of the second infusion of the chemo and am still around to tell the story. Not all bad then! If I were to describe the effect of the first lot of treatment in terms of it being two weeks of the chemo shouting threats and abuse at me from a distance, then I would have to say that it is now punching me firmly on the nose. I have no way of knowing if this is how alcoholics or heroin addicts feel when they wake up in the morning, but if it isn't, then it jolly well should be! But of course the up-side is that if this is what the stuff is doing to big old me, just think what it's doing to any remaining microscopically small little old cancer cells. Yea! Go team Fluorouracil, go! (As a technical medical aside, I was amazed to discover that the scientists who developed chemotherapy were inspired to do so by the story of Lone Ranger and Tonto, and that they originally called it Chemo-Sabi!)

So hey, I expected this (or some variant of it), so it's really no big deal. Given that the effects are cumulative and that this is only the second of twelve treatments, it will doubtless get worse, so I have started to brush up on my 'bad patient' and 'big baby' skills. Also, given that my recovery from the operation was so good, Belinda and Bethany actually got off fairly lightly on the waiting-on-me-hand-and-foot front, so it looks like this could well be payback time.

I don't, of course, write this in order to get sympathy - though obviously feel free to direct any you have in this direction - but merely to keep everyone informed. Is it bad? Yes! (Cos I feel LOUSY!) But is it good too? Definitely! It's ensuring the end of the road for any remaining cancerous cells - should there even be any in the first place. And if there isn't, which may well be the case - there is just no way to know for sure - then at least it's long-term peace of mind. So hey! Bring it on you rotten old chemotherapy you, and do your stuff!

I am struck too by what a relevant physical parallel this all is of how the Lord works in us spiritually in certain ways. My original problem was a cancerous tumor, now removed, but with the chance of recurrence. Therefore, the use of poison, which is bad (no-one ever puts this stuff in their tea), addresses that. And so it is with our sanctification in the Lord. Our problem is sin, and His death and our repentance and turning to Him is like the operation I had. It gets rid of the tumor. But the problem is that although our sins are gone in that they are forgiven and washed away, our sinfulness yet remains, and further treatment is called for.

If our sins are therefore thought of as blots of ink on a piece of paper, then what the Lord is really after is the pot of ink; and that's us! Not merely our sins, but our sin-full-ness! And that's what sanctification is! Justification is the operation, so to speak, the removal of the cancer, that is, the removal of our sins in order that we can be right with God. It is deliverance from the penalty of sin. But sanctification is somewhat different. It is the spiritual chemotherapy that follows the removal of the tumor of our sins, and is deliverance from the actual power of sin, from the actual cancer cells. And for that nothing short of death to self will do. Nothing short of oneness with Jesus in His death on the cross can solve the problem. Chemotherapy is more than the removal of the original cancerous tumor; it is ongoing death to the very cells that originated it. And so it is with following the Lord. Not merely the removal of our sins so that we can be forgiven and justified, but the very systematic removal of our sinfulness itself as we die to ourselves and are raised to new life in Christ.

And such occurs largely through bad and unpleasant things happening to us. It happens through trials and difficulties and tribulation, whatever form they take; through the spiritual chemotherapy, so to speak, of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Not, of course, that He is the poison. No, no, no! But rather that the said difficulties and trials are, the bad (the poison) resulting in the death of the even worse (the cancer cells.) And of course this is also the answer as to why bad and unpleasant things happen to the Lord's people. And not in spite of us being His people either, but precisely because we are His people. It is tough times that make us hold onto Him very tightly, not easy times. It is difficulties that keep us aware of our weakness, and how much we need to live in His strength and not our own. It is tribulation, if only through our reaction to it, that reveals in us the sin He yet needs to deal with, and which we yet need to repent and become free of.

So when bad things happen, just like the cytotoxic poison I am freely and willingly having injected into me, welcome them, just as James says in his letter, as friends. Why? Because they are good? No, they are bad! Why welcome them, then? Isn't that just crazy? No, it is not! We welcome them as friends because they result in good because it is the Lord Himself Who is treating us, and Who is supervising the whole process to our ultimate greater holiness and maturity in Him. As our Justifier He is the Divine Surgeon who removed the tumor, and as our Sanctifier He is the Heavenly Oncologist who administers the poison of the spiritual chemo in just the right amounts in order to deal with the remaining cancer cells of our sinfulness.

Remember, though, that just as this chemo I am going through will in time end, and I will be cancer free, then one day our sanctification will also end and nothing bad will ever happen to us again. Having known the Lord as our Justifier - our Surgeon - and having known Him too as our Sanctifier - our Heavenly Oncologist - we will one day know Him too as our Glorifier, the One who not only takes us out of this fallen, terrible (though very beautiful) and sinful world, but Who also gives us a new body that can never be ill, never know pain, and which will never experience unpleasantness in any way. Then, just as I was checked out of the hospital after the operation, He will check us out of this existence into one with Him which we cannot now even begin to imagine or contemplate, but which will be happy, and wonderful and glorious exponentially more than any suffering and unpleasantness we may have endured in this life. Oh, happy day! Oh, happy day indeed!

Well, I hope there's a bit of encouragement in there for y'all. Can't just sit around suffering all day. Gotta be at least a little bit useful here and there. We will, as ever, keep you posted as to progress. Belinda and Bethany send you all their love and best wishes. (If you see me for sale on Ebay in the next few weeks then you'll know they were finding looking after me just too much!)

Take care and God bless.

in Him,

Beresford

………………………………………………….

Update on Beresford (30th June, 2014)

Dear Friends,

As always, thank you so much for ongoing prayers. Belinda, Bethany and I are doing great in that we continue to survive and smile. I had the third treatment last Wednesday and it was significantly more unpleasant than the first two. I've never been one for Zombie movies, but for a few days I definitely felt how they look. This is definitely turning into a real challenge in that I have nine treatments still to go, but compared to what I see others going through when I go to the hospital I'm actually getting off rather lightly.

Now I know that folk don't always know quite what to say to anyone on chemo, but when people see me they seem surprised and tell me how good I look. (Like I'm just back from vacation, as a couple of folk have put it!) But of course whereas I would much rather look great than awful, I nevertheless worry that it might be diminishing the sympathy factor a bit, and that would be terrible. However, to respond along the lines of, "Don't worry about me pal, I'm just dying here!" wouldn't really be consistent with my Christian testimony. I am therefore trying to behave myself in that regard and keeping a smile on my face all I can. So do please keep those prayers a-comin' (and sympathy, of course), and we'll all get to the finishing post still smiling.

I was fascinated to discover the other day how short a time the cytotoxin is actually in my body after a treatment. I sort of assumed it was there pretty much throughout and just getting just topped up with each new treatment. But in actual fact the toxin, once introduced, is metabolized out of the body in just a few hours. That is why they give a big dose initially with an ongoing infusion over the following 48 hours, just in order to keep the level constant. Therefore, as soon as the bottle is empty, within just a few hours the fluourourcil is all gone. And of course what that means is that the treatment does its job very quickly, but leaving one with the ongoing effects of what it has done. Although during this last treatment the bad effects took hold while I was still being infused, they continued for some days after, meaning that the pattern is that I basically feel at my worst after the treatment has actually done its work, and not just whilst it is doing it. And this has put me in mind of something that is not only extremely surprising, but also immensely encouraging, and it is that Jesus still bore the scars of His crucifixion in His resurrection body, into which He invited poor old Doubting Thomas to place his hands. The treatment, so to speak, for sin was finished the moment He died, yet He nevertheless still bore the after-effects.

Wow! The price for our salvation was paid, and sin was atoned for, covered and completely removed the instant that Jesus died. It was, as He cried out in sheer exultation, finished. (Paid for, as the Greek more accurately says.) The Lord, as the Lamb of God that was to take away the sins of the world, did so completely, utterly and fully in His death, with nothing further needing to be done in order that salvation and redemption be secured; yet He nonetheless, even though having received a glorified body when He was resurrected, bears the scars, the after-effects, so to speak, of that suffering. And what that tells me is that something similar is going to be the case for us as His people, and that we too have to bear the scars of His dealings in our lives, and that He not only understands fully, but completely sympathizes with us that we do.

You see, in a sinful world we suffer in so many ways. We suffer from the results of our own sinfulness and from the sinfulness of others. We further suffer from the effects of sin on the whole of the universe, of nature, and can therefore become the victims of illness, accidents and the effects of natural disasters of whatever kind. Suffering is both the moral and comprehensive result of sin, and there is no way it can be avoided in this life. But when we come to know the Lord we are called to something further, and that is to share His sufferings. Not His suffering that paid the price for sin, of course not, He alone, as the sinless God/man, could do that, but rather His suffering at being despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53) Being rejected, slandered, and even betrayed by friends because we stand with the Lord in righteousness, and having our names cast out as evil for His sake, is to simply take our share of the sufferings of Jesus. And of course we, like Him, bear the scars. Even having forgiven those who have so treated us and being at peace concerning them, it nevertheless still hurts. It damages us nonetheless; and so we bear the scars. Belinda and I, just as many of you have also experienced, have had people, and even fellow believers, lie about us and spread slander, amongst them being some whom we thought to have actually been our friends. Going through such cannot but cause hurt and pain. And the Lord, Who even yet bears His own scars, understands and sympathizes more than we can possibly imagine.  

But we also suffer in certain ways as the result of the process of Him sanctifying us, a process that can itself be, at times, painful beyond words. There is no way for us to have the cancer of our sinfulness removed without it being unpleasant, and just as with chemotherapy, the pain of what He does in order to accomplish this in us sometimes remains long after what He has done is actually over. We live this life indeed in a vale of tears, yet how wonderful to know that our Savior has a bottle, as the Psalmist says, in which He puts them all.

So be encouraged. It is never all right to sin, to resent or bear ill will towards those who have, for example, rejected and despitefully used us; but it is all right to be hurting and to feel the pain of what they have done. It is likewise never all right to resent what the Lord does in us through difficult and unpleasant situations and happenings, or to rebel against Him and be disobedient through such; but it is all right to find it hard to bear and to be hurting as a result. And neither is it all right to be negative, bitter, dour and overly serious because of such sanctifying struggles as the Lord puts us through, whatever they are, but it is perfectly all right to feel the pain of them, and to be hurting as a result of their after-effects.

The Lord Jesus bears the scars of His crucifixion because He suffers still. Not in order to secure salvation, that is long since fully accomplished, but if only because He knows that we hurt, and because He knows also that He is still rejected by those who prefer sin, and because we suffer for Him at their hands at times too. I think He also hurts every time I fail Him, which is much and often, but am so glad that He is nonetheless far more concerned for me than He is about Himself. But hey, that's what love is, isn't it?

One last thought! We are surrounded by people who are hurting, whether brothers and sisters in the Lord or unbelievers. Some of them are hurting in ways we can't even begin to imagine, whilst others are hurting in the same ways that we do or have done. But whether or not I have ever been hurt in a particular way, I still know what hurt is, and can still sympathize with, and help, anyone else who is hurting, regardless of what their hurt actually is. Hurt is hurt and tears are tears, irrespective of what causes them. How, therefore, can you and I, as the Lord's people, as those who are there to love and care for others, be of the slightest help to those who are hurting unless we know what it is to hurt and feel pain as well? Listen to this:

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NKJV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4  who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
5  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
6  Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7  And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

So hey, our hurt and pain are actually gifts from the Lord that enable us to pass on to others the love, sympathy, help and support that He gives to us in it all. Don't let your hurt and pain just turn you in on yourself, because that's when self-pity sows its deadly seeds, but let it rather turn you outwards in your thinking and concern to others, and to how you can help them in theirs. Jesus took His scars to Heaven with Him so that we could follow Him there when our time on earth is done, and that is what we must likewise do for others. We must take our scars, and our hurt and pain, and use every bit of them to help unbelievers to come to know the Lord and become Heaven-bound themselves, and to help our brothers and sisters in the Lord, who are Heaven-bound already, to get there on their own little bit of it.

My hurt really does hurts and my pain really is painful! So too with your hurt and pain, and everyone else's. And so with the Lord also! He bears His scars too! But remember, He bears them for us, so let us make sure that we bear ours for the good of others as well. Hurt and pain can destroy, or be a great blessing, just as the cytotoxins used in chemotherapy can kill you as easily as they can cure you; it just depends on whether or not you get the treatment just right. (Thank you Lord for Oncologists!) And our hurts and pain can equally either kill us spiritually, or bring the life of the Lord to both us and to others. Again, it's just a matter of getting the treatment just right. And that depends on whether we receive hurt and pain as gifts from the Lord that we can use to bless others, or just turn in on ourselves in self-pity, bitterness and resentment. Jesus suffered in order to bless others, and that is precisely what gives dignity to our sufferings as well. Let's use our pain and hurt, whether physical, mental or emotional, or any mixture thereof, to bless others and bring glory to the Lord!

I will let Paul have the last word: "...weep with those who weep." (Rom 12v15)

Take care and God bless,

In Him,

Beresford

 

 

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