After a last dose of chemotherapy on Louises birthday (11 December) I technically completed my fourth and final Course on Christmas Day. Very appropriate. No more anti-sickness, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-cramp, anti-reflux pills, steroids or laxatives.
No more rattling! I did keep going with the last of the anti-viral tablets but not having to tick off my medicine schedule each day was a great moment. Even after 4 months I needed the list with its timings to ensure I did not miss anything.
Project management skills looks like a requirement of being on chemotherapy just for the associated medication. Now I realise how hard it must be for those who take away carrier bags of potions and pills from the pharmacy. Something to pray into for people we know who suffer from chronic disease with a variety of symptoms and side effects of treatment.
Although I had been able to provide Christmas messages for BBC Swindon & Wiltshire and Jack FM, It was very strange not leading worship or preaching at such a major celebration for the Church. As a family each year some of us try and join those in Bristol Cathedral for Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols.
It is always packed and a wonderful occasion, and this year I risked attending, sitting in mufti in my Cathedral stall. It proved a very special afternoon heightened by the fact that we had previously enjoyed afternoon tea (sandwiches and cakes plus beverages and mulled wine) in the Marriott Hotel next-door. At midnight I was in the congregation at St Marks Church, Swindon, adjacent to the former railway works for a memorable Solemn Mass. It has been good to be the recipient of ministry so often over these last months.
Christmas through to the New Year was a special time for us as a wider family, the only caveat being that Lizs parents felt too fragile to travel; it was the first time in decades we had not shared Christmas together. But various members of the family arrived from the Saturday before Christmas and were all gone by the Sunday after. A few days later I travelled to Oxford in the late afternoon for a PET scan at the Churchill Hospital. In the procedure I was injected with a form of radioactive glucose which would reveal what was going on in the lymphoma
This week I met with my Consultant and was told the excellent news that there was no activity from the cancerous lymph node. I had been expecting to hear that there was some residual activity and have found it hard to take in emotionally. But that is happening, not least as I share the news with others and experience their reaction. I begin radiotherapy on Monday and am scheduled to have 15 sessions aimed at securing a long term and total cure.
This all takes place at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford so there is plenty of travelling. I have been told that I can drive myself but in the third week having a driver would be advisable. A number of people kindly offered to assist with this and I have taken up the advice and an offer. Like chemotherapy one of the side-effects can be tiredness which lasts a couple of weeks beyond treatment. I have been warned!
This feels like a very significant point in the journey and a time to give great thanks to God. So many have cared for us, prayed for us, and been part of the healing I have received so far. We are hugely grateful and know you will continue to pray for us over this next stage of the journey. We travel on together with the Great Shepherd at our side (Psalm 23 verse 4).