I have just spent a couple of days in hospital. It began on Monday night. I was woken about 2 am with colicky abdominal pain. The pain started in the middle of my tummy building rapidly to a crescendo lasting about 5 seconds before a loud gurgling sound relieved it. Five minutes later the same pattern repeated itself. So it continued through the night stopping me sleeping. It was not improved by anti-spasmodics and around 7 am I phoned my oncologist who told me to get myself into hospital.
When I arrived I was clerked and examined, blood tests were taken and I had an abdominal X-ray followed by a CT scan.
My presumptive diagnosis (and that of the oncologist) was that the cancer had returned and was causing intestinal obstruction.
The good news was the CT scan showed no obstruction and indeed no change over the past 3 months.
Today I am back home and pain free. The surgeon who did my operation was consulted and his view was that I have a narrowed ileo-cecal junction - either from the original cicatrizing lesion or secondary to scars formed after the chemotherapy. Obviously a food bolus found the gap to narrow to pass. As the small bowel propelled the bolus again and again against the narrow orifice a degree of inflammation was set up that caused the wall of the bowel to swell and the hole to get smaller.
They treated me with a large dose of steroids (dexamethasone 8mg iv) and over the course of 8 hours the gap opened and everything started passing again.
Blame has been attributed to a mushroom omelet, mushrooms often pass through the bowel undigested. Some dietary adjustment is called for, but if this recurs the surgeon tells me he will be able to by-pass the critical area. I can't say that I am looking forward to more surgery but it is another string to the bow. Most encouraging is the fact that the cancer is not spreading and if it is growing it is growing very slowly indeed. I feel that I can begin to make plans again.
A lot of people have been praying for me. We were supposed to be taking James and Wendy out to lunch yesterday, but that had to be cancelled. Instead they were praying for us. Wendy told a few strategic prayers and they also prayed. We have the decorators in and John Dawson, our painter is a keen Christian. Not only did he make our bed for us, but he began to pray as he painted.
One of the few Christian hematologists that I know is Alison Brownell, wife of the Pastor of East London Tabernacle, Ken. She had e-mailed me the previous day about something else and I had shared my situation with her, especially that I was worried that my next scan would show progression. She and Ken promised to pray for me.
Then in church on Sunday evening were David and Audrey Abernathy. David had acted as Moderator in the church during the long period when we had no pastor and I was one of the Elders. I was not intending to go to church on Sunday evening as I felt unwell, but I had a commitment to speak to the under-25 group about creation and evolution, so I had to go. I explained my situation to David and Audrey and they told me they would also pray for me.
Countless other people in the UK and around the world have been praying for me. Hardly a week has gone by recently without somebody telling me that they were praying for me. How do prayers work? I'm not claiming a miracle. I'm not suggesting that if the CT scan had been taken before the latest round of prayers it would have shown progression, but I do believe that my cancer is being kept at bay because people are praying. God is not bounded by time. Prayer is not a shopping list. But he tells us that we should pray and I am certain that because we pray good things happen, even if the benefits that we ask for must have been initiated before we prayed. Just as the blood of Jesus covers out past present and future sins, so he who know the future acts on our behalf because he knows we are going to pray.
So thank you to all those who have been praying for me and please don't stop.