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16. Eight years, and counting, of pain and questions.

(written 26th May 2017).

Eight years ago, in May 2009, I began undergoing radiotherapy treatment which would change my life, but not in the way that was intended. I had just had a cancer in the left side of my neck removed. To ensure nothing was left of it, the radiotherapy sessions were adopted. For 2 years 6 months since November 2006, I had been a laryngectomy. I am a life-long preacher but no longer with a natural voice!

After the very unpleasant sessions I realised I was in considerable pain on the left side of my face, ear, throat and neck. I had not experienced any pain with either cancer. The excellent surgeon and radiotherapy consultants met me for follow up clinics. They bantered with each other as to which of them caused the nerve damage that started this pain. Was my trigeminal nerve ‘cut by the scalpel’ or ‘fried by the radio waves’? I joined in the fun by saying I did not mind who caused it, so long as it could be soon fixed. Eight years on, despite some regrettably short periods with no pain, it remains a challenge for me to persevere with in my life today.

Ever since I knew I had cancer I have been ready to die. My right to live for ever with God in heaven was settled as a young teenager, when I admitted I was a sinner ‘Standing In Need’ personally before the holy Creator God. I said a tearful and very sincere sorry to God, and recognised Jesus to be my Saviour and Lord. God the Son is the only secure mediating Saviour. Jesus became my righteousness with God. I have no doubts about it. So, I am ready to face God’s judgement and live the eternal forever life after this short one. What I do not like is struggling to keep going through constant bad pain. I do thank those who so professionally have saved my earthly life twice, and those to whom I have said big ‘THANK YOUs”, yet they have quite inadvertently contributed to (so far) eight years of painful suffering. The collateral damage their treatment caused has changed my life every bit as much – and for a lot longer – than did the cancer in the first place.

Which brings us to the question of ‘dying or living with pain?’ Let me be clear that I have no intention of taking my own life. My trust is in my Sovereign God. He always knows best. His timing is perfect. On good days, I have this at the top of my mind and heart. But other days, when the pain is foremost, I question what on earth Heavenly Father God is doing. Why must I stay here?

Of course, I know that my Lord Jesus is abolishing pain, sufferings, weeping and depression when He ushers in His Kingdom after this world and all of us ‘worldlings’ have run our planned courses. But that is then. What I am sharing about is now.

I have found living with almost constant severe pain a terrible challenge. The NHS supplied pain-killing drugs can deaden its effect, but only by paying the price of a muzzy-muddling head, a steadily-sizzling brain, and a lot of (it seems to me) unnecessary sleeping.

The hospital pain clinic have really blessed me with two types of injections into my neck:

1. An ultrasound guided stellate-ganglion block

2. An ultrasound guided lesser occipital nerve block

Both given with local anaesthetics and steroids. I have been given an open appointment and every 4-6 months Brenda phones and they see me quickly and efficiently to fend off the breaking through pain.

So, I really have a lot to be thankful for. I wish I could be more thankful than I am – especially on bad days. When I think of what my Saviour, the Lord Jesus, went through on the cross for us, and what countless people suffer in war-fallout and natural disasters worldwide, how can I possibly complain?

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, For You are with me;” Psalm 23:4a.

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