16. New Challenges Ahead
(Written 1st October 2019).
Perhaps I should not have said how well my laryngectomy voicing valves were working in the January instalment of my biography. This year I have had several battles with the valves – not the changing of them at the hospital, the SLTs do that very well as I’ve said before – but problems making them last. I have had several last around two months, the shortest just 1 month 20 days. My current valve has been in since 5th September, doing OK so far. But when one has had a series of real difficulties one becomes very wary.
And to make matters worse the emergency ‘plug’ I carry at all times to stop any liquid leaking into my lungs when the valve ceases working, I have discovered three times now that I cannot make it fit. The angle my valve sits in to my throat, and my stoma opening, between them did not allow ‘the plug to plug in’! I felt a bit sheepish even foolish because I had had lessons on how to do it. And yes, I did suddenly feel a whole lot better when my SLT discovered she couldn’t do it either. It appears that my fistula is migrating a bit (after 12-13 years) a fact we will need to keep note of because it could result in further surgery. It is possible that my weight loss because of diabetes is contributing to this. Brenda and I have noticed how often one hospital department rejoices at results while another picks up the treatment of unintended collateral damage.
I am newly prescribed 2ml of Nystatin drops twice per day. My SLT found a Candida fungus (a yeast-type infection) on the food side of my valve, for the first time in 12 years and 10 months! Several of my laryngectomy friends have suffered it from the beginning of their new life with no voice-box. Of course Candida is invisible when the valve is in situ, but makes it’s presence known by propping the valve open very, very slightly, just enough to let droplets of moisture get into lungs causing bone-shaking, head-befuddling and, at times, painful coughing. It can take me good hour to recover from an episode and one never knows when or where it is going to happen. We try to trust God, our loving Father in heaven, through the down times as well as the ups.
The challenge of this has been compounded by further cancer scares this time in my bladder and prostate. A six month series of continuous infections led to two cystoscopes. At the first , where samples had been taken, I was told by the surgeon I had malignant cancers in the bladder and they had been unable even to see into the prostate. I was able to watch absolutely fascinated by what they were doing, and seeing parts of my body I had had for 70 years but never viewed before! “Like a battlefield” the surgeon told his team within my hearing, describing my bladder. Bad news. I actually wrote letters to my children and to Brenda, ‘goodbye’ letters, because I did not want to go through all the ongoing trauma of physically invasive treatment. I felt I had had enough of that already with throat and neck cancers and their residual ongoing handicaps.
However, four weeks later a letter came from the urology surgeon saying, ‘Good news, the biopsies showed no malignancy, only benign growths’. He went on to say he did not expect to see me again for six months (around Christmas!).
Brenda and I were knocked sideways a bit by both of these differing conclusions, as I’m sure you can imagine. This was and is especially true because I still have the aches, pains, infections and other discomforts that took me to the Urology Department to start with. My GP doctor has insisted I remain on an antibiotic permanently until I revisit Urology in six months. So on we go! Still smiling.
(I still have two letters to write, one to each grandson, which I did not send back in early summer. I am praying to know when the time is right for them. I do believe it is important for me to present to them, as best I can, my trust in Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, plus the reasons for it. I urge every grandparent reading this to witness to their descendant family in this way. I plan to leave copies of something similar with my will too).
Mid-year Brenda and I decided the current book I am writing should be my last. Making lots of mistakes and being unable to take pressure in my brain! The title evolved in the end to ‘Thoughts from my Journey with Jesus’. God-willing it will be found on this website later this year, probably on November 1st. Here is a preview of the cover:
7,500 copies are being printed in Juba this month. Please join us in praying for safety, accuracy and for the wise distribution later on – across South Sudan and up into Sudan. May be the latter will become easier now some reforms appear (from this distance) to be beginning there?
I also plan to stop writing my BiMonthly Encouragements, with the last one being emailed out to 110 folk in Sudan and South Sudan on 10th December 2019. I hope to put it on this website for 1st January 2000. In fact, the monthly updating of our website is the one and only plan we have to continue with our dear Sudanese and South Sudanese friends. Some of these friends have been ‘with us’ since a Pastor’s Conference I taught at Khartoum North Evangelical Church in 1986, pictured top right on the book’s front cover above! Obviously we will still respond to emails and letters (though I have not had one of those from there this century!).
Also as God enables us we trust to quietly continue some ongoing private sponsorship of individuals we have known and trusted while ministering together for three decades or so. It is sometimes ‘fun and games’ actually getting money to them , frequently making poor Brenda ‘tear her heart out’, figuratively speaking. The general banking system still doesn’t trust either country – possibly with good reason.
Brenda’s ‘My Notes on Teaching the New Testament’ will be at the Juba printer’s during November, God-willing. We plan to print 5,000 copies at least, more as we can afford it.
She is no longer leading the ladies’ Fusion group. It has recently become a monthly inter-church ladies’ group for fellowship, sharing, with different people bringing a ‘thought for the day’. Brenda hopes to keep attending with her friends, of course.
So, what are the ‘New Challenges Ahead’ mentioned in the heading above, did I hear you thinking? I list some of them, we don’t pretend to know everything that will arise for us:
2020 and beyond
· Learning to keep in love with our Lord Jesus Christ more and more
· Caring for each other, with an ever-deepening love from God above
· Enjoying our extended family, and helping them out where we can
· Praying for friends and situations, here and around the world
· Pastorally visiting and caring, locally among Christian friends, and with our immediate non-Christian neighbours (we have made our home here for more than 30 years)
· Bird-watching and therefore a little walking
· 00 gauge model railway building scenery, displaying several scenes
· Sorting through our accumulated possessions, and rationalising
· Watching the Rugby World Cup every four years (as Brenda and I are doing presently with ‘2019 RWC Japan’ – come on England!).