Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hope ... (Claire's Story)

I want to introduce you to my friend Claire. This is her with her husband Richard and their 3 boys. I wrote about Claire in Lessons From The Dead and The Dying 1 and Lessons From The Dead and the Dying 2 back in February last year. At that time she had received a very negative medical report with not alot of hope.

I am so thrilled to be able to share her story with you because it is a story of hope and encouragement. It is a testimony of God's amazing grace and healing power ... Here, in her own words, is Claire's story so pour yourself a cuppa and READ ON!

Claire’s story

June 19th 2006 will be a day etched in my memory forever. I had been having back pain for a month or so and put it down to carrying my six month old baby Sam around and leaning over to bath him. The pain killers got increasingly stronger until I had to take them to be able to sleep. I finally decided to see my doctor who recognized my liver was enlarged and blood test results showed abnormal liver function. I was sent to have an ultrasound scan and later that day a CT scan. It was confirmed that I had bowel cancer that had spread throughout all sections of the liver. Later that week I also had a colonoscopy to determine the extent of the bowel cancer. I was told by the specialist that the cancer was terminal with no possible cure. Less than 2% of people survive secondary liver cancer. It’s possible to remove up to 75% of the liver and it will regenerate, but because my tumors were so extensive in number and size (up to 5 cm in diameter), it was all too late. I was basically told I was going to die. I told the specialist that my God was bigger than cancer and I believed He was going to heal me.

I had to stop breast feeding Sam due to the huge amount of drugs I was prescribed. Sam refused to take a bottle for nearly two days. We proceeded to tell everyone the news and people began to pray. In the midst of this turmoil and despair, we had amazing peace. God was watching over us and we sensed His presence. It says in the bible that He is near to the brokenhearted, and we found this to be so true.

As time progressed I continued to get worse. Eventually I was taking 120mg of morphine a day, plus other medication for the pain, steroids and a variety of other tablets .Most of the day I just lay in bed or on the couch .I could only sit for a short period of time. Due to the size of the liver I was unable to lie on my side or use a pillow, so was literally flat on my back. The liver grew to the point where I looked about 6 months pregnant and it had extended down nearly 15 cm into the abdominal cavity. I would sweat profusely and during the night would have to change my bedclothes sometimes two or three times. I would lift my arm and it would be literally dripping with sweat. I later discovered this is an indication of liver dysfunction. There was a lot of pain in my abdomen and I was nauseous a lot of the time.

I was given no hope medically, so God was my only hope. I cried out to Him and was desperate for Him to do something. As I lay in bed I would physically reach out to God and He would hold my hand. I felt His love being poured out. It was like our family were being held in the palm of His hand and He was comforting us. He spoke to me, especially at night time. I would have conversations with Him and sometimes specific scriptures would pop into my mind. One night when I was asking God what this sickness was all about, He said that even though I would go through the fire I would not be burned and I would go through the waters but would not drown, and to have no fear because He would be there with me every step of the journey.
Later on when I started to get better I would wake in the middle of the night with the most unexplainable joy and excitement that I knew were from God. I had an expectation that He was going to do something great.

People were wonderful to us. We were given meals each night for months, from our church, school and preschool families. People would turn up with baking, flowers and gifts or just pop in to visit. Some even came to help with the kids or clean the house. We had cards all over the house. I can’t explain how loved and cared for we felt. We had a great support network of friends, mainly through our church, Palmerston North New Life Church. Our homegroup held prayer meetings for me, and a friend from school started a weekly get together of mums to pray. During these times God’s presence was so evident, people had visions, prophecies and words of encouragement. I greatly valued the prayer support and knew God was sustaining me and restoring life and health to my body. I had prayer cloths sent from Africa, Jersey and a church in Auckland. These are cloths that people have prayed over and are placed on the sick people to make them well, as is mentioned in the bible.

My husband Richard was a great support and remained a real strength throughout my illness. He would pray for me when I was in pain and the pain would disappear or ease off. He was given as long off work as he needed, remaining on full wages. What a blessing that was not to have financial concerns on top of everything else.

My sister Janine shortened a trip to Africa to come and live with us. I remember her stating that she would stand with me believing for a miracle, until God healed me. She helped nurse me, look after the three boys and run the home. We were so thankful for her. She’s a nurse and great with children so was a wonderful help.

My parents in Taranaki were also a huge support, regularly coming down and helping out where necessary. We went for a trip up to there during the school holidays. The drive in the car was excruciating. I had to lie down across the back seat and every bump jarred my body. I have never felt so sick and fatigued in all my life. The time up there was great though, with my brother and a friend from Auckland coming down to see me, and the local church there praying for me.

The local hospice got involved and were so helpful sorting practical needs. A nurse would visit me at home, sort medication and monitor my progress. I was reluctant to have chemotherapy, but eventually after the charge nurse of oncology came to our home and talked about, it I agreed. I wasn’t afraid of having chemotherapy, but simply believed that God was going to heal me without medical intervention. I was told very clearly that the chemotherapy would never be a cure, but there was a 40% chance it would work to buy some time and relieve some symptoms. I went through 5 _ months of intensive treatment. I didn’t enjoy sitting there having treatment, surrounded by people much older than myself, many who looked fearful and overwhelmed by their predicament.

Remarkably, I had virtually no side effects from the chemo. I believe this was due to Gods protection and all the people praying for me. God was at work and we saw miracles happening. As treatments progressed the needle became difficult to get in, my veins collapsed, and the chemical leaked into the surrounding tissue. After people prayed, the needle went straight in each time and we were surprisingly able to use the same vein again and again without any problems. There were no further problems with the veins and I didn’t end up needing a portacath or line for the drugs to go directly into.
I had some inflammation, pain and peeling on the soles of my feet after a few months. I was told this would only get worse. A number of people prayed one night and the next morning I awoke to perfectly healed feet, with this problem never occurring again. If God could do these little miracles He could also do the big one.

After 6 rounds of treatment I was offered a further 2 rounds, because the tumors had responded so well. Despite being told that usually there is no further improvement after 6 rounds, the tumors reduced a further 30% in size and the liver tumor markers continued to come down. (My understanding is that tumor markers are a measure of the fast dividing cells in the bloodstream. In a normal healthy person the measure is between 0-10.) My liver tumor markers were 11,500 when I was first diagnosed. We saw the number come down dramatically after each round of chemotherapy, and by December they were down to 6. It was made quite clear from the beginning that once the chemotherapy stopped the tumors would begin to grow again and this measure would go up. At this point I was told they would give me a break from chemo and continue with another type when they began to go up again. I have had 3 monthly blood tests since and the tumor markers have continued to progressively improve to where they remain normal. The liver function has also continued to improve to where all liver blood tests are within normal limits. This defies medical explanation.

I’ve also had CT scans along the way, and the tumors have reduced in size. A scan in October shows that there are still small tumors throughout my liver, and the oncologist thinks they are dormant. I have peace about this and believe they are dead. God has overcome my enemy! I hope in time that the tumors will go completely. I hold onto the scripture Philipians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will bring it on to completion”.

Thoughts from my journey with cancer:

# Each day I needed to seek God to discover afresh where He was leading me and what he was saying. I needed a new word from Him to get through each day. It was important for me to speak Gods word over my life. I would claim bible scriptures on healing such as Psalm 118:17 that says “I will not die, but I will live and declare the works of the Lord”. I especially love the psalms and could identify with a lot of the emotions that David experienced when he was being pursued by his enemies. Reading Gods word was like taking medicine, and it even says in the bible that the word is health to all my flesh- prov 4:22. I couldn’t wait to open my bible each day, as it was alive and I was having amazing revelations. As I did this my faith grew. Faith is believing what God says and not focusing on what we see through human eyes. I didn’t place too much focus on what I was told medically, as it was always negative and faith destroying. The doctors and nurses I dealt with at the hospital were fantastic, but most didn’t have faith and failed to recognize that God was at work in my life. Doctors only know a small fraction of how our bodies work. I figure that He who created me is the best one to fix me, and restore my health, and the medical help I received was just a part of God’s plan. Eph 3:20 says that God is able to do exceedingly greater than we could ever hope for or imagine.

When I looked at the situation through human eyes it was overwhelming and terrifying, but when I looked up and chose to focus on the Lord and trust in Him and believe His promises it was okay. 2 Cor 4:8 & 17 says we don’t fix our eyes on what is seen, but what is unseen. What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. We look at victory. I remember at times being in pain or suffering in some way or coming home from a hospital visit after being reminded again that I would die. My sister and I would cry together at how awful the situation was, and then we would stop and remember that God was in control. We’d pray and be filled with peace and the hope that He was going to do this miracle.

# Many well known people prayed for me when I was sick, but I know it wasn’t because of any particular person that I was healed. As I lay sick in my bed for months I simply reached out to God himself and He touched me. I sought the healer rather than the healing. I learnt to live in His presence and He comforted me. I knew joy in the midst of turmoil, peace that passes understanding and His love being poured out over my life. Physically my body was a mess, but spiritually I was alive and well and growing in the Lord. I felt closer to God lying there, than I did at a big healing meeting. God walked with me hand in hand. I communed with Him and entered into the ‘holy of holies’. When God walks with you, you have no fear. Even though I looked death in the face it had no sting, as the bible says. I had no fear of dying because I knew where I was going and who I was going to be with, if I was to die. Whether God healed me or not I would win. Saying this to people though I always added that I strongly believed I was going to be healed. Early on Richard and I discussed what would happen if I died, regarding his work, the boys and even him remarrying, then we put that aside and focused on my health being restored.

# I was never angry at God. I would tell Him I didn’t understand and ask why, but trust Him anyway. I got angry with the enemy because Gods word says that Satan came to kill steal and destroy, but God came to give us life in abundance. If God bought sickness on me how could I ask Him to heal me? What Satan meant to harm me, God meant for good. Great things have come out of this time, with many peoples lives being impacted for good.

Psalm 139 says God had all my days planned out before even one of them came to be, so He knew I was going to get sick. In Jeremiah it says that His plans for us are good, to give us a future. I didn’t believe it was His perfect will for me to die at this time and leave a husband and three little boys behind.

# Every day is a gift from God. I love being a mum and value caring for my family and doing common everyday things. I want to make every day count and to use my time wisely, to store my treasures up in heaven rather than on earth. My priorities have changed, in fact my whole life has changed and I’ll never be the same again. I think I could live anywhere and do anything so long as God remained close to me.

My challenge now is to not let busyness crowd out my time with God. Looking after 3 boys and running a home has many demands, and I want to put God first in my life, to make time to spend with Him. I find this really hard at times when there are so many things on and I do get tired.

# A number of people suggested alternative treatments, diets, positive thinking etc. There’s some really weird and wonderful ideas on healing out there. However, no amount of these things would have worked for me as my cancer was too far gone. I discovered the link between nutrition and health and believe diet is important. I needed an extraordinary miracle and God alone was the power of my healing. As Christians the spirit of God resides within us and according to Romans 8:11 the power that raised Jesus from the dead gives life (and health) to our bodies.

# God is sovereign and there’s nothing we can do to earn healing. There’s no set formula on what you have to do, because that would take the focus off God and place it on ourselves. He heals us simply because He loves us.

# There’s always someone worse off than you. Focus on the positive and find things to be grateful for no matter how grim the situation. Seeds of discouragement can never take root in a heart of thankfulness.

# People need to know that cancer is not a death sentence. There is always hope, and nothing is impossible for God. No matter how bad the situation, God can overcome as He has for me. There can be victory if we choose to look to him.

# All the glory must go to my Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him I wouldn’t be here today. He alone is worthy of praise and has certainly proven himself true to His word. He is my strength and sustains me each day. I take delight in the fact that all the days of my life were written in his book before time began and I will not leave this life until God’s appointed time.

# There are so many family and friends that I would love to mention, who have been a part of my journey. I want to thank those who have supported, prayed for and blessed us in many different ways.


The Olson's said...

I was touched and encouraged while reading about your friend Claire. What an amazing testimony - not so much because she was healed but because she did not forsake God during her hard times, her faith is even stronger now and her desire is for God to receive ALL the glory.

Thank you for sharing her story.
~ Leanne

freetofly said...

Wow! This is a wonderful, powerful story of love and hope! More people need to know of this story, more people need to read this....I will pray that a door opens for this to happen.


Anonymous said...

I meet Claire at Living Valley Springs just after I was diagnosed, she was going through her own issues yet she gave to me so generously, her words soothed my uncertainty her smile warmed my heart, Clair's zest, and zeal for life and her faith in God strengthen mine and gave me strengh and hope to make a decision and have faith all will be taken care of. Claire may you rest in peace You will always be remember for your unshaken faith in God. Your friend from Living Valley Springs