Journey with cancer 19 Jan 2012

Dear family and friends

Thank you so much for all your prayers concerning David. We’ve felt so supported by your love and concern for us from all around the world. It’s just been amazing to see the world wide church in action. A great testimony at this time! We know your prayers have been answered as we’ve continued to deal calmly (well most of the time!) with all that’s been happening and have continued to trust God (not without tears) through it all. The frustration of last week has been overcome within a week (as opposed to the initial four we were quoted) as we’ve seen God at work through His people.

We are very grateful to God for the provision of a Christian oncologist, and friend of a friend, becoming our friend when we needed one most. He’s been amazingly kind and generous with his time and has been communicating on our behalf with specialists down here. We are also grateful to God for our Canberra oncologist. He’s a very intelligent man and knows his stuff.

Unfortunately, the receptor test has come back negative. I knew I wasn’t married to a 40 year old, non-smoking Asian female (the category of people who mainly have this receptor!) but it was worth asking God for. This means that we don’t get to use specific designer drugs, but are left with a more general approach. David will start chemotherapy next Wednesday, after boosting his red blood cells with a week of Vitamin B and folic acid. We’ll be using drugs that appear, from research, to give the best outcome, with least side effects and best quality of life. Praise God, that he has given people such intelligence, that they can research and come up with such drugs with great criteria like that!

Whilst this last week has been very hard, and yesterday it was suddenly very much all in our faces again, we have been so grateful to God for His provisions for our family and His amazing timing. Yesterday, in all the stress, a friend randomly dropped around a gluten free orange cake just half and hour before David’s mum, a celiac, dropped in. Just wonderful!

The other great news from the extended McDonald clan, was that David’s dad’s cancer has been declared to be in total remission after his 6 cycles of chemotherapy were completed just before Christmas. It was great to see him looking stronger yesterday, than when he was down for the ‘not the farewell prayer meeting’. Thank God with us, because Norman having cancer, had weighed heavily on us leaving to go north.

Our kids have returned home. Grace having had a wonderful time at summer school, and Marcus had a great time on beach mission (thanks Old Bar team) and holiday with our friends the Elkingtons. We’re now heading down the coast for a few days of brief holiday with our family and extended family before the chemo begins. Our church have got into the habit of coming with us to Burrill Pines. We can’t not share the most fabulous God-given peaceful place around!

Pray we’ll have good times with all our kids both this next week and into the future. Pray that despite the stress, team McDonald will work together well, loving and caring for each other, able to talk, laugh, share, cry, question together, but always trusting in God and his amazing love and care of us, and witnessing to that in our lives. Please pray for our kids as they have to grow up fast, and for us as we remember they’re still kids.

Whilst the battle ahead is daunting, it’s a relief to be finally doing something to fight the cancer.

Thank God for his armour (Ephesians 6) and pray we’ll be “putting it on” (as Colin Buchanan and my supa club kids sing so enthusiastically) every day. Sing the Dambusters hymn with us: Psalm 46. Please pray that David will have the energy, strength and trust in God to face what’s ahead, and that the side effects will be kept to a minimum and can be dealt with. Pray that we will finally have some routine, structure, clarity, as to what each day might hold, whilst being glad and rejoicing for each new day, praising God for his new mercies each morning, and being flexible so as to cope with all the unexpected things that will come our way. Pray for conversations with old friends, current friends and new friends as we head into a new world and join a new community, that we’ll continue to share with joy of the One who loves us and holds us in the palm of His hand.

Thank you for all your cards, texts, fb messages, emails, phonecalls, presents, and presence. Please keep them coming, as they are such an encouragement to us. David is someone who is energised by catching up with people. It doesn’t matter if you’re worried that you don’t know what to say, no one does! I cant say to David, “I know what you’re going through” because I DON’T and most of you probably don’t either. If you’re worried that you’ll wear him out, or that he’ll have too many visitors, then just pop in briefly – though sometimes David is up for ‘a chat’! He hasn’t gone back on coffee yet, but will happily make you one. You can always give a call before you come to check it’s ok.

Once again, we can’t thank you and God enough for all your support and encouragement.

Love and prayers

Fiona (and David)

Journey with cancer 11 Jan 2012

Dear friends and family,

As many of you were aware, we visited the oncologist today. Unfortunately the receptor test, that we were waiting the results for today, was inconclusive, so further samples have been sent off to try and obtain a definitive result. Again, it will be a 2-3 week wait. Please pray for patience as we wait (again). There is good cause to wait, as targeted chemo with specific designer drugs will give better outcomes, and works better if not used after general chemotherapy. In the meantime we live in limbo land, with our brains in suspended animation.

Well no, not really. It was very special to have David go to church on Christmas Day, although it exhausted him. We had a wonderful family lunch provided by friends in our beautiful backyard. It was special to be together and to remember that Jesus is truly with us. If you missed out on a good Christmas service then can I recommend the carols from St Andrew’s Cathedral. The message was awesome, as was the music. Hearing an old friend sing ‘Immanuel, Our God is with us’ had me in tears (& still does).

Our container of goods arrived back on Tuesday 3rd. Many wonderful friends helped unpack and reset up in a day. What took us 6 weeks to carefully pack, only took our friends 6 hours to get back in place! It was a bit bizarre to see the truck being unloaded by the same men who had loaded it 5 weeks before. I think our goods enjoyed the break! The dog was certainly confused but happy. The house is the same yet different, as we’ve taken the opportunity to repaint, and rearrange kids rooms and the studies. They say change is as good as a holiday.

Actually, after David’s PET scan, (where, no, they didn’t find any unwanted pets) we did escape for a holiday down at Moruya Heads to a flat belonging to good friends. David’s rehab program continued with good food, good rest, but now also the benefit of sun, sand, walks and fishing! Many small fish were kissed and thrown back. His swimming was excluded on basis of healing wounds, infection risk, and the wind-chill factor. It was a great relaxing, refreshing time alone together: 3rd honeymoon, as we felt too young to be empty-nesters just yet. The bizarreness of our life was contrasted with the bizarreness of Sam Tyler’s life as we enjoyed watching the BBC series ‘Life on Mars’.

We enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation, the great tastes of his creation and reading his word together: specifically 2 Corinthians, where we’re reminded of the temporary nature of this life compared to the wonders of eternity. David said he was beginning to grasp this contrast more strongly.  2 Corinthians 1:3-11 has always been a favourite with me.

We are also very grateful to friends for the lovely holidays our kids have enjoyed. Matt and Marcus had a great time at Old Bar beach mission, where both had great opportunities to share the gospel and encourage and be encouraged in their Christian faith. Grace is enjoying Summer school, and Luke and Sharon had a wonderful camping trip at Gerringong, before plunging back into summer swim schools this week.

There’s plenty to do in the meantime, with studies and books to be arranged, cards and letters to be answered, more rehab to increase David’s strength for the fight to come and perhaps even our annual holiday with our church family down at Burrill Pines. Who knows, there might even be a school of salmon passing through to inspire the recovery!

It has been bitter sweet to farewell and hear from those who’ve gone to Darwin without us. Please continue to pray for Northern Australia, and for beautiful feet to take the gospel to those who haven’t heard or responded yet and to encourage those who labour so hard in such isolated and hard areas.

If you’re inspired by the fact that it’s 100 yrs since people first walked to the South Pole, then please google ‘Humpty Dumpty South Pole Expedition’ to check out our friend Rob’s trek to the Pole, raising money for the Humpty Dumpty children’s foundation. It sounds even more scary than waiting for chemotherapy.

Thank you for your continued prayers in this waiting period. In part it feels like we’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, as we wait for the medical system to lumber forward. However, we know we have God who is able to do the impossible, with the improbable, and so we continue to trust in Him, because there’s nowhere and no one else to turn to.

Fiona (& Dave)

Journey with cancer 22 Dec 2011

Dear family & friends

It’s not quite official, but barring any further complications David should be out of hospital and home with us for Christmas. Not quite God with us, but another beautiful gift from Him.

Thank you so much for all your prayers from around Canberra, Sydney, Australia, the world. Our God is indeed the God of all the nations. The imagery in Revelation of all God’s people gathered around His throne in praise and prayer is very true. Whilst God does not enjoy our circumstances I think He must be overjoyed with the barrage – battering – of prayer he has received on our behalf!

Thank you too for all the bible verses, kind messages, thoughtful acts: food related, emotional and practical that have inundated us. We have felt very loved and very blessed. Our kids have been well cared for with breaks away from the stress. Thank you.

The repeat procedure, done late Thurs night has been successful, and not complicated by infection, re-accumulation of fluid or collapse of his lung. Xray today will help confirm that the pleurodesis (sticking his lung to the chest wall) has been mostly successful, and hopefully the build up of fluid again shouldn’t be an issue.

His pain has been more under control, though David now has a new benchmark of 10/10 for pain. The second drain came out yesterday evening. We still await the results of the receptor tests, but at least have met the oncologist and have a follow up appointment with him sometime mid Jan.

CT scans have so far shown there is no spread beyond the pleura. We had a bone scan and are awaiting results. We’re also waiting to have a PET scan.

Thank God for all the positive news so far after the initial shock, and continue to pray it will be receptor positive so that more specific targeted chemotherapy can be used.

(It’s easy to type all this, but it’s still just so unbelievable and ridiculous!)

The plan will be to get him home, get him some decent rest, some good food, fresh air, and a rehab of exercise to rebuild his strength (physical, emotional) and muscle tone.

Pray for these things, but also for patience, love and gentleness with each other and with our children in the day to day. Pray we can enjoy the moments, laugh over the ridiculous and have fun together.

Underneath the drama of the last 3 weeks is the realisation, that this was only the preliminary round, and there is still the real fight to come. We feel punch drunk from this round, so please pray we can build up strength and resilience for what is to come. There have been constant irritating reminders that we live in a fallen world affected by sin and sinful people.

However the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) has stood firm. The cardboard versions I made with my kids in Supa club just this last term, wouldn’t have! But I can attest that the shield of faith is a wonderful thing to hide behind and has remained dent free, despite the battering. I know that God doesn’t allow us more than we can bear, though sometimes I wasn’t sure I could cope with another turn of the screw! We’ve needed the full armour of God and we thank you for your prayers in this. We thank God that we’ve seen his word proclaimed in ours and other people’s lives. God’s word will not come back empty handed.

We’ve also seen the amazing love people are capable of, inspired by God, but also just random acts from total strangers. It is so amazing to see God at work in the people He has made and to feel so loved and cared for.

Whilst I’ve been very conscious of Hebrews 12 (the author was not wrong in verse 11), I am glad to be loved by God and experiencing and hoping to continue the harvest of righteousness and peace. Philippians 4:7 continues to prove true, especially if I don’t get anxious, panicky or cranky, but pray and rejoice!

However for David, Romans 5:1-11 has been important, along with many other great passages. We can thank God for teaching us perseverance and building character in us, but mostly we are so grateful for the hope of the gospel, the certain hope of forgiveness through Jesus’ death, and the certain hope of eternal life with God.

At this time of year when Immanuel, God with us, is proclaimed, please take hold of the message of hope and reconciliation, not only with God, but also with each other. As one friend wrote to me: “You don’t know what a wonderful person you have near until you are on the brink of losing them.”

David’s ministry can be summed up by 2 Corinthians 5:13-15. What Focal Point hasn’t included a talk from this passage?! Be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2) and to each other.

Once again, thank you soooooooooo much for all your wonderful prayers and support. Enjoy your families and friends this Christmas. Continue to practice random acts of kindness, as you don’t know whose life you’re going to bless!

Please pray 1 Peter 4:19 for us.

Love, gratitude and prayers

Fiona (and David)

P.S.  We heard at 3pm yesterday that there was a  70% chance our container might have been coming back to today, but then a couple of hours later we heard that due to floods in Darwin, it’s wont be back until next Thursday. Gotta laugh. Also puts earthly treasures in perspective. Praise God that he has worked a miracle with defence housing and friends of ours have been allowed to move into the place we’d be living in Darwin!

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Journey with cancer 12 Dec 2011

Dear friends and family

Thank you so much for all the prayers, love, offers of support offered and given. We have felt overwhelmingly loved and cared for. Thank God for his love, expressed not only in the hope of the gospel but also through the love of people. Our friends and work colleagues have just been amazing in their love and support, as have our brothers and sisters at church. And we thank God for our amazing children and their love.

While it is frustrating not to be able to ‘do something’, your prayers have sustained us all in a state of God-given peace and calmness. Philippians 4:7 is very real, so I know that Philippians 4:4-6 is true. The prayers of the saints are powerful. I’m beginning to think one of the purposes of our family is to get people praying!

The news that David does not have mesothelioma was a big relief. However, David does have a primary lung cancer (not the smoking related one) which has spread to the pleura, the lining of the lung, causing the fluid build up around his lung. At the surgery last Monday, he not only had biopsies done, but treatment to try and prevent the fluid building up again, called a pleurodesis. The surgery knocked him around with subsequent infection, reaction to the procedure, re-accumulation of fluid, and the collapse of his left lung. The need for pain medication has subsequently caused problems with his gut and made it hard to eat and drink.

Despite all this he has worked hard at trying to do his breathing, coughing, walking exercises, with tubes in his veins, a chest tube with drain, and an oxygen mask – quite a procession!

Unfortunately, there has been a reacummulation of the fluid, with the chest tube not draining properly. On Tuesday he will have the fluid drained via a small needle. Hopefully that will reveal some treatable cause for why the chest tube drain isn’t working. If not, then he might have to have repeat surgery. Obviously, that is not what we would wish. Please pray that tomorrow’s simple procedure will resolve the issue. We would just like him out of hospital and home. David does not enjoy the long nights in hospital. Pray he would cling to Jesus, and that appropriate bible verses would comfort him. Pray he can rely on God’s strength to get him (& us) through each day.

We now must wait 2 weeks for very specific testing to be done on the biopsies, to determine which course of chemotherapy will be most useful. Please pray it will be a receptor positive cancer as that has special designer chemotherapy that will be more effective. (God understands!) Hopefully we will get to talk to the oncologists in the meantime so as to have greater understanding. Please pray we do so.

Chemotherapy will probably not be initiated until January some time, and not before there is healing of the surgery site. Please pray we get an oncologist who is a good communicator. Thank God for our surgeon, Dr Tharion, who is a very caring man.

Please continue to pray for a miracle. Both our youngest children are miracles in their own way, so we know God is able. We don’t doubt His amazing love for us or His ability to do what is best for all of us. Pray God will give us patience, trust in Him, love for each other, and gratitude for all that is being done for us. Thank God for the opportunities David has had to share Jesus with friends. Pray that we, and you, will have many more. Thank God for the encouragement of friends. (There’s not one of ‘Job’s friends’ among the lot of you!) We thank God for all who have helped, are continuing to, and will continue to look after our children.

Thank God for His word, and that so many of you have sent us encouragement from it. We have been able to read God’s word together as a family and pray. Psalm 102 was one particularly apt passage a friend referred us to that led to good discussion with our younger two. We encourage you to keep reading God’s word, or to begin if it’s not something you usually do.

Although it’s only been a week and a half, in that short space of time we’ve had to change our thinking from Darwin to Canberra. We’ve had to come to terms with David, fit and healthy, now having a life threatening illness. We’ve all had to grieve for the change of plans and adapt to God’s perfect plans, hanging on to him in the somewhat difficult, challenging journey ahead. (James 1:2-12)

Love from Fiona (and Dave)

Journey with cancer 6 Dec 2011

Dear family and friends,

I’m sorry that you are receiving this news electronically. I wish that I could speak to you all personally, but in this age of instant communication I would prefer that you heard the news from us, rather than by the grapevine.

As many of you are aware, David was admitted to hospital last Friday with chest pain it was discovered that he had a large volume of fluid around his left lung: Cause?

Monday afternoon he had a VATS, where a camera was inserted into his left chest cavity and biopsy samples taken. Visually it was seen that David has cancer, involving his left lung and his left pleura or lining of the inside of the chest cavity. He was treated so the fluid won’t accumulate again.

Later this week, when the biopsy samples have been looked at, we will know whether it is mesothelioma of the pleura or a primary lung cancer. Either way it is surgically inoperable and we will now be referred to oncology to receive chemo &/or radiotherapy treatment, appropriate to the type of cancer it is. He will also have further scans to see if it has spread anywhere else.

This is a great shock to us all, given the lack of symptoms and our plans to move to Darwin. However, we can praise God for His timing, that we are still in Canberra, amongst friends and within our church family.

Thank you for your generosity, support, love, meals, and beautiful gifts. Whilst it looks like we might not make it to Darwin, please pray that our vision and David’s opportunity to communicate at various conferences will have spurred on others to take up the challenge of church planting in Darwin. Much groundwork has been done that people could build on.

In the meantime, please pray for us as a family as we adjust to this new path. Pray especially for our children, as that is what concerns David and I most. Pray that we will be able to love and care for each other, and continue to trust in the God who cares for us, who has our best interests at heart (Romans 8:28) and who has things under control, even when it seems to be out of control (Hebrews 11:1). Pray that we will continue to honour His name and bring glory to Him. Pray for the miracle of healing. That’s what we want, so please ask God. And please pray for contentment with the answer.

Please entrust David to His will, care and mercy (Nahum 1:7). Thank him for the hope of heaven (Revelation 21:3-4) and the joy and assurance of our salvation (Hebrews 10:19-25) and the comfort of his presence  (2 Timothy 4: 17-18).

Thank God for efficient, wise, caring medical staff and pray we will continue to receive prompt, efficient, wise, caring treatment as we proceed with oncology. Pray that we will be able to continue to witness to God’s love with all the new people we encounter.

We thank God for all of you, for your friendship and fellowship.

Praise God that Crossroads has a new senior pastor, chosen without the angst of this new situation. Please pray for Marcus in his first, challenging senior pastoral role as he cares for his mentor, brother, and friend. Pray for his family with this extra burden in taking on the new job.

Please pray and care for each other.  Let God know how you feel (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Let this episode in Crossroads life be to His praise and glory, and let our church be known for its love to the saints and to outsiders.

Thank you for your ongoing love and support (Psalm 23:4).

Love and prayers

Fiona (and Dave)

Macarisms

What are macarisms? And why have I called this blog by that name?

The silly answer is that people call me Macca and these are going to be things that I want  to communicate! But the deeper answer lies in the meaning of the word. It is simply an English version of an ancient Greek word meaning ‘blessing’ or ‘to be blessed’. There are various forms of this word in the New Testament, the most famous being Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5): Blessed are the the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the merciful… and so on. The specific word ‘macarism’ is found in Romans 4:6-8:

David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness (macarism) of the one whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.

My desire for this blog is that people will be blessed as they read and think about life. My hope is to help people to reflect on the good life, to stop and consider what’s really worth having.