I’ve never written a whole account of my illness before but here goes my story. Most importantly it’s not just about me, but about my wife, my children and the amazing care I have received and continue to do so.
In late October 2016, life was carrying on and we thought we had a good 3 – year plan, committed to God. I had been having trouble with pain in my rib cage and so thought I had strained something. The doctor put me on Ibuprofen for a month but this made little difference and my health was declining. I started to suffer backache and spasms, my left leg was tightening and I had to use a stick.
On a day when I was about to drive to Milton Keynes, I had a call from the surgery to contact them and all they would say was you must come immediately. So, plans were scrapped and I drove home wondering what the news was. The following day we saw the doctor told me I had a PSA of 8500 and this almost certainly meant I had prostate cancer. Today my PSA is 0.21- almost immeasurable.
In an instant, everything changed. Not just my life but my wife, brother and children’s. Work did not seem important anymore.
So, it began. CT, MRI, Bone Scanner, Biopsy, tablets and then the result. We remember the day vividly when we met the Consultant and he told us that I had Advanced Prostate Cancer and there was no cure, my body was riddled with cancer, but it could be managed with drugs until I died of something else.
I started treatment that afternoon having my first injection, got to know the word Oncology and was presented with lots of booklets that were oh so depressing to read, given the phone numbers of the special nurses and told where the care Centre was. Bye Bye!
From then it was 6 doses of chemotherapy with all sorts of pills and recovery for 5 months and maintenance injections which I continue to this day. Christmas that year was strange, 2017 was strange, life had changed forever and it changed more as I took early retirement in March 2018.
But where was God in all this? and what of church?
In January of 2017, then at Turners Hill, I was prayed for by Paul Benison at a church service. He did not mess about and from his experience of many cases simply cursed the cancer in Jesus Name. Every time we went to the hospital, we prayed specifically that the chemo would only touch what it needed to and nothing else.
During the period undergoing chemo I would wake at all hours of the night and soon settled into acceptance of this, just getting up and making a cup of tea, reading and praying. For me, there was an overwhelming sense of “So this was the deck of cards that for some reason I had been dealt” and there was only the conversation with God to be had.
But gradually I found myself growing closer to God than perhaps I had ever been since knowing Christ for the first time back in September 1974 and that closeness remains and continues to grow to this day with the sure knowledge that I will fulfill all that he has called me to do before my appointed time to meet Him. The secret lies with the word of God. It is full of promises, knowing that our very life is from Him, and seeing how the saints of old lived out their lives faithfully.
Close friends gathered to us during this time and words were spoken over me that “The Lord had not finished with me yet” and “that I would live a long life”. Yet it was surprising that others did not call or minister to us and I have come to realise that Christians do not as a whole know what to say or do when members of the church make known that they have been diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness.
This is an important lesson for the church to learn. Not to hesitate with that phone call. Not to hesitate calling round with a bunch of flowers- because of those closest to the one suffering – they bear a heavy load too. We are quick as churches to come up with meal rotas for families with new babies, and this kindness can also be good when there is sickness. Acts of love should happen whatever arises.
I’ll not deal with the theology of sickness, but the refiner’s fire can come in a number of ways. All I can say is that for me, whatever I was went into the blacksmith’s hearth and whatever was not precious in His sight was burnt off. I came out of that fire back to the Anvil and he has fashioned me afresh to do the work that I shall, together with Him, complete.
Purify my heart, let me be as gold and precious silver Purify my heart, let me be as gold, pure gold
Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy Set apart for you Lord, ready to do Your will
The above words from the song by Brian Doerksen perhaps sum it all up. If you want to serve the Lord, at some point the refiners fire will come and we need to trust the master blacksmith who will fashion us until the time has come to leave our earthly home having run the race and crossed the line.
Glynn Phillips 10th February 2022