On February 20, 2017, I entered the Christchurch hospital with a very sore throat; I had been taking medication from our Rarotonga hospital for over a month, with little improvement.
I presumed it was a severe case of tonsillitis. Needless to say, when the doctor led me and my wife into a secluded room, we knew it wasn’t good.
Yet even the pre-warning didn’t prepare us for the news to come – I’m not sure if anything can. I remember my mind going blank, and after he broke the news, he asked if we had any questions.
I was diagnosed with cancer.
I didn’t even know what to think, let alone have questions. We asked for a minute alone, and when he left, we turned to each other and said, “let’s pray”.
I recall the overwhelming feeling of sadness and depression, even shedding a few tears.
I thought about our two younger sons who were 18 and 19 years old at the time. I wondered if I would live long enough to see them marry?
I thought about our grandchildren, how much of their lives I would miss.
I thought about my wife, my closest friend, how would she cope? My mind was running faster than I could keep up with it, it was a little hard to think in those initial moments.
I want to share some key points we learnt in our nine-month battle against this wretched disease, when our world was stopped.
After receiving this shocking news, I recalled Proverbs 17:22: “A Merry Heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” My cancer was in the bones! The last thing I needed was a depressed outlook on my situation.
So, I determined throughout this journey, to look on the bright side of all things and, to focus on activities I could look forward to! Our grandchildren’s birthdays, Tania and I planned date nights, albeit in hospital, and people coming to visit was always a welcome distraction.
Of course, I couldn’t resist the temptation of keeping the nurses on their toes. The outlook we have on life has an affect on our spirit and our strength, we should learn to enjoy the little things in the journey.
My wife and I are a praying people, and so, it was nothing new for us to be constantly praying. However, this time there was an obvious intensity and fervency in our prayers. We also harnessed the tools of social media to communicate with thousands of people around the world who were praying from Rarotonga, throughout Europe, USA, Asia, India, Australia, South Africa and of course, New Zealand.
At times in our room we could sense the prayers of everyone around the world, holding us before God, it was an incredible sense of peace.
Share your burdens with others, not to seek sympathy, rather, that they may prayer with you and for you.
By the time I was entering my second course of chemo, I began asking myself, how now, shall I live? What do I eat? What kind of physical activity should I do, or not do?
These questions caused me to do my own research on life after cancer. What I discovered shocked me. I was appalled by the ignorance of myself and those who should know better.
My greatest shock was, processed sugar feeds cancer! People bought me chocolates. Nurses gave patients’ sweets. In ignorance they were killing us!
But I was also shocked by all the sugar-processed food that we were served in hospital. Natural sugars such as fruit is what my body craved for, especially nu and watermelon. These types of sugars are good for you.
If you have someone who’s fighting cancer, don’t give them processed sugar products, you’re only feeding the cancer.
I also learnt that in my experience natural remedies, what we would call Maori medicine, have a much higher success rate than cytotoxic medication, that is, chemotherapy.
IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH
On October 15, 1988, at 2pm, I made this vow to my youthful wife and she also, to a much younger version of me.
Above all the 10 principles we learnt and applied, this one truth stood above them all; my wife was my greatest weapon in our fight against cancer. No one prayed the way she prayed, she stood by my side in hospital just to wait on me.
I cannot tell you how much that meant to me, especially when my body was riddled with pain. Small tasks, like trying to get water, was painful and required so much effort, yet she would wait and serve me water. The Bible says, “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing.” (Proverbs 18:22)
I found mine in May 1985 – then married her in October 1988.
We are so thankful to God for my recovery, and what He taught us in this nine-month battle with cancer. But I honour my wife, and closest friend, for fulfilling her vows from 32 years ago.
We arrived back in Raro on October 22, 2017, to a very happy reception from our church, ArePua Gateway Church in Takuvaine. Seven weeks later, we opened our shop in Nikao, Safeworx Cook Islands.
My three-monthly checkups soon became six-monthly and in March this year, just before being caught in lockdown, my checkups were reduced to one a year.
At the end of this year, our youngest son, with a young lady who captured his heart four years ago, will be having their first child in Timaru. God is so good.
There are some things in life that leave an indelible mark on a person, this journey was one of those moments when my world just stopped. It’s not the first time my world stopped; the passing of loved ones stopped our world, for a period of time.
Those nine months in 2017 were, however, the most defining period for both me and Tania.
We all have moments when our world suddenly stops, but of the 10 principles we learnt, I want to give you a gift of the four most important:
1 Be joyful: Take time to enjoy the flowers when scaling huge mountains – read Matthew 6:25-33
2 Pray always: Learn the intimacy of prayer with our Heavenly Father and pray in all situations.
3 Keep healthy: You’ll need all the energy you can muster to navigate through storms, and then you’ll need strength to help others get through their storms.
4 Strengthen your marriage: you never know when you will need your closest friend to be there to give you something to drink
God Peace and Grace on you all.