‘tellmystory’ – “The long road to the all-clear”

tellmystory – “The long road to the all-clear”
Gill McIlwaine – December 2013

Gill writes:

For the last five years a shadow has followed me around.

This shadow formed as I was informed on December 12 2008 that a malignant tumour was growing close to my pancreas. Such tumours are very aggressive but in my case there was some hope: in 1 in 5 cases the tumour is still operable. I came within that 20%. It was a very big operation with a number of common life-changing side-effects and a long recovery period. The surgeon recommended that I had the surgery within a few days for there to be some hope of success.

Not surprisingly, I with the family were stunned by this. I thought I had gastric flu which had gone on a bit. Surgery was booked for just 3 days later, a major operation taking a good 7 hours.

So shocked was I that I really needed the support of many friends – and it was freely given, wonderfully, always timely, and laced with bite-size truths from Scripture. I could not take any more.

The day of the op drew near and I was frightened. John Hughes prayed this promise from Isaiah 41 into me:

Do not be afraid, I am your God, I am with you, I will uphold you…

words I knew well but my brain was too scrambled to call them to mind.

But as I walked to the Harborne (!) Suite the next day, my only fear was that in the next few days, my purple fluffy slippers would go astray!

Some days later while I was still under heavy sedation, Rob Bewley came and read Psalm 23. The only words that I recalled were:

He makes me lie down …

My life was not out of control; even this illness was under God’s authority.

A novel exegesis of a well-known psalm I admit. But then theologians are given to novel exegeses, they do it all the time.

A week or so on, on Christmas Eve, Antony, the third member of the heavy brigade, came to give me Communion. And as he left he said this:

The word for you, Gill, this Christmas, is

The joy the Lord is your strength.

What planet was this man from? Joy? Strength? When all I felt was weakness and misery.

And yet I have to say that this truth above all others has been my mainstay throughout the long recovery time.

Time passed and I grew progressively stronger and there came the decision whether or not to undergo 6 months of tough weekly chemotherapy. A group of friends gathered in the ministry area in church and prayed for courage, peace, stamina, and healing. And among them came the voice of one, usually soft, now strong and unwavering, declaring from Psalm 118:

I will not die, but live to declare what the Lord has done,

which is just what I am doing now.

Then it was as if the floodgates opened.

Eleven people in emails, letters, cards, phone calls, on both sides of a key-fob, a picture card which mysteriously appeared in a handbag I had not used in months, a card in the welcome pack for the Swanwick weekend and the main thrust of John Hughes’ farewell sermon, all pointed me to the promise in Jeremiah 29

I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.

How many times had I read those words before?

Jeremiah had been the book set for special study for my final exams in my Cambridge Theology degree. When I set up A level Theology courses at the school where I taught, the 5-year cycle of set books began with Jeremiah. Theologians love dismembering this chapter. Now was my chance to take it at its face value and receive its truth for myself.

And now I’ve come to the 5-year mark. I’ve been given the All-Clear. I’ve been discharged.

When I was diagnosed in 2008, I was told that 1 in 5 could have the drastic surgery I was facing. A few months ago, I learnt that only 1 in 5 of those who have the surgery survive to the 5 year point. One in 25.

As my GP, a quiet man usually of few words, remarked only last week:

You have not only survived; you have thrived.

An absolute miracle.

I’m inclined to think that the NHS statistic has caught up with God.

Hallelujah! Thank you LORD!

10th Dec 2013 Posted in: 'tellmystory', News by Fran Varley 2

2 Responses

  1. Beryl Beavis says:

    Thanks for sharing that Gill. X

  2. Vinod Bhatia says:

    Beautiful story beautifully told. Every shadow lifted. Arise shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord is upon you. May the light of Jesus shine from you to every one who hears this story of His love and grace

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