Showing posts from 2016

Fanfare for a Friend

Two days after Christmas a friend of mine died. He too had cancer and was diagnosed a few months before I was. During chemotherapy we messaged each other a few times comparing experiences and lack of hair! He was also a musician (he played the trumpet, of was it flugal horn?) and a Christian.

When I heard the news about his death yesterday I was not prepared for the range of emotion that came over me.

It suddenly brought everything back - all those feelings of sadness when I was first diagnosed. I kept thinking 'That could be me. That could be me'. We had such a happy Christmas, made all the sweeter that I was there to share in it. But my friend's Christmas was very different.

Our lives and journeys were similar and intersected on a variety of levels, yet he is gone and I am still here. I guess I have a bit of survivor's guilt. I just need to accept that I will never understand all of God's plan for our lives. He gives and he takes away, yet my heart will choose t…

Haircuts and Baby-bumps

Since my last Chemotherapy treatment in October I have had the good news that I am now in remission. I have undergone my first 'maintenance' treatment which went very well and I am now on the road to recovery, looking to start back at work again near the end of January on a phased return.

My hair has been growing back and yesterday I had my first haircut since April! The hair on the top of my head was already thinning before my diagnosis and it grows much slower than the rest so I needed the sides and the back to be trimmed as it was starting to look a bit funny being longer than the top. As I recover it's the small things, like having a haircut, that are pretty big landmarks along the journey.

My schedule has been filling up too. I ran the end of term Christmas disco at school last week and organised and took part in the Wisbech Churches Together 'Walking Nativity' on Sunday. However, I have learned that building up ones strength and stamina after a major illness…

Maintenance Treatment 1

On Friday I trod the now all too familiar path back to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. I was there for my first maintenance treatment. As the chemotherapy worked in killing the cancer cells in my body, and as the type of cancer I have means that medical science can not completely cure me. They expect my cancer to return. By having 2 years of maintenance treatment the hope is that any possible relapse will get pushed further and further away.

My maintenance treatment is much shorter than chemo. It only takes three hours as opposed to all day!

I arrived at 12noon with some bacon sandwiches that I had brought with me - the hospital ones still make me nauseous as I has plenty of them during chemo sessions!

I had another cannula inserted, but this went OK. No fainting this time. I still had to have pre-meds that consist of paracetamol and antihistamine to help my body not react badly to the medication.

Half and hour after this I have the 2 hour drip of Retoximab which is …

BBC Breakfast's #alightoncancer

All this week BBC Breakfast is running a series of programmes called #alightoncancer. It promises to be full of information, advice and updates on the latest research into the very complex disease.
As a cancer sufferer myself it has certainly captured my attention.

I will be updating this post as the week goes on - so please do check back to see what I learned each day.
Here is a video clip where they answer the question: 'What is cancer?' I hope you find it helpful and informative.
Let me know what you think about the week-long series in the comments section below. It will be good to get a discussion going.

Men and Cancer On Tuesday the focus was on men and Cancer, how men tend to deal with the problem, or not! Men are statistically less likely to go to the GP if something is not right. In fact I would have waited longer if it wasn't for my wife who insisted I go. If you suspect something is a miss, or yuhave found an unexplained lump - GO TO YOUR GP.
There was a very mo…

My Experience of the Premier Digital Awards and Conference 2016

Over the weekend around 500 delegates made their way to central London for the 10th annual Premier Digital Awards and Conference.

The conference happened during the day of Saturday 12th with 36 contributors and six 'streams' to choose from the conference just keeps getting bigger and better - equipping and empowering the church to share their faith in the digital space. There were some thought provoking and challenging keynote addresses: 'Finding God Online' by Lucy Peppiatt from the Westminster Theological College; 'The Dark Side of Digital' by Abbie Gilligan from the NSPCC and 'Church, What Is It Good For?' by Pete Phillips from CODEC.

Back in Hospital - but not for Long!

I was back in hospital again yesterday - although this time it was planned. I was in the Day Surgery unit having my stent removed.

Upon first discovering the very large tumour in my abdomen back in May, the doctors inserted a stent to allow adequate drainage from my left kidney. Stents have a limited life and need to be changed or removed after a few months. So this procedure was booked in for some time.

Remission Accomplished!

Today I had an appointment with my consultant where I found out about how well my chemotherapy treatment had gone and what was going on inside my body by finding out the results of the PET scan I had a couple of weeks ago.

It is good news! The doctors say that my scan revealed no living cancer cells in my body. I still have a small mass of scar tissue of dead cells (approximately 7cm x 3cm) where the massive tumour in my abdomen used to be, but it has drastically reduced in size and they are dead and no longer active. I am now in complete remission! Praise God!

The Waiting Game

Don't you find that a lot of life consists of a 'hurry up and wait' mentality. You hurry because you are running late and you're going to miss your doctors appointment. When you get there, just in time, you have to sit and wait! You are desperately trying to get the shopping done before heading home to make lunch on time for the kids. Then you get to the tills and you have to wait!

PET Scan

On Monday I travelled to Norwich Hospital for a PET-CT scan. I was not allowed to eat anything for 6 hours before the appointment and only allowed to drink water. So I woke up at 4am to eat some scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast! I did manage to get back to sleep afterwards, which was good.

Not knowing what to expect, I was quite nervous. My parents kindly took me to and from Norwich as well as putting me up for the night as I was injected with a radio active material to help my insides show up on the scan and was not allowed to be around pregnant ladies or young children. As some of you know I have a 2 year old and a pregnant wife!

Faith in the Fog

On Wednesday family and friends gathered together in our home for a time of prayer and thanksgiving. Organised by my wife, those from the local area squeezed into our lounge and those from further afield, notified by Facebook, also joined in with prayers from afar.

Living in a Box?

When I started writing this blog some years ago, focusing on worship and leadership in the church I had no idea that I would one day be writing about my experiences with cancer. In some ways I have gone against one of the unwritten 'rules' of blogging in that I have not stuck rigidly to one core subject. However, My blog is about life. Life is complicated and a bit messy and often you have more than one 'hat' that you wear. I so happen to wear the hat of a worship leader and one of cancer sufferer/survivor. I wanted to share my experiences with cancer and reflect how my faith has played an important role  - even in this aspect of my life.

D'em Bones!

Wow - Friday was a day of pain!
I took my fourth GCSF injection to stimulate my bone marrow on Thursday evening. Based on past experience, the fourth injection causes the pain. This one did not disappoint! Friday was a day of pain. In fact I think it was the most painful it has ever been. I was totally incapacitated on the sofa popping painkillers like sweets. At one point in the afternoon even the sofa was too painful to sit on, so I went and lay in bed for a few hours - if I didn't move the pain subsided a little.

Chemotherapy 6

Thank you to all who have been praying and sending messages of support. Thursday saw me attend my sixth session of Chemotherapy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. I am pleased to say there is nothing much to report. There were no unexpected happenings or nasty surprises. Everything went as it should and even a bit quicker than I am used to.

Problems Down Under

Things were going fairly well this cycle (cycle 5 of chemotherapy) until last week Thursday. A few days leading up to Thursday things down below were stinging when I went to the toilet. A fairly common side effect that I have suffered from continually during my treatment is chronic constipation. So I thought nothing of it - it was something that was commonplace and I just had to put up with it. However, Thursday was quite a hot day and by the evening I was curled up on the sofa under a blanket, shivering!

I Want to Grow Old

The other day I watched a silly movie with my wife called Last Vegas with Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Nero and Kevin Kline. It is not my usual type of movie, a bit rude in places, but only rated 12 so no need to panic! It explores the relationships of life long friends who are now octogenarians, so as you can imagine there is a fair amount of reminiscing about the good old days.

The thing that struck me was that - I want to grow old!

Chemotherapy 5

On Thursday I had my fifth session of Chemotherapy. This leaves me with just one more to go! After my sixth cycle in September I have another scan booked so the doctors can assess how the treatment has gone and if my treatment can end for the time being.

Bad Blood

Today I had my consultant appointment.

Apart from general and expected side effects I am doing well. However my white blood cell count is down. This means that I have to take two of those bone marrow injections that I hate in the run up to me having my fifth chemo treatment on Thursday. As it is only 2 injections, I shouldn't experience the pain that comes after 4 successive ones.

Chemotherapy 4

I had my fourth chemotherapy session on Thursday. It was by far the worst one yet! Everything went according to plan, there were no complications or adverse effects. But this time I was not in a good place mentally.

Leadership and Legacy

As the Rio Olympics draw closer with the opening ceremony happening next week, here in the UK there has been quite a lot of focus in the press this week on the legacy of the 2012 Olympics that were held in London. Indeed a big part of the Olympic bid for the 2012 Games was based upon the legacy it would leave behind after they had ended. Different TV programmes have been aired exploring what effect the 2012 Olympics have had in encouraging people in the UK to engage more with sport - they show varying levels of success.

As a result, I have been thinking about the legacy we leave as leaders.

Solids, Liquids and Gases

On happened! The bone marrow injections that I had to take from Monday kicked in and the bone ache began. As in past experiences, it starts slowly in my lower back and spreads. There is a continual dull ache punctuated with moments of sharp pain that make me groan or cry out. So the painkillers were going down throughout the day.

Thankfully this only lasts for about 24 hours. So by Friday night the pain had subsided.

Song Spotlight: Sunshine

Here in the UK we are experiencing a delightful spot of summer sunshine - which brought this song to mind! This song has never before been released on my website or on Sound Cloud - so enjoy, share, comment and sing!

Chemotherapy 3

Thursday saw me reach the half-way point of my chemotherapy treatments. I had my third cycle of chemo, thankfully on the same R-CHOP regimen that I have had previously as there was just enough progress in the reduction of my tumours for me to continue without the need to step up the treatment to something  more aggressive.

Metaphorical Mountain Climbing

The past week or so has been a good one health-wise. Energy levels have been up and I have been feeling more like my normal self.

Tuesday last week saw me at the hospital in the morning having my CT scan so the doctors could monitor the progress of my treatment. Then at school in the afternoon as a 'guest' at our end of year speech day.

Thank you to all who ran!

I returned to school on Wednesday evening to cheer on the parents, pupils and friends of Wisbech Grammar School and Magdalene House Prep School as they took part in 'Race At Your Place' for Cancer Research UK.

Hairy McChlery?

It has finally happened! My hair has begun to fall out - not in the way I expected it to - in clumps and from different sections. Not all together and not all at once.

Chemotherapy 2

For those of you just joining this blog - welcome!
I talk about life, faith and living with cancer (I also talk about worship leading and songwriting but that has taken a bit of a back seat for now for obvious reasons).

Life, faith and cancer - an engaging, authentic blog [Click to Tweet]
If you like what you read - please leave a comment below, or sign up to receive regular post updated via RSS or to your email inbox using the options to the right hand side of the screen. Thanks.

Trust in Trouble

I will take this opportunity to give you all an update on my condition and the happenings of this week as well as a thought I have been pondering.

My week began with me being very pleased I had been let out of hospital on Saturday after spending a few days in there for an infection. I was still quite fragile on Sunday and very low on energy so I did not go to church. I managed to type a few reports (still got these to do for school before term ends!).

Temperature Spikes and Itchy Feet

I find myself awake in the small hours desperately searching for something to distract me from my terribly itchy feet! Wow, they are itchy. It's like they are hot with itchiness, but the more you scratch the worse it gets. Temporary relief may be a small consolation but not itching at all is a better long-term strategy. So you're stuck with me writing another blog post on order to distract myself long enough for the Piriton the nurse has just given me to take effect.

Prevention Mode

My 2 year old daughter woke up with a streaming nose this morning. Quite unexpectedly, but we have come to learn this is normal for infants. Otherwise she has been her normal, cheeky self - playing in the sunshine and paddling pool, making imaginary cups of tea with her plastic tea set on the lawn. A lovely day.

Thank You Jess!

Thank you so much to our friend Jess who ran for me / us this morning at Cancer Research's 'Race For Life' held at Burghley House, Stamford.
Your support means so much. Than you Jess! 


Chemotherapy 1

The Adventure continues!

Yesterday was my first session of six chemotherapies. Each session is going to be separated by 3 week intervals (and this is if everything goes well).

Being my first one, I had to be in all day as they spaced things out and gave it to me slowly so that they can monitor everything and watch for any bad reactions. My day bag was packed with pre-loaded BBC programmes on the iplayer, the new Kingsgate worship album my sister had given me the day before was on my ipod. I also took a couple of books and a puzzler - as it turned out, this was way over ambitious and I was really only in the mood to watch TV and listen to music. At least I will know for next time.

From the Outside Looking In

As I face up to this battle with cancer, I acknowledge that I am not an island - it affects not only me but those around me too. Below are some thoughts from my darling wife, Verity and her reflections on our shared journey so far:

I just read Matt's blog about him dealing with the prospect of having cancer and him coming to terms with it all, and it made me realise that I really haven't come to terms with it. My mind at the moment  seems a lot more messy and turbulent. I have no idea if this is something that he would like to share in his blog but I thought I'd write it down anyway.

Snot and Tears

I have just realised that I only began blogging about my journey with cancer since the diagnosis. There was a period of time while I was waiting for the diagnosis where God did some pretty amazing things and in a way prepared me to cope with what was to come. So I think I will tell you about it here - just so you can see the whole picture, including the snot and tears!

A story of two pots

Some good news! My wife's scan went well yesterday. After our ectopic pregnancy earlier in the year it was a relief to see a tiny flicker of a heartbeat against a small grey smudge on the scan machine. All is going well for our second child so far. There was a humerous moment too when the nurse at the baby scanning unit nearly sent me back to my ward as I was obviously being delivered on my wheelchair to the wrong place - we don't scan men here!

A Whirlwind Week!

I write this post propped up in a hospital bed, hooked up to a drip and am typing away in the half-light of a distant sunrise, using up the data allowance on my mobile phone (and hoping that the predictive text doesn't get too annoying!).

On Wednesday last week I came in for a CT scan. The next few days carried on as normal as I felt fine in myself, no different to normal. Yesterday (Monday) the consultant phoned and asked me to be admitted to hospital straight away as the results of the scan indicated I need to start treatment immediately.

the C word

Ony having been diagnosed with cancer just over a week ago, I have been extremely blessed by all the encouragement and support I have received from family and friends all over the world. I really do appreciate and value it.

However, I have encountered a rather strange response from a couple of people. This response often omits the mention of my disease at all or is referred to in hushed tones as 'the C word'. It is almost as if they fear to speak its name. It's like referring to Voldemort in the Harry Potter stories as 'You know who' because if you say his name aloud, the embodiment of all evil would find you!

Dig Deeper: How to Cope With the Storms of Life

This is a video of a sermon I preached last week as I waited for my diagnosis. It is based on the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7.

I am learning a lot from God at the moment as I face this storm and I can see that God is at work in all things and can turn all things round for His glory.

Let me know what you think by using the comment function below. Thanks.


When things get even harder!

For those who follow this blog, you will know that 2016 has not been an easy year for my wife and I. From grief and tragedy to the highs of hope and joy - and crashing back down again. This seems to be the cycle of our lives right now and it's stuck on repeat!

Continuing in the vein of being open and honest with our lives and being open and vulnerable with those we lead in church, yesterday we let people know our latest news: My wife and I are expecting our second child, and I have just been diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma (cancer). It is indeed bitter-sweet, but we know that through ALL things Jesus will be glorified and that he can turn ALL things for the good of those who love him.

Creating Flow in Musical Worship

Flow is an important element of a worship service that needs to be thought out and planned in order for a service to move seamlessly from one part to another. There are many aspects to worship (it's not just the 'singing bit') and parts to a church service, so invariably the things that help to create smooth transition and flow from one section to another are numerous and varied. In this post I will share a few musical ideas to help with flow in the sung part of a church service.

By Faith...?

It's wonderful how even a small aside in a conversation can teach you something more about Jesus, and in this case, the nature of faith.

A couple of days ago my wife and I were having a conversation with some friends, talking about our recent tragedies as well as God's faithfulness. My friend was only trying to be helpful and encouraging, but what he said was neither helpful nor encouraging, and is based upon what I am seeing more and more as a false Christian teaching/belief. However it is tricky as one can easily see how this belief can be accepted and preached.

Song Spotlight: Saviour of the World

As we approach the season of celebration where we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, I thought I would share this song with you. It declares Jesus as saviour and reflects upon the Easter message of His death and resurrection and the freedom from sin and eternal life that this brings.

You can click here for a chord chart and audio sample that you can download for free to use in your church - all I ask is that you remember to include its use in you church's annual CCLI report.

For more Easter themed songs, please click here.

(Audio and lyrics below)

Saviour of the WorldCLI Number: 5855489 You took the weight of the world
Carried it to calvary
There sin was crucified 
With you upon that tree You triumphed over death
God’s power for all to see
You broke the gates of Hell
And you’re alive for eterinty You stepped down to save
You stepped down to save
You stepped down to rescue me
You stepped down to save      You are the saviour of the world
     You are the saviour of my heart
     You a…

Doughy Reflections

Last night, as I was preparing for the Bible teaching part of an all-age outreach service our church does once a month I decided to make some Matzah (traditional Jewish unlevened bread used to celebrate the Passover). The service is called Messy Church and a Bible theme is explored through art and craft, and sometimes sport. I aim to make the teaching time as interactive as possible and visual aids are always a good idea!
This month we are learning about Communion / The Last Supper and that it began when Jesus and his disciples were celebrating Passover together just before Jesus died.
I am going to explain the significance and symbolism of the bread and wine, being a sign or a symbol of Jesus' body and his blood that he gave for us. He died so that we can know God; so that we can be saved! Yes, it is going to be an evangelistic teaching about Communion.
So last night, as I searched the internet together a recipe to make this exotic, special bread I was surprised to discover that…

Valentines Day Worship Song Setlist

This Sunday is quite unique in that it falls on Valentines Day itself. Not that I'm a hopeless romantic or anything, but I thought I would reflect this fact in the song choices for Sunday morning's worship song setlist.

Something different and a bit special is that I have decided to take a bit of a risk and play a secular song! But I have added a Christian twist at the end, and I will introduce it as a love song that one could imagine Jesus singing over us. I will also sing it as a 'special' after the notices, so will not have to worry about flow and linking it in with the other choruses.

However, I also wanted to avoid some worship choruses that are a bit like 'Jesus is my boyfriend' in style.

The Setlist: Your Love is Amazing (Hallelujah) - Brenton Brown
Emmanuel - Matt McChleryClick here for song
Lord I Need You - Passion

Make You Feel My Love - Adele

Speak O Lord - Townend and Getty
Our Father - Matt McChleryClick here for song

Weathering the Storm

As you may be able to tell from previous posts (and the lack of regularity than I normally post) life is hard at present. My family and I are clearly under spiritual attack at the moment. I will not go into all the details, but let us say that many big, significant things have gone wrong and continue to do so. Pressures are increased dramatically in all spheres of life - enough to push one to breaking point and it seems that there is no escape.

However, God is still very much in the picture. There is good news punctuating the bad. Light is breaking through the darkness from time to time that lets us know that God is still in control and that He will work things for our good according to His will.

The reason I am writing this blog is not to moan or complain. It is to give hope to those who are in a similar position.

My father-in-law gave me some sound advice recently. He said that when we are under attack, God is allowing it so that we draw closer to him. The danger is, we so often re…

Why we chose to go public with our grief

Miscarriage, still-birth and early infant death are not things we like to think about, let alone discuss openly and honestly. Sometimes grief and loss is unavoidably public with the death of a member of your congregation or a grandparent. Perhaps someone has been battling a terminal illness for a while. However, sometimes it is all too easy to bottle up the pain and sadness – especially when it is a loss to do with early pregnancy complications.

My wife and I have found it common practise amongst our friends that it is accepted in today’s culture not to tell anyone about your pregnancy until after the first scan at 3 months. Mainly due to the risk of complications, so no one will know if you have suffered a miscarriage if it were to happen in the early stages.

We decided right from the beginning that we would not do this. If we were pregnant, then we would let people know, regardless of the stage of pregnancy. Why should we hide our pain if something were to go wrong? Were we shieldi…

Worship Setlist for the New Year

As we enter into a New Year it is an obvious and natural position to ask God what he has in store for the coming year for you personally, and for your church. When selecting a setlist of worship songs for my church, whether it is for a special New Year's eve service where we welcome the New Year in together, or if it is just the first Sunday of the New Year when the whole church is gathering together, I think it is important to ask God if there is a specific song he has in mind for the coming season for your church.

This song could be along the obvious lines of 'New Year = New Season' with a sense that we are moving into something new with God, we are progressing in our relationship with Him and becoming more like Him as we grow together in Christ. However, this is not necessarily the case.

This year, for 2016 I believe God is moving my church through a transition. A time of pruning has begun and in the coming months we will need to navigate this change and challenge. So …