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Journeying With Jesus Through Cancer

28 April 2022 – Happy Second Fifth Birthday to Timothy!

Ross (Timothy’s Dad) writing – sometimes I need to relay our journey to remind myself of all that we’ve been through, and how thankful we are to still be all together. So this evening I’ve sat down and marked some of the key moments of our cancer experience – but before I go any further – Timothy is well! This is a good news update!

Five years ago today, Timothy received his first bone marrow transplant – a small pouch of fluid donated by a kind German, transfused into his blood. We prayed it would cure the Myelodysplasia we had discovered a few months earlier, a condition that threatened to transform into an aggressive form of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). It worked! After a while (and to be fair, it felt like eternity and he really was very sick), his bone marrow started to produce its own healthy cells, and soon Timothy was discharged and home. There were a few bumps in the road, but a year later he was in his new school and in good form.

Unfortunately, the transplant failed after 14 months but he was well enough to be sent immediately for a second transplant, which again after a hard struggle brought Timothy fresh life. And again, after 15 months, the transplant failed. Our fears from November 2016 came to reality and the Myelodysplasia transformed into AML – but some low intensity chemotherapy, administered every month, was enough to keep the cancer cells at bay. When that treatment began to falter, in the middle of the first covid lockdown, we hit rock bottom. I and ‘the boys’ isolating at home, Kathryn and Timothy in a hospital room that no-one else could visit, being told that there was nothing more to be done.

Time and time again, God and the NHS have won through – in May 2020 our consultant was given permission to use an expensive new drug called Venetoclax, Timothy being the first child in Northern Ireland to receive it. These last two years, while being very difficult from a pandemic perspective, have been wonderful for Timothy’s health! Though he’s had some stays in hospital, discovered issues with his heart and thyroid, and last month acquired covid, he has grown stronger and more healthy, fully participating in school life, and revels in the post-covid freedom of being able to use the bus and meet up with friends in Lisburn and Dromore.

The waning strength of coronavirus brings new (or old?) dangers as our family continues to generally socialise outdoors or in big airy spaces, uses hand gel constantly, and attempts to avoid any of the ‘normal’ viruses that are floating around the community. We don’t know how long the Venetoclax+chemo treatment will sustain Timothy, but we’re encouraged by the speed of scientific progress and continue to have hope that his ‘complete and forever healing’ will come, either by miracle (we don’t mind whether it’s fancy or quiet!), a third transplant or some other medical intervention that somebody somewhere is thinking about.

Through these five years, we have been buoyed up by the prayers of the saints, by the care of the NHS, by intentionally setting aside time to worship Jesus in song, and by actively employing some self-care. We have benefitted from the practical, financial and accompanying support of family, friends and charities; time away in the caravan and to fun parks have made memories and lifted our heads; tools discovered through prayer and listening to the Bible as a family, the Enneagram and the Kintsugi Hope Wellbeing Course have sustained us; the spontaneous hugs from our boys when they were the only ones left who could give them have ministered to us.

We are so thankful to be in the place now where Timothy is generally well (he and I go to a CrossFit class run by Young Lives vs Cancer!), he’s able to get his head into studies and prepare for the end of year exams, and he’s joined an Exodus team to grow in discipleship and go on mission in the summer.

There is a positive tone to this update as we celebrate this milestone but the reality is that sometimes we are scared and we frequently feel worn down by the length of this journey. While Timothy enjoys a good quality of life he lives with the impact of cancer treatment on his life and his body. Just this week we discovered thyroid issues and that his body doesn’t make some of the blood cells that make antibodies – not so good for keeping him well! He takes many medications every day. He has low dose chemotherapy every 6 weeks or so that makes him feel rubbish. Any temperature means a hospital stay. Though he has experienced a little more freedom recently, his life, and ours is still restricted by the realities of cancer. We long for Timothy to be free from all of this! Timothy has experienced some healing but please God, can there be more?

We don’t know what the future holds, but we know the One who holds us.

Thank you for praying with us:

  • Thank God for Timothy’s good health, for seeing off covid with minor symptoms (thank God for the vaccine!), and for his newfound freedom to explore and socialise
  • Thank God that he remains cancer-free and the heart issue identified a while ago has been rectified
  • Thank God for a refreshing week together at Centerparcs after Easter
  • Ask God for Timothy’s complete and forever healing
  • Pray for a thyroid issue to be remedied swiftly and without complication
  • Pray for continuing protection from bugs and viruses, including covid for the three of us who haven’t had it yet
  • Pray for our work in Dromore and with the Methodist Church in Ireland and Europe to be unhindered and fruitful
  • Pray for Ross’ forthcoming sabbatical to be a time that blesses and refreshes us all

Even after a gap of months between these update, it astounds us when we hear people tell us they pray for Timothy and us every day, and of people who we haven’t yet met having us on their hearts. Thank you so much!

Ross and Kathryn

The Harte family live in Northern Ireland. You can read more about the Harte Family adventures HERE, or join them for their regular Living Room Worship HERE

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