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The Sun Has Not Set On Hope

In December 2016, Ross and Kathryn’s 10 year old son, Timothy, was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called myelodysplasia. The family live in Northern Ireland and we have been journeying in prayer them through bone marrow transplants, recovery, treatments, health scares and all the other ups and downs of life with child-hood cancer. This week they sent an update that reminded us what it means to have hope and hold onto hope, even when things around seem hope-less.

“Two years ago on 9 October Timothy and I (Kathryn) left Bristol and got the boat home to N.Ireland after his second bone marrow transplant. Google photos reminded me! Among the photos there were some of the sunset over the sea. The thoughts I had when they were taken came flooding back. I remember thinking that it was symbolic that the sun was setting as we were leaving Bristol for home. It felt like the sun was setting on this particular season. Timothy and I had spent 5 or 6 weeks in Bristol while the rest of the family headed home for school. They were long weeks and we were ready to go home. Our friends from Northern Ireland, who had also been in Bristol for treatment, were heading home on the same day – we were glad we weren’t being left in Bristol without them! We had made it through bone marrow transplant once again. I hoped as I looked at the sunset that we wouldn’t have to walk the road of leaving home for harsh treatment again. Maybe, just maybe, this time the sun was setting on cancer for Timothy.

But recovery from bone marrow transplant takes a long time. It takes months for the effects to wear off, for appetite to return, for the immune system to get to a place where it is safe-ish to be around people again. Timothy made it back to school, celebrated being a year post transplant, started to enjoy some of the experiences he had been missing out on with the fullness of his life and personality. Once again we hoped that the sun had set completely on cancer for Timothy.

Then November 2019 brought the phone call that blast cells had returned to the blood. And again in April. Two scary hospital stays – one of them in the height of the pandemic. Discovering that treatment had damaged Timothy’s heart. Add to that the heartbreaking news that some of the friends that Timothy went through treatment with in Bristol are no longer with us.

The sun has not set on cancer for Timothy – it can’t be ignored in the ongoing hospital appointments, daily medicines, cycles of treatment and restrictions on social interaction that are very much a part of his daily life. There are days when we find this very difficult, when we long for Timothy to be free from cancer, to be able to live life fully in the way that a thirteen and a half year old should, for the sun to set entirely on the impact that cancer has on his life. In medical terms we know that this is not the purpose of his current treatment, although it is working very well at keeping blast cells at bay. 

But here’s something else… The sun may not have set on cancer but neither has it set on hope!  

When we feel like we are “hitting the bottom,” we are reminded to take “a grip on hope”. Hope that comes through the support of friends and family, an amazing medical team, colleagues and our church family. Hope in the good days and normal crazy family days. Joy in seeing Timothy enjoying school. Hope that treatment is continuing to work in keeping the cancer at bay. Joy in seeing Timothy well and full of energy. Hope in thankfulness for daily protection from illnesses and infections. And everlasting hope in God. These verses from Lamentations 3 (MSG) declare the strength that comes from God for each new day:

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, 
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. 
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— 
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

The sun has not set on hope. Our hope is in God. And we keep hoping for Timothy’s complete and forever healing. Thank you for continuing to walk with us and pray with us – you are another reason why we continue to have hope.”

Here are a few ways to stay connected with the Harte Family’s journey with Hope:

  • Subscribe to the Inspire Prayer Bowl, where we post regular updates on how to pray
  • Read the Harte Family blog and sign up for their newsletter HERE
  • Join in Living Room Worship every Sunday night – because to keep on worshipping helps them and us to have hope! You can find the Harte family every Sunday night at 9pm (GMT) on their YouTube channel HERE

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