16-months Past Stem Cell Transplant

Hope Lodge, Boston
Wednesday October 23rd 2013
16-months past stem cell transplant

“Don’t fret or worry, instead of worrying, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, everything will come together for good.” — Philippians 4 : 6-7; (The Message)

Returning home after Noel’s appointment 3 weeks ago, we drove the long way through Vermont enjoying the wonders of Gods creation, the season of Autumn. What amazing colors everywhere. A camera cannot capture the variation of the leaves and the brilliance of them on sunny days or even on dull days they are amazing.

Back home again life has been very busy: Spending time in Pennsylvania at the ACCTS staff meetings! Hosting friends in our home and grandparent duties along with my quilting retreat (one of 3 a year I like to attend). Along with all the travel and busy days we have also been trying to keep up our walking and have done 4 miles on a number of days. But all this seemed by last weekend to have taken a toll on Noel. He was feeling very tired and just not himself. So for the first time doubts about his healing started to creep in. Had he reached the limit? But today our minds were put at ease. Whilst taking his morning shower, Noel heard an almost audible voice clear and loud, “do not limit me in any way, shape or form at all.” At DFCI, Dr Soiffer was pleased that Noel’s red and white blood counts were within the normal range. His platelets still low but steady. His liver levels are also back to normal. His kidney ‘count’ is a little high but less so than 3 weeks ago and still not a great concern. Dr Soiffer reassured us that everything is great. He is happy with Noel’s progress and explained to us that although the future remains unknown, things look good. He stressed continuing to just take everyday as it comes. Noel’s medications will continue at the same level for now. Dr S does not expect to see Noel being off any of them until next year, sometime around the 2 year mark. But he may have to be on some longer, maybe long term, even though the aim is to eventually stop taking them altogether Dr S also told us that, unlike many cancer patients who reach a day when a line is drawn under their treatment and recovery and they are told they do not need to be seen or have tests anymore, Noel will remain on the ‘books’ at the Dana Farber for the rest of his life with checks ups along the way. As everyone who has a transplant is different they can not predict the future. But we are happy they intend to keep an eye on Noel into the future. We are so grateful to God for the amazing care and concern every one at Dana-Farber has always shown to Noel. We feel blessed by Noel being treated there.

Dr Soiffer was happy that the side effects of the GVHD are much less since the steroid was increased. Although GVHD is still evident in Noel’s mouth, he has not had the horrible sores for a couple of weeks now, so Dr S said to return to see him in 5 or 6 weeks when Noel will be due for more immunizations, an echocardiogram and a pulmonary function test. These are routine at this stage of recovery, so to fit in with our busy schedule in November we have booked to see him again on November 23rd. This is a Monday, so we will be home in time for Thanksgiving with the family in Glens Falls. Supposing things go to plan, our next appointment after that will be in January 2014, meaning this year we will be home for Christmas.

I will now let Noel write a short ministry update:

  • Just 3 days after getting home from the last Boston visit, we drove nearly 500 miles to the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF) Eastern retreat center at White Sulphur Springs, near Bedford, south central Pennsylvania. It was here on our first ever visit in 1989 that we felt called to prayerfully dedicate our lives before the Lord to serve him all the days of our lives by proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing the sick (Luke 9:2 and 10) with the armed forces of the world.We have ministered ever since then with ACCTS carrying out this commission in several different ways. This year’s excellent and most enjoyable staff meeting near enough marked our 19th year with ACCTS as full time missionaries. Hearing reports from around the world, meeting old friends, enjoying the Fall leaves and weather of the Allegheny Mountains and hearing some most challenging talks on true Christian stewardship by Gary Hoag, a noted and much sought after speaker, all combined to make the meeting a memorable one.
  • During the last 3 weeks we have been able to interact face to face with several Chaplains, including a Canadian Army friend and his wife. There has been much mutual encouragement in these conversations and times of prayer. We have also connected with other Chaplains by phone and social media. Most of our Chaplain friends are themselves Veterans who have served in combat areas, but we have also continued to interact with other Veterans on a regular basis. Also we have continued to prepare for the upcoming Welcome Home Initiative retreat (November 18-20. See www.byhiswoundsministry.org). Noel is preparing a workbook for the Veterans who come and Meryl has been gathering beautiful hand made quilts to give to them.
  • Noel has been advising and helping a Cru Military Staff Member get an Alpha course going at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Now in its 4th week, the course is going well and the 8 or so who come are enjoying the fellowship and discussion time, even though they have only 1hour for each session. Please keep praying for deep spiritual transformation in the souls of those who come.
  • In the coming month we will go to Ottawa, Canada the weekend of Nov 9/10 to attend the annual meeting of the Canadian Military Christian Fellowship. We are still members from our time in Alberta at CFB Suffield/BATUS from 1987-89. It is a 4 hour drive each way from home.
  • We fly to Birmingham, Alabama to attend a Commissioned Lay Chaplains training weekend on Nov 15-17. All being well, and God confirming it, Noel will be commissioned as a Lay Chaplain in the Anglican Church in North America for ministry with the armed forces. We feel being commissioned is the right thing to do and will further enhance our ministry with ACCTS.
  • November 18-20 sees the next (18th) Welcome Home Initiative at Longfellow’s Inn and Conference Center, Saratoga Springs. Please pray for full attendance and for the peace of the Lord to come powerfully into the hearts and souls of all those attending. They so much need relief and healing from suffering and trauma caused through combat operations.
  • We also ask for your consistent prayers for plans for the next 14 months or so. We plan to take part in a major military ministry training event which happens every 10 years. Called Global Interaction, it is in South Africa in early December 2014. This will include Military Christians from well over 100 countries from all around the world. The trip also involves a strategic prayer and planning meeting for key military ministry staff, listening to God and discerning the future direction of military ministry around the globe.

That’s a summary of what we are involved in with the ACCTS ministry now Noel is working full time again! No retirement in sight here!

News from our family here and in the UK is all good. All 4 grandchildren are healthy and doing well at school and preschool. Their parents are always busy but give time to their families to enjoy days out together at the weekends. The Fall is a great time for farm and countryside visits. Plans are now being made for the UK family to visit the USA next summer. We are all greatly excited at the prospect of our family being all together in the same place and our 4 grandchildren spending time together getting to know each other.

We are always grateful to you all for continuing to follow our journey. We are blessed by your prayers, support, messages and visits. You make a huge difference in our lives. Thank you so much!

Please continue to pray for us and our children and grandchildren. Pray for safe travel for us all, for good health during the coming winter days and lots of excellent quality family time.

Our prayers for you all continue so please update us on your needs. We love staying in contact, even if we are not always good at replying. We do read all the messages you send, even if we have ‘senior moments’ remembering all the details!

God richly bless you at this season of Thanksgiving.

Transplant plus 16 months

It’s been 6 weeks since I posted an update… 16 months post transplant

‘…they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not faint’. Isaiah 40:31.

The six weeks since we returned from the UK and Noel’s last appointment in Boston have gone by very fast. We have been doing a lot of early morning walking trying to build up our stamina and enjoying the lovely Fall weather we have been blessed with this year. Noel has felt good but feeling a little more tired than he has been for some while… and still has a number of mouth sores and the ongoing digestive problems. But everyone tells him he is looking good, including me! I think he is better than the average!!

Today we saw Dr. Soiffer. Noel’s blood tests revealed his levels of red blood cells to be stable but still low at 3.45, white blood cells, stable at 4.2 are within the normal range and his platelets also stable but lower than normal at 102. All these figures are very slightly lower than the last visit on August 23rd.

Today Dr. S showed concern but was not worried about Noel’s liver and kidney function levels, which are both slightly elevated. Dr. S decided to up Noel’s dose of the steroid a little and to see him again in 3 weeks. We are happy with this although we were planning Boston trips every 6 weeks, but we are pleased that Dr. S likes to keep a close eye on Noel.

We are not discouraged but trust in the Lord and mount up with wings as eagles…

We recently had the good news that Noel’s stem cell donor has indicated he would like contact with us. No contact can be made until a year after the transplant… we have now passed that date… and have been given his name and address. He lives in Virginia Beach… which is a sort of coincidence since we lived in that area for 10 years. We hope soon to make contact with him and possibly meet him one day… to thank him for his gift of new life.

Noel also had his ‘flu shot today… which will hopefully protect him in the coming ‘flu season.

We are blessed to again be able to stay this week at the Hope Lodge. We are now on the wait list for a room for Noel’s next appointment at the DFCI , 22 October for 2 nights. Hopefully a room will become available (please pray that this will indeed happen) otherwise we will have to stay in a hotel.

Our lives have been busy, helping with daycare for Lucy and before and after school care for Charlotte… They are both doing well Charlotte is enjoying First Grade and Lucy her 2 mornings at preschool.

We were very proud parents last week when Toby was one of the 20 local people to receive an award “20 under 40” sponsored by our local newspaper. He, along with 19 others, were chosen from a submitted list of 92 names as influential local leaders with excellent potential for the future. We were able to celebrate with him at the Awards Lunch for family and friends from work and his church.

In the last couple of weeks we have also been blessed by visits from 2 sets of good friends from England. Tamsin and Steve came to lunch while touring the Boston and New England area. We had not seen them for more than 6 years. But those years quickly drifted away and we could not believe it had been so long. Ted and Caroline came to stay for the weekend. They last visited us just after we moved to Glens Falls, 6 years ago, but they have hosted us 4 or 5 times in their home in England since then. What a blessing from the Lord good friends are.

Charles and family continue to do well. Sarah in her teaching role and Eve and Will in first grade and Nursery at school. Charles continues to be very busy traveling internationally every week. In the last three weeks he has attended trade shows and meetings in Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Mexico and Luxembourg.

Noel writes… Life has been increasingly busy on the ministry front too, but it is so good to get back into serving God through serving Chaplains and Veterans. There have been two pray and plan Board meetings for Rev. Nigel Mumford’s new ministry, By His Wounds (BHW) (www.byhiswoundsministry.org or facebook.com/ByHisWounds) and Noel and a BHW Colleague are planning and preparing the next Welcome Home Initiative being held at Longfellow’s Hotel and Conference Center, Saratoga Springs, from November 18-20. We will be trying out the new teaching material on DVD, which was made during the summer. Noel is editing a participants booklet for the retreat and would appreciate prayer that a helpful, encouraging and inspiring booklet will result. Noel has also kept in touch with several Chaplains and Veterans and has hopefully been an encouragement to them as he listens, tries to understand them and the points they are making, and then prays with them openly or silently. His role is not to counsel but often he is able to suggest advice borne out of his own experiences. Noel has also begun to try and recruit scholarship donations for international military folk who need help to get to the next AMCF world event (held only once every 10 years) to get to Global Interaction, a huge training and equipping the saints event in South Africa from Nov 30 to Dec 6 next year (for more information, please contact Noel). Lastly, can you pray for an exciting development that we pray will help the healing of male and female Wounded Warriors at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. A lunchtime Alpha course starts at the Warrior Transition Battalion this week. We thank God for ministry cooperation with Cru Military and their staff member, COL, USA Ret, Keith Morgan, an old friend, who will lead the course on behalf of Chaplain D. We pray for a huge outpouring of God’s power to bring spiritual peace to these brave Soldiers and their families.

Prayer needs… AND praises…

  • To be able to stay at Hope Lodge on October 21-23.
  • For ongoing healing progress, especially regularizing of liver and kidney functions, platelets and red blood count; fatigue, mouth sores and alimentary canal issues.
  • For an enjoyable and productive ACCTS staff meeting at White Sulphur Springs, south central Pennsylvania from October 6-12. We are both going to represent our ministry.
  • For the new Alpha course at Fort Belvoir (see details above). To the best of our knowledge, Alpha has not been used in this way before.
  • For the ongoing preparation and planning for the November Welcome Home Initiative at Saratoga Springs (see details above).
  • For ‘being like Jesus with skin on’ as we minister (listening, loving and praying) within our family; at church; on the healing prayer team at the Spiritual Life Center; with By His Wounds; and one-to-one with Chaplains and combat Veterans.

Next update will be after Noel’s next appointment on October 23 rd at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Thank you all for your continuing interest in our journey… We pray for you all as we see your names and when your names pop into our minds which is often. Please continue to keep in touch with us, we greatly value your friendship and faithfulness to us. God bless you and keep you in His perfect peace and fill your hearts with joy…