Jack and Jill are a retired couple in their late 60s. (Names changed) It is the second marriage for both and 3 years ago they moved into an apartment in a lovely retirement village so that they could 'lock up and leave' and explore the country in their campervan and enjoy some cruises. They both have children and grandchildren who are all very supportive of this relationship.
I was first alerted to Jill's health problems via the prayer chain in February last year. A bladder scan had shown bladder cancer and we were asked to pray. I rang to ask if Jill would like me to visit. She had been having haematuria since December and had required catheterisation a couple of times. The scan showed that the cancer had invaded the bladder wall and was affecting the urethra causing blockage.
With my recent background in surgical Urology nursing I was able answer questionsarising from the Urology visits. I also anointed Jill with oil and prayed with her and Jack. In May Jill required urostomy insertion as the ureters were now affected by the cancer and the Urologist suggested an urgent cystectomy. This was totally beyond Jill's comprehension and she was very reluctant to proceed.
In my current work at a private surgical hospital I have nursed many patients post cystectomy, working with the same Urologist, so was able to slowly talk Jill and Jack through the procedure and reassure them of the outcome, which would be an easily managed, permanent urostomy from the abdominal wall. I was able to reassure them that I would walk alongside them throughout the process. Again we handed everything over to the Lord.
Jill had her procedure in early June, but her recovery was very slow. She was very reluctant to accept the urostomy and reluctant to mobilise or get back to normal. I visited frequently and reinforced her need to manage her urostomy independently and was eventually able to encourage her to accept her discharge home.
When home Jill was still reluctant to return to normal and Jack was not helping by doing everything for her. In July Jill was readmitted to the hospital with an infection which quickly resolved with antibiotics. When she returned home Jill was still not willing to embrace thefuture and was becoming depressed. I had previously advised walks around their lovely village and coffee out, all to no avail. Jack was becoming tired and discouraged.
In August, after much prayer, I decided that it was time to be a little more assertive. The next time I visited I told her that we had all done what we could and that the rest was up to her. I advised Jack to stop running around after her and that she should now start taking part in household chores, meal preparation etc. I also encouraged them to book another cruise for the end of the year. All this time they were being undergirded by prayer. The change was miraculous. Jill went on to recover well and once again became her bright, positive self. They thoroughly enjoyed their cruise and no-one would ever know that Jill was hiding a urostomy under her trendy clothes. Her subsequent scans now show no evidence of tumour anywhere in her body.
However, in April this year, the couple received another bombshell. Jack was admitted to hospital with severe back pain. Scans and blood tests revealed that he was suffering from prostate cancer with a possibility of metastatic bone disease.
They rang me to request a visit and asked what should be done next. He was impatient to proceed with any treatment required and was concerned that the public health system might take a while.
They stated that they really wanted the same Urologist to be involved but knew that they couldn't request him in the public system. We prayed and this time I anointed Jack with oil! I immediately contacted a friend in charge of the Urology clinic at the hospital and requested that she fast track the notes to that surgeon if possible. They just 'happened' to be on her desk when I rang! The next day, Friday, at my paid work, I had the opportunity to talk to the Urologist concerned. I explained the situation, and as he already knew the couple and the urgency required, he suggested I ring his rooms and book an appointment for the following Monday and he would not charge them.
That Monday Jack commenced hormone tablets to arrest the growth of the tumour, saw the oncologist on Tuesday and on Wednesday was commencing 3 days of radiotherapy treatment. God is awesome.
However, the prognosis is not good as an MRI scan revealed bone metastases from skull to legs. Jack is hoping to survive until Christmas. As you can imagine it has been an emotional roller coaster ride for this couple, first one and then the other requiring major support and both requiring the prayer, love and support of the Church community.
We are continuing to pray for healing and against the effects of the tumour, especially pain, and against the side effects of the drugs. At Jack's last meeting with the Oncologist she was amazed that none of his drugs had required increasing as was usual, and that he was looking so well, probably, in part, thanks to the Dexamethasone and, of course, prayer. At the moment he is requiring blood transfusions monthly.
Our most recent discussion was whether Jack should commence chemotherapy that was being tentatively offered to him. I shared with Jack and Jill a comment made by our Hospice educator at a recent in-service I attended. She stated that we are becoming good at extending people's lives to the detriment of their quality of life. Jack has decided that a few more weeks at a cost of quality of life is not an option.
Recently they enjoyed a stay at a luxurious lodge paid for by their families.