Thursday, 30 April 2015

Blessed poison

Dad started his chemotherapy today.

I never thought I would write a sentence like that, but here it is in black and white.  Dad had his first full dose of chemotherapy - Dr. Ashish Bakshi - our oncologist suggested using a molecule called gemcitabine - and so Mum and Dad arrived in Thane at 3 AM yesterday, and Dad was admitted at Bethany hospital (surprise, surprise - on the 5th floor again!) at 10 am to have his chemo-port installed.

Where was Dad and Mum?  Well - as you know if you have been following this blog, our dear parents had a small vacation from the heat up in the cool of Mussoorie.  They kept a low profile and they kept their sweaters on!

It was a glorious week of quiet, rest, prayer, soaking in the beauty of their home - before they came back to Thane for what may be 6 months of chemo.  We were especially grateful that they could have this excursion since when Mum and Dad left Mussoorie for Dad's emergency cancer surgery here, they had only had 2 hours to pack up and leave.

So we were so glad that they could spend sometime together (and so grateful that so many of you gentle readers who 'knew' that Mum and Dad were in Mussoorie chose to give them their blessed quietness and togetherness for this short season).

 Besides having pancake breakfasts, our lovely parents also made the best of the glorious sunshine that poured down from the heavens.  You can't beat a view of Dehra Dun from the terrace on a cool crisp morning can you?
 And Mum had her flowers too.  I have just downloaded about 60 pictures of flowers (and precious few of Mum and Dad) - maybe we will have a blog post on Mum's flowers one of these days - but here is a shot of her in the roof-top 'tea garden.'

And so while Sheba and the kids were here and Thane, and I was exploring the countryside around Varanasi, Dad was soaking in this scene from the top of Shanti Kunj:

 But the week soon ran away and on Monday afternoon Mum and Dad were at the quaintly called 'Jolly Grant' airport in Dehra Dun waiting for their 3 PM flight for Delhi and then on to Mumbai.  Only their flight did not leave at 3 PM - it got delayed till well past 6 and so they were put on a night flight to Mumbai which left at 12 AM and yours truly and Enoch met them at the airport at 2 AM and then whisked them home in our Papaya through the ghostly streets arriving here at 3.

Mum and Dad did not let out a peep of complaint for the ordeal - and were all praise for the fine folks who drove Dad around on a wheel chair in the airports.  The one small problem was that we did not have a certificate saying he was sick.  And so initially so he started to take off his shirt to show the scar and the jujenal tube when the officials quickly agreed that he was indeed in need of a wheel chair.

How we wish that Dad and Mum's being with us would be for another reason - but since the biopsy showed that Dad's pancreatic tumour has spread beyond the primary tumour area, we have decided that we would like to try and kill off as much of the cancer that is left as possible using the gemcitabine molecule.  As with all chemotherapy - this is a molecule that is aimed to kill that which is cancerous.  A blessed poison that is aimed at killing as many of Dad's rogue cells as possible, while sparing as many normal cells as it can.  But as with each therapy, there are going to be costs.  We know that Dad's immunity will be dipping very low, so we are in a new era where Dad is not allowed to eat raw vegetables (imagine Dad without his beloved tomatoes at each meal?).

So when we admitted him yesterday morning, we really did not know what to expect.  The operation to insert the chemo-port went well - and Dad and Mum had a good lunch after that!

Dad was overjoyed to meet all his old friends - and we had a steady stream of nurses coming in to see 'uncle Ray.'   "How are you uncle?" most of them chimed - to which Dad said with his big smile: 'getting better and better every day!'

And so Dad (and yours truly) had a good sleep in room no. 506 of Bethany Hospital last night.

Today we woke up to chemo day.  I woke up to find that Dad had already had had his sponge bath and had been sitting in a chair reading the Bible.  I woke up to find the room empty.  No, Dad had not been raptured.  He had been taken for an early morning x-ray before the oncologist would come to start the chemo.

The actual administration of the molecule did not even take a full hour.  Dad's army of nurses got him prepped and the meds were administered into his chemo-port, which sent the drug through the inner tube into the jugular vein and which goes directly to his heart and then off to the other parts of the body.

We were so glad (and mindful of many prayers) when Dad called up just before 3 PM to say that he was ready to come home.

I was able to stand up at our JSK Positive Friends meeting during the testimony time and tell about just how good God has been to us during these days of being stretched and having the joy of being able to serve Mum and Dad.

Supper was a joyous but a tad subdued occasion.  Joyous, because we were thrilled that Dad went through his first dose of chemo so well - and was in such high spirits.

Subdued because Yohand had another epileptic fit just before supper.  It was not easy to see our boy unable to stop the spasms and wonder when the manic electrical impulses from his brain would calm down and give us the Yohan that we normally have again.

It looks like Bethany Hospital will see our shadows again tomorrow as we will now need EEGs and MRIs to look at what is really going on with our son - especially as he is on some anti-epileptic medications already...

One day at a time, sweet Jesus!

We ended the day in prayer.  Some of the ladies from our church came for the regular Wed. evening prayer time from 6-7 PM - and the men came later for a 9.30-10.30 slot.   The women prayed - among other things - for Dad's healing.  The men for Yohan and Dad's healing.  There is much to pray for.  Today's blessed poison will we hope give Dad more life.  The prayers of many are with us - we are so grateful! 

Monday, 27 April 2015


Mum and Dad are due to arrive back in Mumbai at 9 PM tonight after a short 10 day 'urlaub' in the quiet and cool of Mussoorie.

The earthquake was felt by some people in Mussoorie - but not in Shanti Kunj.  When he rebuilt the old 'McCaughley Cottage' Dad took care to dig down into the bed-rock and put a steel/cement frame in so that barring them being at the very epicentre of a quake, it should hold firm for most Himalayan seismic activity.  Our hearts are heavy for the terrible suffering across Nepal and some parts of N. India.

Tomorrow afternoon Dad at 4.30 PM is scheduled to have a chemo-port inserted at Bethany Hospital here in Thane.  We expect his first dose of Chemo to be given the next day.

We just got back last night from a superb JSK staff retreat in Pune - and I was in Mirzapur district for the first 3 days of last week - so things have continued to be boiling away in our lives.

Hope to share more, but will just post as brief update.  Your prayers for the next steps in Dad's treatment are of course deeply appreciated.  

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Leaving on a jet plane

This blog is getting its start while driving past the salt pans outside Mulund.  The sun is beating down and evaporating sea water lying is shallow areas that have been cleared from the mangrove swamps a century ago when this intertidal 'land' had no value.   Today it is almost worth its weight in gold.   The only thing stopping it from being gobbled up by the insatiable hunger that the Mumbai real-estate, policitician (and underworld) nexus have for buildable land is the environmental regulation that says that these wetlands need to be kept from further development.  But the papers are rumbling with rumours that this too will pass...

Why am I passing by this stretch on the eastern express highway (one that Enoch and Asha ply every day in the 45 min - 1hr 15 min school trip - and then back again at the end of the day) on a Sunday morning?   Well, it's because I am in a taxi on the way to the airport - to get the only flight that gets me into Varanasi by early evening.  So I had to duck out of our Sunday worship service at 11 to start the journey that should end this evening with me at a small town in Mirzapur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh whose quaint name is Hindi for tortoise!

In between my trusty flight should stop in our national capital before winging it over to the holy city of Varanasi - and then I assume I will be driven by jeep to Tortoise-town!
Why am I going here today?  Well, that is a good question.  My links with this place and the mission hospital that has been running (and at times limping along) for over a century are fairly deep.  This is where Drs. Santhosh and Saira Mathew were working when I was at Nav Jivan Hospital in Palamu district of Bihar (now Jharkhand of course).   On one of the visits that I made there, Dr. Santhosh challenged a young male nurse called Bal Bahadur to start up community health and development work - something that grew and grew and was greatly benefitted by my brother Stefan's 2 years of service there.

One of the more vivid memories I have is of jumping off a running train at Mirzapur station.   I had taken the night train from Daltonganj along with my dear friend Dr. Tan-zu Jen.  Jen was then a medical student and was doing a rotation with me at Nav Jivan and we suddenly woke up with a start to find out that we were already at Mirzapur station.  We have to get off I shouted as we grabbed our things and headed for the door.  Then the train started moving.  We had left the platform and were snaking through the switch tracks onto what must have been the main line.  "Jump" I told Jen - and I did.  I landed with a bang on the side, with Jen following me right afterwards.  Of course people were shouting at us - and the train snaked off into the distance while we sheepishly gathered our belongings and walked back to the platform to well deserved abuses by those around us.  Only then did I realise that Jen had jumped without his glasses.

The foolishness of youth.   Please do not attempt this at home - or away from home.   Guardian angels were certainly out in full force - and stupidity which could have ended my life and that of Jen - or at least seriously maimed us - did not result in its logical outcomes.  A few bruises is what I remember on me - and I think a torn backpack.  The very name of "Mirzapur station" brings all those memories rushing back...

But today I am off to this place for a different reason.  A few months ago I agreed to help out with an evaluation of the wide-ranging transformational work that has taken place over the past decade out of the hospital.  The next 2.5 days are going to be chock-a-block with learning and immersion into what God has done - with the aim of celebrating the current and looking forward to the future.  Your prayers are much cherished as I step forward with my 2 colleagues from other organisations into this exciting experience.

Needless to say - things a home have not been quiet in the least.

The amazing blending churn of our lives continues to mix and shake us up - with all the emotions and joys and some of the sorrows and frustrations melded in as well.

I leave behind Sheba who is taking on far more than her fair share of this life we are living together.  
We had an amazing day yesterday.  In the morning Mum and Dad were with us.   Sheba took Mum to Bethany to follow up on some tests from the day before - and we realise that all of our health is in the Lord's hands - Mum needs to start on some heart medications and we will be investigating her more when they come back...

When they come back?   Well, just in case you do not know - Mum and Dad are on a small 'holiday' in Mussoorie! They arrived late last night and will be spending the next week in peace and quiet (strong plea to all hillside folks who love Dad and Mum so much - kindly call if you are even thinking of coming to Shanti Kunj - and Mum's decision on the phone will be final).   This morning they were sitting on the terrace in their long-johns (under their other clothes of course) enjoying the absolute pin drop silence and praising God as the sun came up over the beauty of the Himalaya.  Talking to Mum on the phone was just to hear her voice dripping with joy.  Thanks to all who helped make this possible.   Dad and Mum are due back on the 27th evening and then the next challenges of chemo will be faced - but for now a week of quiet beauty and restoration is in store for them.

We saw them off yesterday at 1 PM - right where I am at this very moment - at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (domestic terminus).  I am currently using the free wifi to pop this off to you and then I get into Indigo flight 176 for a hop to Delhi and a skip to Varanasi and then the jeep jump to the Tortoise-town.

And so I am leaving on a jet-plane to find out what can be done using the simplest of inputs in rural communities of a notorious place (this is where Phoolan Devi was murdered as a sitting Member of Parliament).

And to those I leave behind?  Well, Sheba is not well with a bronchitis and a long-standing bad tooth (both of our mouths can give the Kanheri caves a run for the money when it comes to cavities and deep holes).  And then the on-going stretching of caring for Yohan without me there.  And then the two sick people admitted at JSK.  One plus is that Asha and Enoch's holidays have begun so Sheba is spared the mad morning rush to get them on the 6.55 AM school bus is not a factor.  Amazingly, with all that is going on, Sheba suggested that we make it a family trip to the airport yesterday - so all 7 of us piled into our Papaya to see off Mum and Dad on their flight to Dehra Dun - and then the 5 of us went to see an IMAX film about Antartica at the Nehru Science Centre and took in the 4.30 Nehru Planetarium show too!  And to top it off, Sheba cooked us a chicken biryani when we arrived back hot and tired from the day in town.  This woman that I am married to has a heart brimming with love - and is pushing through multiple challenges with the strength of the Lord.  Sheba's love in action is costly giving love.  Only eternity will tell...

If I had my wish I would not be heading off to UP at this time, but commitments made need to be fulfilled - and so I am going to send this off right now and board the flight and zoom into the hot post-noon sky to the other side of our amazing nation.  Wonders never cease!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Chemo on the horizon

This morning Dad, Sheba and I met Dr. Ashish Bakshi at Bethany Hospital.  Dr. Bakshi is a medical oncologist whom Dr. Stephen referred us to, and he sat down and reviewed Dad's case with us.

The fact of the matter is that the cancer has already spread beyond the large tumour which was successfully surgically removed 3 weeks ago.   One of the lymph nodes harvested was positive for cancer in the biopsy, and a perineural invasion was seen.  So we will continue to be dealing with cancer in Dad's body for the forseeable future - and that too a kind that is particularly invasive.

The outcome and improvements of chemotherapy in this kind of cancer is small.  But if we are going to do it, now is the time.  We know it has spread and we hope to hit it with this cancer-toxic chemical.

Mum and Dad have had more than their share of dear friends die of cancer.  Some of which suffered terribly in their last stages.  For Mum and Dad chemotherapy is almost synonymous with pain, terrible side effects and death.  So it was quite a surpise for us all to hear Dr. Bakshi say that for the molecule he is suggesting - gemcitabine - has according to him a side-effect rate of nausea in only 5% of patients.  The more common side-effect is a low grade fever which he estimates takes place in 10% of those taking this molecule, and which will of course be closely monitored. 

Dr. Bakshi suggested that we have a chemo-port inserted for Dad.  The port is a small vessel which will be inserted under the skin near Dad's collarbone.  The port has a tube that will go into the superiour vena cava (the main vein that supplies the heart).  The chemotherapy medications will be inserted into this port which will then supply it into the vein - so Dad will not need to have the IV lines through his veins in his arms. 

We then met Dr. Stephen and after a discussion about where to start the chemotherapy, we decided that it would be best to begin the treatment here in Thane at Bethany.

So here we have it.  We are prayerfully going to start Chemotherapy for Dad.  It will be 6 months long and each monthly cycle consists of 3 days when the chemo will be administered - with medications given on the first day, followed by further doses on the 8th and 15th days.

And then the discussion veered to when to begin the treatment.  Obviously we want to start as soon as possible.  At the same time, Dad is still recovering from his surgery (and doing pretty well at that thanks to the continued grace of God flowing through him).  And both Mum and Dad dearly want to go to Mussoorie.

So after consulting with Dr. Bakshi and Dr. Stephen - we decided to give Mum and Dad a holiday - and send them back to Mussoorie for 10 days!  Dad was ecstastic.   He couldn't wait to tell Mum.

But then there was still some work to do at the hospital.  A special visit up to the 5th floor to meet the team there who had cared for Dad - he was back with his family.  All lit up when he walked out of the lift.

Dad was of course treated as a returning hero - which of course he is.  His way of dealing with adversity and the genuine love he expresses to each person 'big' and 'small' endeared him to the angels on the 5th floor of Bethany hospital.

By mid-day we had booked tickets for Mum and Dad - they are off tomorrow afternoon to Dehra Dun and will be in Mussoorie by night - God willing of course!

Asha and Enoch were back from their two day sleep over at Nikita and Jaspers home - much to the joy of Yohan who had missed them mightily (as had a number of other family members).  And we knew that we have to do something special for the evening.  The last thing, however, that I thought we would be doing was going out to eat - but at 5.30 PM that is what Sheba called me up about: Dad was insisting that he take us out to Pizza Hut.  And so an hour and a half later this is where we found ourselves - picture courtesy the super waiter Ali who really cared for us:

As we waited for our feast we took turns walking back over the miraculous events since the 7th of March when we talked with Stefan and Neeru over the phone about the sobering conversation that we had with Dr. Stephen about Dad's 'growth' that was blocking his bile duct and causing the deep jaundice he had.

Dad started off by simply and clearly saying that he feels that he has come back to life again.  That Jesus has given him some more time and that he still has work to do.  We then went around and expressed our thanks for the amazing ways that everything fit together, that decisions were made and followed through, how the Bethany Hospital had taken such good care of Dad, how he has gone 'against the odds' in getting the surgery done and doing so well afterwards, how each member of the family - near and far - have helped out in so many ways, how much love and prayers we have been bathed with ... the list went on and soon the hot pizzas arrived!

 We were also celebrating Asha and Enoch's successfully completing their first year at Bombay Scottish School - Powai.  It has been a good year and we were pleased with how they did in their exams. 

Yes, there are areas for improvement, especially in the offspring with the XY chromosomes. But hats off to Sheba who helped guide our two scholars through a mine-field of exams - a testimony to her love and care! 

The pizzas were given a good work-out as 4 out of the 7 walked back home while two bald men and a skinny fellow went on a small shopping outing to get Dad replacement shoes for the ones he seems to have lost somewhere in the hospital.

On getting back just in time for Yohan's evening med dose (he has 100% adherence I am happy to report!) we were treated to a small worship concert by our older two (and enthusiastic participation by all and sundry).

And so we move forward into a new day!  There are many unknowns - but we know who holds the future!

One small request for our dear friends in the Mussoorie / Dehra Dun area: 
Could you please *not* visit Mum and Dad during these days.  They are starved of solitude.  They have been *very blessed* by *lots* of people visiting them here.  The very best way you can express your love for them is by continuing to pray for them.  To be very frank, most visitors to Shanti Kunj take far more out of them than they are getting.  So unless *they call you* please do not make the pilgrimmage up to Shanti Kunj - and also please do not call up and ask "how are you doing?"  It takes a lot of effort for Dad to tell everything (which he will do if you call).  It is better to read about his progress here!  Thanks for helping out in this way!  Your prayers are the most important help you can give Dad and Mum these days!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Overcomers (in training)

Dad has been home for a week today.

During his hospitalisation, especially when he was 'subsisting' on 30 ml of liquid orally every hour (more was given through IV of course) he often joked that he really wanted to eat pizza - or that he was having a big pizza for dinner...

The joking continued after discharge - and over this week he has been gradually eating a little more each day - and getting to eat slightly more solid food each time.

As I was leaving JSK this afternoon Sheba called me up.

What about getting Dad some pizza?  Why not!

And so I played delivery man for dominos p - and we had one happy Dad tonight!

It has been a good week for Dad - and for all of us in fact.  The air-conditioner in his room is a boon - a haven of quiet coolness in a Thane that is already nicely on the boil.

Dad has started reading again - devouring the Easter issue of Light of Life magazine and reading his Bible and the paper.  We have a special chair for him which he uses in a little nook in the room.  In the evenings we open the window for fresh air.   He is currently on the last chapter of Amazing Grace the remarkable story of William Wilberforce written by Eric Metaxas (and not to be confused with the milquetoast movie of the same name).

It was a blessing to have Dad in church on Sunday - one of the advantages of house churches is that you can shift the venue when needed - and so for these two weeks we are meeting in our home.   His words challenged everyone.  

While we have generally discouraged visitors - there are some hardy souls that do come by anyway.  Dad is always happy for company and has been blessed by prayers.

Today was his follow up appointment with Dr. Stephen Alfred.

We returned to Bethany Hospital - and it was almost home to Dad - with him greeting all and sundry and wanting to go up to the fifth floor to meet the nursing team there.

Dr. Stephen was quite pleased with Dad's progress.  His bilirubin level has been slowly falling - from that crazy level of 31 it has now dropped down to 5.  It's obviously still high, but that is expected as the body slowly flushes itself of the extra bile that was swimming around in it after the bile duct was blocked.   Importantly and gratifyingly, Dad's digestive tubes are doing their thing.  He is still weak and gets tired after the short walks he takes each day - but spends more time sitting up each day.

Dr. Stephen told Dad that he will have to watch out as he might become diabetic, given that they have had to remove a portion of his pancreas.

Dr. Stephen also reminded Dad that one of the nodes that were harvested for biopsy was positive for cancer.  This means that before the surgery was done, the cancer has spread at least a bit through the lymphatic system.

This is of course not good news - but not very surprising given that the tumour itself was large and poorly diffrentiated which indicates that it was fairly advanced already.

We thus booked an appointment tomorrow for the oncologist who will discuss options for chemotherapy with us.  It is another big step that we will need to take - and a decision which at present we areally do not know enough about to even pray intelligently.

The normal blood tests were ordered - and since we were in the hospital we also had Mum show herself to the main physician about her cholesterol levels - that meeting led to another raft of tests being ordered including an ECG, ultrasound and 2D echo cardiograph. 

In the midst of all of this Sheba got a phone call.  It was 11 AM and she needed to be at JSK to be with the patients.  But the call was from Asha and Enoch's school.  Asha and Enoch have a final half-day today and tomorrow - and were staying with their friends Nikita and Jasper.  The call was from the school authorities to tell us that Enoch had fallen and cut himself and needed stitches.

Could we come and pick him up.

It seemed like the last thing that we wanted to do, but that's what parents are there for aren't they?   Sheba told the school authorities that Nalini Gabriel (Nikita and Jasper's mother) would come and pick up Enoch and that we would get him from her home.   We had left Yohan at JSK when we took Dad and Mum to meet Dr. Stephen.  So I dropped off Sheba at JSK, then dropped off Dad at home, having left Mum to finish her tests at Bethany.

Just as I was about to leave for Powai, Sheba called up to say that Nalini had picked up Enoch and it was a small cut above the eye.  Enoch was fine and did not want to come back at all.  He had a birthday party to attend that evening so coming back here was certainly not what he wanted to do.

Nalini also sent us a picture of our son to prove that all was well:

And so I had the luxury of getting back to the JSK office instead of a drive with the Papaya to Powai.

Our weekly staff meeting featured a time of personal reflection and sharing about the first quarter of 2015 which has already spend by.  Looking back I would never have believed that we would have another son in our home - and that Mum and Dad would be camping with us!   I am so much more aware of the value of life - and of every minute. 

Every Tuesday evening, we have been working through the various 'I am' sayings of Jesus found in the gospel of John.  How true these are.  How much hope and comfort and challenge to know that Jesus is 'the resurrection and the life.'   How much we see this in Dad and Mum these days.  How much we look forward to our Lord Jesus returning - and how true He is when He says that 'in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.'

There is a lot going on right now in our lives and the last few weeks have left us emotionally very tired.  But here is the time when we most need to be overcomers!  We have a big red "L" stuck on our Papaya to tell the world that we are still learning to drive - Sheba is improving in confidence but has not yet taking the Papaya out for a spin 'on her own.'  In a way we need a big red "L" stuck on us to let the world know that we are still very much learning to overcome.  Still very much in training when it comes to helping lead the world at JSK, help out with the church, care for Dad and Mum, parent our three very different kids, work through the myriad complexities of human relationships, keep the house clean and balance the books, stay somewhat sane and relatively civil to one and all ... and in all of this truts in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.   Overcomers in training.

Tomorrow morning at 8.40 AM we meet our new oncologist friend.  A new set of doors are opening up for us.  Pray for us that we make good choices about which ones to walk through.

We will keep you posted!  Thanks for walking with us!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

This beautiful life

Today was a beautiful day of rest and worship.  Yesterday was a day of dizzying busyness.  Both days have bled into each other - and we are thankful for the many mercies received.

To recap:

We have had Dad at home with us since Thursday.   And we welcomed Neeru that evening - who had come to help out with Dad and was a great blessing to us all.

Each day has been another testimony to grace.  Dad is slowly gaining appetite, eating just a little more each time.  He has started to go downstairs for a walk once a day.  At the same time he continues to rest and be blessed by his reading and reflection and prayer.

We have a lovely little corner that Dad has made his own.  To read the Bible in the morning and then look through the news.

He also has his table with his meds and the inhalation exercise device.  And flowers too.

Mum meanwhile continues to be her lovely self.  Blessing us all with her love and care.  We have to shoo her away from the kitchen at times as we find her quietly washing the dishes and being the love-in-action person she has been to us over the years.

We are glad that Yohan has not had another fit - and have increased his dosage on his medications.  He loves having his photo taken - something his older siblings are a bit allergic to at present - so for your viewing pleasure - another Yohan shot with Mum!

One thing has to be said.  Though we are hardly happy for the reason that Mum and Dad are with us these days, we are so glad to have them here.  It is such a blessing to see them close up, to have them participate in the lives that we are living, to see their love for each other and the way that the sheer goodness of the Lord.   At the end of yesterday - it was time for a small conference of our elders:

So back to where I started

Yesterday was a blur.   JSK in the morning.  Then two amazing seminars on 'Doubt' and 'Hope' by Stuart McAllistar of RZIM, hosted at the Bethany Hospital.  Just one of the many things Stuart said during his talks: "Doubts are the half-way house between faith and unbelief.  Doubts addressed can lead to a strenthening of faith, while doubts unaddressed lead to unbelief."

Stuart had worked with OM for 2 decades and when he heard that Dad was recovering stopped in for a memorable visit.  We also had Bennet and Bernie stop by and bless us with cake from TH Bakes (they had also come for the seminar), as well as an early visit by Ajay and Shubra Shandilya and then Martha Udom.

But for us at JSK, things were just getting underway with an afternoon training session for the team to gear up for our Home-Based Care survey that kicks off tomorrow - while at the same time a number of our Positive Friends and others had come for consultations with Dr. Prasanna Jebaraj - who has recently retired from CMC Vellore where she had been serving as a psychiatrist for many years.  We were blessed to have Dr. Prasanna also address our JSK team and church members with an overview of helping people with mental health issues - a great blessing and more so because when she came over after a full day of serving others, she told us that she remembers Dad addressing the students at CMC Vellore during her student days.  What an amazing circle of blessing.

Neeru flew back to Delhi - leaving behind a delicious rajma dish which we devoured for lunch - after hosting our home church in our house today.  Dad shared in the worship time about how he really feels that he has 'come back from the dead'  and thanked all who have been praying and helping out near and far (and then he retired for rest in the other room while we continued). A long nap in the afternoon, then a gospel meeting at JSK in the evening.  Reading with Enoch.  A super supper.  All is well.  God is good.  Sleep is coming.  Grateful. This beautiful life.

Friday, 10 April 2015


It took us 6 trips.  Probably something like a cumulative 20 odd hours of waiting in the heat of an early Bhiwandi summer.  At least 3 times when we were told we would get the order.

But finally, and blessedly, this evening we left the authorities with a piece of paper in our hands giving us foster care rights for Yohan for the next 6 months.

We are finally legal.  Something that we have been working on for the past 2.5 months.  Something to provide an official framework for the miracle that Yohan is to us.

"You are not the parents of this child" is something that the head person on the panel took pains to tell us at least 3 times at this meeting.  We nodded our heads meekly.  We had prayed for this meeting.  As had others.  We know in our hearts that Yohan needs parents more than anything - and that whatever our legal status is - we are his spiritual and emotional parents.  We hear that every day when he calls us 'Daddy' and 'Mummy.'

And we will now look into the next options.  But to start with we have this precious piece of paper telling us that Yohan is legally allowed to be under our care for the next 6 months.

Why worry about tomorrow, each day has enough sorrow of its own is what the Book of books tells us.  How true that was for us today.  As we waited for the 2.5 hours till our case was heard, we could not help but hear and see young lives so terribly broken (or veering towards such ends).   A boy in a ragged poorly patched shirt, being held by an authority figure- telling how his parents had fought and broken glass.  Mothers looking blankly, waiting for their turn.  A late teen girl sitting silently while her family went through the tasks of getting her custody, lawyers roaming outside.  Two nuns with a long list of names - children from their care home who wanted permission to meet their parents over the summer holidays.

We don't know what the future holds - but we know that we are walking in hope.  We are also so very grateful for Neeru who was with us and whose wise counsel and experince and humility in dealing with figures of authority was a literal God-send to us.

We are home with the paper.  And now the on-going work of restoration in Yohan's life can continue apace.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

Today was a full day for us all.

It started out with me waking up from another night of sleeping with Dad in the hospital.  As the nights have added up, I have been sleeping more.   The elder 2 kids are having their exams so I have been scooting over home just after 6 AM to see them before they are of to their school bus.

Mum has been with Dad most of the days.  It is wonderful to see how they look after each other - over all these years - and in fresh beautiful ways.   Our times in the valley can be times of great shared joy too.

Normally when I come into Dad's hospital room when Mum is on watch, I find her holding a Bible in her hand, reading Dad a Psalm or a passage from Isaiah.

This morning Dr. Stephen said that Dad could go home.  When, we were not sure, but we knew it was coming when one of the staff came by with a patient satisfaction survey to fill out.

I told Mum and Dad to call when I should come by.

As noon I returend home since a number of patients had come to Jeevan Sahara to see Sheba.   It was good that I did.

Asha and Enoch came back from school - hot and sweaty from the noon-day bus-ride since they only take the exam of the day and return back.  I had amazing news for them - Neeru Aunty was coming!

We then got ready for lunch and were all in the kitchen.  I told Yohan to take the plates to lay the table - and he stretched out his hands to get them.  But Yohan was stretching them out in the another direction.  I tried to give him the plates again and he stretched out his hands in another place.  Enoch and Asha were getting a bit annoyed at the game.  Then we realised it wasn't a game.  He was shaking.  I picked him up and took him to his bed in the front room.  Yohan was having a focal seizure.

We have been giving Yohan anti-epileptic drugs each day along with his other meds.  We were wondering whether it was really necessary.  Today we found out it was.  

The seizure did not last very long - and Asha and Enoch were amazing during it - assisting me as I held his hand and head.  Praying, talking to Yohan and comforting him.

After a few minutes Yohan calmed down.  Then cried and called out to 'Mama.'  Then slept.

We had barely started eating, while Yohan rested, when my phone rang.  It was Dad saying that they were ready to be picked up! 

Mum had decked him out for the journey - for the first time in over 2 weeks without the hospital blue gown: 

And of course there were lots of good-byes.

One of the Bethany nurses has already put a photo of her and Dad on her FB account with the caption that he is one of her favourite patients.  

We are so very grateful for the loving care that Dad received from the whole Bethany Hospital team - from top to bottom and left to right - all were a blessing - and I think most went away from meeting Mum and Dad blessed as well.

Dr. Stephen jokingly asked his nurses this morning whether they would agree to let 'Uncle Ray go home today' "Nooo" they all replied with big smiles.

But leave Dad did.

I was ready with our Papaya and picked up Mum and Dad right from the casualty entrance to ferry them home.

And looking out our window as we left Bethany Hospital, Mum clicked one of the security folks mirroring the smile on all our faces:

And so we are home sweet home again.

The prayers of so many have borne fruit - and Dad is here tonight.

And we are also blessed to have Neeru with us too.  She arrived at just past 6 PM and will be here till Sunday to love and serve Dad.  We are so very blessed to have her expression of love - and for Stefan to release her while caring for the kids in Delhi.

In addition, we earlier had the joy of Dr. Prasanna Jebaraj - the retired head of Psychiatry from CMC Vellore paying us a visit at JSK this afternoon and meeting with some of our dear friends with long-term mental healing challenges.   She remembers Dad from her student days in CMC Vellore when he had come as a speaker and wanted to meet him - but Dad was taking a nap when she dropped in at home in the early evening.

Having Dad sit at the dining table with all of us for supper is such a joy.  His intake is still very modest, but just to have him sitting and talking is a wonder.  Dad says that he feels he has been given another life.  We know that God has spoken to him very deeply in these days and look forward to hearing about it in the coming days.

Our job now is to get Dad slowly back into fitness again.  His body systems are starting up again - and we would love to get him home to Mussoorie - but will need to wait at least a month or so for that.

In the mean time, we are enjoying each moment of today.  

It's been a full day - and as all eight of us will gather in a few minutes for our evening devotions, we will be thanking God very specially for the miracle of having Dad back home - and helping us even in challenging situations.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Fasting and feasting

How good food is.

We eat it every day.  Sometimes just shovelling it down without a thought.  Other times nibbling at something and throwing it away.  Sometimes allowing it to rot in our fridges till mould sets in.

But what a joy to actually taste something, to actually swallow something when you have not done so for 2 weeks.

That's the joy Dad experienced yesterday as he had his first nibbles in a fortnight.

What a blessing that he can now slowly start eating.  His first meal was ... of course ... an idli with some sambhar!

And the answer to your question is 'No!'   Dad has not lost hair.  Dad has just been given a very close cropped buzz by his eldest son since Dad was uncomfortable with his locks.   We will wait out the question of chemotherapy for another date.  At present the key task is to get Dad's bodily functions up and running again.

Once again, the good folks at Bethany have been assisting Dad in his recovery.  A few days ago he had a lung infection.  A small pneumonial patch was seen in his upper lungs.  So medication has been given stat - including using an oxygen nebuliser to get the drugs right to the lungs.   Dad has been using these sessions to pray as the noisy bubbling, gurgling of the O2 flowing over the meds and vapourising it so that it can be breathed in goes on.

The white cotton hanging from the neck is the central line that is still in place at present.  There are multiple little tubes that can be hooked up to IV or medication drips as and when needed.  Very handy of course, but now that things are getting more and more normal for Dad - he has started taking some meds orally now - it is time to say goodbye to this... soon we hope!

One feeding option that we said good bye to yesterday was the feeding through the jujenal tube.  After two days of getting eggs mixed with milk directly into the intestines (Dad's feet had become a bit puffy from a lack of protein) - as well as regular water inputs over the past week - our nurses have stopped their jujenal injections.

And so ever so slowly, Dad's fasting is turning into feasting.  

We don't want to rock the boat, but are hoping for Dad to be discharged for home tomorrow.   

And so gradually our thoughts are turning towards the north, and Mussoorie!  Dr. Stephen feels that the jujenal tube should be in for 6 weeks after surgery... so that means Dad needs to be around here for another month or so of recovery.  

We will of course also have to talk to at least one oncologist as well.  But first things first - we hope to have a feast to celebrate Dad coming home ... and hopefully the feast will be tomorrow.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement along this journey.  Here is a picture Mum snapped in the Bethany Hospital cafeteria.  It's pretty apt:

Monday, 6 April 2015

Not home ... yet

We were hoping to have Dad home today.

But at 1.30 AM in the morning Dad woke me up and said that he was having some trouble breathing - that it felt as if there was a band around his chest.  We called the doctor on duty.  He suggested using an oxygen mask - but Dad felt it contstricting - and finally he settled for a new arrangement of pillows on his bed.  Something that looked uncomfortable to me - but that he said was very fine for him.  We prayed. A number of times.  And then both slept.

This morning Dad informed me that he had slept great.

But Dr. Stephen said that Dad would not be discharged today.  Another chest x-ray and a sonography was called for.  They showed that there is a patch on the lung.  Some kind of infection.  More meds.  And another few days - at least - in the hospital.

We all want everything... now!  But on the whole we are just so thankful.

Dad's huge, impossible-looking surgery took place 2 weeks ago today.  He is still alive.  He is very much kicking (though fairly weak truth be told).  And the operation itself was able to excise a large advanced cancerous tumour.  Sheba says that for pancreatic cancers only 1 in 5 ends up operable.  Dad's has fallen into that statistic.  Grace upon grace. 

We have crossed the 'danger period' of the 5-8th days where the greatest chances of leakage take place.  Dr. Stephen told us that as much as 50% of people who undergo the surgery Dad did have leakage as the organs do not easily meld together in their new configurations.  But it looks like that has not happened for Dad.

And in all of this we have still been blessed with so much peace.  The prayers of so, so many.   As Dad would say in his emails: sooooooooooooooooooo many!  Tangible, blessed peace in the midst of our strains and challenges.

So though Dad did not return home today, though I am off in a few minutes for another night with Dad in room 511, though we do not have everything working as we want... we do know that we are experiencing the reality of Romans 8.28.   And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   How true this is of Dad - and how much we are all experiencing it!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Biopsies and Birthdays

 We are living in days of grace.

Yesterday we remembered the amazing gift of life that Jesus Christ gave to us on that broken piece of wood He was cruelly nailed to.  Today we celebrate Sheba's 46th birthday.  Tomorrow we rejoice in remembering Christ's smashing death to pieces through His once-and-for-all-time demonstration of His indestructable life.

And in all of this we weave our ways through Dad's illness and recovery.

The day started with me vaguely hearing the nurses swarm into Dad's room as they always do at 5 am to give him his sponge bath.  I gradually faded into awakeness and gave an early morning good-bye to Dad.  It's my sweet-heart's birthday!  What a joy to have a small early morning-celebration with Sheba and our 3 kids and Oma. 

Asha and Enoch are currently a bit camera shy (or maybe their Dad is a bit camera crazy) but there is one member of the family for whom the camera is a new found friend:

Time stops for no-one - we knew that Dr. Stephen would be doing his rounds so it was back into the Papaya for me and up to room No. 511 to be with Dad. 

Sure enough, a few minutes later Dr. Stephen came into the room with the entourage.  Since Dad has a bit of pain in his shoulder again last night, Dr. Stephen suggested having another ultrasound and also aspirating some of the fluid that seems to have accumulated.   He also told Dad the results of the biopsies that had been done in the course of the major surgery.

As expected, the tumour is cancerous.  Turns out we can't even tell where it has started.  The pancreas, the intestine and the common bile duct have all been affected by the tumour.  Not surprising given the size and the density of the mass that was cut out.

Good news?  Well, one good thing is that the biopsy samples taken from the margin of the surgery - the part that was left behind are all negative.  It looks like all that should have been cut out was cut - and as much as should have remained was kept back.


One of the lypmph nodes seems to have given a positive result.  It may be that the cancer has already metastasized to a certain extent.

At present, the task for Dad is to recover from this operation.   We know that we are dealing with a very challenging condition - but the whole purpose of the operation is to extend Dad's life as much as possible - and plausible.  So we move forward.  With prayer and hope.  And thanks for all the interventions done so far.  And work with dealing with the challenges of tomorrow one day at a time.

We don't have all the answers.  We don't even have some of them.  We are learning day by day.

One good thing is that we are not alone in this journey.

From near and far people are praying for us.  And encouraging.  And being there.  We are very grateful for this.  The whole staff and admin at Bethany have been so kind to Dad.  And us.  We are very grateful.

The good news from the ultrasound is that the fluid accumulation does not seem to be more than it was 2 days ago.

The good news from the aspiration is that there does not seem to be any bile fluid staining or any pus - so it seems that we are not dealing with a 'leak' or an outright infection.

The whole body is such a mystery - and the healing process so much the more so.  We are reminded again and again of the truism that the medical profession treats ... but it is God who heals.

And on this special day, we also had some wonderful visitors.

First up - just as the ultrasound procedure was winding down was our dear Anand Sinha and his lovely daughter Medha who stopped in to see us.  It was our first opportunity to meet Medha who was with her Daddy as part of a Father-Daughter outing to Mumbai from distant Gurgaon where they live (leaving Mummy to hold the fort).

Medha - all of 5 years - is quite the word-smith and regaled me with a string of stories in the Bethany cafeteria while Daddy went up to see Dad for a few minutes.  When she and Anand came over to our place we were treated to her lego skills - and a running commentary on how she had made a whole city with a few blocks.  Needless to say, Enoch and Yohan had gone into the room to help her with lego - and didn't emerge for the whole time as they immersed themselves in their building.  Very grateful to dear Anand for his lightning visit - and for bringing little M with him!

Then just after lunch who should we have but the Varghese family from Ambernath.  Another birthday celebration with lots of hugs (and donuts) and the joy of this lovely family.

Its not often we have 5 young lads in the home (Asha was in a lonely planet of her own but was her normal gracious self about it).  What better to do than to play lego (and pillow fights too) and go down stairs for 'cockminton' (as Yohan puts it).

We were blessed to have Dad share about his adoption to Leena and Jim - and have them open up their hearts about how they brought their oldest into the family too.

Finally, at just after 6 we had our dear John Gabriel stopped by too.   He and I spent a wonderful hour in conversation and prayer with Dad.  These are days of gladness and grace.  Each moment is precious.  We are so blessed.

And in the midst of all of this - some studies were also done.  Asha and Enoch each have 6 and 5 exams respectively under their belts - and have 6 more coming up before the promised land of the vacations.

Friday, 3 April 2015

46 sun-spins

Yesterday started with golden sunshine pouring into the hospital room from the east.  

Dad was telling me about how "46 years ago today we were both in the hospital.  Just like we are today."  And what a day of joy that was for him - to see me emerge into the world in the birthing room at St. Elizabeth's nursing home on Malabar Hill in old Bombay!

46 years and we find ourselves back in a hospital room in very different - but no less joyous circumstances.  Me rejoicing in another trip around our beautiful local star - 8 light minutes away from us.  And now having completed 46 of these circles, the thought that there is an end to the circling does show up more often.  For Dad, having gone through cancer surgery and being into his 74th or 75th spin 'round the sun, I see each day as an additional bonus.

One of the verses that we got for Dad is "with long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation." (Psalm 91.16).  To us this is prophetic both in terms of giving us hope that God has some more time for Dad to live - but also a speaking of God's truth into his life already.  Dad has already been satisfied with a long life - and has also been very much shown God's saving acts in so many ways. 

Dad prayed for me there in the Bethany hospital room no. 511.  I may be looking after him at this point in some ways, but he still is very much a father and what a blessing to get his blessing.  Raspy voiced, lying down in bed, holding my hand with his strong grip.

Mum came in a few minutes later - fresh as a peach.  A hug and birthday wish from here and then I had to take a shot of the two 47-years-in-love-birds:

Dad continues to make slow and steady steps forward in his recovery.  Since the "pain in the shoulder episode" two evenings ago, he has not been ill.  He does his little walks and has been upgraded to 1.5 litres orally today.   But he is still weak and needs recovery.   The prayers of saints at a distance are probably more valuable than too many saints coming to visit, since every visit demands energy from Dad. 

Dad should be an honorary Malayali by now, given the numbers of nurses from 'God's own country' who have cared for him so far!   
He has a little call button which he religiously presses every hour to remind our busy-as-bees nurses that it is time for another injection of water into the jujenal feeding tube.

We are taking each day at a time.  Every morning at around 8 Dr. Stephen troops in and there is a short consultation about the what the next step will be.  Today the final abdominal drain was removed so there are not more bags hanging outside - and only the jujenal tube and the common line on his neck giving quick access for fluids and meds when needed.

But back to yesterday.   After coming back home at 9 in the morning, I was welcomed by Sheba and the kids with a beautiful birthday breakfast complete with roses and cake and gifts and cards and lots of love (and the birthday song too!).   Being a school holiday, all three were at home and I was smothered with love by my darlings.

I had to take the day off since we were not sure how much care Dad would need - and I needed to take a good friend of ours for a psychiatric evaluation.   Around noon I popped into the Papaya and drove with my friend and two other church members all the way down to Santa Cruz - and then after a very good time with Dr. Aswani, we drove back just in time to drop Asha off for an early violin class, and read to Enoch and Yohan while we waited... and then we three came back to the local mall and into a fine dining establishment:

At my birthday breakfast, Enoch had given me a voucher for a meal out (with the family too).  He still had some birthday money from Feb left - and decided that he was going to treat us all!  And so it was decided to redeem his gift a.s.a.p.   Mum and Sheba joined us from the hospital and so three generations of Eichers dined out for a change.  Sheba had each person share what they were thankful to the Lord about me for - very, very touching.

I am so very grateful for the huge, unpaybackable amount of love I have received over these years. One of the advantages of cancer is that it cuts through a lot of the sloppiness that we surround ourselves with.  The last month with all its challenges has also been one of the most peace and joy filled months so far.  We are still on the edge - and my tiredness is slowly spilling out - but to have such a beautiful birthday in the midst of the challenges that Dad faces is a beautiful thing.

I ended a lovely day reading to Dad from 'Amazing Grace' by Eric Metaxas - a stirring account of William Wilberforce.  It was a blessing to end another day with Dad in the hospital bed next to me.  

Till tomorrow, here is a shot of me and my beauty (and also our cutie).  Thanks for being with me for at least some portion of the 46 sun-spins so far!

 Coming up tomorrow:  a biopsy report and another birthday

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Quick update on Dad

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your prayers on Dad's behalf.  When I got to the hospital last night the pain had subsided some - to a dull pain / discomfort.  Dad then asked for some pain-killer which was given in the night - and with that had a good deep sleep... and woke up this morning pain-free and in his normal chirpy self!

We understand that a sharp pain in the right shoulder usually signals some discomfort to the diaphram.  Dad also had a slight 100.2 degree fever for a short time.  This morning the physician changed the antibiotics, and an ultrasound was done which showed a small accululation of fluid near where the gall bladder was, and another near where the tube was inserted.   Dr. Stephen does not feel this is a major leak since the abodominal drain is clear and not bile-stained.  Also, Dad would be feeling really ill in such a situation.  So we are going to wait and see.  They will do another ultrasound tomorrow and compare!  The wonders of imaging...

Mum came over while Dad and I were in the ultrasound room.  She will be spending most of the day with him - ministering and reading from scripture (and we hope taking a few naps too).  They have walked 47 years together - and today is another opporunity for them to walk a little further on their common journey of love.

We are grateful that Dad is pain-free.  We are taking each day at a time.  Whenever Dad is asked 'how are you Uncle?' he replies 'getting better and better every day!'


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Sudden pain

It's 7 PM and Sheba has just come from the hospital and says that Dad has had a sudden searing pain in his shoulder and abdomen.  He has been given pain medication and has been taken for an xray.  Mum is with him and has been with him since morning.  I am just going over to the hospital now to find out more about the situation.

Your prayers for Dad are as every solicited.  We very much hope this is a small aberration and not something serious.