Update: December 14, 2015

Posted on: December 14th, 2015 by Christy Jansma

Dear Church,

It’s been eight months since Connie’s cancer diagnosis and you continue to minister to us. You encourage us with words and notes, and with gifts of food and flowers. Beyond that, the way you pull together to advance our church mission is a source of constant joy to me. While I carry the leadership responsibility, the way our staff and board stand in for me, and how you faithfully serve Christ is energizing to me.

Statistically, life expectancy for Stage 4 lung cancer is eight months from diagnosis – that’s the current median. The survival rate 5 years after diagnosis is only 4%. Today marks eight months since Connie’s diagnosis on April 14. That means that from this point onward she’s on the winning side of this cancer battle, by God’s grace. And so we embrace every day as a gift from him. No doctor has given us a timeline, reminding us of the words of the Psalmist – “all the days for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). Those words imply that there are fixed dates on these temporal bodies we inhabit. There is a birth date and a death date, and they both are ordained by God.

I’m thankful I could celebrate Connie’s birthday with her on Sunday between the three performances of “The Intermission” (our annual music / drama outreach). I was present to conclude each performance but otherwise I was at home with her. She was relatively strong and so we enjoyed some meaning conversation. I’m a slow learner at gift giving, but did manage to spread six small gifts over the entire day. Wives, please don’t give up on us who are well intentioned but don’t quickly “get it”.

We look forward, Lord willing, to being together as family for Christmas. Our children are all adjusting their plans so they can be here, along with their kids. They will stay elsewhere to permit Connie the quiet she needs. Over the years much of her energy was devoted to making Christmas special for our family. The holidays have always been a highlight of her year. This will be a very different Christmas for us as she, the fulcrum of our family, is incapacitated. Please pray with us that to some measure we all can enjoy quality time together.

How is Connie doing? I’m proud of her as I witness her emotional strength and resolve. In spite of becoming physically weaker she remains spiritually strong, and confident of God’s grace. It’s painful for me to watch her in this battle. Her world has shrunk to the hospital bed in our family room. Tumour fevers are recurring companions. While incremental, weight loss continues and her appetite is lessening. Her pain is managed with morphine. Courageously she fights on with exhausting trips to the hospital for oncology and palliative appointments, and for immunotherapy treatments. She is thankful that hair loss did not accompany any treatments. She is particularly thankful that the cancer did not metastasize to her brain, as can occur with lung cancer. She continues to battle valiantly while you carry her with your prayers.

While it’s heartbreaking for me to see her slow decline, we choose to walk by faith. At the conclusion of his “love chapter” St Paul points us to our future hope: “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Corinthians 13:12 – The Message) What a great future to anticipate as followers of Christ. Let’s keep encouraging each other with these great truths.

Thankful for you,
Ian (on Connie’s behalf)

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