Sweet Surprise

I met Tanya for the first time today. I have been keeping track of her since I first heard about her via our mutual physiotherapist. Tanya is the first recipient of a double lung transplant at Grootte Schuur hospital in Cape Town in December 2017. What a phenominal woman. I was arrested by her beauty, positivity and strength. We were overjoyed to finally meet each other and both could not stop talking. I had so many questions for her and she enthusiastically answered them all. She had her 6 month check-up today and is doing really well. She is able to do things that she has never been able to do in her life. Meeting her today was exactly what I needed.

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My check-up went very well this morning. My pulmonologists are happy with the hard work I’ve put in to get ready for the transplant. Sam my physiotherapist and I have been hard at work reconditioning my muscles and strengthening my legs. The plant based diet that I have been following has allowed me to lose all the weight I put on by years of high dosage contisone. I feel better than I’ve felt in years.

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Moral support from darling hubby.

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IMG-20171204-WA0023Sam and I hard at work.

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This morning in my devotions when God and I were talking, He did not let it slip that He had this sweet surprise for me today.  But I should’ve known that God had something up His holy sleeve when my devotional verse was Psalm 30: 11-12 “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

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Fortitude

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I had a friend over the other day and we had a lovely visit. We chatted about everything as we always do but mostly about the goodness of the Lord! Just before she left she told me that I am fighting my battles with great fortitude and that she admires that about me.

My immediate reaction was to deny her her moment of kindness. Obviously being embarrassed I needed to reitterate with a rebuff of sorts. I let her remark slide however and allowed her words to resonate with me. Fortitude. What does it even mean? I checked on good old Google:

fortitude

noun

courage in pain or adversity.

“she endured her illness with great fortitude”

Courage stands out and resilience. Wow, if only! But I actually decided to claim fortitude as the word that my friend used to describe my attitude.  Because I know 100% for sure that if I show even one ounce of this quality that it comes straight from my Father above. For that I am so joyful. It means that “He who began a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it …”

Life, the world and society is changing at a rapid pace. So many people that I speak to had their worlds flipped upside down and they had to learn to adjust to “their new normal”. No one is unique in that we all have our challenges. God gives us the courage to be able to show fortitude, resilience, toughness of spirit and a firmness of purpose. All we need to do is to call out to Him.

So much and yet so little has happened since my last entry. I am still waiting patiently on my donor lungs. There are two reasons for the delay in transplant. The first one being that because my thoracic cavity has shrunk so much I need smaller size lungs. Even though they have a tissue match every time they had donor lungs for me, the size was not. It was decided now though that we are going to go with one single large lung to give me a better chance of finding a donor. They have however been doing great work in successfully transplanting lungs at Grootte Schuur.

My second challenge is that during my gynae check up for transplant in November 2017, cancerous cells were found in my cervix. They were sucessfully removed by cone biopsy in December. At the follow-up colposcopy in early May this year, however, more of these cells were found.

Sarcoidosis is an auto immune disease which means the body attacks it’s own immune system. So I have to be on immune- suppressant medication. This means though that my immune system is very low and this leaves the gate open for opportunitistic viruses like hpv. Which is what is happening in my case.

So on Friday morning I am having lazer surgery done to remove these cells. After that I am back on track to get my new lung/s. In the meantime I am claiming Psalms 27:14 as my own: “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”

Fear

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When faced with fear all rationality seems to fly out the window. It seems that all you can fixate upon are your immediate anxieties. The here and the now reality might not be an accurate depiction of how things are but all reasoning is gone and all you hear is your heartbeat and feel the hair rising on your arms and your palms start to sweat.  Your breathing becomes erratic and panic rises and you know that you are about to have a panic attack.  

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.

So where does fear come from? Certainly not from a loving, caring Father who only wants the best for us, His children. In the second book of Timothy we read that “God has not given us a spirit of fear.  This scripture has very personal and special meaning to me.  When my family was relocated to George in 2014, I was still new in my journey with this illness and I was doing very well. I mean I was not on oxygen therapy yet and could do most things for myself, if a bit slower than before but still I was independent and quite content. Actually living on the beautiful Garden Route was a blessing to our family.  When we moved in I noticed a rock in our bathroom window with a scripture written on it: yes, 2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear”.  I marvelled at this piece of rock which I thought so random at the time but have since been reminded that nothing is ever random with God.

A couple of weeks ago we discovered that the oxygen concentrator I was using was faulty as one of the tubes became worn out and oxygen was escaping. It meant that I was under oxygenated and was sleeping most of the time.  I was alone at home the one day and had to go to the bathroom and went along as usual but when I got there and tried to regain my breath, my oxygen demand wasn’t being met and panic started to rise as I was alone. I tried to catch my breath and nothing happened.  My palms started to sweat and the hairs on my arms stood up straight, I started to hyperventilate and I knew that I will be in trouble soon.

“I have not given you the spirit of fear” flashed through my mind. I remembered the scripture on the rock and quoted it. I called on the name of the Lord loudly and asked Him to deliver me. Immediately my breathing eased and I was calmed down. Not a minute later but immediately. God delivered me from my fear.  I knew that long before I needed to know and quote and believe that piece of scripture, that God placed it on a rock and left it there for me to find. Definitely not random!

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I also realised that as long as I was relying on my own strength that I was not allowing God to deliver me.  I have to submit my will fully to Christ so that I can depend only on Him so that when machinery malfunctions, as it will in this life, my dependence is on Christ and His deliverance out of the situation. Total surrender of my will to His.  

As I journey along I notice that God has placed His word and hymns and beautiful people on our path to help us along. So as we all make our way through our unique situations, let us remember that “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control”.

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Making the list

All our lives we want to make it onto lists. If we make the list then we feel more important and accepted and possibly loved? We also get to be invited to important events, attend the best schools and have the coolest friends. Canamere-04.jpg

 

I am about to be placed on a list myself. Being on this list, however, will afford me the opportunity to have life saving surgery by means of a double lung transplant. Never before was I happier to make a list. Especially since I was told before that I will never make this list, today is cause for celebration indeed. 

There is another list I am more interested in getting onto and God is working in my life and on my heart daily to make sure that my name is on that list. You see a crown is waiting for me.

The last couple of weeks were quite challenging for me but in hindsight I see the necessity of it. God has taken me on a crash course in a very short space of time.  He needed me and Him to be on the same page about a couple of things but mostly He needed me to have a reality check.  God had to show me how things really are not how I wish things to be. Oh I love it when He does that.  I get to learn so much about myself and those around me but the best part is that right through the process I get to experience God intimately and I get to see His heart.  His big beautiful heart that loves us unconditionally and only wants the best for us. 

I was meditating on the book of Joel chapter 2 in my private devotions this morning.  Every line spoke volumes but verses 25, 26 and 27 stood out. Verse 25 reads: “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust and the chewing locust …”  This promise is so personal to me and the fulfilment thereof brings so much joy to my heart. I almost want to exhale forever, like they make me do in pulmonary function testing but this time I won’t panic and catch a quick breath and fail.  

The swarming locusts, the crawling locust, the consuming locust and the chewing locust have been feasting away  at me for a very very long time.  God took me on this journey of discovery since 1 October and then just when I was about to be overwhelmed by it all verses 26 and 27 jumped out at me and in those promises my soul found peace. Verses 26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame”, v 27 “Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame”.   Thank you for keeping your promise Lord!

Hope’s double reward

On 11 August while on a long overdue (but very necessary) errand, I met a beautiful woman.  For some reason she caught my eye.  She saw me in my wheelchair with the oxygen cylinder and approached me and asked the questions I am so used to now.  As I explained to her I could see she had a very good idea of what I was talking about. It turned out that her darling husband of many years also had pulmonary fibrosis.  She then told me two things: first, that her husband had died 6 months before and second; that she heard from her husband’s pulmonologist that a team had been assembled to perform lung transplants in Cape Town. All I registered was the first thing she told me.

On 13 August I had my Gethsemane moment.  I was alone in my room spending time with God and I poured out my heart to Him as I had done so many times before.  I spend many hours with God in His word and we have become so close that I can really talk to Him about anything.  He then comforts and strengthens me and gives me the courage that I need to carry on.  But on this particular day I was at the lowest I had been in a very long time.  Winter was really cold and I struggled with the most basic things. My family and I could literally see the decline in my lung capacity as predicted.  I audaciously told my Abba Father that this was no way to live. I had such reduced quality of life; what was the point really?  This cup of suffering was too much for me to bear; too bitter, too vile but that His will be done.

On 16 August I had my monthly visit with my pulmonologist.  Normally I look forward to these outings as I have made quite a few friends on these hospital trips.  But it was cold, I was tired, struggled to breathe and was just down. Everyone noticed and mentioned how I wasn’t my bubbly self.  When I eventually got to see my Dr I wasn’t prepared for his very first words: “Mrs Hartnick, we received funding from the government. We put a team in place and are going to do lung transplants in Cape Town now. Your lungs have deteriorated to where we can’t really do much for you but keep you comfortable.  Mrs Hartnick may I forward your name as a possible candidate for a double lung transplant?” Say what? Then I remembered the second thing the beautiful Veena Patel told me 3 days before. She was truly an angel sent by God to prepare me for this news!

A transplant is the only “cure” for pulmonary fibrosis. I enquired about it in 2015 but was told that they only do them in Johannesburg and because of the altitude; my lungs will not handle the pressure.  I was also told that I need double lungs and possibly a heart so it wasn’t an option for me .  Also, I imagined it to be very expensive. So when I hear now that the Government made funds available for lung transplants to be performed in Cape Town I was totally blown away.  I saw my Dr’s lips move and I heard words but I couldn’t register, I was in total shock. I kept thinking Lord you did this!  Zechariah 9:12 says “Return to the stronghold you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you”.  That is hope’s double reward!

I asked for a day before I decided because as much as this is wonderful news there are great risks involved and I needed to consult my maker.  My husband and I had a very frank talk with our boys and explained the new developments. They were both overjoyed at the possibility of having me around for longer and saw this too as God’s miracle for us. We prayed, we asked our family and friends to pray with us. In our devotions the next morning, all four of us experienced such peace that we knew this was from God.  So from 21 to 25 August I was hospitalised and underwent a number of tests and evaluations to make sure that the rest of my organs are not damaged and that my heart is strong enough to endure the onslaught of a double lung transplant. I got very good results and had a meeting with the transplant team to explain the way forward. I am currently undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation twice a week and exercise at home to get my muscles working again.  It is very tough as I struggle to catch my breath and my saturation drops quickly and my heart rate skyrockets and I get exhausted.  But God is with me and my physiotherapist is an angel.

18 October is my follow up appointment at the Transplant Clinic at Grootte Schuur Hospital. If the team is satisfied with my progress, I will be listed and as soon as a suitable pair of lungs becomes available I will be transplanted. Within the space of a month the trajectory of my journey has completely changed.  Wow! The verse in Jeremiah 32:27 remind me “Behold, I am the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for me?”

We were advised by a friend who has gone the transplant route with a family member that there are many unforeseen expenses involved and it becomes very draining on the family budget. Therefore, some close friends and family are busy raising funds to assist us with the many additional costs we now have.  So on 1 October at the Steenberg SDA church we will have a Fund Raising Benefit:

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Once again I am amazed at the goodness and generosity of people. My brother-in-law handed me an envelope last week. A colleague of his, who I only met once or twice, heard our story and when she was at a family function she proceeded to share our plight and collected enough to cover the extra expenses of oxygen and petrol to get me to rehab for that week. When they left we fell on our knees to give thanks to God because this had His signature all over it. The many prayers breathed on our behalf sustain us. The Jenna Lowe Trust made a sizable donation and they continue to support us in any way that they can.  We are so blessed!

We still have quite a journey ahead of us with many speed bumps along the way; but we are confident that “He who began a good work … will be faithful to  complete it!”

 

Transformed by the renewing of our mind

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Romans 12:2 says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”

This verse tells me that if I want to know God’s perfect will for my life, I need to allow God to change me by changing the way I think because God doesn’t want me to act like the world.

God desires that I change the way I think. The way I think affects the way I act which in turn affects my character. And as I understand it, my character is the only thing I am taking with me when Jesus comes.

I talked to God about my dilemma because I realised that my thought patterns needed to change. I don’t know about everyone else but once I have a negative thought it usually ends with me going down a long dark path which inevitably affects my actions in a negative way.

God brought another verse to me in my devotions this morning read in The Faith I Live By by Ellen White:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.Proverbs 4:23.

As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. Many thoughts make up the unwritten history of a single day; and these thoughts have much to do with the formation of character. Our thoughts are to be strictly guarded; for one impure thought makes a deep impression on the soul. An evil thought leaves an evil impress on the mind. If the thoughts are pure and holy, the man is better for having cherished them. By them the spiritual pulse is quickened, and the power for doing good is increased. And as one drop of rain prepares the way for another in moistening the earth, so one good thought prepares the way for another.

Wrong habits of thought, when once accepted, become a despotic power that fastens the mind as in a grasp of steel.

The thoughts are not to be allowed to run riot. They must be restrained, brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Let them be placed upon holy things. Then, through the grace of Christ, they will be pure and true. We need a constant sense of the ennobling power of pure thoughts. The only security for any soul is right thinking.

Our minds take the level of the things on which our thoughts dwell, and if we think upon earthly things, we shall fail to take the impress of that which is heavenly. We would be greatly benefited by contemplating the mercy, goodness, and love of God; but we sustain great loss by dwelling upon those things which are earthly and temporal.

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with Heaven.”

So many things happening around me right now makes me realise more than ever that I need a “renewed mind”. Too many people in my life are also struggling with the same issue which makes me realise that in the trying times that we are living in, we need God’s help now more than ever!

The only way to be transformed into the image of God is by the renewing of our minds through prayer and studying God’s word.

Gratitude

(Written early July)

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Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m messing with Ralph Waldo Emmerson’s quote right now but I feel compelled to include “everything” instead of “every good thing” because in my meaning we should be grateful for even the “not so good things” as they shape and mold us into the people we become. But then I realise that Emmerson says “all things have contributed to your advancement”. The “not so good things” are sometimes the tools that catapult us into changing our way of life for the better.

Reflecting on the word gratitude alone conjures up so many images of a life well lived. So many wonderful experiences, such a lot of great memories and the most amazing people met along the way. Who can understand that someone who used to be a stranger to you can become so important in your life that you connect with them on an intimate level. I’m so grateful for those experiences where hearts are opened to each other in such vulnerability that trust is formed and friends treasured.

Phone calls and good news shared and burdens shared and halved. I’m grateful for visits by family and friends. Even my church family is getting used to visiting with me in my bedroom now. Such love! Not feeling guilty for the many “gifts” I receive by paying it forward. By praying for everyone who asks and even those who don’t is how I can show gratitude. A problem prayed over is a problem solved. By thanking people for kind and thoughtful gestures. Not taking anything or anyone for granted but respecting others and teaching my children to do the same. Help me Lord!

My gratitude has no bounds. Today I am thankful for waking up after a night of coughing fits. The rest wasn’t refreshing but waking up to a brand new day is such a privilege. For the luxury of a physiotherapist who comes to me to help with breathing exercises. I’m grateful for nice hot baths, my guilty pleasure because the watermark is high, but it goes into the garden afterwards. Grateful for my husband’s strong arms who lifts me out of the bath afterwards with such ease.

Grateful for good quality time spent as a family, talking, laughing, disagreeing and playing board games and uno with all 3 of them on the bed with me. Grateful for their understanding when I’m experiencing a challenging day and can hardly make it to the bathroom. I’m grateful that with exams and school holiday we are spending two whole months together as a unit. What a gift to me. Thank you Lord!

Our long Friday night talks, listening to the boys’ understanding of spiritual matters. Teaching them to be grateful for everything. More precious memories being made. We have come such a long way as a family. Our lives have been enriched with so many wonderful people and experiences. Looking at old photographs I can see God’s leading and guiding our path to where we are today and I am just so very grateful to my Heavenly Father.

“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him” 2 Timothy 1:12