The day our lives changed forever

The Brexit will change many things but our life as a family didn’t change on 23rd June. It changed forever on 14th June 2016. I was due to a routine health check. I went healthy and I came out with a serious illness.

Following a routine blood test on Tuesday 14th June, I was contacted by our GP the following day. The level of white blood cells was unusually high and he wanted me to have further checks with a consultant. He had already taken the initiative to contact an Hematologist at the hospital. I had an appointment for the following morning, Thursday. Our GP suspected a chronic form of leukemia.

I went to the hospital, talked with the consultant, a tall young man with a strong Italian accent, and had another blood test. The results came back the next day and he confirmed the initial diagnosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL).

Our bodies naturally generates white blood cells and they die after a while. In my case, some type of white blood cells are multiplying and not dying. This results in unusual levels of white blood cells in my blood and could lead to complications. Most patients with CLL are elderly people and live without treatment. They need regular checks with the consultant, once or twice a year. In some cases, there will be a need for a light chemotherapy. But there is no known cure. It is a slow process and we have to learn to live with it. In my case, I am young and it is likely that I will need a treatment at some point in my life. It could take many years before it happens. No one knows. I will see the consultant in a few months time.

Apart from that, we are doing well. I am healthy and intend to continue to climb mountains on a regular basis. The family is also well.

We are grateful to the Lord for the timing of this health check. On the same day, I met another missionary, planting a church in Aix Les Bains, and I met the Roman Catholic priest of Cognin, the town where we live. I had a good conversation with a Franciscan monk who knows nothing about Protestants.

We thank God for our GP who reacted very quickly and for the consultant who agreed to take me the following day (due to my young age).

We thank him for the gospel. This diagnosis has given us a fresh perspective on the brevity of life and the on the gospel.

Thank you for your prayers, we hope to see some of you in Aberystwyth this summer for the Welsh conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales.


70 years of marriage

Today, I went to visit an elderly lady who lost her husband last week. They had been married for 70 years. He was 94 and she is 90. They lived all their life in the village where I grew up. They were discreet and hard-working. Whenever you would turn up, they would stop what they were doing and offer you a cup of coffee or tea.

Going into their house is going back 40 or 50 years in time. They receive you around the kitchen table. There is an old wood stove, still in use, as well as a gas one. A sink, a cupboard and a fridge. No fancy gadgets. The day’s newspaper is on the table.

It was good to be there. I went with my mum who knew them well. We talked about their life, and shared some memories. Their son turned up and we talked about his dad’s work at the cement factory. It was a hard life.

I’ve known these folks all my life. I have plenty of memories of chatting with Félix (we called him Lili) when he was cutting wood near our house. We also used to help every year in his brother’s vineyard. Folks from the village would gather to help and we would work and eat together, collecting the grapes and pressing them into wine. I remember his mum and dad also. They were our neighbours. But they died long ago, when I was a boy. Félix’s dad had fought in the great war.

Yet, at the same time, I didn’t really know them. Last time I visited was 1,5 year ago. The funeral was on Friday morning but we didn’t know until after it had taken place so we couldn’t attend.

This made me think. We must spend more time with older folks, visit often, because when they are gone, it is too late. But also, I must read the local paper more carefully and more often.

When we were in Brittany, I learned that the first page Breton people read is the obituaries. It is important to know who has died so that you can send your condolences to the family and go to the funeral to show respect. It is the same here. The first page country folks is the obituaries to see who has died. If I had read the paper last week, I would have known and I would have been able to attend the funeral.

9:30 pm, Sunday night. The phone starts ringing

21:30, Sunday night. The phone is ringing. That’s odd. Who would phone us at this time of the day. (In France, you don’t usually phone people after 9). I’ll answer anyway.
Me: Hello ?
Person on the Phone : Mr Durand ?
Me : Yes
Person on the Phone: This is Chambéry central police station. Do you own a Renault trafic ?
Me: Yes
Police officer : Someone contacted us to let us know that your car is opened.
Me: Ok, Thanks, I’ll go and check.

I went and checked.

A local councilor had spotted that the back door of our van was opened and contacted the police to find the owner. He closed the door and waited for a while to see if I would turn up. He was still there when I arrived.

Silly me had left the back door opened after coming back from a walk with the boys. No one had visited the car as far as I can tell.

At least, I got to talk with one of the local councillors.