A few days ago I requested an appointment to see a Doctor at our local surgery, for two issues. The first was that of a development of a bruise on my upper arm, a solid black circle about an inch in diameter, which had formed for no apparent reason, since being over the bicep area, a site unlikely to receive any blows or other forms of external injury. Despite the total lack of pain accompanying the bruise, my wife was more alarmed at the site than I was, and pleaded me to see the G.P. The other issue was at the base of the left foot, just above the ankle, when around mid-afternoon onward, a sharp searing pain envelopes the joint, making the use of the ladder at work very difficult indeed, as well as having to limp along instead of walking properly.
Perhaps there is that masculine trait in me about not wanting to see the doctor. Basically, I have that hunch about wasting the G.P's time, when he has other patients with far more serious complaints to deal with. Yes, I have read posters about people crowding the Accident and Emergency department of a hospital, even for something as trivial as a headache, but wasting valuable N.H.S. resources is something I was determined to stay clear of. After all, I don't want either myself or others around to see me as a whiny wimp who runs to the Doctor every time I cough, belch or fart. But the reason for my wife's concern about the bruise was because I take an anticoagulant medicine on a regular daily basis, which I must for the rest of my life, or risk suffering a stroke. On the leaflet which comes with every packet of pills, under possible side effects, I was warned to see a Doctor straight away if bruising occurs, short of an external injury. I suppose there was something about not visiting the Doctor, despite my wife's pleas. Perhaps it was not wanting to receive a telling-off from such a professional, instead to be told to man up, don't be so whiny, and stop wasting his time.
Like about twelve months previously, when I woke up about two or three o'clock in the morning gasping for air, like a man who had just ran a foot-race and crossed the finish line. This, together with rumbling of the chest and feeling of a drowning sensation, which threefold symptom repeated itself night after night for a couple of weeks. Back then, my dear wife persuaded me to visit the Doctor, even when I believed it was nothing more than a bug which would eventually get fed up and leave. But she won the argument, and I reluctantly went, only to be eventually diagnosed with a heart problem and in need of an operation to put it right. Whiny indeed!
So it came as not a surprise when I called at the surgery's reception, only to be told that there was no appointment available that day, and all time slots were fully booked up. And that was not even on a Monday or a Friday when the surgery is particularly busy. Instead, by submitting my mobile phone number to Reception, the Doctor would contact me as soon as possible. And so he did. He called me in to have a blood test done straight away, for I might have gone over the limit with the anticoagulants, making my blood "too thin" - hence the cause of the bruising. As for my foot problem, I gave an accurate description of the symptoms as I possibly could have done. He seemed rather familiar with the complaint, for he came back with Arthritis as the cause of the problem. Arthritis! The "old man's illness" as it is so traditionally believed. What amazes me was that as recently as eighteen months previously I was considering the possibility of working right up to my seventieth birthday, as I felt on top of the world, even though milder symptoms of arthritis in the feet were already being felt. But back then, I thought all these were a passing phase.
Things look so different now. With such a recent cardiac procedure, a lifetime on medicine, and now arthritis in the feet to contend with us well, I have arrived at the crossroads for early retirement. But not just for my health's sake but that of my wife as well. During the three months convalescence, one thing which has added further joy and strength to our marriage was my role of carer, and I won't beat about the bush here, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the return to work I saw more of a set back rather than progress. Maybe, as one of our church elders had put it; it is time for me to retire from work to spend more time together, and to enjoy the rich blessings God has for us. However, for what I can see and have experienced over the last few years, our Doctor's surgery has always been very busy, with patients of all ages, gender, and social class packing the waiting room in front of Reception.
And where we live is at a typical middle-class suburbia. We have neighbouring streets where not only every home is a detached house with private front and back gardens, but with average ownership of two to three cars. Around here people are generally well-off, and have professional careers, yet the number of busy surgeries dotted around the district testifying that the health of our nation isn't that great. And we are not even the worst. Nearer to London there was a media report on one surgery that was so busy, that patients literally queuing up outside the doors, with a hope of seeing a doctor face-to-face on the same day. Not to mention Accident and Emergency departments of all hospitals across the land where the average waiting time is four hours per patient.
It makes me ponder why, in such a rich country, there is such a high rate of illness and the need for treatments. Even I can testify of a two-week delay with my own cardiac procedure, due to the intensive care ward being chock-a-block, and therefore receiving two cancellation notices, each a week apart, prior to the operation. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, the combined emotion of worry, anger, and fear are the "big three" health-wrecking emotions, together with the feeling of frustration, along with the British perception of sharing emotional talk as weak and unmanly. Uncertainty of the future is one of the major cause of anxiety, as in my case, as well as not being sure which direction our present Government is leading our country.
Fear is the biggest enemy to health, and it comes with various levels such as terror, worry, and anxiety. Fear of the future - the fear of job loss, prolonged unemployment, illness, the threat of poverty, ending up in a Civil Court over a dispute about benefits, failure in mortgage or rent payments, or anything which threatens our peace. All these can make a strong person end up as a hospital patient. As retirement is very close to my mind at the moment, would our present Government move the goalposts, forcing me to work for an income until a later age? Would they do away with Housing Benefit, a wonderful godsend for those tenants struggling with high rents? And so-to-speak, would our leaders snap a whip across my back to get me to work into old age, even while physically impaired, so that the rich can be spared from paying too high taxes, if any taxes at all? Should I feel pity, if not deep anxiety for my daughters' future? What kind of a world are we handing over to them?
Yet despite all this doom and gloom, there is a wonderful source of hope!
One of our wedding songs sang during the church ceremony was Father God. The first verse goes like this:
Father God I wonder how I managed to exist without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving care? Now I am you son, I am adopted in your family, and I can never be alone 'cause Father God, you're there beside me.
This was sang by us and by the congregation at our wedding, and to me at least, it's one of the most assuring songs ever written, and it is my wife's favourite. The chorus goes:
I will sing your praises! I will sing your praises! I will sing you Praises! For evermore -
And this is repeated as many times as one desires.
And this song is based on the surety of God's promises, as well as through day-to-day living. One of the best examples of this took place in the Garden of Eden, at the dawn of history. Immediately after the Fall of Adam and Eve, God passes judgement (Genesis 3:14-19) which contains the promise that the serpent's head will be bruised by the seed of the woman, who in turn will have his heel bruised in the process - verse 15 - which is a good description of the Crucifixion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then the calling of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through whom the seed is promised. The institution of the Jewish Passover further endorses this promise, which comes up repeatedly throughout prophecy, such as Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 9:9, and many more. God's promise to restore Israel as a nation in the future from this point of time is assured, particularly in Isaiah chapters 11 and 66, Jeremiah chapters 30 and 31, Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37, and Zechariah chapters 10 -14. All of these promises, and many more, are solid-rock certain, they will be fulfilled. Therefore if God is all sovereign, and he is fully omniscient as well as omnipotent and omnipresent, then surely not only does he have the whole world in his hands, but the very exact number of days we have has already been determined by him. He knows our thoughts, our feelings, our joy and our anxieties. He already knows what we will say and do in the future even before any of them come to pass.
As one of the sermons I have listened to in recent weeks, God knows best, and everything which happens to us works for the good for those who love him, that is to say, for every believer. But this does not leave us without any choice. For Peter himself writes in his letter:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you 1 Peter 5:7.
That is a promise that I should look upon in times like these. God cares for me. So if I want to retire two years before the official age, why shouldn't I? Why shouldn't I revel in the goodness and blessing of God while caring for my lame wife, and adding further strength, romance, and sparkle into our marriage? I think God has already said "Yes" to such a move. Signs seem to point to this. So why not? Should I accept "slave status" from the present Government simply because I happen to be working class, poorly educated, and a mere average earner, as opposed to being a rich company executive or a celebrity? No, I won't accept such a status! Instead, I'll go by what God has said of me, that as a true believer, I am his, I am adopted into his family, and I can never be alone to face a cruel world. It can be said that the world may go as far as kill my body, but it can never change my mind.