For years I have been struggling with heartburn and have tried cutting out many things I eat or drink to try to lessen the problem. As examples I stopped drinking straight Coke, went onto decaf coffee, cut out chocolates, etc. and by and large this seemed to help … until I ate a pizza or white bread or ate something with spices … and even mild curry. Over the past year, I had been to my doctor on a few occasions. He put me on a 7-day course of medication and this really helped. No sign of heartburn until a few months later when it started again. I saw him in February this year and again I had a seven day course of medication. It worked … until during lockdown when we were permitted to walk in the mornings.
By the second week I felt an irritation in my throat. I thought it was because of the facemask as the irritation seemed to change into a small lump or growth. As soon as level 2 arrived, I saw the doctor again. He decided to put me on the same medication … this time for 21 days. Soon everything seemed to be cleared up, yet a week after the medication was completed the symptoms returned. I struggled a little doing a Bible Study on Wednesdays and recording the online message for Sundays.
Although the symptoms were not as acute as before, I decided to Google “throat cancer”. The results of the Google search gave me mixed feelings. The initial symptoms are: a cough, changes in your voice, such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, a lump or sore that doesn’t heal, a sore throat and weight loss. And then, as with many cancers, the risk of developing throat cancer increases with age, with most people being over the age of 65. Well I’m 71 and I do have a slight cough. Depending on the level of the irritation my voice does change. There is no difficulty in swallowing, no ear pain, no lump in the neck, no sore throat and certainly no weight loss. So I contacted my doctor who said it’s time to see an ENT specialist. He gave me the number of a specialist he trusts. I made the call and set up an appointment for today. Naturally I am apprehensive as I don’t know what to expect … yet over the last few weeks, in prayer I have come to terms with the fact that should it be cancer, I know that God says:
Ro 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. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.
By the time I enter the specialist’s room, I have peace in my heart. After the normal pleasantries, he asks me why I’m there. I told him my story and he said that as one gets older, heartburn or reflux tends to happen more. When kneeling forward or working bent over in the garden or when lying down to sleep, the acid buildup tends to rise. Then into another room we go for the actual examination. He uses charts to explain what he will be looking for … adding that that very morning he removed a node from a pastor’s throat in theatre. He used a local anesthetic … then looked into the mouth and under the tongue and was happy with what he saw. Then it was time to ‘send’ the camera on a journey down the throat. Soon everything was completed with him saying, “There’s no cancer there.”
My response was, “Praise the Lord.” He said he feels it is acid reflux and will put me on medication for this, accompanied with a diet. He says that nowadays, few stomach operations are performed as these tablets tend to clear up the ‘problem’. Reducing acidic foods is generally fine … but this means no more tomatoes and naartjies (eish). Avoiding fried and fatty foods is generally fine … but no more chocolates, butter, mayonnaise, sausage (boerewors) and full-fat cheese (eish). Avoiding fizzy or carbonated drinks is generally fine … though Rooibos Tea and diluted non-citrus fruit juices are okay. The need to eat high-fiber foods like oats, pears, apples, dried apricots and veggies is fine. No alcohol and tobacco … what’s that?
Eat small meals 4-6 times a day with no food 3 hours before going to sleep. There is also a need to keep weight in check. (Does this mean to stand on the scale regularly? Smile.) I chatted to my brother after the doctor’s visit and he told me my mom also struggled with acid reflux. Well I certainly thank God for His mercy and kindness and for hearing and answering prayer.
One’s health, whether young or old is always a concern. Many Christians feel they can demand God to heal illnesses or claim victory over disease, yet this is not the way the Bible directs healing or prayer. Look at Proverbs 3 as an example:
Pr 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Here it tells us not to think we are so clever and have all wisdom (v5 understanding). Then we will not think we are so great (v7 … pride). Rather, we need to depend (trust) upon God with everything we have (all your heart) and in everything we do, each day, to acknowledge God … meaning that we cannot go into any day or any experience without taking God with us! Basically this is acknowledging God is Sovereignly Lord and King (v7) and I decide to avoid evil (as far as possible) … then … if it pleases the Lord, verse 8 will be a reality … “health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” We cannot expect God to bring healing and relief if we do not follow the required action He sets out for us. And in it all, we remember:
Ro 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.
This includes good things, such as good health and healing or … when He does not permit healing. Through it all, He is preparing us for the purpose He predestined us … to be “conformed to the likeness of his Son”.
Dear God, Eternal, Majestic, all-knowing, all-caring King of Heaven, in humble submission we come and surrender to Your reign and good pleasure in our lives. We know our health and lives are in Your hands and trust that You know what is good for us in the present and for eternity. Have Your way with me for Your pleasure. Amen.