31 January 2013

It has a name...

Apologies, but I'm feeling the need to interrupt this week's programming (i.e. all the travelling tales) with an update. The results are back, and the specialist is 95% sure that I have Crohn's disease based on the symptoms I've had, biopsies taken, the presence of granulomas in the cells (whatever that means!) and the inflammatory markers in the stool sample I also did just before the colonosocopy.

Surprisingly, I feel totally at peace with the diagnosis. Right now, it just feels so great to actually HAVE a diagnosis.

So, where to from here?

Well, the specialist wants me to take a course of Pentasa (a specific anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat inflammatory bowel disease) for the next 2 months and then go back to see him at the end of March to see how things are going.

The specialist was in himself very positive and even took the time to mention that Steve Redgrave (the 5 time gold medal winning British Olympic rower) has inflammatory bowel disease and look what he managed to achieve.

It was a good conversation, and I got to ask lots of questions, about diet (which doesn't need to be restrictive although I have a fair idea of the things which tend to make me feel worse anyway), and out whether it will definitely get more severe over time (which it won't necessarily, and it is possible it may go away altogether).

I thought about it a bit over the course of the afternoon after the phone call, and wondered why I didn't feel more gutted or concerned given that I know there are people who have Crohn's who have had a pretty miserable time of it and who continue to do so on an ongoing basis. But I also realise there are so many points on the spectrum with any specific condition or disease and I feel pretty far down the lower end of the spectrum right now.

And besides that, there are these things I know that I know that I know. My God is a great and powerful God, he has my back. He is also a God who heals if that is what is his will. And if it is not, I think of Paul who spoke in the Bible about having 'a thorn in his side' or a handicap and begged for it to be taken away. Instead the Lord said to him "my grace is enough, it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness". And Paul chose his response "now I take my limitations in stride and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size. I just let Christ take over. And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become".

Every difficult situation that comes our way brings with it a gift. That gift is the choice of how we will respond. We can either let it take us down, drowning in the misery of 'woe is me' or we can choose to let our light shine in spite of the circumstances. I still believe my body is an incredible gift from God, flawed though it may be. Let's face it, we are all flawed in different ways, some just more obviously than others. But one day I know I will be with Him in a perfect, healthy body for all eternity. Any troubles I may face in this life, are not even the blink of an eye compared to what is to come.

Thank you God for this precious gift of life held in this unique body. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

30 January 2013

There and back again...A Northland Tale {Part 4}

On two separate fine and sunny mornings, the travellers depart for places beginning with the letter K, both with lovely alliteration in their names, Kerikeri and Kawakawa. And, come to think of it, the author of this tale muses to herself there seems to be an extraordinary number of places starting with the letter K in this part of the world. Not just Kerikeri and Kawakawa, but Kaikohe, Kamo, Kaeo and Kaitaia as well!

So off they go to Kerikeri, admiring the richness of the horticulture around them, and upon arrival they make time for a coffee in a local cafe (of course!) where they are all tickled pink seeing a miniature pinky-drinking finger being held on one so young! They enjoy their walk around the township too, thinking how much it reminds them of other lovely rural towns in the Hawkes Bay and Marlborough.

Then they are off, on their way to the famous Stone Store (the oldest stone building in NZ) and Kemp House (the oldest wooden building in NZ). They decide that this part of the country sure likes to lay claim to 'the oldest this and the oldest that'!

After some deft skipping between rocks and admiring the historic basin, they seek out the local mini golf course, as a game has been promised to the littlest travellers. They shatter the peace and quiet of the country lane with their laughter and teasing during the game, but there aren't many around who would be peturbed at the sound of such happy fun.

Whilst the rest of the crew take to the beach for their late afternoon swim, one intrepid traveller decides to walk the track from the Falls all the way to the beach at Paihia, not quite realising what an effort this will turn out to be, only thinking that if the man of the house could run it 4 mornings in the row, how hard could it possibly be?

Well, hard it wouldn't have been if the traveller could have just ambled along at her own pace, but with a deadline to meet (the car departing for home after the swim), there was a bit of a rush on. The same traveller is pretty pooped after 7km of mostly walking in the bush in just over an hour. The mangrove swamp in the middle of the walk made it worth the effort though. It is decidedly eerie here, with no sound other than the sound of one's own feet on the boardwalk, accompanied by some very odd popping, cracking and plopping noises made by the mangroves in the swamp.

The next day, the travellers head off in search of the famous Hundertwasser toilets at Kawakawa, immortalised in Billy Connelly's World Tour of NZ, and worth a visit or two during the day! They are definitely the best looking loos the travellers have ever graced with their presence! 

They also decide to ride the 8km long Bay of Islands Vintage Railway which they have managed to keep a surprise from the little ones right until they arrive at the train station. The littlest traveller is pretty happy with his 'prise' as he calls it.

The track itself is unique in that as it departs the station it travels straight down the middle of the main street which is State Highway One no less - with cars and trucks passing on either side. There is a heart stopping moment or two and everyone holds their breath as the train passes ever so close to a concrete truck but all is well and the journey continues. On the way out of town, the guard points out the rarest tree in the world, the only one of it's kind, a 'lava-tree' which the travellers all find incredibly amusing when they finally get the joke. 

Only 8km of track has been restored so far, but it is enough to enjoy the lush green fields of the north, and the train comes to a rest in a little station called Taumarere. The railway won't be able to extend any further unless $0.75-$1 million can be found to restore the wooden bridge, their next obstacle. Sadly, it's hard to see how this kind of money could ever be justified on a railway mostly manned by volunteers. The travellers thoroughly enjoy the open-air ride, made all the more interesting by the conversation with the wonderful volunteer guard who hails from near where the English travellers in the party live. The world really is a village sometimes!

Then there was time for a walk around the rather unusual looking monstrosity across the road from the famous toilets, where all manner of strange mosaics and sculptures keep the eyes busy. Weird, garish and fantastical are all apt words to describe the creations here.

On their return to Paihia, they take advantage of a free hour to shoot around Waitangi, refreshing themselves on the history of the signing of the Treaty in this very important historical place. Then, like every other afternoon, the beach beckons, and setting the scene in the background of today's swim, a massive cruise ship on the horizon sits majestically in the harbour, capable of carrying 3,000 passengers and crew and weighing 85,000 tonnes no less.

The water is deliciously warm on this, their last day here, so much so that even the most water-shy of the travellers (that would be the author!) finds herself fully immersed in the sea without so much as a shiver! And to see one brave wee 6-year old diving fully under the water and meeting the waves head on, having gained so much in confidence over these past few days, was a joy for all to see.

It will be bittersweet to leave this wonderful spot on Earth the following morning, such was the glorious weather and amazing sights they have all seen. But there are still a few more adventures waiting just around the corner.

29 January 2013

There and back again...A Northland Tale {Part 3}

Braced for a big day of travelling, the adventurers are on the road bright and early. Driving right across country from east coast to the west, their first destination a towering Kauri tree in a dense forest known as Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest).

Along the way, they attempt a quick coffee stop in the sleepy town of Opononi where the magnificent sand dunes across the water draw the eye immediately. They pull into an empty carpark and ask the friendly Maori guy in the only open-looking restaurant whether they 'do coffees at all?' 'Aw....yeah' was the classic response. Twenty minutes later (!) there are four coffees in front of them but they all declare them to taste amazing, coffees to rival any inner city Wellington cafe that's for sure. This unexpected experience reminding them not to judge a book by its cover! The travellers also make sure they pay homage to 'Opo the friendly dolphin' who was forever immortalised in Kiwi history for 2 summers in the 1950's.

After a few more winding corners on the road leading them up into the forest, the travellers stop dead in a clearing, feeling their gazes drawn up, up and further up into the the canopy of trees. In front of them and reaching 51 metres towards the heavens is Tane Mahuta, a 2000 year old kauri tree. It's not just the height that impresses, but its width as well. At 14 metres round, they calculate it would take 7-8 people standing with their arms outstretched linked together to reach around this monstrous being. It reminds them greatly of the giant trees in the movie Avatar that were able to sustain the life of the Na'vi people. No photos could ever do justice to the size and scale of this remarkable king of the forest.

The travellers wind their way back towards Opononi and civilisation, stopping at an impressive vantage point over the Hokianga harbour to take some photos of the sand dunes (with random chickens included in the photos for free).

The travellers have heard good things about a place called the Boatshed Cafe, in the tiny settlement of Rawene on the shores of the harbour. The gourmet pizzas served up are a delight to the tastebuds, and the amazing views from the deck a tonic to the soul.

They queue up well in advance of the 1.30pm sailing to Kohukohu, and are relieved that the breeze created by the short journey on the ferry eases the incredible warmth that has descended on the day.

A late afternoon swim (which becomes a daily occurence on this holiday) helps the travellers cool off nicely before the nightly BBQ on the deck enjoying their view of the falls tops off yet another terrific day.

Tomorrow more local history awaits them.


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