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Living with a brain tumour

Jamie sits in his back yard
Posted March 28, 2017

Update: Jamie Bradley passed away on the 7th of July 2017. He is now free from earthly pain and sickness, living in the fulness of the presence of Jesus whom he loved. Please continue to pray for Jamie's family. 

'I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!' (Romans 8:38, Contemporary English Version)

I’m 51 years old, married to Judy and the father of Maia, who’s 18 and at university. I’ve been a police officer for 25 years—most recently teaching at the Police College.

In June 2016, I had an operation to remove a melanoma on my eye. After that, I had an MRI and was told everything was clear. But then I was put forward for some experimental drug treatment, and the first step was a CT scan on 12 December.

Just after Christmas they phoned and said, ‘Get in here!’ And that was when they told me, ‘You have a brain tumour.’ The scan also showed a tumour on the lung and some spots on my liver.

It started with a prayer

When I was younger, I used to go to church. I stopped when I was about 23. Church just didn’t hold me anymore. But I still knew God was with me. I’d joined the Police, so I was putting myself into dangerous situations, and I always knew God was looking after me.

When I first heard the thing on my eye was melanoma, I went to two people at the Police College who I knew were Christians: Sheryn, who went to The Salvation Army, and Rex. I knew they were active Christians—and I knew I needed prayer, because I couldn’t do this alone.

Rex asked me a few weeks ago, ‘How did you know to come to me?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve always known you were a Christian.’

Sheryn shared a message God had given her when she prayed for me: that God had a plan for me and that God would be with me. So when I got the injections ahead of my eye surgery last year, I asked God to hold my hand. I had a tangible sense God was standing there with me after that prayer.

Once I was over the surgery, I talked to Sheryn about coming back to church. The main thing for me was finding a place to go, because my previous experiences of churches were not fantastic. So Sheryn invited me along to The Salvation Army in Johnsonville with her family.

God plays ‘word games’ with me. In the very first sermon I heard at The Salvation Army, Lesley Nicolson was preaching about Christians being ‘salt and light’ in the world. And she said God’s plan was for us to ‘shake and shine’ where we were. But it was that word ‘plan’ that jumped out at me, because that was the same thing Sheryn has said: that God had a plan for me.

So that spoke to me. I joined the dots and knew God was saying, ‘Okay, you’re home. This is where you’re supposed to be.’ Everything just came together—it was the right time, right people, right messages.

Now it’s a relationship

That’s what God does for me—he communicates blatantly. Someone will say something or I’ll read something in the Bible, and I get a consistent message. God speaks to where I am and for what I need at the time.

Sometimes I get an overall picture. I’ve been reading the book of Acts and in this case God showed me the big picture: that God is telling us to act, to get out there. Jesus has gone back to Heaven, but his instructions are that we get out and do something for God.

When I was 20, I was shy and wouldn’t talk about God. So I never grew in my faith either. But now, I’ll talk to anyone about God. And that makes it easier for me to grow in God.

Back then, God never spoke to me—but I never sought God out. I went to church, I listened to the sermon, but I never stretched my faith. Now it’s different. And easier. I’m fully in the zone of ‘God can expect anything from me’, rather than ‘what’s God going to do for me?’ I’m seeking out God and asking God to use me. And that’s hugely different!

Trusting God today

I wasn’t really focused on the health side of life so much when I started going to church again. My faith journey was the more important thing. Where am I going with God? What’s it going to look like to follow Jesus? That focus brought me to where I needed to be when I got the news about the brain tumour.

What this has meant for us as a family is that we’re actually okay. The absolute trust I have in God keeps me in a good head space. Judy tells me that just the fact that God is looking after us—and looking after me—means she’s in a good head space as well. Because God speaks to me so much and gives me assurance, that gives Judy and Maia assurance too.

Some people might see themselves as ‘dying from a brain tumour’, but I see myself as living with one. That’s part of the journey God has taken me on. But it’s also a conscious decision. I can moan and think about the negatives—or I can do what God is telling me to do. I’m alive today, which means it’s a good day.

I could sit down every morning and cry, ‘Woe is me’, but that’s not living. And God has told me to live. Trust me—and live today. That’s all I’ve got to do: trust God today.

I trust God mainly to keep me safe from negative thoughts associated with my tumour. Every day, I imagine myself putting on God’s armour [Ed–see Ephesians chapter 6:10-18]. I used God’s armour when I was waiting to get a CT scan and I was dry retching into the toilet. Even then, I was thanking God, seeing myself holding God’s shield of faith and knowing God was with me, helping me not to go down the path with negative thoughts that could have taken me to a dark place.

In hospital, a palliative care doctor was in charge of my meds. He’d come and ask me how I was feeling and was really stumped by my positive attitude. I felt like he wanted me to feel bad, perhaps so he could hold my hand and cry with me. But my answer is: ‘Look, I’m okay. I walk with God. And God gives me the strength I need.’

So I go out with friends, and I don’t worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow. And to tell you the truth, some days I don’t even remember I have a tumour, because God has me in such a good space.

Staying positive

The tumour has grown and I might have just weeks to live. This was devastating news, but it’s not the end of the world. God has me, no matter what. I don’t know where the journey will end up, but that’s not what God has told me to worry about. He’s just told me, ‘Trust me today.’ And I trust others to have faith in God to help me, too.

I’ve always tried to be a positive person. Working in the Police you see bad things happen to people—that’s just the nature of the job. You can’t avoid the tragedy in people’s lives. You’re putting people away and dealing with family violence and the terrible things that happen to kids. But in my personal life I’ve always tried to keep reasonably positive. You don’t want to take the negativity home. I learnt very early in my career that’s detrimental to your mental health.

So the way I view life is that this tumour is part of my journey. I have never said, ‘Why me?’ or complained to God, ‘This is not fair.’ I don’t have a sense of being ripped off. This has just happened and it’s not God’s fault. And that’s been my attitude right from the start. ‘God, this is not your fault. But you’re the one who’s going to get me through. I’m going to rely on you.’ And I’ve found that God is there to help me.

Obviously, healing would be fantastic—and people are praying for that. But the simple messages that God has given me are: put on your spiritual armour, know that I’ll be standing beside you, and trust me today. God has strengthened me, and my faith has grown and grown through this journey. That helps me and it helps the people who love me. We were strong at the start—and we’re still okay.

If I die from this, I wouldn’t say God let me down. And I wouldn’t want anyone else to say that. If this hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t be where I am now. If this didn’t happen—and in the way that it has—I would have missed having a relationship with God. That’s how I see it.

Jamie: Expect God to Talk To You!

I’m here to do God’s work and to be obedient to God, which means I need to seek God in everything I do. So every time I open the Bible, I don’t do it just to read. I read the Bible and expect God to talk to me.

I’m consistently getting messages from God as I read the Bible and listen to sermons at church. I like to come to church because I get a boost of the Holy Spirit. But that’s because I come with an expectant heart.

The day I got saved—handing my life over to Jesus at The Salvation Army—every song at church was about being saved. And God continues to speak to me through the songs and the preaching. I listen to the worship leader and I take notes during the sermon, because I have an expectant heart.

God speaks to me through TV, through books, through songs, sermons and Bible verses that people give me. They come at the right time. I expect to hear from God what he wants me to do, where he wants me to be and who he wants me to talk to. And that strengthens me.

When a crisis comes and your world is falling apart, do you turn to the world or to God? I’m a black-and-white person, and when I got this brain tumour, God said, ‘Trust me. I’m with you.’ And that was good enough for me.

by Jamie Bradley (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 25 March 2017, pp6-9
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.