For a man in his fifties diagnosed with incurable cancer Adrian Adger could not be more filled with the joys of life.
The Presbyterian minister and his wife Karen spoke to the News Letter in a south Belfast cafe shortly before the 56-year-old Co Antrim man was due in City Hospital for another bout of immunotherapy treatment.
Adrian, who stands six foot seven inches tall, is originally from just outside Ahoghill and now lives in the heart of the Mourne mountains as minister at Clough and Seaforde Presbyterian churches.
He had been married to Karen just four years when he learnt that the kidney cancer which he had previously beaten had returned, and this time it was incurable.
He said: “Initially it was difficult to stay positive. The diagnosis was like a death sentence. I had faith in the Lord, but I had so many questions: Why me? Why now? Why this?
“Karen has been very strong for me, incredibly positive, but at the same time we have been broken by this.
“I married later in life, we were married four years when I got the news of incurable cancer. We cried all night. Apart from God’s gift of salvation, Karen is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life. Our love for one another has made it harder.
“It was a bleak diagnosis – surgery wasn’t an option, and it is incurable. They offered me chemotherapy and now I’m getting immunotherapy treatment.”
Karen said: “I’m not thinking too far ahead. I can’t think like that. I believe God can heal him. I have a faith just like Adrian in the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s God’s grace that is keeping me positive.
“There’s a cruelness to it, but there’s so many more than us suffering. The Bridgewater Suite (cancer services at City Hospital) will be packed today, it will be packed tomorrow and the next day and the next day.”
Adrian said: “Being diagnosed is a dark and difficult time. There are a lot of people in despair and heartache. 38.4% of people in the UK will have cancer at some stage in their life. My story is not a unique story.
“I was 54-years-old whenever I was told I had incurable cancer. I felt a sense of loss, my life has been cut short. But as I worked through those questions – although I don’t have all the answers – I found hope from reading the scriptures.
“Because I gave my life to the Lord when I was 22, he saved me by his grace and gave me this assurance my sins would be forgiven. I’ve had that hope of heaven since then. Instead of that hope dying it is now is more alive than ever. I know where I’m going and that gives me hope for the future.”
Adrian, who is a fan of football and tennis and enjoys going for walks with his wife, said: “I continue to preach God’s word every Sunday and have done so all through my chemotherapy and now through my immunotherapy treatment for cancer.
“I am fatigued in the mornings. Sunday morning is the only morning I get up early to conduct worship in the churches including teaching The Bible about God’s amazing grace. Facing cancer and the challenge that it brings is the most stressful thing we have had to encounter together.
“I’m incredibly thankful to the medical team in the cancer centre. The health service is severely stretched but their commitment to care and do their best for those who are suffering is inspiring.”
A cousin of Adrian’s suggested he should write a book about his experience, a suggestion he initially dismissed before waking in the middle of the night and having a moment of clarity.
He believed he had been prompted by the Holy Spirit to take a three-week sabbatical to write the book.
He said: “I’ve written this book because I’ve found meaning, I’ve found purpose, and I’ve found hope through the Lord Jesus Christ. There are a lot of people in dark places with questions, searching for meaning. This book may be of help to them.”
Adrian has also made five short videos with the expertise of videographer Jonny Sanlon about finding hope in the midst of cancer which have been viewed around the world on social media: “I never planned to have cancer, to write a book, or make any videos. But God’s plans are higher than ours.
“I’m an ordinary guy from outside Ahoghill, I’m amazed what God has done for me.
“I’m excited about what lies ahead and I’m thankful to the Lord Jesus for what he’s done for me, forgiving my sin and giving me peace with God. I’ve got that peace, joy, that hope for the future. I’ve got everything to live for.”
• ‘Facing Cancer Standing Tall: One Christian’s journey to finding joy’ is available in Faith Mission and other Christian bookstores plus online at icmbooksdirect.co.uk and amazon.co.uk