In July, after a few months of illness, I was diagnosed with bowel disease.
Today my doctor undiagnosed me.
When the test results came back and I was told that I had colitus, I refused to accept it. I knew that I was ill, but I knew that I would get better soon. There was a long conversation with a nurse who insisted that I had bowel disease, while I countered that actually, it was just an infection that would heal. She was pretty bemused.
She offered me medication. I said no thanks, I’m going to be better soon. She made a follow-up appt with the doctor, and gave me her direct phone number, ‘just in case’.
When I got home, I spent the next few weeks claiming healing for my body, in Jesus’ name. After all, he did heal me from breast cancer, so colitus would be easy, right?
Today when I saw the consultant amd he asked about my symptoms over the last few months, he told me:
“It looks like it was just an infection. You don’t have colitus.”
I realised this morning that it’s two years since my double mastectomy.
Thinking about how much has happened in those crazy couple of years, it actually seems much longer. I would love to say that as soon as active treatment was finished, that my family and I went straight back to pre-cancer ‘normal’ life… but that would be a lie. The truth is that nothing is ever quite the same again.
Your illness bubble suddenly bursts (and lots of people stop praying for you: it’s almost a tangible difference), everyone says how well you look, and you are expected to pick up exactly from where you left off, with nothing more than some scars and shorter hair to mark the ‘journey’.
The reality is so much more complicated and difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t gone through it.
Perhaps some stats will shed a little light:
“At least 500,000 people in the UK are facing poor health or disability after treatment for cancer –
At least 350,000 people living with and beyond cancer are experiencing chronic fatigue.
Around 240,000 are living with mental health problems, which can include moderate to severe anxiety or depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
This is a small part of a long list, provided by Macmillan cancer support.
Many relationships break down soon after a cancer diagnosis as well, especially when the patient is a younger woman. And with the hormone treatments that I was on for a while, they are so soul-destroying that the fact that any marriage survives them is a miracle.
Cancer’s slimy fingers reach into every aspect of your life: your health, your mental health, your relationships, your parenting, your career, your finances, your vision of the future, your life expectancy.
I want to say that I am actually very optimistic about the future, and I am not afraid of cancer or even of possibly dying young (although would rather not); but it’s no use pretending that I am the person that I was before. And Mike and the kids have been through the mill too: their lives have been massively affected and changed too.
The best advice that I could give to anyone who is close to someone with a life-changing illness (or their partner or child) is to be kind, listen and don’t fob them off with “Oh, but you look so well.”
Anyway, I was meant to be talking about my double mastectomy… it’s only boobs, if you have to have one, you’ll get over it, and I would much rather be alive in an imperfect body than be a gorgeous dead person. 😊
I’m still fabulous, I’m still here, and I’m going to live the best life that I can.
An amazing man died this weekend. He had stage 4 (incurable) stomach cancer, and the doctors had put him on palliative care. It wasn’t a big surprise that he died, but it is incredibly sad.
Nabeel Qureshi was born into a devout Muslim family in the US. A Christian friend who he met at university strongly encouraged him to disprove Christianity. Nabeel was desperate to do so: he was full of faith in Allah. Of course he could not prove that Jesus is not the son of God, no matter how hard he tried. He was born again, after finally realising the truth.
He has degrees in medicine, Christian apologetics and religion. He was studying for a doctorate at Oxford University when diagnosed with cancer.
It is painfully unfair that someone so young (34), intelligent and full of faith in God, died. He could have achieved so much more if had lived longer. His daughter would have had a father; his wife a husband.
So many people around the world were praying for a miracle, that he would be healed. It is easy for us as Christians to get angry at God for allowing Nabeel to die. How dare he?
The problem is that we just can’t understand it. Why would God allow this young man to die? Unfortunately, we will only get the answer to this and many other questions, when we too die. Then, as believers, we will be able to ask God face-to-face. I have no doubt that our all-knowing creator had perfectly good reasons for this, and other suffering, to happen… it’s very hard for us to get our heads round it though, right? It just seems so unfair.
We don’t see the full picture, we can’t understand, and sometimes that sucks. We like to believe that we have all the control in our lives: choosing our friends, our jobs, who we marry, how many kids we have and when, where we live, etc. And of course we do have a lot of decisons to make, and responsibilities.
But we never get to choose when or where we are born, who our parents are, and when we die. We like to think of ourselves as masters of our destiny, but ultimately, when it comes to life and death, this is an illusion.
The fact is that every day that we live is a gift from our maker, God. We may rage at his unfairness is taking away young lives, but in reality, we were never promised long, healthy, wealthy lives, without a moment’s pain. Quite the opposite in many cases actually, especially for Christians.
My heart breaks for Nabeel’s family and friends, but thank God for his life. Thank God for our lives, no matter how short or painful they may be. Thank God that he sent his son to die as a sacrifice for us, so that when we die we can live forever with him. Thank God for his love, for hope and for every day that he gives us on Earth.
It’s not all about how long you live, or how many countries you visit, or how many children you have.
Much more important is knowing in your heart, on the last day that you live, where you are going. That you are going to meet your Heavenly Father: the one who loved you even before you were born, the one who send his son to die in your place.
I know that Nabeel had this faith, and that he is happy now in Heaven, probably asking Jesus some of those difficult questions.