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Faith, fiction and cancer stuff.


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7 days after my double mastectomy

Here I am, sitting at home 7 days after my bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and full auxiliary clearance on the left side. I came home yesterday after a relaxing stay of 6 nights in the hospital. I was extremely well looked after by all of the nurses, doctors, aux nurses and cleaning staff. They are all professional, friendly and helpful- such a lovely group of people.

My operation went well. It lasted 4.5 hours and I did bleed a bit more than usual, but apparently this is because I am young and a non-smoker. I woke up at about 8pm and was moved to the ward that evening. I was given a private room, which was nice, especially with my own bathroom so close to my bed. When I first woke up and all of Tuesday night, I couldn’t move my arms, so had to keep asking a nurse to help me drink some water using a straw. My mouth was dry because I had oxygen going into my nostrils. They do obs all through the first night, so it wasn’t a good sleep, but I did sleep deeply thanks to the anaesthetic when I could.

The next morning, I could start to use my arms, although not sit up properly. I managed to feed myself cornflakes for breakfast, which I was proud of myself for. It was far too painful to attempt to get out of bed or even sit up just yet, because my pectoral muscles have been interfered with. The implants sit underneath it. Also I had three drains in, which take lymphatic fluid and blood away from the wounds. One is positioned each side of my chest and one near the armpit, from where my lymph nodes were removed. The output from the drains is measured every day, and once you lose less than 40ml per day, they should be able to come out. I had my lymph node drain removed the other day by a nurse. There is no need for anaesthetic, she just told me when to breathe in, and pulled it out slowly. They gave me two shoulder bags in which to store the drains. It is difficult to remember to pick them up whenever I move, and there is also the danger of someone squashing them or pulling them out, especially a certain two-year old.

After lunch on day two (Wednesday), I asked the nurse to remove my catheter. I had to prove that I could walk to the bathroom by myself first, which I did. It was good to be able to get out of bed and regain some independence, but was still painful when sitting up. There was a pressure on my chest like a large dog sitting on it, and the wounds hurt when I moved. On Wednesday evening I was sick, probably because I tried to be too active too soon (not like me at all!). A nurse prescribed an IV anti-sickness drug called cyclizine. Almost immediately, my heart started to thump in a nasty manner, I felt cold and shivvery and my mind went off to the astral plane for a nice adventure. This lasted about 2 hours, so I watched The Apprentice in a most cheerful and spaced frame of mind. Which is the best way to enjoy The Apprentice, I find.

I felt noticably better every day, but decided to stay in for the weekend to give myself more time to rest, and also to watch movies on the hospital TV. I have now watched all three of the Hobbit movies, albeit with some bits missing. They are most enjoyable, and that’s not just the drugs talking.

I really missed church on Sunday- it wasn’t nice having the option to go taken away from me. But I have had lots of lovely visitors all week, which helped to pass the time. I started every day by praying (as usual) and reading my Bible (not as usual). It was really good. I also started reading Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson, which my sister and brother-in-law bought for me. It’s a great book, and well-timed as I have felt God very close to me, especially over the last week. He always comes closer when you need him most.

On Monday (day 6) I found some worship music on YouTube on my phone. I started with ‘Majesty’ and played it quite loudly. The Holy Spirit was evident, and I started crying, in a good way. Then I listened to ‘10000 reasons’. Half-way through that song, someone closed my door! I don’t blame them as all of the nurses and some of the patients would have heard it. Never mind, it was probably good for them. I listened to one more song after that, which the nurse who was checking my drains was subjected to. It was In Christ Alone by Staurt Townend. The opening lyrics are

‘In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song; This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.’

Good words to hear any day, and I had the feeling that it was just what my nurse needed to hear. Well, it’s what everyone needs to hear.

Yesterday the junior doctor discharged me, and I asked when my surgeon would be visiting. I hadn’t seen him since the morning after the operation. He popped in to see me just before I left hospital, and said that sorry he hadn’t been in more often, but he fell sick a couple of hours after my operation. I was so relieved that he had been well enough to perform my op, and then I remembered that I had prayed for good health for him and the team during my surgery. Phew.

It’s good to be home. I am knackered, but fine. I am still on lots of painkillers and antibiotics, but nothing too strong. I am getting back more of my movement every day and already enjoying the meals that some awesome people in my church have signed up to do. (Thanks Laura for organising that again.)

One of the drains.

New cleavage, showing neat work by surgeon.

Some strange people spotted in the local hospital.

My wounds are much better than expected. There are no bandages, just steri-strips on the cuts. There is almost no bruising. My new breasts are quite small now, but will be expanded every few weeks by my surgeon with saline, so that my skin can grow big enough, ready for the proper silicone implants in 6-9 months time. I have included the photo of my cleavage so that you can see what a neat job the surgeon has done.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts, prayers, gifts, visits, Costa coffees and meals. God bless you all.


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National Poetry Day

Cancer is no democracy.
You don’t get a vote
On if you’re in or out.
Can’t demand a recount
If the biopsy results
Make you want to shout
“Why me?”

I didn’t ask for this
I’m not brave
I’m not strong.
God is the rock
that I stand on.
When I’m scared
He’s right there.

It’s not my job to say
What you should do
But I will anyway.
Eat chips
Go to the seaside
Have faith
Be kind
Find your hidden artist
Open your eyes
Today you are alive:
So live.


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Pinktober

October is breast cancer awareness month, and I have been reading some stories about women who have survived or are currently battling breast cancer. I do find it helpful to read other people’s stories, especially the positive ones. But I noticed that it can easily make me start to feel sorry for myself, particularly in the ‘people who haven’t had cancer don’t know what it’s like…’ train of thought. I did get off this particular train within minutes though. This is because I realised that not everyone gets cancer when they are young-ish. But then not everyone loses a child. Not everyone gets their legs blown off while fighting for their country. Not everyone sees their parents being killed in front of them, and then are forced to be child soldiers or sex slaves. Not everyone is lonely.

My cancer experience could have turned me into a self-pitying party pooper or a general doom and gloom merchant. But that would be awfully dull. So instead, I am trying to channel my experience into increasing my empathy for others: whoever they are, whatever their particular battle.

Not everyone has a perfect life. In fact, nobody does. And so what would be the point of thinking of myself as being ‘unlucky’ or worse off than others? I guess I could be jealous of healthy friends who don’t have cancer, but I’m not. This is the life that I have been given, and I’m going to make the most of it. Besides, how many people are blessed with a loving husband? How many with two gorgeous children? How many with a safe home? How many with clean water and more than enough to eat every day? How many with the knowledge of God’s love for them?

I thank God every day for all of the blessings that he has given me. And if my testimony helps to lead one person to faith, then I thank God for using me and my health issues for his kingdom. (No, he didn’t give me cancer.) Jesus says that in this world there will be trouble, but not to worry, because he has overcome the world.

Cancer might damage my body but it can’t touch my spirit.

And finally, ladies: check your breasts. And book a doctor’s appointment asap if you find any changes, just in case.

Breast cancer stats

John 16:33B C pink ribbon