I am a wuss. I loved rollerblading when I was a teenager, but only did it in a calm and controlled manner, just in case of a bad fall leading to broken bones. I have a phobia of broken bones. I would climb trees, but not too high. I would swim in the sea at Durban, but not too deep, due to the small risk of being eaten by a great white shark. I even played Monopoly against my siblings, despite the 99% chance of it ending in a combination of yelling, crying and fisticuffs.
I like having fun, once I have done a quick risk-analysis in my head.
I’m a bit like that geeky bloke on last year’s Apprentice.
I am definitely not brave. So having people tell me that I am, these last few months, has been difficult to accept. After all, I didn’t volunteer to have cancer in place of someone else or anything. I am just keeping going; not in an adventurous way but in a boring, everyday way. I am not fishing for compliments, it’s the truth.
I do admire actual brave people. Not necessarily the winners, the ones who get the gold medal and all the attention. Sometimes them, but more often the ones who had a lot to overcome just to get to the start line, never mind the finish. The ones who were told it was impossible. They were too old, too young, too poor, too stupid. They did it anyway. Proper heroes.
People like the ones who do Parkrun even though they know they will be right at the back, far behind everyone else. Still running while all the ‘proper’ runners have gone home. Good for the proper runners and all that, but even gooder for the ones who will never get medals and praise but turn up week after week anyway.
I may not be a winner. I may not be brave. But I do turn up, and I think that really, that’s the most important thing. Except in Monopoly: then it really is very important to win at all costs.
I was reminded by someone today that my identity is not a ‘cancer sufferer’ or even a ‘cancer survivor’. My identity is in Christ. This may be mostly a cancer blog at the moment, and cancer might be a big part of my life right now; but I am always, first and last, a Christian. It is the most important thing about me, and that will not change, no matter how ill or well I am.
If you are a Christian and feel that you are defined by your illness or unhappy childhood or current circumstances, remember that God is the most important thing in your life. His name is bigger and more important than any other name. Jesus is bigger than debt. Bigger than illness. Bigger than divorce. Bigger than family. If you would like me to pray for you, message me or ask in person and I will be happy to.
I became one of those ‘born again’ Christians when I was 11 years old, but I have always known that God is real, and that he loves me. Christians use the word ‘testimony’ when talking about their story, and specifically their story regards God. It’s often about how they became born again; and also what God has done in their life.
My testimony isn’t an exciting one – I grew up in a Christian home – but, it’s still important. You may not think that your testimony is very exciting (or maybe it is) but it is important. Don’t forget to tell people your God story – everyone loves stories.
Darrell Tunningley (former drug dealer and car thief who became a Christian in prison) visited our church today and told us his testimony. He attended an Alpha course in the prison, lead by two ancient nuns and a vicar. The reason that he went to the Alpha course was the offer of free biscuits. The most powerful thing about the Alpha Course was not the intellectual debates or the impressive theological knowledge of the nuns. It was their love. They loved him with God’s love: not a romantic, or namby-pamby fake thing, or even maternal love. It was with God’s love. I do not think that Darrell would have ever got more from the Alpha course than free snacks, if the people leading it had approached him by thinking that they could argue him and the other prisoners into salvation. Or if they gave him a nice hot meal or new socks and a leaflet about Jesus, but didn’t actually care about him as a person. You can’t argue with love.
I guess that’s why God tells us to love him first; and next, to love other people. It’s vital.
This is a video where Darrell talks about how he was saved by God – literally saved from a certain violent or drug-induced early death.
If you stuggle to love other people (especially the annoying ones or different ones or stuggling ones) then ask God to help you love people with his love. It does work – I know because I have tried it. With certain people, you may need to ask God more than once.
Christian, if you are still alive, no matter how old or ill or useless you feel – then it is because God still wants you to do stuff for him – if you’re not sure what, it probably involves loving your neighbours, colleagues, friends and anyone you meet. And loving him first, don’t forget that.
And if you are not a Christian or don’t know what you believe, then I know that God has a plan for you too. He loved you from before you were even born and he’s calling your name. Please give him a chance- ask him to talk to you.
I read this in my Bible this morning before church:
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
And four more weeks to go.
I applaud anyone who has to travel long distances every day for work. I have been a passenger for two one-hour journeys every day for a week and am already drained.
The radiotherapy itself is a walk in the overheated park by comparison. Well, so far anyway.
I will describe the rads process for the uninitiated. First, the two radiotherapists help you on to the very hard ‘bed’. It’s not really a bed. There is a foam pyramid thing that you put underneath your legs, and arm stirrups above your head to put your arms into. Then the radiotherapists tell each other some numbers and letters (secret codes) to ensure that I am lined up perfectly. They use the three tiny tattoos on my chest to help with measurements. Then they both leave the room. There are warning beeps and then a buzz while it works.
You need to stay completely still while the machine is working. It moves around you to make sure that the radiation is focused in the exact spot. It has a big round metal ‘head’ which opens a bit behind its glass face, like little jaws. You can’t see or feel anything. It takes a few minutes to do its job.
The radiation hits only the part that needs it, in my case the left breast and the upper chest up to the collarbone. There isn’t necessarily any cancer there, but it can happen that the cells move north, so they are doing the rads as an ‘insurance policy’.
The radiotherapists are efficient and friendly, and there is a big team so I seem to have different people every day. One of them told me that I have a cool name, so I already have a favourite. ☺
My machine broke down on Wednesday, and there are only 6. My appointment time changed from midday (the most convenient time for me, what with work in the morning and getting home in time for schoolrun) to early evening. Obviously it was nobody’s fault but it was a bit stressful working out dinners and babysitters. Hopefully it will be fixed by tomorrow.
Roll on Swindon getting our own radiotherapy machines.
Thanks to everyone who is making us meals and helping with lifts and babysitting.
I am not usually a fan of new year – nothing personal, it’s just that I am bored with ‘chasing a good time.’ But this new year was better than normal. Not because we did anything special, but because it was the end of a rubbish year. And I am still here to see in 2016, which is nice.
There were actually some good things that happened in 2015- Milly visited from Canada; my sister Laura and my neices visited from Mauritius ; and a lovely family holiday to Portland. But they were somewhat overshadowed by the cancer diagnosis, I think it’s fair to say.
I am just to happy that the worst is behind us, and we can move on and look forward to a healthier 2016. Of course, anything could happen, and I’m not at the end of my cancer journey just yet (does it ever end?) – I start radiotherapy tomorrow. Five weeks of making an 80-mile round trip every week day. It’s not going to be the highlight of my year, but I am not particularly worried about it. Yes, there may be some side-effects, but nothing as bad as chemo, and hopefully nothing long-term.
I do plan to work (part-time) all the way through my rads – every morning before getting a lift to Oxford. I will probably be tired. I can cope with tiredness- I’ve certainly had enough practice.
My husband Mike will be driving me most days, which means that he won’t be able to get much work done ’til February. We should be ok. We have been so far – if there is one thing that I have a lot of faith for, it’s money. Not lots of money, just enough.
Thankfully, a few awesome sorts have already volunteered to make meals for us during my treatment, and some are going to be my chauffeur on certain days. Cheers guys! 🙂
I have been part of the Younger Breast Cancer Network (UK) group for a few months. It’s a hidden group where any (verified) members can go to ask questions, have a moan or share good news.
I have found it very helpful, just knowing that there are some ladies out there in similar circumstances to myself, that I can talk to whenever I need an understanding ear. They are full of good advice. It also helps to see that there are other young women and mums out there- it can feel quite isolating when you are the only person under the age of 50 in a cancer clinic.
Due to the type of group that it is, there is obviously some sadness and pain. But there are happy stories and friendship too. For Christmas, they asked for silly photos of people in Christmas hats or dos for ‘Christmas chemo head’. I enjoyed making my hat and taking part – it’s just a good community.
Once upon a time, there lived two pigs who were neighbours in a village called Muddsville. They were called Percy and Pansy. Percy loved Christmas, and spent all year planning everything: what the starter, main and dessert would be; what games to get everyone to play; and the perfect present for everyone. Everything had to be just so.
Pansy also loved Christmas but she took a more laid-back approach. She loved hosting for friends and family on the special day, oh yes. And she spent quite a lot on food and drink, oh yes. But she realised that Christmas Day would never be perfect, simply because no day could ever be perfect. And nobody is perfect either.
Percy spend most of Christmas Eve night double- and triple- checking that all the food was just right. He re-wrapped a few presents that were just a little untidy. He swept all of the floors while his family slept. He had a restless night, worrying over details, and woke up bleary-eyed and headachey in Christmas Day. When his three little piglets ran into his room first thing, he asked his wife to get him some painkillers and a very strong cup of tea. It was going to be a long day. His kids loved their presents, but he worried that they were making too much mess with the wrapping paper and bows.
‘I supposed I should sweep the floors just one more time before everyone arrives,’ he thought to himself with a sigh.
Pansy woke up with her two little piglets jumping in her bed to give her a cuddle. They opened their stockings, and she let them eat all of the sweets and chocolate that they liked. She hugged them hard, realising that soon they wouldn’t be so little, and there weren’t many Christmasses left when they would want to wake her early for a hug. Her family had a lazy breaskfast of toast and jam while watching ‘Stick man’ on telly. She suddenly realised that guests would be arriving soon, but there was always time for a nice soak in the bath first.
Percy’s family and friends had a very good Christmas. The food was delicious and the expensive presents were much appreciated. But Percy felt sad. His Christmas was not perfect. Great Aunt Pollyanna fell asleep during charades and knocked over an expensive bottle of wine. Percy spent ages cleaning the floor. Baby Poppy cried when her parents opened the doll that Percy had spent ages trawling the shops for. Why couldn’t she be more grateful? Grandad Pig drank too much ale and made a fool of himself. Percy went to bed early that night. Where had it all gone wrong? Next year he would just have to try harder.
Pansy left the turkey in the oven too long, so everyone had to have extra potatoes. Uncle Peter accidently opened one of Aunt Petunia’s gifts, and insisted on wearing her frilly pink housecoat for the rest of the day. Two of the cousins fell out over a cracker and had to have a time-out.
When all the guests had gone home that evening, Pansy sat down with her husband on the messy sofa and yawned.
“How do you think that went?” He asked.
“Well… just about perfect,” she smiled. “Now let’s get to bed. The cleaning can wait ’til tomorrow.”