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Faith, fiction and cancer stuff.


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My letter to cancer

One year ago today I had a double mastectomy and lymph node removal on my left-side. My breast cancer was diagnosed as stage 3, and caught just before it spread to the rest of my body.
I saw that the charity Breast Cancer Now is asking people today to write a letter to cancer. I believe that it’s to raise awareness of secondary (metastatic) breast cancer, which thankfully I do not have, but still thought that I would join in.
Dear breast cancer
Note that you are not in capitals, because you are not worthy of being a proper noun.
I know that you are not a person and that actually you left me some time last year. I’m not sure when exactly that was. One year ago, perhaps,  after my surgery?
Or possibly summer last year when I cast you out of my body, in Jesus name, and the two large lumps in my left breast where you lived, suddenly vanished as I prayed. (My oncologist confirmed that they had gone 2 days later so I know it wasn’t my imagination. ) Either way, you have gone my unwelcome visitor.
You came to me around my 33rd birthday last year. I wasn’t entirely surprised when I got the diagnosis in April, because I had a little voice in my head for up to six months before I found you, saying that I should put my spare change in every Macmillan and Breast Cancer Now charity pot that I saw (which was several over those few months) because I would need those charities’ support one day. And yet. Your arrival was a shock.
You took from me my health, my hair, my breasts, my fertility, my ability to go to work and pop to the shops and meet up with Mummy friends and just take my kids somewhere fun; at least for a few months.
You no doubt caused my husband Mike and my kids and parents and brother and sister and wider family and friends, a whole lot of heartache that was hidden from me.
You shrank my life for a while. You kept me away from many friends.
You made me really confront the high possibility of my imminent death, in a very real way. I had to have conversations with my husband about how I wanted the kids to be raised after I had gone (actually he already knew and I knew that I could trust him with that anyway.) You encouraged me to write letters to my son and daughter, telling them how much I will always love them and that I will see them again in Heaven one day.
You caused me pain and sometimes fear. You changed my life and I can never go back to the healthy young person that I used to be.
But you did not take everything.
No, in fact you (unintentionally) gave me many unexpected gifts.
By forcing me to face the facts of this short life that we are all given, you helped me to see what’s really important.
You helped me to see how happy and content I really am, and how wonderful my family, friends and church are.
You made my marriage stronger, my motherhood more valued and precious, and my friendships kinder.
You helped me to appreciate the little joys in life, like sunshine and autumn leaves and rides at the back of the bus with my children, giggling and waving at other drivers . Even doing the washing!
You helped me to focus on God and his love for me, no matter what the circumstances. Because of you I have an even stronger faith.
You increased my self-confidence because if I faced cancer then I can face anything.  No longer will I be too shy to speak my mind when  someone is causing others pain or trouble.  If I stood up to cancer then I can stand up to annoying gits.
You increased my empathy for others because I know how incredibly difficult being ill or disabled can be. How isolating it can feel.
You wanted to take away my peace, but you increased it.
You hoped to dash my faith and tear me away from a close Father-daughter relationship with God, but you only drove me closer to him.
You helped me to see life for what it really is: short and painful, but amazingly beautiful and full of hope.
So cancer,  I just want to say,
You are nasty and cruel and you take too many lovely people away too early and I hope that they continue to find ways to get rid of you faster and easier.
But you can’t break me and you cannot steal my faith, hope or joy. You lose.
Insincerely,

 

Alex


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Life as a non-parent in a parent-centred world

A blog by my friend Milly.

Milly's Scribblings

There’s an article doing the rounds on Facebook called ‘Seven Things Women Without Children Want Moms to Know’. It’s a decent article, I’ve seen a few times in the past year, and I’d recommend any parent to read it to open their understanding of what it’s like for those of us who live without children.

I’m a non-parent, and after reading it, I felt I had a few things to add. These are just my perspectives and I don’t claim to speak for all non-parents.

Let me choose

Sometimes I want to be around children, sometimes I don’t. Let me choose, and let me change my mind.

In the ‘Seven Things.’ blog, one participant said:

“I’ve rarely been invited to dinner parties at homes with people with kids. Or to life festivities: confirmations, holiday celebrations, graduations, etc. I’d like to be invited. Please let me decide if I…

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Surgery

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Before you go in for surgery, you have to remove most of the things that you hide behind: make-up, skin cream, deodorant, lip gloss, jewellery, nail varnish. Even most of your clothes: instead you get to wear a huge trendy NHS gown that opens at the back, and some ultra-tight green anti-DVT socks.

 

It’s a weird feeling because it makes you feel quite exposed; and I’m not a high-maintenance person who wears nail varnish or loads of make-up.

 

It makes me think of how God sees us: not as surgery patients but without all the stuff that we hide behind. We all show a certain face to other people; that may be businessperson, earth mother, geek or socialite. We may want others to see us a certain way. We show only our good sides and try to hide our faults. But God sees us for who we really are. He knows all about our past and he sees our every thought. We can’t fool him.

 

And that’s ok. He made us, after all. And he loves us no matter what we’ve done or who we are.

 

As I went into surgery yesterday, I felt completely at peace. Firstly, because I trust my surgical team; but mostly because I trust God. That doesn’t mean that I never get worried about anything, in fact I can get anxious over even small things. But I do try to remind myself that God is always in control, no matter how bleak the circumstances.

 

He has a good plan for my life. Events like surgery, trying to conceive and childbirth, remind me that really we have very little control over our lives. Yes we can make decisions, and there will be consequences, but actually we do not control our destiny when it comes to life and death. Sometimes our health will let us down; sometimes our friends and family will let us down; sometimes we will disappoint ourselves. Yet God is there with us, every step of the way.

 

 

My surgery went well and I feel surprisingly good. Hopefully I won’t need a major operation for a few years, although there are risks (like leakage) with implants. I am going to be discharged to go home soon. ☺ I won’t be able to vacuum or lift a laundry basket for a few weeks though, which is a shame.

 

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts, prayers and messages. Thanks to Mike for being the best husband, and to our parents for babysitting and all your help. And thank you to my doctors and nurses, and the caterers and cleaner too. They work so hard and are always friendly. I am so grateful to them all.

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Pre-op

We are in the waiting room and watching rugby on the TV.  Japan beat New Zealand! And soon my name is called.

“Sorry to keep you.”

I have filled in one questionnaire but there is an even longer one to complete with the nurse. Have I had other operations; what is my house like; will my husband help me when I get home, etc.

“Are you allergic to anything?”

“Yes, I responded very badly to an anti-sickness drug after my last operation. I would rather be sick than take it again.”

My poor brain struggled with that one. I knew what I wanted to say but the words wouldn’t come out. Also very dizzy, hot and cold and spaced out like an alien.

She checks my notes and they say ‘Reacted badly. Not to be used again.’

Lots more health questions. I look around the room and remember what it was like last time. But then I was sick, now I’m not. I am nearly back to normal and feel mostly healthy, besides the tiredness, headaches, occasional migraine and hormonal stuff.

“You are the first patient without complications I’ve had all day.”

It’s 6pm. I am her last patient today. 

“At least you can get home soon.”

“Oh no, my paperwork will take me at least another hour and a half.”

Then we are sent back to the waiting room for the next nurse. I find a Gideon’s Bible and read some Galatians and Psalms. It doesn’t quite feel right as the font is different from my Bible at home, but it’s still good.

“Sorry for the wait.”

“That’s OK.”

Measure my height and weight, take my blood pressure, take three vials of blood, do an MRSA swab.

“When will you get home tonight?”

“Probably about 8:30. I think I’ll get fish and chips. My husband works nights.”

“When did you start work today?”

“7:30 in the morning.”

Oh my goodness that’s a 13 hour shift! And she was still cheerful.

“Yes but it’s a vocation isn’t it?”

“Well yes, but still.”

Home time, to my parents’ to pick up the kids. This time next week my operation will be over.

God bless the NHS.