Chemo 4

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Chemo 4

There are some times when it seems Cancer defines me. Wide awake at 2am. Heart racing, radio active poo, pains in stomach, and that very weird taste in the mouth that just will not go away. The internal fight to not reach for the phone and write this blog, which clearly I lost as here it is. Knowing all the advice about not turning on the phone in the night, blue screen light keeping me awake, the need to settle. And yet as I type my racing heart appears to be returning to normal with breathing steadied and internal chaos subsiding.

I feel like nornal life has been lost under drugs, side effects, exhaustion, self pity and loneliness. The later needing sorting out everyday as they could be more deadly than cancer if left unchecked.

And God? Well there was great rejoicing when the news was the tumours had reduced. Praise God we declared! And yet He knows I still have issues that we are here in the first place. We need to work on this. Someone asked me “Why is God taking you through this?^ why indeed? And am I learning anything through this other than its all pretty crap and I do pray it all works in the end.

To Scan or not to Scan that is the question

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So through the mail comes one of those usual NHS letters inviting me for a Breast Scan.  I didn’t even query it, just went along to the local Hospital like a good little girl.   When I arrived on the Breast Screening Unit they checked my date or birth and address details and then asked me when my last scan was.  Last year, I responded.   “Oh, why are you here then?”, came the reply.  Thy was easy, because they sent for me!    The radiographer continued: “Was there any reason why you were referred back after only 12 months, it’s usually three years?”.  By this time I had stripped off and was stood half naked behind the screen.  “No!” I assured her.  “Well you don’t have to have this scan then if you don’t want to”.  Seriously, this was a no-brainer.  I don’t have a problem with my boobs being squeezed in the machine, much better then cancer, that was always my view.  So I responded glibly, “Well I’m here now with my tits out, best get on with it!”.  And she did!

Well, that’s the end of that –  or so I thought.  Within the next two weeks I’ll get the all clear and we can put that to one side for another 3 years!  Never imagined I’d get a call back, to the local General Hospital.  This is compete madness I told myself, I’m fine.  But just to confirm my certainty I went upstairs and lay on the bed, there was nothing wrong with me!

Oh shit!!!  a lump in my left boob.  Felt like a large marble from when I was a kid, you know the sort we used to call dobbers!  I lay there and took a deep breath.  “Dave where are you now when I need you!!”   Next to the bed was the book “When life gives you Lemons”, a book I had been reading slowly to help with the grief I was still wrestling with.  I picked it up, opened it and started to cry.  “God, where are you now?”   That was the question I’d asked more in the past 5 months than ever before in my life.   I had felt like he disciples being tossed and thrown around in the boat when Jesus was asleep in their storm.  This storm which he had lead them into as he invited them to get into the boat on that dark and stormy night on Galilee.  Suddenly my storm changed from a really bad thunder storm to a whirlwind or was it a hurricane? and there was nothing to do but sob like a baby for several minutes.   I went back to the lump, tried to assure myself it was nothing, but failed drastically, it was definitely something, something most unwelcome.

Within two weeks I lay on anoter bed, this time at Worcester Royal Hospital as the Doctor took pictures, carefully, slowly, silently.  As he asked me to move onto my side and he began to take even more images from under my arm, I begin to cry as I knew this wasn’t good news.  He confirmed I had stage 2 Breast Cancer and it was also in two of more of my lymph nodes also.  He informed me he had been doing this job for over 20 years and he was certain this was cancer.    He took the Biopsy to confirm the bleeding obvious,  and I was immediately referred to the breast cancer nurse, where  my friend Karen took copious notes of all that was being said.  She said loads, but all I remember her saying now is having big boobs is an advantage at a time like this!  Hallelujah for my 36F’s!

Karen and I want for cream cakes!  Never has a cream cake been so welcome.  Wouldn’t it be great if Breast Cancer could be cured by cream cakes and not Chemo, Radio and Surgery?

So on the 27th September 2017, I was told I have cancer.  I type this a month later and Im sorry to report I still have cancer!  Since then I’ve had scan, blood tests, appointments etc etc.  I’ve been recommended to McMillan Nurses, depended on friends for lifts, had all the family up to see me,  received many good wishes by Card Facebook, text and many many bunches of flowers.  I’ve bogged off to Paris to escape the long waiting with nothing happening (But it’s ok I m confidently assured they are still within the NHS recommended time frames!)….. it’s not really ok if I’m honest!

I’ve never minded waiting, yet suddenly waiting seems dangerous and that scares me.  The Doctor at Worcester who had my breast scan images from a year ago and two weeks ago used the work “aggressive” as the compared the scans that were 12 month apart.  I have spoken to the cancer and told it to calm down,  we don’t need all this crazy unnecessary aggression just now.  I hope it has listened, I really do!

Another thing the Doctor did was express genuine surprise that there had been a cock-up in the system and I was sent for a breast scan after only a year.  He said clearly someone was looking after me.  I hope he’s right.  I know he’s right!   Someone is looking after me and that together we will get through this.  Please Lord, I would like to live.  Id like to see my grandchildren, like to see Esther get married, I’d like to fall in love again, Id like to swim in the Med again, I’d like to succeed at being a Regional Minister (whatever that means). There is so much I’d like to do.  PLEASE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hindsight

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So I write this in hindsight.. knowing that actually I have to blog about all that’s going on.  2017 so far hasn’t been the best, it’s fair to say.  It should have been. It should have been amazing.

It started with a New Years party at the Rugby Club.  I was on a break from my long term boyfriend yet again.  We had been together several years. but since moving to the west midlands it has been a rocky ride.  So I met someone else, but all the time I couldn’t help comparing him with Dave. (Thats Dave my ex boyfriend and not my ex husband!)  Sorry – all very confusing.  Anyway, New Years eve I got a text from Dave to say he was missing me.    I wont go into detail but the next few weeks saw us back together and things were going really well.

This was the year of my Sabbatical, 3 months off to spend time in London with family as well as go away to Sweden for a few days and to have a period of time in South Africa, looking at a piece of work my friend Jane was doing to encourage black women to courageously take their part in church life and step up to their calling.

Again – I could say so much but there’s no point.  Time in London with the family and seeing both Daves (that’s both my ex husband and boyfriend) was most pleasant.  A chance to catch up with may old friends and also to attend my old church and get involved in Holiday club. (that proved to be a little problematic but that is also irreverent now!).

It was lovely to be close to my boyfriend and to have loads of time together,  We enjoyed good times, food, laughter, fun and again began to talk about the future.  He assured me everything would be different soon – well he was most certainly right about that!

After month in London Dave came back to the midlands with me.  He had been working really long hours and was very tired.  We went to a BBQ with friends who recommended he goes to the Doctors when he gets back into London, he assured us he was just over cooking it.  The thing about being a chef is the shifts are far too long and at 55, as he said he hasn’t got the stamina he had hen he was 30.  That weekend I just let him rest a lot. Let him lie in, took him breakfast in bed, cancelled plans to go out as he wasn’t really up for it.    I was concerned he was so poorly but was delighted he had come back with me as it was difficult leaving the family after a month and coming home to an empty house.

Our weekend together flew past as they always did when he visited.  Soon it was Sunday night and I drove to the train station, talked about our holiday in a few weeks time, when I returned from South Africa, and some more time away together in October to Malta or Greece.  Nothing booked yet,  we can do that when I get back from South Africa.  We hugged and kissed goodbye, and he was gone – again.  I text him usually I love you xx, he responded with the usually I love you two xx.   Several hours later I sent him “I miss you like Crazy!”  He saw that but never replied.

It was five days till I flew out to South Africa.  Dave never text again.  He didn’t return my calls, didn’t even respond to my long erratic voicemail messages. So I concluded he had done it again, gave up on us, just like last year.   I was gutted, really thought things were better now, thought we would be ok.  He had asked me to marry him again, always with the same comment “I don’t know when, but I promise it will happen”.

Anyway I don’t want to get bogged down in all this, sad to say Dave had a heart attack and died on the Birmingham to London v Virgin train on Sunday evening 23 April.  Somewhere between Rugby and Euston.    A journey I made myself only last week, with tears still flowing for the man I loved.  When his heart stopped my heart broke.  My family and his family demonstrated love and grace to me and we were able to say our goodbyes together, for which I am so grateful.

So that’s 2017! – well no, it doesn’t end there.  Six months later I was diagnoses with Breast Cancer and to be honest that’s what this blog is all about.  Loosing Dave simply sets 2017 in context, its not been a good year to say the least!

 

 

 

Day Forty – Thank you for the Music

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dcbw4IEY5w&ob=av2e

Some time ago I arranged for the Bible Readings at my current church to be read with some reflective music playing in the background.  I really love this effect.  It helps me to listen better and reflect deeper on the passage. I had studied the Bible several years before with the Bible Society’s tapes where the Bible was accompanied by music, and I wanted to recreate this as I had found it so helpful.   I have to say this went down like a lead balloon with some people who bitterly complained that it was a distraction and, in complete contrast to how I felt, claimed they couldn’t focus on the words at all.

When I was growing up my older sister could always be found in our family’s backroom playing the piano.  There always seemed to be music  playing in my home.  In her teens my sister  collected the magazine “Classical Composer” each week, and so I was raised on Mozart, Shubert, Beethoven, Brahms, etc.   These long playing records were often played on our rather large radiogram, which occupied most of one wall in the lounge.  It had an Am/Fm/Shortwave radio on the front,  record player on one side, and my Dad had put a reel to reel tape player in there too.  State of the art is was in the 60’s.   Music I soon discovered had a profound effect on me.  Some of the music used to make me feel jolly and lift the spirit, while other pieces I would have to leave the room as they quite seriously touched my soul.   I remember sitting on the stairs as I didn’t want anyone to know I was crying, and I sat there listening with tears rolling down my face.  When this happened I seemed to have no control of myself, and I could do nothing about it, as I was moved  to the core of my being.

I remember the funeral for one of my many hamster.  I was in the back garden having dug a small hole for my dearly departed pet, as my sister was practicing a piece of classical music on the piano in the back room.  I have no idea what the piece is called but this was the musical soundtrack to that day and as I stood there alone aged about 8 years old saying goodbye to my little friend, this music brought me comfort and peace. I can still bring it to mind now.

I do want to conclude these Lent reflections and thank God for the music.  Music that has often lifted my soul,  allowed me to worship, dance and sing, yes, music has indeed energised me.  On occasions it has brought me to a place where I listen better and am more sensitive to what is going on around me; and still other times it has simply just given me permission to break my heart and release that pent up emotion, the music being the trigger to let it all flow out.

Thank you too  for reading these Lent Reflections.  It has helped me to remember everyday something of God’s goodness to me, and my prayer is that you too have been caused to celebrate God’s  amazing faithfulness to you.

And so my life goes on…. with the music of Stevie, Barbra, Karen and Richard, Abba , The Beatles, Rutter, Redman and so many others playing in the background.   And as tomorrow dawns I can  declare again that “ Jesus is alive” and the music will allow be to celebration and praise Him like nothing else ever could.

My Prayer:

Thank You Father, for the music,  the songs I’m singing, thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.  Who can live without it?  I ask in all honesty, what would life be?  Without a song and dance what are we?  So I say thank you for the music- for giving it to me!

Jesus – during this Lenten season and through the rest of my life – remind me again and again that you are even closer than the music.

Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!

Day Thirty Nine – The Father’s song.

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It was Good Friday morning many years ago now, and I was the very young and inexperienced mother of a beautiful baby girl who was the best thing since sliced bread, as they say.  The alarm hadn’t yet gone off in the bedroom where my husband and I lay, but in the nursery our seven months old was already wide awake and calling for attention. Neither of us were rushing in to see her, this was Good Friday after all, time for another cuddle before we lifted her.

After a while i went to get her.  She was still very tired so I brought her in bed with her parents for another short nap.  Very soon she and my husband David were fast asleep but I was awake now so decided to get up quietly and go downstairs.  I had a phone call to make to find out what time the Good Friday Service was; as it wasn’t at our church,  Good Friday was always an inter- church service. As I put the telephone receiver down in the semi darkened lounge area of our two up two down terraced house, I turned to open the curtains.  Suddenly there was a bang in the room above me.  I stood and listened, after a short period of silence my baby started to cry in distress.

I leapt up the stairs to find my husband coming down the stairs holding her, she had a big red mark on her head.  How could he let this happen? What was he doing?  Strangely enough he was asking similar questions… Where was I?  Why did I get up and not say?   Our daughter was crying bitterly as I quickly took her from her father to comfort her.  She very quickly calmed down as I paced the kitchen floor with her and her father made her breakfast.  When she appeared calm I put her in her high chair and we started to give her breakfast, when suddenly she started shaking.  We were powerless to do anything to stop this.  It didn’t last for long, although at the time it seemed to go on forever.  Suddenly she was unconscious.

I tried to revive her by blowing in her face, as my husband phoned for an ambulance.  Baby Amy was all floppy and not responsive.  I did not know what to do.  Just held her and jiggled her up and down lightly, hoping she would come round.  At least she was still breathing, that gave me great comfort.  My husband and I passed her between the two of us until the noise of the siren outside was clearly announcing the arrival of the emergency services to our little street.   They came in and took her from us as they asked us to tell them exactly what had happened in the last hour.

As our beautiful daughter was so young they acted swiftly and said they would take her to hospital immediately.  I went in the ambulance with her and her father followed in the car.   A seven month old baby seems so tiny in an ambulance, but as the paramedics ran their usual tests Amy regained consciousness. If not rather perplexed to find herself in this strange moving place.   24 hours in the local hospital, diagnosis concussion and convulsion as a result of the head injury!

I think I learned more that Good Friday than any other Good Friday in my whole life.  As parents we could not put into words the love we had for our daughter. To see her suffering, to feel the helplessness, and also the responsible for her injury, well, it’s the kind of experience that makes one feel sick even to remember that dreadful morning.

But God so loved the World that He gave His Only begotten Son…. what more can I say.

My Prayer:

Thank You Father, to watch your only Son suffer and die must have been heartbreaking for you. I don’t know how you did it Lord.

Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again that you understand our pain, our helplessness, our agony because you knew these things first hand.

Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!

Lent Day Thirty Eight: Muppet or a man

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8EURqoKLY8

One thing that sometimes gets me down about my job is that there is a feeling that my time is not my own. I’ll be honest with you and say that this is probably more in my head than anyone else thinking they own me. I have heard other ministers say this but on the whole this has not been my experience. This feeling results in me making decisions such as “I don’t drink”. Having been tea total for so long one glass of wine and I’m falling asleep. So what if I’m called out in an emergency feeling this way? And so, because there is this internal driver which says “be available at all times” I chose not to drink unless I am away on holiday.

It’s a weird feeling to think I could be called out day or night. Obviously it doesn’t happen much at all, but when that 3 am call does come, and its either an elderly church member rushed to hospital or their nearest and dearest seeking prayer as their loved one has just slipped away, or someone facing some kind of personal crisis. Whatever the reason I need to know I can give it my best shot, even though most of the time I don’t have any answers, just support, faith and friendship.

I remember one time receiving a call from a lady asking if i would put some flowers on a grave in the local cemetery – this was two days before Christmas Eve. I was rushing around at the time delivering Christmas food parcels to the elderly, a job which I seem to have had every year now for the past 25 years! The call came when I was very busy and in my usual way of not being able to say no, I said yes of course I would! The woman explained she would send me an email with all the information and she would also send a donation to the church for my assistance. Two days later a reef of roses arrived, to accompany the detailed email giving the precise location where the grave was to be found. This whole thing made me slightly irritated. Why had I not said no? This is such a busy time and now I’ve got to trek around a cemetery looking for some random grave and deliver these flowers as well as the food parcels and its Christmas Eve!

I drove around visiting the living most of the day, most of whom were lonely at this special time and happy to see me. Eventually late afternoon, I reach the cemetery. The email the woman sent had a detailed map and despite my bad attitude the grave was easy to find. The cemetery was very busy on Christmas eve, and lots of people were doing what I was doing, laying flowers on graves, but they seemed much more connected than I was. I saw people in tears bending over graves, some obviously finding their loss very acute at this special time of year.

I had no trouble finding the matching name on the headstone to the one on the email. Suddenly any thoughts of throwing the reef down and running left me as I read the inscription. This was the grave of a 6 year old girl who had died about 35 years before. The grave was quite over grown, so I pulled back some weeds before putting the reef down. I reckon she would have been around my age if she had survived. When the plot looked a little more presentable I placed the reef down. There was a little card in an envelope which I decided I’d open and leave so people can see. It simply said “I’ll be with you soon my darling!”

And there I met with God. There in that place God sat me down and talked to me about what matters and what really doesn’t matter. One of those times when you ask what am I doing, and why? I spent a little while in that spot suddenly aware in a new way what following Jesus was all about. I returned home to my growing family and to my life on Christmas Eve, to be surrounded by love and enjoy the holiday season together, with a little more self awareness as a result of this experience.

My Prayer:

Lord today on this Maundy Thursday as I remember how you gave yourself freely for me, I give myself once again to you.

Jesus – during this Lenten season – please will you remind me that a place is set at the table for me to share your life and death, and that you did all this for me.

Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!

Day Thirty Seven – Evergreen

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmxCPkvaszs&feature=share

Well those who know me well will not be surprised that suddenly I am now remembering Paris, being stood under the Eiffel Tower, waiting and hoping and praying that my first love who had moved there with his family just months before, and who had broken up with me on the phone 48 hours previously, would now suddenly accept my invitation to turn up and sort out this huge misunderstanding.

Sometimes waiting can be so fraught.  For in it stands anticipation and disappointment. Will he or won’t he? This could end up the happiest day of my life or the worst so far.   A time filled with excitement and yet that sick feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that it just isn’t going to happen – is it?

Of all the place in the world to face such a dilemma of the heart surely this has to be the most romantic. This great city of love, with the hustle  and bustle of tourism at this well known landmark; as the  sun shines and the children play, with  the sound of some Frenchman busking with his accordion all added to this scene full of romance, hope and expectancy.

Those days before mobile phones meant we were more disconnected from each other. I had no way to reach him, just had to hope that he was stuck on the Metro and rushing to meet me.  I my mind’s eye I could see him wending his way through the network, any minute to appear and warmly embrace me like we had so many times before when we were reunited.

I hoped I looked ok.  I had no pocket mirror and the trip from Manchester to Paris on the train and hovercraft had been a long one. How I prayed in those days for the Channel Tunnel to be built one day!  Did I look a mess?  Maybe I should have put make up on?  Got changed?  Was there some perfume in my bag? I think I need the loo anyway.  But what if i miss him? No, its better stay here and wait. I’ll be fine; he loves me as I am. I need to just stop stressing and enjoy this moment filled with the potential of promise and new beginnings.

So how long do I wait?  That’s over an hour now and still no sign of him.  Maybe he had missed me? After all there are loads of people here. What if he couldn’t find me? Did he hear me that I would be under the North Pillar?  Maybe I need to check the other three just in case he was waiting in the wrong place.   A quick run around the four pillars of the Eiffel tower but he was nowhere to be seen.  Ninty minutes now and still no sign of him.  Maybe just give him another half an hour.  Just in case.   I stood directly under the tower now looking up at the magnificent structure,  towering high above me, reaching up into the blue Parisian sky, what an amazing piece of engineering.  I remember thinking when he comes we can go up to the top and feel on top of the world.

But he didn’t come.  There was no warm embrace, no romantic ending, and no kiss at the top of the tower. The sun set on Paris that night and on my disappointment, and rose the next day on a whole new beginning.  And where was God in all this?   Well I reckon preparing me to move on, standing by me as I waited, sharing my pain and comforting me in my loss.  And in it all reminding me that even in the place of endings and goodbyes, there is always a new tomorrow.

My Prayer:

Thank You Father,  that when my heart has broken, when tears flow and things don’t go the way I plan, you genuinely empathise.

Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again that tomorrow can be evergreen.

Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!