Sunday, 28 April 2013

The End Of Chapter Two

The end of this chapter could not be more welcome. It was a surprise, a brilliant one at that, when I was told that I will be able to leave the hospital tomorrow. Originally, due to the intense antibiotic regime, it was looking like I would not be able to have a break from the hospital at all and they would just start cycle three when they were ready to. But now I get a break, probably for a week; could be slightly more. I still have to come back to the hospital everyday though to have IV antibiotics but at least it is just once a day as oppose to six.

What a ride. When I leave tomorrow, I will have been in here for fifty days exactly; a new record for me but one I have no intention of breaking. What started off as being an uneventful non interventional cycle turned into one big mess. Funny how the winds can change like that. When I look back on the events of the last fifty days it feels like a dream; it feels like someone elses life. I can't believe I endured what I did, but that in itself is a testimony to God's providence and strength; without Him, I am nothing. There has been great pain in this cycle, both physical and emotional, with hard choices still to be made. Oddly, I have peace about it; a peace that sinks deep into my soul. In a strange way, what has happened has become normalised and I don't feel devastated or destroyed. I now know that the darkest times are yet to come, but for now I shall live to find the diamonds of joy that each day brings. God has brought me through this far and I have no reason to believe that He won't continue to drag me through, albeit kicking and screaming, what is to come. If there is one thing I've learned this cycle, it is that no matter how desperate life gets, it is God who is in control. What is more, the safest place to be is under His wing so that is where I will stay.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Real Rock And The Hard Place

I wrote this post on Wednesday 24th April - just like the last post, I needed some time and space before I shared this part of my journey with you

So it would seem that being infertile was the least of my problems. I have just had my appointment to discuss a bone marrow transplant. They are looking at giving me cells from umbilical cord blood and there is a potential match available. Good news over. I didn't realise how harrowing the process was going to be. The actual transplant itself isn't bad, it is just like a blood transfusion, it is just everything else. The purpose of the transplant is to give me a whole new immune system. A week before they give the transplant, they will give me a week of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The purpose of this is to give the transplant the best chance of adhering to my bone marrow. After they having given the transplant, I will be incredibly vulnerable to infections, more so than I am now, and it is for this reason that I will be kept in isolation for a month. It is highly likely that I will get infections during this time, which will have to be treated aggressively. Other likely side effects include vomiting and diarrhoea, and the transplant rejecting my body - because I am getting a whole new immune system, this immune system could decide my body is foreign and it will then attack all my organs. As well as the risk of other cancers developing, other long term side effects include, debilitating diarrhoea, recurrent infection, infertility and early menopause and relapse of the cancer.

Get ready for some statistics, there are some shockers:

Best Case Scenario

Chances of cure with transplant: 60%
Chances of cure without transplant: 30%
Chances of death during transplant: 20%

Worst Case Scenario
Chances of cure with transplant: 30%
Chances of death during transplant: 60%

I am currently in the worst case scenario category due to the complications I have such as the Infective Endocarditis. Sobering statistics aren't they. There is also a chance that I can relapse within the first three months of having a transplant. If this happens, it will mean that my condition is terminal. However, if I reach the two year mark without relapsing, it is unlikely that I will relapse with this particular cancer in the future. The hope is that, by the time it comes to having the transplant, I will be in the best case scenario category because my current complications would have resolved and hopefully the genetic abnormality that is causing the cancer would have gone.

So I don't really know what to do. I have a month to decide so I guess I need some time to think about it, and I need to see what happens with the results of the bone marrow biopsy and the infection. I was trying to think about what scares me most about this whole transplant process. There are lots of things, mainly the long term side effects. Dying during the transplant doesn't scare me, it is the effect that it will have on my family and friends that does. Even though I would hate to have chronic pain and disabilities, the thing that scares me the most is that I would become bitter as a result of it. I know that must sound strange, but I guess  what I've realised is that the thing that makes life bearable, whether you have life catastrophes or not, is joy. If it wasn't for knowing God, I would have no joy, I would be a bitter old hag. 

To be honest, I don't know what to do. I think that if my risks move more in line with best case scenario then I will have the transplant; if they stay the same as they are now then I won't take the transplant. But I am really unsure; all I can do is pray for clarity. The future seems very scary and the storm that I thought couldn't get any worse has risen to the challenge. I hope and pray that there will be a turning point, an end to this sickness in this lifetime. Even though my life seems like such a mess, I know God is looking after me. Whatever happens, I will trust Him.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

I wrote this post on Monday 22nd April - just needed some time and space before I shared this with you.

I can't have children. Words cannot describe how this feels, it is like being kicked in the stomach; devastating does not suffice. They say you always have a choice; in my case it is a choice between a rock and a hard place. It is the bone marrow transplant that will make me infertile. Be careful what you wish for, a bone marrow transplant isn't looking so appealing right now. I was hoping that maybe I could take my chances and not have the transplant. If the cancer came back, then I would go through chemotherapy again and then have the transplant. Unfortunately, I am told that if the cancer relapses, it will be significantly more aggressive and harder to treat. So if I have the transplant, then I will be infertile and run the additional risk of developing other cancers, but if I don't take the treatment I run the risk of this cancer relapsing and not being cured. A rock and a hard place.

Since the first cancer, it has always been in the back of my mind that I may not be able to have children, as I'm sure you've gathered from my previous posts, but I did always hope. I have friends who can't have children either but I never understood what that felt like, I couldn't emotionally go there. I absolutely adore children and have always wanted to be a mum. There is so much going through my head; most of which I know is not true but the pain is still felt in my heart. The thought of not being able to carry my own child is grievous. It is not only the fact that I won't be able to have children, it's knowing that my husband won't be able to either. I know this is not true, but it somehow feels like my fault. Does this make me less of a female? I know the answer is no but the thought of going into early menopause and having to take hormone replacement therapy for the next thirty odd years feels like my femininity is being robbed. 

I've always liked the concept of adoption and I think it's because it is incredibly biblical. When you are a Christian you have been chosen to be adopted into the family of God and you become His son or daughter; you have all the same rights, and responsibilities I should add, of a child of natural decent. An adopted child of God is not born to God in blood, as in a natural birth with a mother, but we have been bought by blood. In order that we could become children of God, Jesus had to die on the cross, thereby shedding His blood, so that we could be purchased from the jaws of eternal death. In a similar way, if one day, I have the privilege of adopting a child, that child would have been chosen by us to be our child. That child, who started life by being rejected for whatever reason, will be redeemed and forevermore know a life of love. It is true that my child would not have been born of my blood, but that doesn't make him or her any less of my child or any less loved and wanted. The beautiful thing is, when you are adopted, there is no difference between blood and water.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

It'll Be Alright On The Night

"And you must always remember there's one good thing about being trapped down here: It'll save funeral expenses." Puddleglum The Marshwiggle

For those of you who have read The Chronicles of Narnia, you would have already become acquainted with this delightful and hope inspiring character Puddleglum from The Silver Chair. He is known for his spectacular ability to fixate on the worse case scenario while putting a crass positive spin on it which has the effect of making the situation seem even more hopeless. 

I've been thinking about the concept of worst case scenarios recently and I have come to the conclusion that such a thing does not exist. Why? It is because no matter how big the disaster you encounter or can conjure up in your mind, it could always be worse. I have to admit, that the worst case scenario often springs to mind when I am faced with a hard situation.  Granted, not every disaster I have thought about has come true, but quite a few significant ones have. 

When I am faced with a new symptom of unknown diagnosis, I automatically run through a list of possible diagnosis it could be. It is just how I'm wired. I don't think it is wrong nor do I think it is harmful. I would like to suggest that the harm is in fixating on the outcome be it good or bad. You can't control the thoughts that come to mind but you can control what you do with them. There is a difference between accepting that something is wrong and then grieving, and being overcome by it. When I was told that I had an infection and I was told what bacteria was grown, Infective Endocarditis automatically made it onto my list of differential diagnosis even before the doctor discussed it with me. It was a pretty big blow even before the official diagnosis. I did hope and pray that it was not, but my prayers would always end with an acknowledgment that God is in control and He will make everything alright. But that did not mean I was expecting Him to take away the current suffering, it meant that the outcome of my current situation isn't the issue. He makes everything alright by giving me the faith, strength, peace and grace to cope with whatever comes my way. The problem with setting your hopes on a positive outcome is that it is not grounded, it is false hope. The problem with convincing yourself that the outcome is negative is that you will be miserable and will become bitter. Trying to convince myself that the outcome will be positive is just as futile as convincing myself that the outcome will be negative because the future is unknown to me.

The cancers that my body has had to endure along with its complications is likely to have long lasting effects. There is no organ of my body that will not be effected either in the short term or long term. I have played through the scenario in my head of what it would be like if a major complication were to occur, say for example, not being able to have children, and it hurts. The truth is that this could happen. I don't know what the outcome will be. But there is one thing I do know. God always has my best interests at heart because He is a loving father. When I chose to follow Him, I gave Him my life. Often, I have cried to Him and asked Him how much more will He take from me? But when I think about the sacrifice He made and the price He paid so that I could have a relationship with Him, that storm in my heart is calmed as I realise that giving my whole life over to God and allowing Him to do what He will with it will never come close to the sacrifice He made for me. That is how He makes everything alright. This is where the peace lies. When we entrust our hopes and dreams to the One who loves us more than words can describe, we find peace because the trust in God as a loving Father who always works for the good of His children trumps everything else.

The phrase It'll Be Alright On The Night is interesting because it assumes that hardship and disasters will occur right up to the dress rehearsal. But ultimately, when the curtains rise and the show is performed for real, things will go well. Life is the disastrous rehearsals, but when it comes to show time, when we meet our Maker, it will be alright on the night.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Called To Be Single?

It feels like I'm taking a huge risk in writing this, but then again what's there to lose? It's not like I'm pouring my heart out to hundreds of people across the world. I had an interesting conversation yesterday that has sparked these thoughts. I was talking to a christian lady about being single; she had a very compelling story to tell. She has taken temporary vows to be single. Now, I have never heard of this before, so after enquiring she told me that it was an intermediate vow you took to committing to be single, before you made the final vow later; this is to give you time to test and make sure you have been called by God to be single. I guess you could liken it to the difference between getting engaged and getting married. 

She told me how when she was younger she desperately wanted to be married but nothing seemed to happen. Eventually she got to a point when she started to re-evaluate the concept of answered prayer. God always answers prayer; the answer is always yes, no or later. Often we only think that God has answered our prayer when the answer is yes. But maybe we would subject ourselves to significantly less grief if we accepted the answers of  no or later. Eventually she got to the point where she could ask the question "Has God called me to be single?" and now she is in the process of seriously testing this call.

There were a few things in her story that resonated with my and quite a lot that just put fear into my heart. I don't want to remain single and the thought of it scares me. I remember a few years ago, genuinely saying to God that if He wanted me to be single for the rest of my life then so be it. After I had given that over to God I felt a sense of joy. I look back at that event and kick myself; what if God actually does take me up on that offer, what have I done! But when I reflect on that event further I remember that my motivation and subsequent joy arose from my desire of wanting to submit everything in my life to God; even the most important things to me. I have often prayed to God that if He would call me to a life of singleness that He would give me peace about it and enable me to follow that path. I have not received that peace and so I have always taken this to mean that the answer is later. But then, maybe I am just trying to find a loophole,  maybe what happened all those years ago was a glimpse of what is to come. Only time will tell.

I do often try to figure out why I am single and I know that many of my single female friends have the same thoughts. The first thought is that is there something wrong with me. The next thought is am I being too fussy? After that, my mind wanders and thinks do I need to go somewhere where I am more likely to meet someone? The final thought that goes through my head is am I supposed to be single? I normally counteract all these thoughts by telling myself that what will happen will happen according to God's will; but it does feel like a bit of a cop out.

There is a possibility that I'm refusing to listen to an answer of no, but I don't feel I'm called to be single. I do desire to be a wife and a mother but the hope of that coming to pass is fading especially given my current circumstance. People say to me that I will get out of hospital and this will be over eventually but do I really know that for sure? I don't know what lies around the corner; I don't know how long I'm going to be in hospital for. I used to think that at least I will get a couple of weeks out between cycles but given the recent infection, I'm likely to miss my window out. But even when I do get out, I find it almost impossible to have a proper deep and meaningful conversation with anyone because there are so many people I want to talk to.

Singleness is often despised and mocked, but the truth is that being single is no less meaningful than being married. Taking a vow of singleness is just as binding as a vow of marriage. I don't know if the answer to my question is no or later but I can only pray for the courage to ask the question and be ready to accept the answer. It's not going to happen overnight, but I trust God to handle me with care and give me the faith and peace that I need for whatever lies ahead.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

One Way Street

Give and take. It is a well established and accepted partnership. If you give to others in whatever capacity, then it is deemed acceptable to take or receive; you've earned it. Taking, without its counterpart, is frowned upon; however giving selflessly is praised and regarded as sacrificial. Giving and taking is supposed to be a two way street. 

I've always struggled with this concept practically. From a very young age I assumed the role of the Giver. I enjoy giving and meeting other peoples needs; I guess knowing that I have done something good to help someone else gives me a sense of purpose and maybe makes me think that I'm not such a bad person. I find it hard to accept help or gifts from others. When I have received from others it has always been accompanied by as sense of guilt and a need to pay them back somehow. When I really need help and have no option but to accept, part of me feels like I've failed. I have always been fiercely independent, priding myself on my ability to cope with the curve balls of life on my own. I guess I didn't truly trust anyone to help me; at some point people will always fail you and that wasn't a risk I could afford to take. I think in a way, I had also adopted a mentality of survival of  the fittest; if I couldn't deal with a situation then I had lost the game.

This mentality is posing a problem for my current situation. There is no way I can go through cancer on my own. I am limited physically making practical issues a challenge such as washing and dressing, walking, getting food etc. I find it difficult, even when I'm in hospital to ask for help; I dislike having to ask the nurses to get things for me when I can't manage myself. I have been overwhelmed by the support, care and encouragement I have received from those around me. There is no way I can pay back such kindness and generosity and the words "Thank You" are so pitifully inadequate in expressing my gratitude. 

Sometimes I think it is easier to receive from God than it is from people. I think it's because I can't physically see God or maybe I don't fully appreciate the gifts that He gives. But when I think about it more deeply, I catch myself trying to pay God back by maybe doing good things; as if that would stop me being indebted to Him. But the truth is, there is nothing I can give to God that isn't already His. I can't earn His love nor can I pay God back for dying on the cross for me so that I can have a relationship with Him. For someone who likes to give in return, this is mind blowing. All I can do is to take, to receive and in gratefulness, honour him. 

Travelling on the One Way Street of receiving is hard because it requires me to be humble, acknowledge my need for help and relinquish my false sense of super woman independence. I am learning this lesson slowly, very slowly, but it is an important lesson to learn. Giving is important, not in order to pay back, but in order to reflect God's endless generosity and loving heart. When we give like God gives we share a piece of His heart and we find joy and freedom. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Two Faced

Being two faced has never been considered to be a desirable characteristic; nobody aspires to being hypocritical and deceitful. I have two faces but not in the traditional sense of the word. As I'm sure you've noticed, most of my blog posts deal with issues that are heavy and at times, troubling  But there is a disparity between how I'm portrayed in my posts and how I come across in person. If you've never met me, then I would guess the view you would have of me is of someone who is consumed by issues concerning life and death. However, for those of you that know me, even during the tough times, you know me as a bubbly smiley person who laughs a lot. These are my two faces; the Emo and the Chipper Chipmunk.

So is one face fake? I've thought about this question for many years and I've finally come to the conviction that the answer is no. Rightly or wrongly, I haven't quite decided yet, I have always operated in this way; being cheerful amongst people and contemplative in private. I have always found it easy to talk openly about the emotions I'm going through when times are hard, but I never emotionally connect with what I'm saying. I talk about it in such a way that makes it look like I'm not really struggling because I'm still smiling and being cheerful. Typically, in the past, this has meant that I've often struggled in silence. It was a coping mechanism; being happy was a way to escape and forget the pain of suffering for a short while.

The Emo and the Chipper Chipmunk are two sides of the same coin; they are held together in tension. Allow me to explain. My last post, Dead Man Walking, concerning birthdays was a way for me to work through some of the pain I was feeling about being in hospital over my birthday. But what I didn't tell you is that, despite being in hospital, to my surprise, I really did enjoy my birthday. I spent it with some very dear friends and relished their company; it was a celebration of friendship for which I am deeply thankful for. The feeling of joy I had on that day was very real and true, but at the same time, held in tension, was pain that needed to be worked through and grieved. The grief that I felt did not diminish the joy of that day, nor did the joy of that day diminish the grief I felt.This is what I use my blogs for; to work through painful issues, allow myself to grieve and allow myself to be healed. I find at the moment that my emotions and feelings are not as clear cut as they have been in the past. Currently, I probably function on a level of bitter-sweet. But I think that's ok. I guess if I was happy all the time then I would be in denial and if I was sad all the time I would be depressed. I am neither. I'm an Emo Chipmunk.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Dead Man Walking

Birthday: noun; the anniversary of the day on which a person was born, typically treated as an occasion for celebration and the giving of gifts - Oxford Dictionary. Or, if you think about it, the day you are born, your birthday, is also the start of your journey to death. As on death row, dead man walking is your status.

I find the idea of celebrating your own birthday a bit egocentric. It is a day when people congratulate you for being alive and give you presents. It's not like the achievement of being alive, let alone being born, is yours to claim. Maybe such an achievement should be credited to your parents. But then, on the other hand, not even they can truly claim to be the giver of life, only the conduit. Celebrating a birthday seems pointless and morbid - it's just one step closer to death.

I was twenty-six years old yesterday. The day before my birthday, I was taken down to theatre to have a picc line put into my arm so they would be able to give me the medicine I need without a cannula. The staff down there said to me, "Oh, it's your birthday soon, happy birthday for tomorrow". I smiled politely and thanked them while in my head all I could think was I have cancer for the second time in three years, I have infective endocarditis, I'm in hospital over my birthday and I'm not even allowed out of my room. What exactly is there to be happy about.

But what exactly is there to be happy about? Maybe that is the point. Maybe the point of birthdays is to be thankful. Thankful, not for what you've done, but for the life you have been given. I find it hard sometimes to be thankful that I'm alive and the phrase "cursed is the day that I was born" springs to mind. But the gift of being alive and having the opportunity to have a relationship with God is a priceless gift regardless of the circumstances that occur in this life. 

Why are we only thankful in general, and to God in particular, when life is going well? Why are we bitter and resentful to God when life is going pear shaped? I think the fact that we exhibit this fickle behaviour says something about how we view God and His purpose. It says that God, to us, is like a vending machine. We put our "money" in, be it living a good morale life, saying our routine prayers, going to church; and then we expect our "chocolate bar" out. But if our chocolate bar gets stuck in the machine or we get something we didn't want instead, we get angry and we might even try to put more money in or even rock the machine in order to force its' hand.

God is not a vending machine. Nor does He yield to the consumer culture we have come to demand. He is the Creator, He is King and has dominion over the Heavens and the earth. He is Lord over all. Being thankful to God for the life on this earth given to us is not about being thankful for the good gifts we have, although that is part of it, but it is about being thankful to Him for who He is and the fact that we have the chance to know Him personally. No matter how many times you curse the day you were born, knowing God and suffering in this life is by far the better deal compared to not coming into existence. Why? It is because, if you so choose, suffering is finite and a life with God is infinite. Sadly, the converse is also true; life with God can be finite and suffering can be infinite.

When you decide that you want to know God personally, you get a second birthday, you are born again. Our first birthday is when we are born physically, but our body will eventually perish and cease to exist. Our second birthday concerns our soul. Our soul is the part of us that in this life communicates with God; unlike our body, our soul is eternal, it will never cease to exist. If we make the choice, in this life, to know God, then our soul is born into relationship with God. Our soul exists regardless if we make this choice or not, the difference is whether your soul is in relationship with God or not.

So why should I celebrate my birthday? Apart from God, there is no point; I am just a Dead Man Walking. With God, I am a Dead Man Walking Into Life.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Stormy Seas

So yesterday I had a CT scan of my lungs to check if there was a blood clot in them, which thankfully there was not. The next thing that had to happen was that they needed to remove my Hickman line. This was going to be tricky because the line itself had a clot in it and care needed to be taken. This was awful. The procedure normally takes about thirty minutes, but in my case it took two hours. It was carried out in my room at the bedside. To remove the line, they had to open up the skin and soft tissue on my chest wall, and then remove the line by cutting the tissue around it that was encasing it. This was done under local anesthetic, so I was awake, but I must have been cut five or six times on parts of my skin that hadn't had the local anesthetic on it. There was blood everywhere, even the nurse looked like she was about to faint. Eventually, when the line was taken and I was put back together, they had to press on the site for another hour and a half to stop the bleeding.

So what's the plan now? Well unfortunately, they are pretty sure I have something called Infective Endocarditis. Basically, it means I have an infection in my heart caused by a specific bacteria. I have a clot on one of the walls inside my heart that carries that bacteria. They need to give me IV antibiotics for a month which I will have to stay in hospital for. The problem with this is that I'm going to miss my window where I can get out of the hospital for a couple of weeks before the start of the next cycle because they can't really delay the treatment regime. 

So I am a bit gutted about the whole thing. I was so relieved that the chemotherapy treatment had gone so well, I never expected something like this to happen.  When I think about the fact that I'm not getting out of here for a long time, I feel numb and maybe a bit angry. It feels very unfair. The future looks bleak filled with nothingness. I don't think that the emotional trauma of the last week has properly hit me, but I know it will in time. But I guess this is the part of the storm where the I will need to trust that the anchor will sustain me. Time will tell how the story plays out.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Plot Thickens

Following the news that I was getting better with regards to the infection that I've had over the last week, I was given some unfortunate news following a scan of my heart today. I have a Hickmen line in which is a tube that they have tunneled under my skin and enters my heart. They use this line to give me the chemotherapy that I need and medicines. Unfortunately, they have found a clot on the tip of my line which is sitting in my heart. There are two problems with this. Firstly, some of the bacteria that has caused the infection will be sitting in that clot and will not be able to be treated by the antibiotics. Secondly, if that clot breaks off from the line it will go to my lungs which is very bad. So tomorrow they will take out my line. It is a slightly more tricky procedure than usual because they have to make sure they don't break the clot when they take out the line.

So how am I feeling? Not great. I am very apprehensive about tomorrow but also getting quite fed up of this onslaught of complications. I'm still not allowed out of my room so I'm getting restless and now this is likely to lengthen my stay in hospital. I guess the hardest part is not knowing when all of this is going to end and if there are any more horrors to come. I can't bring my self to be optimistic for fear of let down nor can I bring myself to be pessimistic for the pain that it brings in the moment. So I'm stuck in this weird emotional limbo not quite knowing what to do with myself. Can I just say how much I hate pain. I really hate pain and I hate feeling uncomfortable and not being able to find rest. To be honest, I think that is one of the main things that is playing on my mind.

I guess there is nothing more I can really say. Even though the situation is quite bad, it could always be worse and I'm not privy to what God is sheltering me from. I can only continue to trust that He will look after me. It is a hard thing to trust when your in a situation but the other option is despair; I think I'll go for trust.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Against All Odds

The story of my life. But not in the way you might expect. Normally, when this expression is used it is in the context of the underdog succeeding despite the abysmal circumstances. In the scenario of the underdog to win, there must be another character who is the favourite to win but somehow looses to the underdog despite the odds. In the story of my life, I play the character who looses to the underdog.

When I look back at my life, I am completely confounded as to how my life ended up the way it has. Growing up, I was always financially provided for. I had a good education, attained good grades, was well rounded in extra curricular activities, excelled in my two main sports karate and trampolining achieving medals in major competitions in the latter, had the privilege of studying biology and psychology in the University of St Andrews and then going on to study medicine at the University of Leeds. With that profile, it would seem like the perfect recipe for success. But there is a variable that hasn't been accounted for that flipped the tables - life. Good old messy life.

While on the face of things, life seemed like it should have been going well, the reality was very different. During my childhood, I was bullied, plagued by low self worth and failure, carried burdens too great to bare, had regular panic attacks and by the age of fourteen was diagnosed with clinical depression and thought the world would be better off if I was dead. My teenage years was marked largely by complicated family dynamics, my struggle with depression and trying to achieve academically while failing at every hurdle.  When I left home at eighteen to go to the University of St Andrews I was followed by the failure and the shame of not achieving the grades I needed to be accepted onto the medical degree programme. In the two years I was there, I made two further applications to medicine which was when I finally got accepted to Leeds. However, there was always a part of me that regretted leaving when I did. Even though I did receive a Diploma of Higher Education, I had failed to complete the four year degree course that I had intended to. But what was more painful, was the fact that I was leaving all my friends and going somewhere where, once again, I would be on my own.

My time in Leeds was anything but a walk in the park. I became severely depressed, failed my first year exams which resulted in me being held back a year, had a job which gave me severe chronic back pain for six months, was in a soul destroying relationship which left me feeling broken and unlovable, had a major operation on my ankle, got cancer and left university, had a very brief car crash of a relationship, went back into university while trying to emotionally process the ordeal of the last six months of treatment, had another operation on my ankle, eventually got into fourth year of medicine and then got cancer again. So that is the story of my life to date. Marvellous.

When I was younger I used to think that in a parallel universe there would be another me enjoy and sailing through here life while I was left to endure all the rubbish to balance things out. Just my luck. But then, it isn't actually about luck nor is it about odds. I'm no statistician, despite the endless painful stats lectures that were endure by myself and fellow countrymen, but I think that if you were to work out the odds for the series of events in my life to have occurred starting with the moment I was given life, I think they would be close to impossible; definitely not worth betting on that's for sure.

I guess the way I'm feeling right now, after a long weekend of suffering with a terrible infection, this is exactly how I feel. After each disaster had passed previously I would think that surely that this would be the last catastrophic event and there will be a turning point. If this is what the first twenty five, well almost twenty six, years of my life have been like, what on earth is in store ahead. If I'm honest, I don't think I really believe that there will be a turning point for me, well not in this life anyway.

I'm on a ward where people between the ages of 18-30 are being told that their cancer is incurable or that they need to have their leg amputated or that they will never have children, the list is endless. There is so much death and suffering here and it is almost unbearable to talk about the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ with this back drop. But the thing is God is our turning point. What the world sees as treasures is worthless to God and what the world sees as useless, God sees as priceless. There is something far greater at stake with odds that would make any gamers' mouth water. The chance to live for ever in a perfect world where there is no sickness, suffering, pain or death; just pure bliss beyond contemplation with our creator. But would you take the gamble even if would cost you everything even your life as you know it? Some might say well of course you would forever is a really long time and eighty years is nothing really in comparison . But imagine you had no money, or was starving or experienced a life of unyielding suffering. Would you really take the gamble or would you say that there is still a chance that the horse favourite to win might lose, despite the the impenetrable odds?

Everyone has something to lose with this gamble; the loss will either be worldly or heavenly. When Jesus said "Take up your cross and follow me" He was saying that there is a great cost to following Him, after all, in effect He was carrying His death sentence on His back. He willingly gave up His life and endure the most horrendous type of suffering so that whoever wants to can live forever in relationship with God with no more pain. At some point
, we will all be given the choice, what will you lose and what will you gain? 

A Wee Update

I have just had the worst five days since cycle one. On good Friday, I suddenly became very ill due to an infection through my body. I can not describe to you how awful it has been; it brought me to tears several times. Physically I am much better than I was comparatively but I still feel absolutely exhausted and I am in source isolation. Also my hair started falling out very rapidly which was a bit of a shock because I was just beginning to think I had got away with it; it won't take to much longer until I'm completely bald. Emotionally, this has hit me hard but that's normal. Hopefully things will continue to improve rapidly.