Saturday, 15 June 2013

A Collection Of Reflections

While I am out of hospital, and also when I am in I guess, I am completely dependant on other people; a pill that has be quite a challenge to swallow. I have always valued my independance, knowing that I didn't have to burden anyone else with my needs, but the tables have turned and I have gone from one extreme to the other. The sacrificial love and care that I have, and continue, to receive from those around me is overwhelming and unparalleled; I would be well and truly stuffed if it wasn't for them. I will never be able to pay back the generosity that I have been given nor can I sufficiently convey how grateful I am. But receiving has been a hard lesson for me to learn. If I'm honest, I still find it hard and uncomfortable, but I have come to discover something about myself. I think pride lies at the heart of the issue. I think it is my pride that stops me from receiving; I guess, when it comes down to it,  I don't want to appear incompetent or incapable. Maybe I'm scared that if I were to let people in, they would see who I truly am and see me for the fragile fraud that I really am. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, I'm speculating. The truth is, I have never been independent, even though I have fooled myself into believing it to be so. I have always needed people, be it family or friends. Moreover, I have always needed God. I can't do this by myself. My proud psyche of self sustaining capability is the reason why I have found it difficult to receive, accept and submit to God. I don't know how to fix that, but I'm positive that if I tell God about it, not that He doesn't already know, He will do something about it and change my heart; that's my prayer anyway.

Receiving has not been the only challenge for me; being completely reliant has been just as grueling. I'm not the sort of person who would choose a backpacker holiday moving from place to place, but as it happens, in some small way, I think I'm experiencing it while being back on the outside. While I'm out of hospital, I can't care for myself, which also means I can't live on my own. So far, I have been housed and looked after by three different families. It has been a great blessing to be able to live with them for a short while. Even though I know I will never be out on the street, it is disconcerting not knowing where I will be going next. I was thinking about this the other day and a passage from the bible came to mind. Jesus was sending his disciples out into the surrounding towns and villages and he told them that they were not to take any supplies with them, not even an extra shirt, and they were to rest in the houses of those villagers who would offer. Well, I have two(ish) suitcases and I know the people who I'm staying with, so I'm already in a much better position than the disciples, but I think I can relate to how it must of felt for them not knowing where they were going to rest their head. But what it is teaching me is total reliance on God and trust in those whom He has provided for me.

I don't know why or how these things I think about come to me. I don't purposefully set out to think about my flaws and failings even though many of my blog posts would suggest I do. I know it must seem like I spend most of my time being morose, but it is not the case. Most of the time, when I am with people , I do genuinely feel happy and for a short while I get to forget about my life; for me, it is a welcomed distraction. It is when I'm alone, mostly at night, that I have no choice but to face up to the war raging within me. I do wonder at times if it is healthy to use distractions to escape the pain. I guess it depends on the nature of the distractions. But ultimately, at some point, the emotions will need to be accepted otherwise they will manifest in different and more subtle ways. I noticed this a few days ago. I found myself, getting extremely angry and jealous of the apparent ease of other peoples lives. Although I know that everyone has their own struggles to face and although I would never wish for the lives of others to be filled with hardship, I find myself seething. Seething at the fact that I just don't seem to be able to catch a break. I find myself asking the unhelpful question of Why does this have to happen to me? It is unhelpful because there is no answer. It is unhelpful because it is the wrong question. The question I should be asking is... Well, I haven't figured that out yet, but when I do, I shall let you know.

So there you have it, my collection of reflections. There is some comfort though, even though my reflections are news to me, they are not new to God. He has always known me for who I actually am, warts and all, but still loves me not because He can change me into someone worth loving, but because He is who He is

Monday, 10 June 2013

End of Chapter Three

At long last, the end has arrived; I get to leave hospital tomorrow for about five weeks. It is a strange feeling, I am so relieved at being able to leave, but at the same time there is a part of me that is scared about being back on the outside. It is a completely different life in the real world and it will take me time again to find my feet and adapt. As I am back and forth between hospital and the outside frequently, I find adapting to these environments quite exhausting and emotionally draining. I always tend to overestimate my energy levels when I'm on the outside, maybe this time I will get it right, well, at least for some of the time. So it is a bit of a rollercoaster, but still, I am absolutely elated that I'm getting out of here.  

So what's next? Well, I had this amazing idea, that since I have a good while off, I would go on holiday out of the country. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do in my head. But my plan was foiled when I was told that I would still have to come into hospital once a week for bloods. Grr. Plus, I will probably have a few clinic appointments dotted about to make sure everything is ok, and to make sure I hadn't been "irresponsible" and done something like leaving the country I suppose. I'm sure there's a conspiracy to keep me to keep me on a leash. When my five weeks are up, I will be back into hospital for the dreaded bone marrow transplant. It has been provisionally been booked for the 17th July but things can change. They have a potential match for me, but nothing will be definite until the very last moment.

That's all folks, signing out!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Time Between The Times

The last few days, even though they have been dreadfully painful, have brought desperately needed healing to my soul and clarity of mind. I feel like my life currently depicts a microcosm of the time between the times. I am in a state of suspension, as it were, knowing that the end of this saga will eventually arrive but not knowing when. Likewise, on a larger scale, I know that one day, there will be no more pain, suffering or death, but I know not when. 

My current affliction has challenged how I live. It has forced me into a state of waiting which, as it happens, I greatly dislike. There is a temptation to wish away this time between the times until it is over so I can get on with my life, but this is a season to be grasped by both hands. Through this season, God is teaching me how to be completely reliant on Him; this is something that I have never been able to do. In this season, nothing is in my control and nothing is for certain. But, when you think about it, it is also very true of life on the outside. The only way I can get through this is to trust that God will look after me each day. By no means does this mean to say that I may take liberties and do nothing. What it means is that, while I am learning to wait, I learn to prayerfully consider my next steps before taking them. This is certainly not my default position; I'm more of an act first think later kinda gal which is fraught with disasters waiting to happen. 

I am still very much a novice at this discipline, but I know now how to live in the time between the times, regardless of the scale. Wait. Pray. Act.

Friday, 7 June 2013

In The Heart

My pain is real and my heart is hurting, but this I know with all my heart, mind and soul - my God, my Saviour Jesus Christ is real, is tangible, is true and has overcome all pain suffering and death. This is the paradoxical truth. I asked many "Why" questions in my last post Behind The Smile, but it is not the final word. My heart is suffering, but at the same time I have found peace. Not a superficial "feeling" type of peace, but one that holds me firm, one that anchors me in the storm.

When I had cancer three years ago, I often told God that He didn't love me because He was allowing me to suffer in such a horrific way. There is a difference this time round. I know God loves me, not because of what happens in my life but because of what He did for me when He was on the cross. Jesus went through all the pain that I went through and much more because He loves me. He felt the sting and still bares the scars. As He hung there being crucified, mocked and hated, there was love in His eyes and forgiveness in His heart. He didn't have to go through what He; He chose to because He loves me. This is why, when my life crumbles I run towards Him and not away from Him, because He is the only one that not only understands, but has and will overcome this broken world.

Jesus has painted a great canvas and the cross is the centerpiece. At some point, all of us will arrive at that crossroad. Trouble will come, I know this well, but God is good - it is the great paradox. Following Jesus does not mean that you avoid trouble, but it means that when trouble comes as it will for all people, there is  an ever present anchor that will never fail.

My suffering and pain, beit in cancer or otherwise, does not have the final word because it has been overcome. The final word is in my heart and His name is Jesus.

Behind The Smile

A smile is a versatile facial expression. It can be used to express happiness, joy, comedy and love; but equally, it can express or cover up disgust, hate and sadness. People tell me that I smile a lot. A little girl once said that it would be really hard to tell if I was actually sad because I would still smile. She is right. Most of the time, no one knows that I'm hurting, no one sees the pain; my smile is my mask.

Behind the smile is a desperate sadness, it is a pain that cannot be put into words. I am left with this feeling and I don't know where it has come from or what to do about it. It seems to have a protective mechanism; when threatened with exposure; the pain, like a puppeteer, contorts my face into a smile to combat the vulnerability that is attempting to take control.

I hate my life. I hate what has happened to me and what continues to happen to me. Why must I carry on? Why do I have to do as I'm told? Why do I have to continue to fight? And for what? What good does it do for me? What do I gain apart from more scars? Be positive, I'm told. What other option do you have, I'm asked. I am suffocated by my struggles and all I want to do is scream. This is as honest as I can be about how I'm feeling at the moment. But there are no answers that will take this burden away from me.

I write this with tears streaming down my face. I knew that this eruption was fast approaching. I could feel it gathering momentum over the last few weeks but especially the last couple of days. I tried my best to stop it from surfacing but it is cunning and chose to manifest itself in other ways. Irritation, trouble sleeping, non compliance, and the feeling of a constant lump in my throat were just a few of the signs. I tried to get ahead of the game and resolve the issue before it dissolved me. I tried to give myself space, because that normally works, by escaping off the ward last night so that I could remember what it was like to be free but unfortunately, I was spotted, twice, so had to return. Next time, I must take a mask. I wanted to keep walking, never to return, but there would be nowhere to go without being immediately being frog marched back to hospital. I know what I did was reckless and I know I shouldn't have put my physical health at risk like that, but I was desperate, I wanted to be me again. I have no control over anything in my life and trying to regain it is futile, as I have found out.

I guess this had to happen. I guess, at some point, I had to grieve over the pain and the loss. This is the pattern; once the immediate physical threat has subsided or kept at bay, I unconsciously start to deal with the emotional baggage until it surfaces to the conscious. It guess it is probably better to deal with one onslaught at a time, maybe I should be grateful.

This time, I have no epiphany, no hope inspiring words of encouragement. Just grief. But it is grief that is necessary for healing. This is part of the storm. I've know what's behind the smile and now you do too. Maybe it is the first step to knowing comfort.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

In Loving Memory

This entry is dedicated to Aaron and all those who love him. May your soul rest in peace.

Dear Aaron,

Even though my words will disappear into the ether, I write them in memory of you. I did not know you well, I have only spoken to you a couple of times on the ward, but I want you to know that you were in my thoughts and prayers. When you came into hospital a little while ago, I guess you knew that you wouldn't be coming back out. I don't know what it is like to know that your time is running out rapidly; to have your life taken by cancer so young. I don't know how you coped or how you felt, but I prayed that you find peace, I hope that came true. It is clear that you are loved dearly and you will be missed sorely. The pain that those closest to you are going through is unimaginable but I hope that they can find comfort in knowing that you are no longer suffering. May all those who read this letter to you keep your loved ones in their thoughts and prayers.

We miss you but maybe we shall meet again.

All My Love,

Your Comrade In The Fight Against Cancer