Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Chapter Five: The Road To Recovery

It's funny to think that six days ago, I was lying in a hospital bed wondering when they were going to let me leave. I feel like I've been out for more than six days, despite having to go back three times for blood tests, in a way it feels like a lifetime ago. When I got out last Wednesday, it was a real shock to the system. The simplest of tasks became impossible to do. In my head, I thought that recovery would follow a similar pattern to what I had experienced previously, which wasn't too bad, but this was certainly not the case. I was completely exhausted, small things like getting in and out of a car were very trying and don't get me started on the stairs; all I shall say is that it's a jolly good job that there are two banisters. 

My body was weak and feeble but my mind is as active and agile as ever. I would wake up in the morning making plans for things to do and sort out and vow to myself that I would do them all after breakfast. The scene after breakfast: me lying across the bed, face down and fast asleep - didn't even make it under the duvet . This pattern would continue to repeat itself and I have to say, it's rather frustrating. However, I do generally feel much better, albeit for a little while, after a sleep, especially since it is so peaceful here. I am staying in a beautiful house in the countryside, it's like living in a fairytale, and for the first time in a long time I am starting to properly relax. However another source of frustration was rising - being called back into clinic for blood tests. I cannot stress how much I hate going back into hospital; it reminds me of exactly what I want to forget. But I know its for my own good and it has to be done. It's the same feeling I get when I take my pills, but I have to remind myself that in three months it will be better. 

By Friday, physically, I am feeling much better - I can now manage the stairs without using either of the banisters. I find this very encouraging; so encouraging in fact that I overestimate, once again, my capacity. By Sunday I am a blithering blubbering mess. I find that there is a direct correlation between my physical state and my emotional state. I woke up on Sunday morning overcome by thoughts of despair, thoughts of the future and thoughts of hopelessness. At that point in time I can truly say that I completely and wholeheartedly despised my life and my body. I asked God in anger why He had given my such a pathetic excuse for a body - it keeps breaking! I looked in the mirror and I didn't see me anymore. For some reason, I looked more bald than usual and in the last eight months I had put on ten kilograms, which meant my clothes didn't fit anymore. I knew in my head, that this was all very superficial and things will change in time, but I found no comfort in that knowledge. Unfortunately, when I get into a state like that I tend to make very bad and irrational decisions. My response, when faced with a problem is how to fix it. So naturally, with regards to the weight, I decided that I would start to exercise and go the next day to some shops to get clothes that would fit, thereby making me feel at least semi human again. In hindsight, if someone who was in my position where to say that to me, I would definitely beat some sense into them, provided that their platelet count could cope with such an assault.

Thankfully, I am staying with some very kindhearted and sensible people. It was gently pointed out to me that it has only been four days since I came out of hospital and medically speaking, I still have a long way to go. It may seem obvious, but it was then that it hit me that my recovery would not depict a directly proportional graph, but one of peaks and troughs with a gentle upward trend - I would have some good days and some bad days. Since then, I have felt much better, and a kind friend of mine has got me some clothes - yeh, even if you discount the fact that I'm not suppose to be around lots of people, I still wouldn't be able to manage a shopping trip, I get that now. I had a wonderful bank holiday Monday and todays' hospital visit was not traumatic. In fact, I got some good news. The blood test results shows signs of the transplant working. It has been a good day.

As I reflect on all of this, I know that I am almost certainly going to have these same anxieties again. But I am learning to be kinder to myself and allow myself to rest and grieve when I need to. I was lamenting to God the other day about my future, saying to Him that I know where I'm suppose to get to in the end but I don't know how to get there. Like a shot the answer came to me, with a hint of sarcasm I must note. I think God said to me "generally speaking, in order to get somewhere, you tend to put one foot in front of the other". "Hmph" I said in reply, but point taken.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

End Of Chapter Four

After thirty days of being in that place, they let me out! I am now sitting in a house in the countryside and I can hear sheep! I haven't heard sheep for a such a long time. I have never felt so relieved to get out of that place before. Discounting the two platelet reactions, medically speaking, this stint in hospital has gone incredibly well. In other ways, not so much. It has been tough emotionally, but I look back and wonder how on earth did I manage to be in isolation for such a long time without scratching at the walls. For me, this last stint in hospital has been an answered prayer. 

I had a bone marrow biopsy yesterday. Normally they would take a biopsy later but because I signed up to a research trial they have taken the sample earlier - the treatment regime is the same for both trial and non trial. The results from this will be the first indicators of the transplant having worked or not worked. 

So now what? Well I will be monitored closely in clinic twice a week for a while and I still have to abide by strict neutropenic rules while on the outside - restricted diet, avoiding crowds, avoiding people with coughs and colds. Once I get off my immunosuppressant tablets, then I will be able to start to be a bit more liberal. Normally, I would break the rules, but if there is the slightest hint of infection or new symptoms, I will be straight back into hospital - that is something I would like to avoid at all costs.

This for me recovery for me is when things start to get exciting. It is a time when I can figure out how to be me again and see where God's plan takes me. I don't know how long it will take, probably six months or more, but I know God will get me there. Watch this space.

This Was Not Part Of The Plan

Ten years ago, if I were to ask myself where would I be in ten years time, I would have said that I will finish medical school at twenty two, get married around about that same time, starting to specialise in psychiatry, have a house and thinking about starting a family within the next three years. Hmm, wasn't really expecting what actually happened. For years, I ingrained this plan into my head and it was fine until I hit my Highers (AS level for you english folk) that my plan took the first hit. Didn't get the grades for medicine. This was the first step of the plan, how could I have failed at the first hurdle? Automatically the anxiety started to rise about how this misfortune would alter the time scale of my plan. But it was ok, I still had a bit of a time buffer. By age twenty, I started medical school. Finally, the plan was coming into shape. Age twenty one, I was repeating the first year of medical school, I was getting a bit short of time for the plan to succeed. Age twenty two, got cancer. Not married, not in a relationship, get told that because of the treatment I should aim to complete my family before thirty five. So now the pressure really is rising, now there was a solid deadline for having children. By age twenty four, completed second year of medical school. Still no relationship. By age twenty twenty five completed third year of medical school. Now I'm on a roll. Age twenty five and a half, get cancer, how to leave fourth year of medical school. Age twenty six, not married, no relationship, now can't have children, not graduated, no occupation and no house. This was not part of the plan.

It was painful to watch my friends progress through life, attaining the landmarks that I so desperately wanted. I always felt like I was left behind, or had missed the boat. I felt like I had failed as a human being. For years, I lived with the constant stress and anxiety of not achieving the plan. Set back after set back, I still clung on to the notion that the plan was still possible. I was completely deluded, and completely fixated on achieving this unattainable goal. I was getting more and more bitter, although I did not realise it at the time, and it started to get painful to answer the question, "What are you up to these days?" and "Are you in a relationship yet?"

But, I am glad to say that I am no longer tormented by the plan. I still deeply desire some of those things, but it doesn't have the hold over me that it once did. The grasp of the plan had been weakened after each setback, but the final chain was broken when I was told that I would not be able to have children. This broke and still breaks my heart, but then again, breaking free from a captor is always accompanied by pain. For once, I was free and suddenly my life was open to a range of possibilities; it was akin to being given a clean slate; a chance to start over.

I could not be a better illustration of this verse from Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a persons heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails". The plan that I wanted was not necessarily evil or wrong, but it was that the plan that God has is infinitely better for me. It is a hard pill to swallow and it doesn't happen overnight. But once you know in your heart that God is only good and you learn to trust him, eventually you will be able to submit your plans and desires over to God and trust him regardless of your circumstances. But this is a process and it takes perseverance in prayer for this to come to pass, God will not push you if you are not ready. 

But one problem still remains. In the twenty six years I've been alive, what do I have to show for it? It says in 1 Corinthians 3:19 "The wisdom of the world is foolishness in God's sight". The wisdom of the world would tell me to keep striving to achieve those goals, keep climbing those ladders, achieve those landmarks. I am not implying that it is foolish to be conscientious and strive to achieve, quite the opposite in fact, but what I am saying is that it is foolish to have your life based and built upon those things, plus it causes unnecessary stress. When those things fall, and they will, what will you be left with. Moreover, when you die, what good will your CV do for you when you stand before God? God is concerned about the condition of the human heart. He is more concerned about who you are rather than what you do. I may not have pieces of paper to show for myself but that does not mean that I have failed as a person. The work that God has done in my life is more precious that the finest silver or gold. 

As I look back to my original plan, I can't help feeling a sense of boredom. To be honest, it would have been quite a boring life. The life that I've had so far has been full of colour, with ups and downs and unexpected twists. I have stories to tell, war wounds to show and there rarely is a dull moment - granted quite a few of those moments are painful, but they are anything but dull. This was not the plan I would have chosen for myself but it is the one I choose to follow. The road ahead is unclear and uncertain, but that's part of the thrill of a rollercoaster, you never know what's going to happen next.

Monday, 19 August 2013

So Long My Friend

It never gets easier. No matter how many times you see it, it just never gets easier. People say death is just a natural part of life. I would beg to differ, death happens but it's not natural. It wasn't su[[osed to be this way. If so, we wouldn't cling onto life with such ferocity, nor would we be finding ways to keep ourselves alive for longer. Death is a horrific process to go through. Slowly but surely, your body stops functioning until you can no longer speak, eat or drink and you are just skin and bones; a world away from how you know yourself to be. I do not believe we were born so that we would die. If so, there is no point in life. I believe that we were born to live. I believe we were born to live for a purpose. I do not accept death as the final destination nor do I accept life to be pointless.

My friend Mike, who I met up on ward 94, died on Friday morning. I couldn't believe it when I first heard that he wasn't going to make it; I saw him the week before and I would never has seen this coming. It was a shock to everyone. Mike was everybody's friend; he was gentle, kind hearted and always made you laugh. I remember fondly the times we would chat and knit together - well I knitted and he did one or the other as he couldn't multitask. You will be greatly missed. But someday, I hope to meet you again in paradise.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

An Unfortunate Day

I have had an awful day today. This post is rather painful for me to write as the experience is still raw. Bear in mind, I'm still grieving as I write this, and flashes of anger may appear. I have tried my hardest to be as fair as I can while writing this, but I am not sure if I have achieved this. So please bear that in mind when you read this, I must emphasise that the staff here are overworked and try their best, I have nothing against them and they do a brilliant job. I must also stress that at no point was I at risk of dying through this event, nor did I believe that I would die, nevertheless it was an extremely traumatic experience. Please read this with an open mind and do not judge harshly. After all, the first person to present their case seems right until another comes with questions and you hear the other side of the story. That said, let us begin. 

Today, I had a platelet transfusion - platelets are you used to help the blood clot and my levels were low hence the need for the transfusion. They hung the clear bag with yellow fluid neatly on Boffin, my drip stand, and set him to start transfusing. All was well through the process, that was until Boffin sounded the familiar Bing Bong indicating his job was done. I noticed that I had problems swallowing, my windpipe was clear, it was just very suddenly painful to swallow. At this point, I wasn't too concerned thinking that maybe my throat was dry, unfortunately water didn't help. But still, not too concerned because my airway was open, I was still breathing and I had a pulse - ABC check. The nurse came in, and I told her I had problems swallowing; she looked at the inside of my throat and but couldn't see anything suspicious. She went out the room to get a flush and when she came back I had a full blown urticarial (hives) rash and I was trembling. I was having an allergic reaction to the platelets. The nurse came back with drugs to counteract this reaction and administered them. Unfortunately, my heart rate hit the roof, I could feel my heart thumping furiously against my chest wall and I was starting to lose control of my breathing and began to hyperventilate. I was then left alone. Predictable my symptoms got worse, but still I had slight comfort in the fact that in terms of basic life support training I was in no risk of dying.

I waited a while, trying to get control of my breathing, knowing that now anxiety was setting in and exacerbating the problem. I couldn't take it anymore, I started to wheeze and the pain in my chest was unbearable. I pressed my buzzer, desperately hoping that someone would come quickly, despite past experiences. I thought, surely they would, they know I am having a reaction to the platelets, they know its a risky situation. But nobody came. I saw a number of people walk past my door to look at my chart, but none of them came in. I looked up at the crash buzzer which the staff used it and willed myself to pull it, but it was too far out of reach. In a last ditched attempt I shouted for help, when I saw someone near my door, but it took four attempts for someone to finally decide casually saunter in. He took one look at me and asked me what was wrong, all I could manage was the word nurse, with that he legged it out the room. The doctor came back, and took my pulse which he noted was very high and helped me get control of my breathing, he reassured me that my wind pipe wasn't going to close up but put me on a nebuliser because I was very weezy - the joys of asthma. I was comforted by the kindness of the doctor and the time he took to stay with me - being on your own in a room when no one comes to help is very frightening, for want of a better word, when you know time is of the essence. After the administration of the nebuliser, I finally fell asleep after my ordeal. 

But, there was one more obstacle to come my way. After I woke up, I went to the loo, and discovered that I was bleeding from back passage. I can't tell you what words I used at that moment, but they aren't used in polite conversation. I calmed myself down and used my medical knowledge to deduce that it was only a superficial bleed and not serious. In any case, I knew I had to tell the nurses. I told them my symptoms, in the style that my medical training had taught me to do so. The nurse confirmed my diagnosis. I don't know if it was because she knew I was a medic, but there was a distinct lack of empathy and acknowledgment of how distressing this situation actually was; knowing that it is not serious is beside the point, that fact alone does not take away the trauma that has just been experienced. 

I really felt dehumanised in that instant, and because I had no serious red flags, as they call them, I was deemed fine and that was that. It seemed  to me in the cases of the allergic reaction and the rectal bleeding, my body was perceived as a machine, all that was required was to follow protocol and that was the job well done. What I needed in those times was someone to sit with me and acknowledge my pain, and treat me like a human being.

A furious rage began to rise up within me. It was last week that I had officially raised concerns about the time it took for a the buzzers to be answered, this was after I had waited forty minutes for someone to answer my buzzer the previous day. I pointed that this time delay was a real risk and that had I, or another patient, been choking, or having a reaction I would be well and truly dead with no chance of resuscitation by the time they got to me. I said that this just can not continue. Effectively I was dismissed, albeit politely I should admit, and was told that I should write to the PM to campaign for more staff. I'm sorry, that's just not acceptable. There are many changes that could happen at this level, maybe solutions should actively be sought out rather than shot down by people who would rather take the default position of there is nothing we can do. It is only because it is easier to do nothing rather than stand up for what is right that nothing changes. 

Given this experience today, I will not let this issue slide. Having the background that I have, I understand the pressures that face the staff of the NHS, the staff are overworked and need more support, but they do a fantastic job with the resources they have to work with. But I also know what it is like to be a patient, and the stress and the struggles that we patients endure for no good reason. What the NHS don't realise is the psychological damage they cause to patients after they have been  through their doors, is long lasting, painful and cannot be fixed by a pill. I am a person first, not just a patient. This change in attitude that is required has to happen on an individual level and it is called empathy. It can not be forced by managers, it comes from pausing one moment, actively listening, and thinking about how you would like to be treated if you were in their position. It is up to each individual to choose to change. After all, an ocean is made up of a multitude of drops, we all need to do our part.  

I have debated at length with myself whether or not to publish this post. But it is my duty to speak up, not for myself, but for all the other patients who aren't able to speak for themselves. I am in a position where, due to my training, I can interact more with my treatment and spot potential dangers early. Most people who come through these doors, are not able to do this. If you are reading this and you work in the NHS, I implore you to take to heart what I've said. It is not down to someone else, it is down to you to change things. All it takes is to simply give more thought to your actions. I understand the pressure you are under and its not fair, but one act of kindness is all it takes to soothe the soul.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Good News

So a lot has changed in the last week. It turns out that, if all goes according to plan, I might be able to leave this place next week. My neutroblinkits are 1.32 today but because I've had a cord transplant they have to get to 2.5 before they let me out. They have been rising quite well, so hopefully it won't be to long. In terms of my symptoms, that I described in The Story So Far post, my back and shoulder are feeling much better and I feel comparatively much stronger - there's nothing like a good old fashioned blood transfusion to put a spring in your step. The strange pain that I was getting in my palms and soles has somehow got better very quickly and its quite mild now. To top it all off, I actually felt refreshed after last nights sleep. So things are going well. Thank you for all for your prayers, messages, cards and gifts. They have really encouraged me when I have needed it most.

Monday, 12 August 2013

It's Just Part Of Me

One thing I have noticed being on this ward is that, compared to the ward I'm usually on, there are far more Christians. What's more, most of them seem to be in an ethnic minority and seem to be on the housekeeping team. Don't get me wrong, I don't go asking people as soon as I meet them if they're a Christian; if it comes up in conversation or is relevant then I will go with the flow. But on these occasions, I didn't have to do any investigating, I just knew. I knew not because I had a divine word of wisdom, but because they would usually come into my room singing, albeit quietly, Christian songs.

It was clear that being a Christian was more than just what they did on a Sunday or even just their identity; it was a living, breathing, singing part of them, intertwined deeply with their body and soul. When I was talking to them I could see that their faith was strong. Recurring themes in our conversations/monologue would be trusting in God and His healing power. Ashamedly, I have to admit that it was a bit irritating and I felt like saying "I do trust in God and yes, He heals, but He doesn't heal everyone in this life but He does works for the good of those who love Him". Of course I didn't say that, instead I said a little prayer in my head to make them go away; I know that sounds bad, but in my defence the God answered yes and made them go away; or should I say, led them away. I digress. The point is that it got me thinking about why or how their faith was so strong. I could be totally wrong, but I think your faith is made stronger when you face disasters and the words you know about God in your head are being put to the test. It's also experience, I think. The more you see God answer the prayers that you've said, the more you trust Him which in turn builds up your faith.

In the past, despite being a Christian myself, when I would see people waving their arms in the air and shouting praises, I would assume that the silly plonkers had been brainwashed. Being a Christian was good enough, but there is no need to go over the top with it. I am proud to say that I have now become one of those silly plonkers; but I have not been brainwashed. But thats what all brainwashed people say, I here you retort, but there is a difference. It's not enough to just be a Christian; when I say this I am not referring to going to heaven, but I mean that you are getting short changed. The difference between "being a Christian is just what you do" and "being a Christian is who you are", is comparable to you consciously choosing the smart price brand over the extra special range in food shops when the prices are the same. It's like seeing a buy one and get a hundred free offer and just taking the one to the counter. You are losing out for no good reason.

I started to think back to the point in my life when Red Bull was switched for Rocket fuel. I remember for years wondering when God was going to speak to me and change my life like He seemed to do for other people. Then it happened, Everyone's story is different but I think I can broadly split mine into four stages that spanned over a good few years. Stage 1: He allowed me to have a trampolining accident that was devastating, not for my body but my ankle was pretty much ruined, but for the success I enjoyed at competitions. I should point out, however, that the accident was completely my fault and God did not make me or cause me to have an accident, however, He does know all and can intervene in situations when he chooses to. Being part of the trampoline club at university had become my life and I was totally devoted to it. So why did God take away something so precious to me? That's exactly why. The only thing that should be held in such high esteem and be such an all consuming part of my life is God. He basically knocked trampolining of the throne of my life.

Stage Two: a series of unfortunate events that caused me a great amount of pain. Basically suffering. This suffering, although it took many forms, went from age twenty to present. Why did this happen? My best guess is that now God had made space for Him on His throne where He rightly belongs, it was time for me to learn that in the deepest darkest moments of my life, the only one that could help me was God. Once again, I must emphasise that God did not bring suffering upon me but He used it for my good. Although it was a painful lesson that lasted years, I learnt a few things that set the foundation of my faith. Firstly, God is not out to smite me, just waiting for the moment that I mess up. Secondly, despite the circumstances, God is good and does not do things to harm me. Thirdly, He loves me and cares about me and wants to be part of my life. Fourthly, I can't just expect God to bail me out everytime when I've been foolish and caused the problem myself; it was time to listen to what He said then act, rather than acting and asking for help. Fifthly, Jesus Christ personally made it possible for me to have a relationship with God.

Stage Three: Prayer from people in a foreign land in a language I didn't understand when it was minus ridiculous degrees celsius. There were things in my life that I just couldn't shake off. It mainly centred around not knowing in my heart that God really loved me and thinking He was out to get me. The reason I went to Latvia was to visit a friend, and she, knowing my woes, suggested that I talk with one of her friends. It was during that talk with her friend that I felt the first chain break. I knew for the first time in my heart that Jesus loved me and it was and is such an amazing feeling to know this. I took up the offer of prayer from some people who I was meeting for the first time and they prayed in Latvian while my friend would translate bits of it. We prayed for two-three hours and I can't explain it but after that, my life had changed. I didn't feel a sudden difference, but I did noticed changes had happened in my heart and a burden had been lifted off my shoulders.

Stage Four: The present. After going through all this, I suddenly found a new desire in my heart to speak about Jesus and what He had done for me. I don't know where it came from or how it happened but it did. That's the Holy Spirit for you, hits you when you least expect it. My desire grows for Him as the days go by and even though I endure hardship I now turn to God saying, not "Why have you done this to me?" but "I know that you will get me through this and I trust you". He is just part of me, I can't help it.

I guess what I'm trying to say through all of this is that being a Christian is a process and sometimes God needs to first remove things that are sitting on the throne of your life so that He can take His rightful place. But do not lose heart. If you ask to know God or know God more, He will do so, but if you ask, be prepared to accept His methods of doing so. Until He does so, only He knows when, keep asking in the meantime. When it does start to happen, keep asking  because there is always more to discover about God. 

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Story So Far

It's been twenty days since this hospital admission and it is now day fourteen post transplant; I thought it was time for a wee update. This has been a hard week for me - I say hard, but it is relative to the rest of the time for this admission which miraculously, has been  a walk in the park. I have had no major symptoms and haven't missed a meal, well apart from the time when they took me down for radiotherapy and they binned my meal because I wasn't on the ward, which I was kinda annoyed about because it was sticky toffee pudding for dessert which is my favourite. But never mind, right back to the plot. This week has been hard because I have been completely exhausted; I would sleep and it would make no difference. So I have spent most of this week asleep. It's funny, because I thought I had got away with it and then my hair started to fall out, really fast, So I decided to have my head shaved. Below are two pictures for your entertainment:

Thought I'd try a new style - hmm, maybe not
The finished product
In terms of the tiredness, I feel better now, but the smallest of movements take a significant amount of effort. I found also that I was getting muscular pain in my back and shoulder, but I am now being seen by the physiotherapists and things are improving. Strangely, I have developed symptoms on the palm of my hands and the sole of my feet. Don't worry its not hand, foot and mouth disease. Whenever pressure or heat are applied to them I get a burning sensation in my hands and feet, even though they themselves are not hot to touch or red. The docs call this type of pain neuropathic pain, which means that my nerves are a bit confused and are active, or firing, inappropriately which causes the sensation of burning pain. It should go eventually, but in the meantime its rather inconvenient because walking, washing hands, showering causes a decent amount of discomfort. But I have found ways to reduce the intensity, for example, double gloving when showering helps somewhat. There are pills that I can take, but I don't think that this current level of pain warrants medical intervention yet.  

From the blood result side of things, I had a bag of platelets, which help your blood clot, and I'm nearly at the level where I can get a blood transfusion - hopefully tomorrow. As an aside, blood transfusions are amazing! One minute you feeling faint and struggling to move without getting short of breath, and then two hours later you feel like you could do circuits; although granted, its hard to do when you are constantly attached to a drip stand. My neutrophils, or neutroblinkits as a child once called them which in my opinion is a much better name, have been steadily rising with the injection they have been giving me. They need to stay at 1 for two days without the injection. I was 0.78 yesterday but 0.73 today, so they are starting to stutter a bit. To be honest, the staff were quite shocked and how well they were rising, but now they are behaving as the would in a normal individual who has had this treatment.

So thats pretty much it. I think I'm going to have a nap know, my computer screen keeps going in and out of focus, may have overestimated my capacity slightly. That's one lesson I've learned/learning this week - pacing. For a go getter like me, this is quite hard. But I am thankful, I really feel like God has kept me in a protective bubble and has given me the resources to cope with acute illness if it comes. Each day that I wake up and I don't feel like death warmed up is a miracle for me, especially considering my previous hospital experiences. It just affirms to me that God cares about the little things. I can sleep easy knowing that He is on it.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Uncertainty: My Travelling Companion

This morning, while I was having my room cleaned, the housekeeper made a comment that sparked off a train of thought. She said, "I bet you must feel so relieved when you're told the cancer has gone". It's not so simple. Firstly, you are never told that the cancer is gone, you are told you are in remission. It's a difference that adds uncertainty to the context. Being in remission means that, with the technology available, there is no cancer detectable. But the catch in that statement is "technology available"; potentially there could be cancer cells but the number is too small for the equipment to detect. While being given the news of remission is an answer to prayer, it keeps you looking over your shoulder because the cancer could  come back, or in my case, a different cancer could arise. 

The other thing that robs the expected joy from being in remission is that you still have to continue treatment after the fact to ensure a higher success rate. When I think back to when I was given the news of remission for the Hodkin Lymphoma three years ago when I was half way through my treatment regime, I was not overly excited. Why? It was because I was more concerned about potentially needing radiotherapy.The real relief came when I was told that I didn't need treatment. This time round I was comparatively significantly more relieved, but I think that was because this was a more serious situation and the stakes were higher. But
I still couldn't fully celebrate because I knew the bone marrow transplant was still to come. Am I relieved now that I've had the treatment? I don't know, a bit I guess, but I thought I would be more relieved. The recovery takes a long time, about six months or longer; this makes this whole experience feels like there is no real end point in which to focus the relief around.

The two bouts of cancer have made me think about being cured in a completely different way. Physical healing is always temporary. There is no cure for death. I don't know if I will have more episodes of cancer in the future; but I suspect I might. Maybe I will, maybe I wont. I know that sounds pessimistic, but in fact it is realistic. In this life, physical healing is a;ways temporary, but healing of the soul is not. That can't be taken away because the soul lives on after death and instead, God adds to it day by day. 

The problem with pinning your hopes on a long term cure is that it is an illusion. We have to die of something in the end. But surprisingly, I'm ok with that. It doesn't fill me with fear or foreboding because I'm not bothered about living forever. This treatment I'm having has bought me more time. It could be a lot or it could be a little. But having this mindset has uncovered the need for stewarding time wisely. When I have recovered, I will live life to the best of my ability, and if I get ill, I will recover to the best of my ability. I'm learning to live with uncertainty and it's ok. I't means that I learn to trust God in all seasons of my life. When God is the centre of your life, you loosen your grip on the things of this life; instead you hold onto Him tightly knowing that He will get you through. You don't know what the outcome will be, but He will get you through the journey. That is why I am not afraid. Don't get me wrong, I really dislike pain. But there are higher things at stake and I endure pain because someone died for me so that I could live, His name is Jesus.