Sunday, 15 September 2013
When I get on a train, I always try and find a window seat that is facing backwards. I like seeing what has gone by, and in some respects, what has gone by stays in focus longer than what's coming ahead and seems less threatening. Today is Day 51 post transplant and I am now over halfway through my probation period, so to speak. But what amazes me more is that this whole ordeal started on Monday 7th January 2013, with treatment starting on Monday 21st January 2013. Which means that, from the 7th January, it has been 35 weeks and 6 days, or approximately 9 months and a week.
This morning I was thinking about the day I stood up in church and told the congregation that I had cancer. It was Sunday 13th January 2013. I had only just been given the news a few days prior and I guess I was still in a state of shock. Unlike the first bout of cancer three years ago, this news was so much more devastating and unexpected. I remember thinking that I didn't want to take the treatment and that I would be happy enough to die. I was so confused. I was told from the outset that it was effectively a 50:50 chance of getting through this and I didn't want anymore pain.
During the first bout of cancer I would have never considered not taking the treatment, nor would I have considered standing in front of a large crowd and telling them the news, let alone starting a blog and publishing the information on facebook. But this time was different. In a way, I was giving my farewell speech. I wasn't convinced at all that I would make it through and so, in effect, I wanted to say goodbye now just in case. There was no positive spin that I could put on this cancer, nothing was for certain and I could not guarantee that I would come out the other end alive. When I was speaking to church, it pained me greatly, that I could not give them a message of hope. All I could say was I trust God and His will be done whatever that may be. There was no fighting spirit in me.
Looking at the journey ahead from that point was explosively daunting. Even thinking back to that point fills me with the same fear, pain and distress as before. But one thing had changed. I knew the only way to get through this was to give the reins of my life over to God. With that, came the acceptance of help and support from those around me. Three years prior, I would try as much as I could to sort things out myself, but things were very different now. I was completely dependent on God and everyone else.
I'm at the stage now where I'm being followed up by clinic and on the wards as an outpatient. I have survived but many of my comrades have not. The other day, I find out that one of us had died at 23 years of age leaving behind her little boy. Friends dying is hard, but there is one more thing that is as nearly distressing. I find it very difficult to chat to patients who have got serious and permanent complications. I met someone roughly my age in clinic, who also had a bone marrow transplant about two months before me. He has a complication that has meant that he can no longer see in his left eye and they are trying to save his right eye but it is looking bleak. I feel bad, because I know they look at me and think why did she have to have it so easy? I know this because I do the same thing when I see patients who are doing better than I am. It is a strange mix of feelings because, you are full of joy that they are getting better, but it is a bitter sweet joy because you wish you could be in their position. How then do you celebrate with someone when it causes you so much pain? When I have had good news myself, I have tried to be a bit more restrained for the sake of others who are suffering, but it is almost impossible to do so. I have on occasion, because of this, had the experience of survivors guilt. Why did he have to suffer? Why did she have to die? Why am I living and not them? To that, I have no answer.
Although my journey is still not yet complete, the picture is very different. To be honest I can scarcely believe that I am still alive. Looking back, I can see God's protective hand with me every step of the way, even through the darkest moments. I don't know if you are familiar with the Biblical story of Job, but in his story, God allows suffering to come to Job but He always draws a line to it - this far and no further. Throughout my ordeal it really felt like that for me, pain will come my way, but I will not let you be killed. You might ask how could a loving God allow so much suffering to happen to me. But my answer is simple. I do not and would not have wished to go through any of that, but the person that God has made me to be from this experience is more precious than the finest gold and I would not give up the relationship I now have with God for anything. God is good and that is always my starting point. If I waver on that, then everything is thrown into chaos. He suffers with me and is in probably more pain than I am. The world is fallen and broken. Ultimately the war has been won by Jesus Christ, but the battle still continues. I don't know if you've done this but, have you every picked up a book and read the ending first? If you have, then you know, that no matter how sticky a situation the main character gets into, even when it looks like they will surely die, you know it's going to be alright because you know that in the end, they come out victorious. I know the end of the story, so even though I may suffer now, I know that I'm safe because of Jesus Christ.