These last few months have been full of emotion, tears and thankfulness!
Back in May we celebrated the fact that I was four years clear of cancer. Then in June, we had the delight of seeing our USA-based family for the first time in three years! Meeting our newest granddaughter for the first time was absolutely joyous. Then in July, I started to get stomach pains. My oncologist had told me that there was nothing to worry about if stomach pains just came and went, but if the pain was continuous for two weeks, I was to let them know.
These pains continued for two weeks and worryingly, woke me up at night. I let the clinic know and the specialist nurse contacted me to say the doctor had requested a CT scan. It then felt we were in a Groundhog Day moment! Four years previously I had been to the doctor with stomach pains and they had ordered a scan. I was due to fly to the USA within days of this news, to meet our new granddaughter. We hurriedly had to book a scan to see if I could go…..and the rest is history!
Now I was facing the same thing again! We had a long-arranged trip booked to the USA to spend time with our family and I needed another scan!! After lots of phone calls and emails with the oncology team, I waited to be contacted with a date and time. I was looking after my granddaughter when the call came.
‘We’ve booked you into the CT scanner this afternoon.’
I rang my daughter at work and said we would need to drive back to Cambridge for this appointment. She agreed and said she would come over after work to collect my granddaughter from ours. Our granddaughter had been asking to come and play at our house for a while, so she didn’t need much persuading when I told her of the new plan for the day! So we hurriedly packed drinks and snacks for ‘an adventure’ with my eager four year old companion, and set off on the 90 minute journey!
As I lay in the scanner that afternoon, as I had done so many times before, I closed my eyes and prayed. I thanked God for the little things that had made this moment possible; my oncology team, the radiology team, my daughter’s and granddaughter’s willingness to change plans at the last minute and that my husband was home to look after her. I even thanked God that the cannula went in my arm first time! Noticing and celebrating these small blessings are really important to me especially in these moments of anxiety and challenge.
The next day my oncologist rang to give us the results. Tears of relief and joy flowed as he went through the report line by line starting with, ‘There is no evidence of active disease.’ He wasn’t sure why I had such continuous stomach ache but was sure it was not cancer. And so……. the US trip was still on.
So here I am… in Memphis,Tennessee playing, reading, and talking with our three grandsons. We’ve even been improving our basketball skills together (huge thank you to my friend Carolyn who came to stay for 2 days and is a basketball coach!). Soon we travel to Minneapolis where I get time with our two granddaughters. I am full of thankfulness.
Over these last few days and weeks, I have been saddened by the loss of some inspirational women to cancer; Dame Deborah James was one of those amazing women who devoted the years she had to raising awareness of bowel cancer and in the process, raising a huge amount of money for cancer research. Due to her tireless campaigning on TV, newspaper columns and the podcast ‘You,Me & the Big C’, people have been able to spot the early symptoms of bowel cancer and get life-saving treatment. Her slogan ‘Rebellious Hope’, with its message of not giving up no matter what, has been inspirational to many cancer sufferers including me.
The recent death of church leader Beni Johnson of Bethel, California really touched my heart. She and I had the same BRCA2 mutation that gave her breast cancer and myself, ovarian cancer. I was deeply moved watching the celebration of her life online. She was a prayer warrior and had seen many healed from numerous diseases through her ministry over the years. She leaves such a legacy of faith for those of us still this side of eternity.
And this week…..we heard news of Olivia Newton-John’s death from breast cancer which she had battled for the last 30 years. Her iconic movie ‘Grease’ came out during the summer of 1978, when I was impressionable 18 year old, living in Paris. The songs linked to the theme of finding love, were a teenage girl’s dream. Me and my friends sang them at the top of our voices all summer long!
What these three women had in common besides cancer, was that they deeply loved their families. They treasured the time they had with them, leaving them a legacy of many happy memories.
So as I breathe this Memphis air, my heart is full of thankfulness that I can spend time with my family and friends. I too treasure this time and plan to enjoy every moment to the full.