Don’t tell anyone, but….

I found a lump. I don’t usually discuss personal things on my blog, I like to keep them private. But sometimes it might be helpful for people to hear, so I occasionally force myself to.

Anyway, I don’t usually check for odd lumps and bumps – do you? I know that I should, especially as there is so much family history of cancer. Though it seems to me, that nowadays, everyone has a family history of cancer. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost a parent or aunt or cousin. To be honest, I think it’s because I know cancer is in the family, that I don’t like checking. I kind of don’t want to know. I don’t want to have to deal with it, to think about it, to have all the hassle related to any kind of medical problem.

It’s not that I’m worried about dying. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, the reality of my body having a ‘use-by’ date was rather hammered home. I had to face that I very well might die soon. It wasn’t scary, because I know what I believe about God, and I trusted him to take care of the whole afterwards side of things. But I didn’t want to die. I still don’t. Partly because I don’t want to miss things – I want to see my children settled, any grandchildren that come along, spend time as a grumpy old woman with my grumpy old husband. Plus there’s lots of things I still want to do. So death, although not scary, is unwelcome.

No, it’s not that I might die, it’s the medical intervention that worries me. I don’t want to be ill. All the hassle of hospitals, and having no energy, and inconveniencing other people. I just don’t want it. I’ve been ill, had my five year headache, recovered from a craniotomy, done. I don’t want something else. Surely it should be someone else’s turn? So, I don’t check very often, but occasionally I do, and this time I found something. Big bummer.

I went to the doctor. Never easy, but they gave me an appointment and I saw a very efficient woman, who said I needed to be referred to the hospital. Disappointing – I was hoping she’d tell me it was nothing and to go home and not be silly.

The hospital appointment came within a couple of weeks, and off I went with some books to read and snacks. Hospitals are never quick. I didn’t tell anyone, because I found with the brain tumour that people don’t always react how you want. They either try to reassure you, and tell you not to worry – which they cannot possibly know, and you are worried, so that doesn’t help. Or, they go into panic mode and you end up reassuring them instead! So I mentioned it to Husband, but then went off on my own.

It was fine. The staff were very professional. I had to wait about three years in various waiting rooms, and I was pretty sure one patient had died a few weeks ago and hadn’t been spotted yet, but when you actually were with the doctors, they were very good. They managed to be sensitive and business-like, and I trusted them. People moan about the NHS in the UK, but I wouldn’t want to be ill anywhere else. We have good doctors and nurses and support staff.

People in hospital are different, have you noticed that? Outside, they might be highly educated, or very fashionable, or super-rich. But in hospital, waiting to find out whether or not you have cancer, everyone is the same. Just people. All tired of waiting. All slightly tense. All real. There’s not much pretence in a hospital, which I kind of like.

My lump turned out to be nothing. It can safely be ignored. They were nice about it though, said I did the right thing to have it checked – because if it had been something nasty, they can often deal with it before it does any harm. Which is why I’m writing this. Old or young, male or female, when did you last do the ‘odd lump’ check? Perhaps you should. I’m not brave, and I hate doing things like that, but if I managed it, so can you.

Thanks for reading.

If you want to know more about what I believe, take a look at :

On a completely different note…..I was emailed by Samantha Day from Meridian FM and asked if I would speak on the radio about psychopaths, and JOANNA, and my book launch. Wow! Very scary, very exciting. I am going on Wednesday 15th at 11 o’clock. I’m assuming it’s a live broadcast, as her show is 11 til 1, but it might not be. I will let you know how I get on.

Letters to a Sister: 14

Letter 14

Do you ever have those weeks when everything seems to go wrong? I don’t mean in a funny, laugh about it afterwards way, but in a depressing, wondering why I bother way? I guess that’s just part of life, a ‘down’ that allows us to have ‘ups’. This week two friends have died. True, both were old, but that doesn’t make it any nicer really, just less shocking.

It brings back lots of memories of when Dad died. I’m not sure I’ve ever really talked to you about that time, everything was such a muddle, so much to organise, both of us worrying about Mum. We never really sat down and talked did we.

I was in such a bad place while Dad was alive, really angry with the world. I was having headaches all the time and not knowing why, felt stressed and was finding work/family a lot less fun than I had thought they would be when I was 12! I had sort of given up on God a bit, decided I would ‘go it alone’, see how I got on. I didn’t get on very well actually.

Then, when Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I somehow got this feeling that it was my fault, a sort of punishment for giving up on God. It sounds silly now, if it was someone else saying this I would have all sorts of sensible things to say to them, but at the time, that’s how I felt. And it was horrible.

Cancer is a horrid disease. It kind of ‘eats’ people. When the nurse told me that Dad wouldn’t recover, that it was just a matter of time, I set myself a challenge. I would watch him die. I figured that all my life, Dad had taught me about God, had claimed that He was always there, helping Dad through life. I decided that during life, you could fool yourself into believing something like that. But death has a horrible honesty about it. If God was real, He would be there at every step while Dad died. If He was just in Dad’s head, a fabrication to make life easier, then as he died this would be evident. You can’t pretend when you are dying. So I watched.

I saw the cancer destroy Dad’s body, saw him become weaker and more in pain, fed up with all the medical intervention, exhausted by what the disease was doing to him. And I saw him change.

At the beginning, as the disease began to take hold, Dad complained all the time. He told me about every ache, every loss of appetite, every sleepless night. To be honest, I got a bit fed up with him (as I said, I was not in a good place.) Then gradually, as his body got weaker, I saw him draw closer and closer to God. His conversation changed. Instead of talking continually about his health, the latest ache and pain, he talked about what he had read in his Bible, some new insight that he had found. He laughed again, was excited about what he was discovering about God. I felt that I was watching him become less physical and more ‘soul’. It was as if his spirit was taking over.

Dad never wanted to die, he fought it until the end. But I can honestly tell you, he died a good death and God was there, every step of the way. Dad taught me more about God in his dying than all the sermons during his life. His cancer was horrid, a particularly painful type. But he died the beginning of January and at the end of December, just days before he died, he told me he had just had the happiest Christmas of his life. Like I said, you can’t pretend when you’re dying.

When Dad did die, when we were burying his body, on a suitably grey wet day  (though not ‘Dad’, not his spirit, I had watched that getting stronger and stronger until he finally left his body) that was when I realised that I could not have caused his death. Death is too big, nothing about me would result in that.

Perhaps I needed to feel like that, to have that nasty patch in my life, to make me see clearly again. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that for me, it was all the ‘proof’ I needed. And of course, the good thing about coming back to God is that He makes it so easy, it’s just like turning around really. And I haven’t regretted it since. I’ve had some knocks in the last few years, life has sometimes been less nice than I hoped. But I can never again doubt that there is a God. Or that He cares.

Take care,
Anne xx