Bah Humbug to Triskaidekaphobia. 2013 will be a lucky year :-)

Many in the West consider thirteen to be an unlucky number but there’s evidence to suggest 13 is in fact lucky.  2013 will be a lucky year.

A number of people I know deserve much better fortune and I feel our world as a whole could do with a bit of a lift.  So here I offer 13 random examples designed to inspire and illuminate us as we approach 2013.  I apologise for any factual inaccuracies, this is a bit of trivia inspired by a dear friend because we’re aiming to cast off pesky Triskaidekaphobia together and will attempt to do it for anyone else who’d like better luck in future too!

1. The Thirteenth century was very productive for the Italian city of Florence.

Firenze

Firenze (Photo credit: NivesMestrovic)

Its prosperity and peace enabled rapid economic expansion which continued at pace. Various categories of tradesmen and craftspeople increased extensively going beyond their region to other areas.

2. Thirteen is a prime number suggesting an incorruptible nature, purity and integrity.

3. Improv Everywhere organise fun missions to entertain participants, onlookers and those who watch their videos. 

Participants of No Pants Subway ride at Times ...

Participants of No Pants Subway ride at Times Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The No Pants Subway Ride takes place on January 13th 2013 in New York and has spread to other cities too. Participants wear winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves but no pants. The aim is to bring excitement to an otherwise humdrum setting, make people laugh, smile, or stop and notice the world around them.  Seeing this would certainly make me smile and spice up an otherwise boring subway ride 🙂

4. The thirteenth tarot card signifies death and eternal life.  The thirteenth rune ‘Eiwaz’ was the central rune around which all the others were ordered in the oldest runic alphabet.

5. When Chinese women make offerings of moon cakes, 13 will be served. Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility and lunar potency, the lucky number of the Great Goddess.

250px-Mooncake

6. Thirteen was revered by the ancient Egyptians who believed life had 13 stages, the last of which was death and transition to eternal life.

7. For those seeking to purchase a property in the UK, number 13 is likely to be £6,511, or 3%, cheaper than numbers 1 -12 or 14 – 30 based on Land Registry figures!

8. Thirteen is considered lucky in China where 1 in the position of tens sounds like ‘definite’ (shi or 实) in Mandarin and Cantonese dialects. 3 sounds like life, living or birth (生) so 13 pronounced shisan in Mandarin can mean ‘definitely vibrant’

9. In the Jewish religion 13 is the numerical value of the word ahava (love, Alef-Hei-Beit-Hei) and the age of responsibility. Jewish beliefs are contained in the Thirteen Principles.

10. The Great Seal of the United States has 13 olive leaves, 13 olives, 13 arrows and 13 stars forming a triangle over the eagle. The pyramid on the reverse has 13 levels.

11. The traditional Thai New Year – Songkran Day –  is April 13th.

English: Songkran at Wat Thai in Los Angeles, ...

12. Lohri, the zenith of winter is celebrated on 13th January. For Punjabis it’s a community celebration of fertility and the spark of life, an auspicious day marking the sun’s entry in to the ‘Makar Rashi’ (northern hemisphere).

lohri

 

13. Jeremy Guscott, Brian O’Driscoll and Frank Bunce are deemed some of the world’s greatest outside centres – position 13 – in rugby union.

Brian O'Driscoll - Happy Day

Brian O’Driscoll – Happy Day (Photo credit: M+MD)

Happy New Year, Happy 2013 everyone ♥

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Fortitude – Facing a force 12 storm head-on in 2012

Porthleven, Cornwall. Beautiful on a still day, dangerous on a wild one. Image credit: Cornwall365.co.uk

Porthleven, Cornwall. Beautiful on a still day, dangerous on a wild one.
Image credit: Cornwall365.co.uk

Today’s theme is fortitude, another of the cardinal virtues.

Fortitude: Noun.  Strength & firmness of mind; resolute endurance; courage in pain or adversity.

It’s fair to say 2012 hasn’t been too far short of facing a force 12 storm head-on while trying to keep everything together, as normal as possible, for the sake of those around me. Even during the times when I’ve been feeling anything but normal.

My call for fortitude began at the tail-end of 2011. My Mother-in-Law died, a difficult and convoluted situation that took a toll on me. I felt sorry for her; her life had been a series of unforeseen misadventures resulting in mental breakdown and institutionalisation in one shape or form since the age of 25-ish.  During summer 2011 she’d been in and out of hospital but was returned to her care home under the auspices of being better.  She wasn’t and died a short while afterwards.  I’m not sure I’ll ever stop thinking she had no real life at all and that’s what made me so sad for her.   I organised things, sorted out probate, helped clear her room all at a time when I was starting a secondment into a more senior role at work.  My boss had found a great new opportunity and his boss announced she’d be leaving by the end of the year too.  All change.

In January 2012 I was more than half way through the secondment, waiting to learn if I’d be confirmed in the role permanently. I had no idea, the months ticked on and I was still none the wiser.  I eventually found out after the secondment expired; I was pleased to learn of the promotion but news coming so late in the day took the shine off things somewhat.  As ever I threw myself into the role, worked my socks off and encouraged my teams to do likewise.  Some of our efforts were appreciated.

I realised from my very early career in Human Resources and my long-term career in Technology that some companies place little value on departments they misconstrue as ‘support’ or ‘service’ functions.  It’s not this way in all industries but some are behind the curve, they haven’t joined the dots yet.  It’s not worth stressing over but can be frustrating for those who see successful businesses holistically rather than in silos.

In April shortly after the promotion I noticed I was tired, very tired. I didn’t feel right.  I thought something looked different, went for various tests and investigations and remained staunchly positive throughout. I suspected the odds might be stacked against me; my family history is too damned predictable but I wouldn’t go along with the odds until they were confirmed.  Core biopsies followed at the end of May.

I’d already booked a week of activities to celebrate my son’s birthday in early June so was determined not to let him down.  I did my best to carry on regardless through this period of uncertainty and doubt. No-one’s 19th Birthday’s should be overshadowed by unconfirmed news that Mom might have cancer.  We had a good time and he has some great memories including his first trip to a West-End show.

On 12th June the odds became reality and for a month the reality kept getting worse.  The tumour is small, less than 1cm, but invasive.  Oops no it’s bigger, 2.4cm as it’s surrounded by an area of DCIS and LCIS (which, by the way, would also become invasive in 3 – 5 years).  The grade is 2 – no wait, it’s 3.  It might not be as contained as first thought, the MRI shows a lot of anomalies. Oh and it’s HER2 positive, that will be tricky.

Hello and welcome to the world of aggressive, difficult to treat breast cancer aged 42.  “This is treatable” my consultant said “and fortunately Herceptin is now funded for all HER2+++ women….  But only if you have chemotherapy.”

Being told you have cancer is never going to be good news but the worst news for me was chemotherapy.  I saw what it did to my Aunt and my Mom and I’ll never be able to shake those images from my mind.  I didn’t want that to happen to me. I don’t want it to happen to anyone.

RNLI Shannon Class Lifeboat. Credit: RNLI

RNLI Shannon Class Lifeboat. Credit: RNLI

After a week moping around, not eating, talking or sleeping I realised no-one was coming for me with a lifeboat.  I wasn’t helping myself either so I’d have to get my arse in gear, muster up some fortitude and ride this humdinger of a storm through.

I researched and researched and researched, went to every appointment with a list of questions and made sure to get answers.  I took along the latest papers, asked for explanations of conflicting findings, weighed up the risks and rewards of each surgery, surgical technique and the chemotherapy regimes I was offered.  And then I had an epiphany moment.

I realised I could just as easily get hit by a truck or obliterated in a car accident (I drive a many miles for work).  In fact there are plenty of other things that could kill me so why focus on cancer alone?  Why focus on any of them?  Life is for living and after the epiphany living is what I set out to do.

This change in perspective was fundamental in shifting my thoughts about myself and others. What really matters, the preciousness of time, finding something positive, inspiring and beautiful every day – even when the force 12 continues to howl all around me threatening mortal danger.  Why make my own life miserable, consumed by negativity and fear? Worse still why inflict that on those around me, why cause them more pain and concern than they undoubtedly already carry.

Of course there have been bad days; there have been some very bad days. This – investigations, surgeries, scars, chemotherapy, side-effects – is no walk in the park on a bright Spring morning.  There’ll probably be some dodgy days in future too because I have more surgeries to come in 2013. C’est la vie.  But finding fortitude – strength and firmness of mind; resolute endurance; courage in the face of pain or adversity – has been a big help. It’s an inner strength that carries me through.

Six months down the line from diagnosis and half way through my various treatments I have no idea what the future has in store for me. Or how long it will last.  But none of us ever knows how our life will map out, we don’t come equipped with a crystal ball at birth we just kid ourselves that we do. Throwing away the illusions, the ifs, whens and maybes lets the beauty of today shine through… even if a force 12 storm is trying (and failing) to sweep me off my feet.

Fortitude – I highly recommend this cardinal virtue.  Try to seek it out, when you find it hold on to it.  Where it comes from I do not know but if I could work out the formula I’d manufacture it and offer it free to anyone who is faced with the onslaught of one of life’s force 12 storms.

 

Today’s theme is charity, third of the heavenly graces

An aristocratic lady coming out from temple an...

An aristocratic lady coming out from temple and giving alms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charity: Noun.

  • The voluntary giving of help to those in need.
  • Kindness and tolerance in judging others.
  • Archaic: love of humankind

These reflections (two previous posts can be found here and here) began on Christmas day, my first Christmas undergoing cancer treatment.

When we think about charity we often think of the first definition – voluntary giving of help to those in need.  Charity organisations certainly aim to do this and many do extraordinarily good work.  I’m especially drawn to those who focus upon research, such as Breakthough Breast Cancer.

I believe the solution to the problem called find a cure for cancer lies in more research effort, more accurate tests to detect risks and improved treatments to prevent the proliferation of rogue cells.  By stopping the disease from taking hold, we would in time see an end to harsh regimes like chemo and radiotherapy.  I believe such research may also pay dividends when understanding and tackling other forms of critical and chronic disease. Today remission is the best status most cancer patients and Doctors can hope for and whilst that’s better than nothing, frankly it’s not good enough.

As with everything in life, it also pays to be a little cautious.  Charity donations such as the ribbon campaigns (for all critical and chronic illnesses) have, in some senses, become bandwagons. Take care with your £’s, $’s, ¥’s, €’s; ensure your hard-earned cash makes its way to the charity of your choice not the coffers of a commercial enterprise.  Charity cards are one of the worst examples I can think of; often less than 10% of the purchase price is donated to the charity concerned.  The same is frequently true of fashion items, accessories and jewellery.  Caveat emptor – buyer beware.

The second definition of charity, kindness and tolerance in judging others also struck a chord for me. Almost all cancers are disfiguring in some way or another; where possible surgery is used as the main weapon to ‘cure’ this insidious disease.  As anyone who has had an operation knows, surgery leaves scars.  With luck and over time the scars begin to fade but our bodies are never quite the same again.  For some people this is of little concern; they’re relieved to have a dysfunctional body part removed and see their scars as signs of conviction; a battle fought and won.  For others even when the physical scars fade the emotional and psychological wounds remain raw and painful.  We all react differently, we all have different coping mechanisms and we all have different views on body image and attractiveness.

Kindness and tolerance are essential in helping people come through their diagnosis, treatments and life beyond cancer. I don’t like to highlight this rather sorry state of affairs but self-confidence and self-worth are crucial when living in a world that has become very dog-eat-dog.  The media continue to be guilty of creating false idols; images of perfect people with bodies most of us can never aspire to when 100% fit and healthy (because they’re air-brushed, photo-shopped and in essence FUBAR). Charity, the third heavenly grace, suggests we need to be more honest.  Perfect people don’t exist in the real world; people with scars whether physical, emotional or psychological are the real world.  I urge that they should not be forsaken, made to feel less worthy, less attractive or less confident because kindness and tolerance are reserved for the few, not the many.

The archaic definition of charity, love of humankind, is my personal favourite.

This Christmas I’ve been inundated by the love of humankind and I feel very humbled.  Gifts of shawls, scarves, beautiful toiletries, candles, gloves, books, chocolate, jewellery, trinkets, food, flowers, music, love and friendship have been bestowed upon me by so many generous and wonderful people. The material gifts are beautiful, all will be cherished; but the most cherished gifts are those of love and friendship. They are priceless and irreplaceable.

I hope to extend the archaic meaning of charity, paying it forward through my love of humankind to those who are dear to me throughout the year ahead. I extend this meaning to the natural world too, the non-human animals of our planet are worthy of my love,  kindness and tolerance as are the lakes and mountains, forests and glades.  I’m not sure if heaven exists; if it does I may not qualify for entry because I’m not a perfect person. I cuss, I get frustrated and I could be more tolerant from time to time.  Even if there’s nothing beyond this life I’ll continue to practice the heavenly grace of charity. I was taught practice makes perfect; I still have time to strive for improvement as do many of the rest of our humankind.

Penultimate step in the chemo climb completed

M.R.S.A. Staphylococcus aureus on Brilliance M...

M.R.S.A. Staphylococcus aureus on Brilliance MRSA Chromogenic Agar (Photo credit: Nathan Reading)

I had another long day in chemo camp today but am pleased to report number 5 out of 6 is complete and seemed to go smoothly.

My son came along with me and said he found it very informative and also enjoyed the wide-ranging chat we had.

I was branded a trouble-maker as I noticed the MRSA swab pack I’d been given, to check if my suppressed immunity has made me and the other camp interns carriers of the hospital super-bug, was two months beyond its expiry date.  Apparently these kits had only been delivered in the last fortnight.

When the department assistant phoned microbiology she was told to dispose of the out of date kits, two full boxes, and throw away the swabs all today’s patients had already taken. They’ll need to be done again. I’m glad I read the packet before doing mine! This attention to detail comes from developing a beady eye for supermarket produce that’s been subject to poor stock control.

I’m now insomniac beetroot woman once again, high on the dreaded steroids and full of super toxic chemicals.  I did discuss whether I could be a future Bane in the Batman franchise with my son but he doesn’t think I suit the bad-guy character

This evening one of my best friends visited and it was just the tonic required after 5 hours of chemo so tomorrow I’ll pick up on my heavenly graces theme once again with a post about charity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgive my tardiness, it’s been strange…. and hectic.

Dawny the Little Beut over at Random Spillages from a Reportedly Strange Mind nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award before Christmas and I’m only just getting around to saying thank you. I apologise for my tardiness Dawny, my only excuse is that it’s been strange and hectic and I’m not as organised as I could be!

blog-award

This is the second nomination I’ve received for very inspirational blogger and I’m a little lost for words.  I never expected to write about cancer, life and the other things that pop into my somewhat cluttered mind in a way that might inspire others.  I am so grateful for your support and kindness.

Tina at Eyes for Gaia nominated me for this award a little earlier in December; here’s a link to that post which includes, as per the rules, seven things about me.

There are so many deserving bloggers (and blog supporters who don’t blog themselves) out there. I really would like to nominate them all. But this time, as per the rules, I’ve chosen 15 great blogs and the very inspiring people who create them:

Now I’m off to prepare for chemo tomorrow.

Namaste.

 

 

Cardinal virtues, cancer and justice. It just is.

 

How often do we hear children say “that’s not fair!”  How many times have you asked why you or someone you consider a ‘good’ person was dealt the worst hand in this game called life?    The truth is…. life isn’t fair.  There’s little justice.  It just is.

Today’s reflection takes the cardinal virtue of justice – or it just is – as its theme. Buckle up, this could be interesting/thought-provoking/nonsense. Read and decide for yourselves.

Justice: Noun – just behaviour or treatment; the quality of being fair and reasonable.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate, it will happily strike the fittest, slimmest, most health conscious people if they’re genetically predisposed or exposed to certain environmental factors. The process of this disease is extremely complex.  Justice plays no part in cancer development, treatment or the long-term outlook. It just is and whichever hand we’re dealt, we have to make the best of it.  I could witter on about it forever; instead I’ll draw your attention to three points for contemplation – treatment, employment and family/friends.

Treatment:  We have a National Health Service in England. You might think it’s free; it isn’t. It’s partially funded by National Insurance contributions deducted from salaries at source. Most people also pay for prescription medicines, dental treatment, opticians and anything to do with hearing.  Cancer patients are exempt from prescription charges which seems fair and reasonable however we have to pay for dental work, sight and hearing aids in spite of the fact that some cancer treatments affect eyesight, damage hearing and teeth.

Another common misconception is that the NHS prescribes the most effective drugs, e.g. to manage side-effects. This is a fallacy.  The NHS prescribes on affordability; it often means cheap substitute drugs.  NHS administrators balancing the books assume this is OK because substitutes are designed to do broadly the same thing as their more effective (and expensive) counterparts.   However, cancer patients and medics will tell you substitute drugs don’t always work as well. They often cause unnecessary suffering and avoidable hospital admissions (that prove more costly than the more effective drugs), it’s more stressful for the patient and adds to the workload of our overstretched doctors and nurses.

Look at the words – unnecessary, avoidable, suffering, stressful and overstretched.  Now associate them with the justice – the quality of being fair and reasonable. It doesn’t make much sense does it?

In the US things are more confusing. I’d love £1 for every post I’ve read from someone fighting an insurer over the scans, medicines and follow-ups covered by their policy. The words fair and reasonable come to mind until I remember the mantra life isn’t fair.  I used to work in insurance; insurance companies want to make money, they don’t care that my US friends are fighting for their lives and need the best treatment to enable their survival (or provide a comfortable journey to the end of life).   Those without insurance are in an even more difficult situation; the most needy people treated in the poorest way by a civilised society.  Justice? No. It just is.

In low-resource countries the situation is desperate.  Fatality rates are highest in these countries because most have resource constraints that limit the capacity for detection, diagnosis and treatment.   In these countries women most commonly present with node positive locally advanced breast cancers; chemotherapy is required to treat them and often the underlying resources/infrastructure are absent.  When chemotherapy isn’t available these people only receive palliative care. Once again the poorest people are dealt the worst hand in the game. It doesn’t have to be this way; it just is.

Employment:  Scorchy over at The Sarcastic Boob wrote an excellent piece titled Professional Identity in Crisis.  Times have changed; for many women their careers are an integral part of their life so exclusion from the workplace for any reason (could be employer incompetence, failure to understand or appreciate what a person with cancer wants/needs during treatment, the effects of treatment itself or issues created by metastasis)  can have devastating consequences.  Continued social interaction during cancer treatment and the survival benefits of support networks at home, at work and in the community are well documented.  Eating healthily, avoiding processed foods and buying organic where possible is significantly more expensive than supermarket own brands.  Purchasing drugs that aren’t provided by the NHS or an insurer is very costly.  Work is important to the cancer patient for many reasons. Ultimately it’s important in a practical sense; cancer patients need money to live. Putting them on the bread-line or into the benefits system (where one exists) makes survival a thousand times more difficult.  Inducing stress by causing unnecessary worry is a proven route to metastasis!

Sadly too few employers understand cancer, too few seek to establish what the cancer patient wants to do and too few make adjustments that would enable the individual to balance work, treatment and the benefits that stable employment and sustained social contact can bring.   Too few employers think about the real issue a cancer patient is facing.

The real issue is life or death and I defy anyone facing the uncertainty of death to deny that compassion, just behaviour and treatment matters to them. It’s one of the only things that matter when everything else is sliding out of reach.

 Family and Friends:   Justice, family and friends is a conundrum.  Cancer is tough.  It’s tough on the patient but it’s equally tough on family and friends. They don’t have to go through treatment or side-effects but they share many of the same worries. Will the treatment work? Will the cancer come back? Will s/he die?   As with all traumatic life events some of us are better equipped for them others. It doesn’t mean some people are good while others are bad, we just have different approaches to difficult situations.

What many cancer patients need more than anything is a sense of certainty. Cancer throws everything up in the air and makes life very uncertain.  Family and friends are well-placed to generate certainty by remaining present, offering support, listening and providing a shoulder to cry on.    As the family or friend of a cancer patient, this can be difficult; fear isn’t reserved for the patient alone. Patients have no choice, they have to find a way around, over or through their fears.  Family and friends have more choices; they can choose to overcome their fears and be staunch supporters of the patient. Or they can be consumed by fear and chose to hide away.  I understand the second choice, fear and flight go hand-in-hand but I couldn’t do it myself.  I couldn’t abandon a family member or friend in need.  I understand some things look too hard, too painful and too frightening to endure and that might be true – but you don’t know for sure unless you try.

When family or friends decide it’s all too much, cancer patients have a variety of reactions. Sometimes they blame themselves for the impact they have on other people when dealing with a disease they didn’t ask for and have very little control over.  On occasion they may get angry and ask ‘how could s/he disappear at a time like this?’  Often they just get sad; the absence of dear ones who’ve been ever-present until cancer came a-calling is an emotional blow.

Fortunately I haven’t had this experience but many of my friends have and it’s hurt them deeply, far more deeply that the cancer itself.

Justice, treatment, employment, family and friends.  It’s not for me to tell other people how to behave but I pose a question – to health providers, insurers, administrators, employers, family members and friends….

Imagine you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.  Today, as you hear the words “you have cancer,” your whole world begins to fall apart.  Everything you thought you knew, all the plans you had, your hopes and dreams, they’ve all dissolved in front of your eyes.  You’ll feel this way tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.

It just is and you’re going to have to make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt.…. somehow.

So ask  yourself how you’ll assess justice, the quality of being fair and reasonable, when you can’t get the treatment/drugs you need, when your employer fails to understand the importance of your career or your need to work.  If that’s not enough, some of the people you hold so close to your heart just disappeared from your life in a flash.

Are you wondering what just happened to you? And what they hell you’re going to do about it?

Justice: a nice concept crying out for the practice of being fair and reasonable.

It just is.

 

Poker

Poker (Photo credit: maorix) Life isn’t fair so we have to play the hand we’re dealt.

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Heavenly graces, cardinal virtues, cancer and Christmas.

christmas paint

christmas paint (Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)

 

Yesterday was busy as Christmas Day always seems to be. Cooking, cooking and more cooking followed by cleaning up. I didn’t mind because the meal was very much enjoyed, even by my son who employs the ‘avoid vegetables at all costs’ policy. Time spent in the kitchen offered an opportunity to reflect on the past year and  consider what it’s like spending Christmas with cancer treatment as my ever-present companion.

 

The words ‘faith, hope and charity’ came to mind as I checked the turkey’s progress.  I’m agnostic and although those words are described by some as the heavenly graces, to me they’re just words with some significant meaning.  Having contemplated the heavenly graces I also mulled over cardinal virtues; fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance.  The Greek philosophers identified these many, many years ago and philosophy was one of my recent topics of study so it’s no surprise the cardinal virtues joined forces with faith, hope and charity as I prepared our carrots and parsnips.

 

These seven words –  faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance are as good as any to describe the experience of cancer at Christmas, the dirty mark it left on 2012 and my attempts to erase it.  I like things to be relatively clean and tidy, not perfect but passable.  Cancer doesn’t fit that bill:

 

CleanAdverb – so as to be free from dirt, marks, or unwanted matter.                   Adjective – free from irregularities, having a smooth edge or surface.

 

Tidy: Verb – bring order to, arrange neatly.  Adjective – arranged neatly and in order.

 

I’m no longer free from marks or irregularities nor am I arranged neatly and in order.  My treatment plan is designed to eradicate unwanted matter but there are no guarantees. I aim to be passable in 2013 hence my theme for today is Faith. 

 

Detecting that there’s something wrong with our bodies calls for faith.  Faith that we’ve a relatively good idea about what we look and feel like, what’s normal and abnormal. Without this underlying faith I’d have faced a heap more trouble this year.  The trouble I found myself in was trouble enough.   Unlike crustaceans and salamanders we can’t regenerate body parts and we can’t operate on ourselves so we have to place our faith in the medical profession; sometimes its a challenge.  I received a clean bill of health in January 2012. What if I’d ignored the inner voice whispering “there’s something wrong” until  January 2013?  It’s almost too scary to contemplate.

 

Fortunately I trusted my instincts and returned to the medics; unfortunately they confirmed my concerns. Diagnosis is one thing but treatment is quite another.  There’s so much to weigh-up at a time when rational thought can be displaced by disbelief.  More faith was required – to remain positive, chose the optimal treatment pathway, believe surgery and harsh chemotherapy would do the job (without killing me in the process or disabling me for the rest of my life).

 

These are big decisions that medical science can inform but as yet no-one is equipped to fully underwrite.  Alone with the knowledge that any choice I made would be life-changing called for a leap of faith. The maze that is cancer and its treatment meant I’d either find myself on solid ground or I’d need to learn to fly PDQ.

 

Cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy, is challenging.  Being confined to a physical body undergoing chemical warfare and death at a multi-cellular level on a regular basis isn’t an everyday experience (thank goodness).  Things fall off – hair, eyelashes, nails; other things stop functioning – healing processes, skin renewal, the immune system.  I learned how to fly to combat an extended period of imprisonment in a body I barely recognised that’s ill-equipped to do the things I want to do.  Flying combines a good deal of faith that in time, things will repair themselves with the knowledge that I can think myself free.  Free from needles, free from chemicals, free from hospitals, physical impairments and pain.  My physical body may well be dying at a rapid pace on a regular basis but it doesn’t mean my spirit has to follow suit.  It can be anywhere it wants to be.

 

Christmas with cancer has been quite different to other Christmases. Socialising in crowded places is off-limits and visiting or receiving visitors is only possible if people are fit and well.  I’m happy in my own company but I never imagined being a hermit and this Christmas is proving unusually reclusive due to the need to avoid germs. Waking on Christmas morning in the knowledge that I’d be back at chemo camp in three days, on steroids again within 48 hours and doing a human pincushion impression several times before the week was through also put a slightly different complexion on things.  It would have been easy to dwell on  these less than festive thoughts but they’d have stolen the spirit of Christmas.  I set them aside, had faith that I could ignore them and went about making it an enjoyable day for the sake of my family.  My mission was accomplished  – they enjoyed it and that’s all I asked, with the help of a little faith.

In spite of this year’s difficulties, having faith that I could overcome adversity and in the abilities of those who care for me has enabled me to jump some significant hurdles while remaining relatively unscathed.

Tomorrow I’ll reflect with justice as my theme.