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The cancer love affair.

It seems like cancer has taken a liking to my family. Last year my dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer, his second run with the charming disease. Last week we found out that my mum has breast cancer; exactly 12 months on from when my dad had cancer. After my dad had his surgery and made his recovery I thought we were done with cancer but apparently not. We are now having to live through it again with my mum. 

Last year I took up the blog as a way of talking about the cancer journey from a family members perspective and to be honest it was really helpful as I was able to put my thoughts down without objection to what I was expressing. I also had a lot of people contact me to tell me the blog encouraged them and helped them to deal with the cancer that had affected their life at some point. I had a think about it and decided that I would take it up again this time round for the same reasons. It helps me. Last year I learned that I needed to stop internalising everything and I recognise that I am at risk of doing that again, so the blog will be my way of holding myself accountable to ensure I don’t hold everything in and explode later (been there; it’s not pretty). Before I begin I will say that I am planning on being raw and won’t be holding back on how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking and therefore am apologising in advance if some things are uncomfortable. So here goes….

Mum found a lump in her breast a few weeks ago and after having a chat about it, I convinced her to get it checked out. The doctor was confident there was nothing there but referred her on anyway. The results came back with a positive identification of the lump, so they started to treat things more urgently and booked her in for a biopsy. At this point I wasn’t too concerned because mum was complaining that the lump was hurting her, which I figured it meant she may have a cist or some sort of infection. Maybe I’m a little niaive about breast cancer but I’ve never heard anyone complain of pain prior to treatment, so I took that as a sign that it wasn’t cancer. In anycase, the biopsy was done and we just had to wait for the result. If I’m honest I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was going to be cancer but I desperately tried to ignore it because my mum can’t have cancer. That can’t happen to my mum. I’m not saying that anyone else deserves to have it, but I can’t deal with my mum having it. Turns out I had no choice because the doctors confirmed on Wednesday the 2nd of July that it was cancer. 

The day we found out, dad was at work and both my brother and I were at the Hillsong conference. I got a phone call from the medical centre asking me to advise mum to go see them. I didn’t tell her because I knew it would be bad so I wanted to wait til I got home to tell her, however they had also called dad, who called mum straight away and told her to go to the doctor. My heart aches at the fact that my mum was in the suregry alone when they told her she had breast cancer, no one should be alone when they hear that news. But that’s how it unfolded. When I called my mum after she left the surgery her first words to me were “You need to trust Jesus and trust that everything will be fine” and that confirmed what I already knew; cancer had hit us again. In hindsight, it was a blessing that I wasn’t with mum because after I hung up the phone with her, I just broke, so I probably wouldn’t have been much support to her at the clinic. When dad got diagnosed I was with him at the specialist and I just went into autopilot and was able to hold my emotions and thoughts in check while I dealt with mum and dad’s reaction, but this time was different. Anyone that knows me well knows my mum is my world! She is my best friend, my advocate, my go-to woman for everything and this shattered me. My brother asked me if I was going to go home and see her and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t go and face her because I felt my whole world was crumbling around me and my reaction was “Again? God, are we going through this again? Really?” I just fell apart. My brother went home to see mum and I just walked around in a daze silently crying. I made a few phone calls and just tried to get on with things, which didn’t work out too well because I was extremely disorientated and didn’t know where I was going (considering I was at a conference you would think I would be okay, but at the best of times I get easily lost and need directions, and this was no exception). I wandered back and forth trying to find where I was going, but when I got there, I just sat there staring at the floor. My pastor called me and offered to come and pick me up but I just couldn’t do it. I needed to be alone to process this and make some sense of it. When I left to go to the next session, I found myself standing and staring at everyone around me. I must have looked a treat because I was getting some really odd looks from people. 

But the day progressed and I decided that I needed to avoid my mum that day because I wouldn’t be able to see her and not breakdown. I wasn’t being negative and assuming the worst, I was just in shock and trying to process it, but I didn’t want her to think I was giving her a death sentence. I remember walking into the arena to wait for the night service to start and thinking “I’m in an arena with almost 17,000 people and I’ve never felt so alone”. The service starts and the worship starts and I’m just standing there crying out to God to help me through this. I felt like my heart was about to explode out of my chest and I thought I was going to have a heart attack because my whole chest just ached. But the most beautiful thing happened; 3 girls, total strangers, asked me if I wanted them to pray for me. I said yes and told them what happened and these 3 girls from Singapore all huddled around me in a hug and started praying, then they just hugged me while I cried. Right before I left they asked me if they could pray for me again, which was super sweet and made me feel a little better. 

Because I had decided that I couldn’t face mum, when one of my best friends offered to pick me up after the conference and take me for coffee I said yes. Dad had called to tell me he was taking mum out to dinner so it worked out well. We didn’t talk much about mum, just sat chatting over coffee and having some laughs…it helped me to get my head together and also helped me to buy some time before going home. I didn’y mum when I got home but the next day I was in a calmer and better headspace. I had my meltdown and was now thinking clearly and ready to face what comes next. Mum and I have talked about it in detail and she is in really good spirits about the whole thing. Things are moving along quickly and she has already been booked in for another biopsy and surgery within the next 3 weeks. It’s sunk in for her now and she’s looked at me a few times and said “I’ve got cancer don’t I?”, which is heart breaking but also normal. I know she will have her ups and downs but I’m able to deal with them now and am able to stand with her while she goes through it. 

The love I have had from the people around me is amazing. My friends have literally changed plans or stopped what they were doing to come and meet me and support me. I will be forever grateful to those that have stood with me over the last few days. But now the waiting game begins. We are positive we can beat this, but we have a couple of weeks to wait until the biopsy to find out if the cancer has spread, so the challenge is to keep the thoughts at bay. I am, as always, leaning on my faith in Jesus to see us through this. I know there will be ups and downs, but I’m going to keep believing the outcome will be successful.

I’m going to use this blog as a way of emptying my head. If anyone thinks what I post can help anyone else, please share it on your pages. 

Be blessed people!

Lays xx

It’s as if nothing ever happened.

Dad has gone back to work this week. That spins me out. It’s been just under 2 months since his surgery and his recovery has gone from strength to strength. The doctor has given him the all clear and his dietian has also given him the all clear. He saw her last week and she has basically told him that he can eat whatever he wants, the only conditions that stay for now are that he can’t drink alcohol and that he can’t drink any liquids with food. Other than that, he can go back to eating whatever foods he likes, which dad has done with great enthusiasm. The blessing in all of this is that dad’s stomach is now dictating how much he can eat, not dad, as he has always had a big appetite. He is still losing weight but he is looking so much healthier, and younger. If you didn’t know about the surgery, you would never guess that dad had suregry. He has more energy than before and is more positive than before (only just, but it’s still an improvement). 

For the rest of us, life is back to normal. I’m focusing on my studies and fitness more now as I don’t have to drive dad around anymore. He is driving again so he takes himself where he needs to go and most times he will drive mum around as well, which has freed me up. He isn’t back at work full time but a few days a week, which he is happy about as he is getting bored at home. I look back on the last few months and it’s just a blur…so much happened in such a small space of time. I’m humbled by God’s favor on our family and am blessed beyond belief with the people that God has put in my life. So many people rallied around us to help us through this and without my friends, I would have gone a little insane (more than I already am). One of the biggest things I took from this is that it’s ok, and sometimes neccessary, to ask for help. While I didn’t ask for too much help (that’s not in my nature however I’m trying to change that), whenever I needed someone or something, people stepped up. This whole experience also reinforced my belief that you need to surround yourself with people that will support you and people that will be positive. There is enough doomsayers in this world, when you are going through a difficult time, you don’t need people to remind you of how difficult it is. My faith is what carried me through and got me through the difficult hours, however having friends that rallied around me to remind me of how strong we all are, of how strong dad was and the fact that they would go through this with me was so uplifting. People that I don’t see regularly would message and email me to provide support from a distance and it touched my heart. To all those that called, visited, messaged me weekly, emailed, prayed and kept me and my family in their hearts – THANK YOU. God bless you abundantly and I pray that I can one day repay you back. 

This is the last blog about dad’s journey as he has gotten through the cancer and is now back to living his normal life. We are all back to living our normal lives and I’ve never been more thankful for it. Not sure what is next on the blog but I will be back at some point to share about another area of my life. Until next time…

God bless xxxx

Almost smooth sailing..

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog and there are a few reasons for that. Firstly, things have been a little chaotic and as a result, my emotions and thoughts have been all over the place. I’ve been tired and run down and didn’t want to vent any of that through my blog as I may say things that are a little harsh. Secondly, I’ve actually been really, really busy. Dad still isn’t driving so I’m on standby as the taxi driver for mum and dad. I didn’t think I would be this busy being at home but we’ve gotten through the worst of it.

In terms of dad’s recovery, it’s going well. Dad has had to adjust to a few things, which is taking some time. For example, he can’t eat and drink at the same time; he needs to make sure there is a 30 min gap between eating and drinking. Considering he’s never had to worry about that before, it’s a tough habit to break and unfortunately, he hasn’t done too well with it. He also is eating a little more than he should. He ate too much the other day and ended up on the verge of tears most of the night due to how bad his pain was. We ended up giving him painkillers but they didn’t do much, despite the fact they were morphine laced. In a way I’m glad it happened, as experience is a better teacher than instructions, so hopefully the pain will be a reminder for him. He is also struggling with an ongoing infection to his feeding tube. He’s had the tube in since surgery and it’s gotten badly infected, so we are seeing his surgeon tomorrow and he will let us know what they need to do to fix it. Infections are pretty common to my understanding but they mentioned he may need to go back to hospital to get it sorted, so we’ll have to wait and see. Dad is freaking out a little about it but unfortunately there isn’t much he can do about it at the moment. 

One of the biggest challenges is that both mum and dad are going a little stir crazy. Dad is struggling to be at home so much as he’s always worked and mum is not used to having dad home so much, so she’s missing her space. Also, dad can’t drive, so it’s not like he can just up and go somewhere, he has to either go for a walk or ask me to take him. I don’t mind driving them around, but I know the frustration of not being able to get into your own car and leave when you want to. Hopefully in a few weeks he will be able to start driving but in the meantime, I’ve been driving them around and taking them out to lunch or coffee. I took them for breakfast yesterday and then to the movies, which was fun. I’m enjoying spending time with them however it’s getting very expensive as I’m paying for most of our outings, as well as paying for the groceries for home. But it won’t be for too long so things will settle soon.

As for me, I’m keen to focus on my studies now. I haven’t had much time to focus on study, which has been a little frustrating considering I left work so that I could be a full time student. I’ve been able to sit down for a couple of hours and read my notes this week, so hopefully now I can get in a few more hours each day to study and get back into the swing of things.

God bless xx

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Dads first coffee!

Dads first coffee!

Dad is a major coffee lover, so it was a mini celebration on his part today when he was able to have his first coffee since surgery! His first sip bought a big smile to his face, then he launched into a big spiel about the coffee. It’s the little things that bring joy x

Dad is home!

Dad is home! When he told us a couple of days ago that the doctors said he could go home, I was a little reluctant to take his word for it because I knew he was keen to go home and chances are he would have begged the doctors to let him go. Last time dad was in hospital with kidney issues, they released him early because ‘he strongly insisted he was fine and wanted to go home’, that’s what was written on his report. In any case, they gave him the go ahead and he is now happily sitting on the couch watching The Simpsons. He is very happy to be home while I’m nervous that he’s home because I know he’s going to be a little difficult. Dad and I have a chat last night about the food he should and shouldn’t be eating and he assured me that he would follow all the instructions they have given him.  He needs to be careful to only eat soft foods for the first few weeks so what does he snack on when he gets home – popcorn. Yes, popcorn. I’ve read and re-read the instructions they gave him and haven spoken to him at length about it, but I just don’t think he’s taking it all in.

In any case, it’s good to have him home. He’s lost weight already just from the surgery, so I can imagine how much weight he will lose over the next few months due to the lack of food he’ll be taking in. Looking at him, you don’t notice it too much until you look at his face. Very noticeable in the face but the more weight he looses the better. He’s been on the tubby side for a while and as a result has type 2 diabetes, cholesterol problems, heart disease, so this will help him to get healthy and hopefully rid him of some of the diabetes and cholesterol issues. One of the blessings of him getting cancer and having the surgery is that it’s forcing him to be healthier. Dad comes from a family of big eaters and all four of us in my family are big eaters and have struggled with being a little heavy at some point, so I understand how hard it can be to drop some kilos. The fortunate thing in this case is that dad has essentially had an extreme gastric banding, so his appetite will start to get smaller, meaning he will eat less and get healthier by default. Bring it on!

 On a slightly more selfish note, no more driving back and forth to the hospital! No more driving around Liverpool hospital trying to find a parking spot. While I’m going to have to drive dad around to his appointments, at least I’m going to have some time to focus on things I need to do. No more siting in the hospital listening to sick people scream, cry or vomit. I spent the other night trying to block out the blood curdling screams of one of the patients. No more hospital smell. No more sitting in uncomfortable chairs. No. More. Hospital!!! WOOOHOO!

God Bless xx

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This is starting to take its toll

This is starting to take its toll

We’ve been coming to the hospital daily since dad got admitted, and on some days I’ve been coming up twice a day to make sure dad isn’t lonely because too much time alone makes dad a cranky pants! From the onset I told mum that I would only be bringing her up once a day so that she doesn’t get worn out. She argued she wouldn’t but she’s reached a point where she is, as the picture shows. Dad got up to go for a walk and mum jumped into bed and went to sleep…at 6pm. She’s exhausted and trying not to show it but tonight she just couldn’t help it poor love. Dad will hopefully be coming home next week at some point so she will have time to settle and get some rest. Until then, I’m going to have to keep my eye on her and make sure they don’t wheel her away thinking she’s a patient!

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Food fit for a king!

Food fit for a king!

They have started to feed da orally, which is very exciting because it means they are taking his new stomach for a test run. Came in tonight to find a small bowl of clear soup, jello and some juice on dads table, but by my reaction you would think I came in to find steak on a diamond plate. Dad was pleased a punch that they fed him orally today and its lifted his spirits drastically. Next steps are for dad to get scans and X-rays to make sure that they food is traveling down the right path and if they don’t find any leaks, they will look to send him home. Woo! Grateful for all that God has done for dad and thankful for all that He will do in the future. God is good!