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!