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Posts Tagged ‘Breast cancer’

This is it – my last post on the blog.

On this day a year ago I was told I had breast cancer. Today I begin a new year – my journey beyond breast cancer.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I will miss our cyber-friendship. Please keep in touch.

My blog stays open. You can leave comments and contact me through it.

To those who join the breast cancer path after me and find this blog, I offer my warmest good wishes.

I close with the words and music that have filled my head and my home for the past week – the focus of my hope and my future . . .

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

King of Kings, Majesty

God of Heaven, living in me

Gentle Saviour, closest friend

Strong deliverer, beginning and end

All within me falls at your throne

Your Majesty I can but bow, I lay my all before you now

In royal robes I don’t deserve, I live to serve your majesty.


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Making an obstacle an opportunity

This picture captures a moment when I counted my blessings.

My journey through treatment for breast cancer is about so much more than what is happening to my body. The very many obstacles of my treatment create opportunities for deep growth and personal development.

I started this blog quoting Lance Armstrong in his book It’s Not About The Bike. His mother’s words to him to make an obstacle an opportunity helped him to believe he could survive anything – even testicular cancer.

His second book, Every Second Counts, recounts his post-cancer perspective on life. Every second counts as he returns to training for the Tour de France, and also as he recognises how precious and fragile life itself is.

Every moment is significant.

Nothing is wasted.

Lance found that ‘the experience of suffering is like the experience of exploring, of finding something unexpected and revelatory. When you find the outermost thresholds of pain, or fear, or uncertainty, what you experience afterwards is an expansive feeling, a widening of your capabilities.’ (p222)

I am listening to a series of podcast from Mosaic called Reality Check. The talks cover topics such as Making Your Life Count, Is This All There Is? Eternity in Our Hearts. You can download the podcasts here.

The speaker, Erwin McManus, talks about digging deep to find beauty in tragedy.

When we step back and see our situation differently, taking the perspective of eternity, our vision and understanding expands. We begin to glimpse an interconnectedness.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

Every experience and every second counts.

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Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

We can recover.

The sun rises every morning and one day follows another.

We can be confident in that.

And as time moves forward, so things change.

Slowly at first, imperceptibly, until we gradually realise that we are changing too.

And hope appears on the horizon.

Norman Wright outlines 3 stages of recovery:

  • The Thinking Stage: This is when you face the facts. You put the pieces of your jig-saw puzzle together to try to make sense of the picture. You go over what has happened in minute detail, alone and with friends. You are a detached observer rather than an emotional participant. For me this was hours and hours searching the internet to learn all I could about breast cancer. I wanted to know every detail and I wanted to understand the numbers and the risks.
  • The Emotional Stage: This is when you feel the pain. Your emotions well up from deep within you and spill out in a stream, a river, a waterfall. There will be anger, anxiety, grief, fear, sadness. For me this was a constant leaking. I cried almost every day, many times a day, for three months. Tears welled up as I recognised the layers of consequences of what was happening to me. I stopped crying when I started the blog.
  • The Stage of Mastery: At the beginning you cannot believe this stage will happen but it does. Your perspective changes, you find value in your experience. You have learned things you could not have learned in any other way. You become a survivor rather than a victim, taking control of the direction of your life again. Your outer journey may still be very challenging, but you have found a strength for the inner journey which transforms your experience. Laughter can reappear, with all its healing power.

The stages vary in length for each person, and they can overlap.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

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Scary – isn’t it?

A whole new horizon – and no markers in the sand to say ‘THIS WAY’

This is how I feel as I begin my journey beyond breast cancer.

And yet there is warmth in the sun and the breath of life, and boy does it feel good.

I am thankful to be alive.

6th October marks the anniversary of the day my life changed when I was told I had breast cancer. This is my week of transition when I step off the bridge.

Please come with me on this new journey.

I look back at the things we did before my year of breast cancer treatment. We had workshops on Spiritual Journalling, Touching the Edge of His Cloak, Listening to God’s Heartbeat. We joined the Benedictine Monks for retreats, and we spent a season Listening to God’s Heartbeat.

And now we can also look back on a long slow year exploring a journey with God – making breast cancer an opportunity to get to know God better.

I would like to keep learning and keep sharing – and to do this I value your help.

We have a Celebration on 16th October. BC and I are thrilled at your enthusiastic response. Please let us know if you have missed an invitation and would like to come.

And after the party, I want to build again on the foundations we laid. I value your feedback on two questions:

  • FIRST – I would like to run another WORKSHOP or RETREAT in the New Year? Are you interested to join me, and if so, what topic would you like?
  • SECOND – I would like to start another blog. This would be about what it means to have life to the full: taking John 10:10 and exploring what that means in our lives day by day.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full

Please let me know what you think. You can comment in the usual way by clicking on the comments tag at the end.  Or you can email me directly.  The next post tells you how to do that.

And about the new header to my blog. I took this photo after one of my early morning radiotherapy treatments. Sitting in the peace of a summer morning, I recognised how much the obstacle of treatment had become an opportunity to listen to God. What do you think – do you like it or did you prefer the orchids?

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Do you know what is on my mind?

Of course you don’t – unless you can read my mind.

And you can’t, any more than I can read yours.

That is why we need to find a way to COMMUNICATE that works between us.

As I struggle to come to terms with having breast cancer I have noticed you struggling too.

You want to know what is happening to me, what I am thinking and feeling, and what you can do to support me.

But how can you know unless I tell you?

And so I recognise I have a role to play in helping you to help me.

This blog has been my way of keeping in touch. Bit by bit I have learned the value of being open. And I really value the way so many have engaged with me through the blog.

So my advice to anyone who finds themselves going through some form of trauma or loss is not to isolate yourself. Find some way of keeping in touch with family and friends that works for you. Give out as much information as you feel comfortable to share, and be honest.

Make it as easy as you can for others to help you.

And always recognise that those who reach out to help you, will be dealing with their own problems at the same time. Maybe you can find strength and comfort by giving help as well as receiving it.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ

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I didn’t think I struggled with denial – but I was wrong.

The truth is I am still not sure I have come to terms with having breast cancer. Writing about the stages of grief has helped me recognise some of my own struggles.

The astute among you might have recognised my reluctance to put breast cancer anywhere in the headings of this blog.

I didn’t want to become a woman who has breast cancer.

I didn’t want you all to look at me and see breast cancer instead of seeing ME.

I didn’t want to cause my family any anxiety.

I didn’t want to put a black mark on our family history for my daughter and my grand-daughters.

I didn’t want my life to change.

And so the easiest thing to do was to hide from the layers of loss.

But one by one the layers peel away and a new reality settles.

And I can bear the truth.

There is another truth; I didn’t think I struggled with anger – but I was wrong.

Last week a friend sent me her newsletter full of information about all of her activities and achievements. My mind wandered to explore what a tragedy it would be if she was diagnosed with breast cancer . . . and then it hit me.

TRAGEDY! . . . of course!

And the layers of loss washed over me all together –  that breast cancer has entered my world. My family is anxious for me, and my life has changed.

Anger rumbled inside me.

Today, 9 months since starting the blog, with 150 posts already published, I changed the heading of the blog and added breast cancer right at the top.

Making an obstacle an opportunity – Abigail’s breast cancer blog.

Breast cancer is the underlying driver for the blog. It is an obstacle in my path. Making it an opportunity is my challenge.

I have watched the words in the tag box in the margin grow and change over the months. They reflect what I am blogging about. I kept hoping that the words breast cancer would get smaller and smaller – but instead they grew bigger week by week.

And yet the encouraging thing is that other words like prayer, knowing God, happiness, soul-training and transformation grow to match them – and that is what keeps me going.

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How can I not speak about grief?

This picture says a lot about my journey – especially the baseball cap. And as I look at it I can revisit the feelings that it expresses.

But sorrow, however, turns out not to be a state but a process

. . . and C.S. Lewis is right. Each day is different from the one before, and we can be thankful for that.

We are told there are five stages of grief or loss

Denial  Anger  Bargaining  Depression  Acceptance

The experience does not come with a map or directions. We live it day by day with all the confusion, exhaustion and blurred vision that comes with it.

Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape

Yesterday I read C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Far from being a morose experience I found it to be encouraging.

We all experience grief. Knowing it is a process, not a state, gives it movement. And movement means change is possible.

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