For the newly diagnosed..
Nothing will ever be the same again. That much is certainly true. You will mourn and mourn long and hard for the life that you have lost and that is ok. But there are some things that I would like to tell you – some things that I discovered during my own journey. I have found these things to be true – for me anyway and I would hope that they may help you.
You have joined a club that you never wanted to be a member of. It has probably surprised you just how much is going on in cancer land – much of it positive and hopeful. But really you would rather not have known – not ever – not really. I remember a newly diagnosed friend whispering to me about how annoyed she was about some friends running marathons for her. Because although she knew they were being kind, she didn’t want to be that person that they were being kind to. She didn’t want to be there. She has since run several marathons herself, but at the beginning she couldn’t, not then. She had to accept, as all the diagnosed and those who love them must, that life has changed forever. Yet this change, though so terrible (in the full sense of the word) has so much in it that will be good. You will see things with new eyes. Gratitude will surprise you when you least expect it. Nothing will ever be measured in the same way that it was before. Some of it, and this is difficult to believe now, will be better. It will be richer, stronger and more clear sighted. You will wonder why you ever worried about the things you worried about. You will be taken aback by the amount of love you feel for those you love.
You will learn to be patient but you will be less accepting of religious rubbish. “All things work together for good” is not a trite throw-away line to be delivered by someone who is trying to say the right thing. It is a strong wall to hide behind in times of deep, deep trouble but it is not an easy wall to get to. To learn to say this and mean it comes out of experience, an experience of seeing amazing things happen in deep and dark circumstances. Take the kindness that people offer because you will gain strength from it. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore a supernatural thing. Let people love you, bake pies, do your ironing, take your kids out. This will help practically and somehow, in some deep way, you will actually gain strength from it.
Speaking of the supernatural, I would say, take all the treatment that is offered to you but do not forget the power of God. He does not play odds or percentages. My own survival percentages were very low – I would not get past five years. That was eighteen years ago. Learn to look for him in all your dark circumstances. Now is one of the toughest times. So much time being spent being called into doctors rooms to hear results or sitting on plastic chairs in hospital corridors or waiting in rooms for the curtain to be pulled back as the consultant sweeps in. You think that you will never laugh again – laugh properly – not for the benefit of calming someone who you love. You will though. It will take you by surprise probably. But you will feel joy again. A different kind of joy but joy nonetheless.
The truth is that despite the worst possible diagnosis, there is still a lot of living to be done. It is a different life and everything in it will be measured differently, but it is still there to be lived and you must make sure that you continue to live it.