Friday, 27 March 2015

A Choice

Lots of interesting comments and reaction to the whole subject of the language we use about cancer - thanks to everyone who's shared thoughts either in the blog comments or elsewhere.  Having now listened to the longer World Service programme that Andrew gave us the link for - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01lf8vh - I don't think there's much I can add to the language debate at this stage.  If it has interested you, then that is the thing to have a listen to - fascinating stuff.

Here, wedding excitement is reaching fever pitch - my son's last day as a single man! The house is busy with arrivals, deliveries, people coming and going with errands and jobs to tick off lists. Dear friends are pouring extravagant love into ensuring that everything is as perfect as it can be; that anything I was down to do practically is  not simply covered, but more than covered, with amazing beauty and attention to detail. As the situation around my own health began to unfold - what is it now, 6 weeks ago? - my chief dread was that it would somehow spoil or upstage this precious wedding. But its effect seems to have been quite the reverse. I can't speak for Jono and Amy, or for the rest of the family; I shouldn't assume that it hasn't and isn't costing them an immense amount not to let my illness weigh negatively on things. But I can only say that it doesn't feel as if anything has been upstaged or spoiled. Quite the reverse. Whatever has come into our lives these last few weeks - though I'm certainly not pretending it's a visitor I or anyone in their right minds would choose- seems only to have made the wedding more precious, more joyful, more longed for, more celebratory.

I suppose this is perhaps another way in to the same question I was trying to tease out through asking questions about the language we often leap to when talking about cancer - and more, talking about the way in which cancer or any life threatening illness brings us up against the awareness of our own mortality.   Of course it's natural to react to such a visitor as a terrorist! Of course it's natural to want to have a gun in your hand to point at him, to send him scurrying back out of the door through which he so rudely burst in. Of course the sight of him, the thought of him, is enough to fill you with so much fear that eliminating him is the only thing you can think about. Of course  the first thing we want to do when he appears is fight him - or at the very least, escape from him.

However, for the first few weeks at least there are no guns available, and little choice but to sit down and wait in the terrain into which he has bewilderingly escorted you. But in the waiting, there is a choice. You can either sit paralysed with fear and anger, aware only of a monster threatening to take away everything you know and love. Or you can allow yourself to look at him.

And I have discovered that I want to look at him. I want to assert that this unexpected visitor might actually be something more than simply an aggressor. That this meeting even has gifts to offer, and I want to be open to them. I don't, actually, want to send him away without allowing myself to receive whatever his visit has to bring me. So far. . . in the midst of the shock and the horror and the wanting it all to go away .. . .there has been joy, depth, intensity of awareness, restoration of deep and precious friendships,  a heightened sense of being fully alive,  awe at the revelation of the connectedness that holds us in being, an overwhelming sense of the Love that I know as God. I wouldn't have wanted to miss those things.

After all, what's happening to me is far from unique. It's the one thing we know is universal. We all have to meet this visitor at some point - that's the one certainty we all share. My fragile hope that this is not his final visit to me is still burning, but whatever the outcome of that, he will pay me - and all of us - a final visit at some point. And when he does, the outcome can only go one way. If all I have done is fight against him, then my obituary will be a description of "losing my battle".

Believe me, I have no intentions of losing anything.











24 comments:

  1. All I can say is....amazing,. I wish the whole world could read this message.

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    1. Thank you Bev xxx

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  2. Your outlook on everything that is happening is truly incredible. We wish you an amazing day tomorrow. Watching your child getting married is a wonderful moment, enjoy. Luvs ya loads 😚 xxxxx

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    1. It was the most fantastic day. Hope you're having a wonderful holiday - see you soon xx

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  4. Truly you are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this blog with us. Looking forward to tomorrow :) much love precious lady xxx

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  5. Could I please share this with my human growth and development class at college?
    .......your words speak exactly into what we have been discussing.

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    1. Thanks Claire xx It was so good to see you last Saturday. Yes of course you can share this with anyone - it's helping me to write, so I'm just glad if it's helpful to anyone else too. xx

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  6. even when your facing your own daemons you find time to worry about others and give so much love and support for others as Jono and Amy are about to start on their adventure you still trying to be supportive to so many people including me and what a friend i have found in you and i wish i could emulate you on some dark days but i carnt but even then your bright light brings me into carmer waters to rest thank you for your blog and for being your friendship may god bless and keep you all safe at this busy time

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  7. Such a moving response to your illness Debbie. I am pleased to see that you are fighting it . You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  9. Brave thoughts but so true. I give thanks for your faith, family and friends that support you and give you courage. Many have lived life more fully with real intensity when their visitor made an entrance. Others blissfully go through their dull routine, leaving that reconciliation and words of love unsaid only to lose control of their car or gradually lose that ability to remember and communicate.

    I had just finished ' A slip of the keyboard' the collected non-fiction writings of Terry Pratchett the week before he died. He too railed at the language that was used for cancer. When he was a cub reporter at the coroner's court, cancer victims always died "after a long illness".

    In his Richard Dimbleby lecture, Shaking Hands with Death, he tackles the language around Alzheimers and thanked the Dimbleby family for the invitation and their courage back in December 1965. Richard Dimbleby's death was shocking in 2 ways; the country was not expecting it and that he had died of cancer, a disease whose name was unspoken. Terry felt as soon as the name was spoken that the war on cancer got really started. "Before you can kill the monster you have to say its name."

    Terry in his turn became "Mr Alzheimer's" when he publicly announced his diagnosis.

    Our curate in your days at Whitley, Penny Hughes buried Geoffery last week. She was banned from organising eulogies. He had the whole service planned out down to a Comittal prayer from the depths of the book of Common Prayer. She simply added a breif history to the end of the order of service and the list of the last books by his bed. That list and his service said a lot about Geoffery Tudor Hughes.
    Geoffery was very ill some years back when I assume he shared his plans with Revd. David Wintle at Bagington. Geoffery looked a lot better, earlier this year, when last I saw him supporting Penny as always. Well enough to travel to India where he died. Logistical nightmare, but way to go Geoffery!
    You are in the prayers of many at St James and the Normingtons. (Bob picked up a lot of news from our intercessions when last he played.)

    I am sure you will have a great time at Amy and Jono's wedding. Alison complained that nobody cared what the mother of the groom looked like last year at our John's wedding. But in the photos all I can see is joy!

    Rob McGonigle.

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    1. Lovely to hear from you Rob, and to feel the support of everyone at Whitley. Also to know of the news of Geoffrey's death - will be in touch with Penny. Please pass on our love and thanks to everyone xx

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  10. Another language question. What does it do to your thoughts and feelings if you describe your unwelcome, terrorist visitor as female?

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    1. Good question Steve, and one I found myself thinking about as I was writing. The simple answer a to why 'he' is male is because that's how he has presented himself to my imagination. He has appeared in a few forms and guises over the weeks - initially and strikingly pre diagnosis as a potential dance partner at a masqued ball - but always as male. I might try paying with the idea of 'her' as female and see what it does - but at the moment 'he' is just describing the felt experience. Will be interesting to see whether his gender remains constant or not. I know for St Francis she was 'Sister Death' - not sure what he wrote about her if anything apart from in the famous canticle. Hmmm, off to google in a bit . . .

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    1. Returned with love! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  12. You give me so much food for thought, Debbie, and I love reading the comments of your friends too. I get so lost in the dull routine and miss out on the appreciation of love and beauty around me. But that I had your courage. But that my hope was stronger.
    Tomorrow promises such joy for you all. What wonderful celebration! Much love to Jono and Amy and to you all. Have a glorious day! Xxxx

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  13. Dear Debs,
    It's been such an inspiration reading your thoughts and reflections in the blog over the last few days as we share this journey with you. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in this way. We appreciate it! We've been holding you all especially close in our prayers this week as you prepare for the wedding tomorrow. We hope the day is full of love and joy for all involved.
    With lots of love. Terry & Debbie xxxxxx

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    1. so good to hear from you - thank you for this. Lots of love to all the Joyces xxxx

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  14. Like you Debbie, I abhor the old cliché of 'battling' cancer, and I applaud your pacifist stance. May I add a different perspective? In days of yore battles were ideologically pretty straightforward affairs - someone has taken a bit of territory I regard as 'mine' and I will fight to get it back, plus take a bit more if I can for good luck, and wreak retribution upon anyone who appears to get in my way. Fast forward to the C20th/21st and the emphasis has changed, and I think this has a relevance to the image of cancer as the enemy. Warfare now is the last resort when negotiation has broken down, and troops are increasingly used in a peacekeeping role, their main job being to defend and protect rather than aggressively attack. By sharing terrain with this unexpected visitor, beginning to know, respect and understand him you are perhaps opening your own negotiations. I am not sure that in modern warfare battles are 'won' or 'lost' any more - look at Ukraine, Afghanistan, etc, but populations gradually reach a new consensus. We walk forward into the future trusting that this is a better way to resolve conflict.

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    1. Thank you Jane - yes, this resonates exactly with what I feel. Negotiation, attempting to learn and understand, working to solve and resolve . . . these all feel much more positive and energising to me than the idea of fighting. And there is an enormous strengthabout it, too. Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Ghandi - these seem much more positive role models to me than military ones at the moment.

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  15. You continue to amaze and humble me, Debbie. You are a blessing to those who have the privelege of knowing you. A woman of God.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading, and for your love and support. Means a huge amount xx

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