Monday, 24 August 2015

A Good Week Part 2: A Safe Haven

Where the trains used to run
Everyone should have a special place they can go back to, a place that offers stability and security in the midst of a world where so much is uncertain. For the last 21 years, Station House in Stixwould has been such a place for us. Back in the early '90s, Graham and Val Byers converted their beautiful home into a Guest / Retreat House, where they practise their special gift of hospitality. Our first visit there with a newborn Jono helped us to reorientate ourselves to the adventure of parenthood, and we've being going there ever since. I've been there pregnant, bereaved, joyful, depressed, feeling well and feeling exhausted. I've watched my children love it and its human and animal owners more and more each time they've visited. I've seen Mike relax and leave refreshed every time we go. So a week together there, with the newest Mrs Peatman too, just at this particular point, couldn't have been better.
There really are no neighbours . . .

For a couple of days, while everyone else went out and about, I did very little except sit at the window of our room (on the side of the main house in the picture) writing, dozing and thinking. And one of the things I found myself thinking about was the many people I've met over the years while I've known this view who have helped to prepare me for what this last few months has been all about. As a priest, you get to spend time with a lot of people who are having to get to grips with the reality of illness and the imminent possibility of death, so I'm in quite a privileged position. As I was thinking about those people, and thanking God for them, and remembering their warmth and depth and humour, the empty room was filled and flooded with life. Whatever I am on this journey, it's certainly not alone.

Of the many friends I found myself remembering, there are five women I feel particularly close to whose companionship at this point is crucial Though their deaths range from 2001 to 2015, they were all of a similar age to the age I am now when I knew them; they all died as a result of cancer - some after only months but others after long years of living with it; they all suffered the indignities it brings with strength and humour; they were all able to be bewildered and scared as well as heroic; they all cared far more about what the people who loved them and needed them were going through than about themselves. They all desperately wanted to live. But faith in the creative, loving power of Goodness - the Eternal One to whom Jesus draws us -  gave each of them a context in which to live where death is not the worst thing that can happen. Or the end of the story.

And here, at the window of a disused station house loved into a new and transformed life, they live on.

Sunset over Stixwould 18th August 2015

Saturday, 22 August 2015

A Good Week Part 1: A Close Shave

Before and after

What a good week it's been! A sponsored haircut, a glorious little holiday and some random deep thoughts as a result. At least 3 blog posts worth I think. Let's start with the haircut . . . or in fact, let's start just before the haircut, on the morning of 13th August,  with Ellie picking up her AS results. 6 A grades - with everything else that's been going on, that's not just good, it's insane. Definitely worth a celebratory coffee
Off to Atkinson's . . .

 Then to Jo and Cass's salon, which had generously offered to shear the locks for free. They were also kind enough to supply bottles of champagne, and tolerate a whole crowd of us cluttering up the salon to cheer. The money's still coming in, but with on line and cash donations and gift aid the fund is well over £5,000 now. Amazing! And she looks fantastic into the bargain.

It's  probably not surprising that I don't relish the thought of being photographed at the moment. I've never much liked it, to be honest; and I'm not exactly looking my best these days - even the hat can't cover the effects of the steroids. But if my girl is brave enough to do this. how could I not be proud to pose with her in all my puffed up and balding glory?

This morning, as chance would have it, I had my first glimpse of a book that I'm looking forward to reading when it comes out next month. Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz Weber  has on its cover an extraordinary woman known as Bertie, who looks rather like I feel just at the moment.

Thanks Nadia, for finding God in all the wrong people, and helping them feel beautiful when you do.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Keeping on keeping on

Well, the news from the other side of the assault course is looking pretty positive. The tumours in the brain have not grown in the 3 months since radio surgery. They haven't shrunk either, and it may be in due course that we'll give them another blatting when my system's had time to recover from the first one. But they are stable. There's still some swelling around the larger one, which means I have to be back on the steroids for a bit, but so be it. The really good news, though, is from the lung, where the tumour has shrunk by about 50 % . If there's anything else lurking around thinking of growing in other parts of my body, the Iressa (biological therapy) will be working on it too. So - encouragement to keep taking those tablets. We scan everything again in 3 months' time, and see how the picture's developing.

I guess the task for now will be continuing to establish a new pattern of what this next part of my life is for, and how best to spend the energy I have. It's highly unlikely that I'm ever going to have the strength to work again at anything very physically demanding, so I'm learning to let go of feeling guilty about that, and to work out when my body is telling me I need to stop (usually nausea is my best indicator.) I can still write though, even if it's a lot slower, and I'm trying to keep on with that most days, even if only for a few minutes.  Decoupaging in my impulsive and random way makes me happy, and I'll be attempting to make most of my presents for Christmas this year. Popping in to the children's activities I used to help to lead - like our Holiday Club which started this morning - keeps me feeling in touch without getting over exhausted. Quiet times during these holiday days, just being with the family and the dear friends who drop in so faithfully and make us know we are not alone, are precious.Walking the dog most days makes me feel I've achieved something and saved Mike a job! And the sea is fantastic therapy. I am so thankful to live in such a beautiful place.

Highlight of this coming week will be Thursday, when my brave daughter goes straight from picking up her AS results to have her head shaved for Macmillan's Brave the Shave campaign. watch out for the pictures soon!

So - a bit more keeping on keeping on. And a determination to remember that life is good.