Monday, 16 May 2011

Let's not do it yet, please

Oh God. It's probably going to be alright.

I know that statistically it's more likely to be alright than not alright, but I'm anxious nonetheless. Who wouldn't be?

I went to the GP last week with a lump in my breast and he examined it and told me that he was unable to reassure me.  I haven't detected any reassurance from you either, unless you count the warmth and concern and love of several wonderful people that you have put round me; so I suppose you have indeed reassured me, but you haven't said anything clear about whether or not this lump is cancer.

I feel like I might come out in a cold sweat just talking about it. My Grandma, if ever she needed to say the word 'cancer' in conversation, used to mouth it silently as if speaking the word might bring about something horrific.  Grandma was very superstitious. I'm not, but I still find that I don't want to talk about it very much. Still, I talk about everything else, so why choose right now to shut up, hey?

It's probably going to be alright, isn't it?  80% of breast lumps turn out to be non-life-threatening. The other 20% turn out to be life-threatening. Of those 20% of unfortunate people, I've read statistics about one, five and ten year survival rates, but I can't take it in. Why are there no statistics stretching further than ten years from diagnosis and treatment? I don't want to think that I might have ten years left; that's nowhere near enough. I was expecting thirty or forty more. 

I'm frightened. Last week I saw the doctor, did a load of errands, fetched the girls from school and nursery, spoke to people, wrapped presents and packed for our lovely weekend away and generally got on with things, but there was one evening where I sat at my computer where I'd been googling 'breast lumps' and 'biopsy' and so on and suddenly I was engulfed in a wave of fear. It was fear, not anxiety, not sadness - I was terrified.  It lasted about twenty minutes and I was cold and I cried and I trembled. I planned my funeral (and saved it as a Word document). Over and over in my head I kept hearing that I might not see my precious girls grow up. It was awful. And all unnecessary if next Thursday goes fine and the doctor sees straight away that this lump is nothing sinister. Of course, it's probably going to be alright, isn't it?

We went to Southwold for a weekend by the sea to celebrate my Mum's 80th birthday and it was lovely. We met up with the other half of the family there and we all paddled together and skimmed stones and drank coffee and ate fish and chips and walked and laughed in the sun and it was so easy to put all my worries on one side because it was a weekend away from reality. It really felt unreal. Coming home has been a crash landing and I'm bruised and hurting and I can't think straight. I can't be sensible. My imagination is in overdrive.

I feel as if I'm sinking. When I was away I slept fine (when the children let me) and last night after we got back I spent most of the night awake. All I can think about is this lump; I keep touching it, or sitting with my arms crossed in front of me as if I'm trying to protect myself. I'm finding it hard to hold a thought in my head; they sort of slither away and my conversation is more distracted than ever. The end of a sentence seems to slip out of reach while I'm still trying to concentrate on the beginning. And all because the doctor said he couldn't reassure me.

'It is a worry,' he said.
'I'm going to refer you as a matter of urgency,' he said.
'I have referred people before when it looked bad and it turned out to be nothing...'

I didn't hear the 'turned out to be nothing' bit, just the 'when it looked bad' bit. So it looks bad, then?

But you know that, you were there.  I know you are close to me because you've said you will be and you don't break promises.  Forgive me, Lord, if I'm finding it hard to formulate prayers. I'm not thinking very straight. Not that my prayers are usually particularly eloquent, but at the moment they are very staccato and consist largely of, 'Let it be alright, please'. 

I keep looking it up on the internet or in books. I keep googling different words and seeing what the statistics say. I always do this; it's how you made me. I need to learn all I can about everything. You've seen my bookshelves. Books on getting pregnant, books on pregnancy, books on birth, books on babies, books on feeding, books on childhood, books on behaviour, books on schools, books on everything I've ever needed to learn about. As if knowledge and understanding can stop bad things from happening or make them better when they do happen.  Ha.

Does it help? Yes.
Does it solve the problem? No.
Am I more prepared? Yes.
Am I reassured? No

I've said on several occasions that sometimes I get a glimpse of the wonder of heaven; and I know that an eternity with you is going to be amazing. Part of me longs for that; and those times when I do find my eyes opened to see and taste it for a moment, my soul sings. But not yet. I thought I would look after my girls, and be the best wife I can be, and take care of my Mum, and turn more into who you want me to be, to do something for you here, first.  I haven't even got to the bottom of what's going on with Katy's lump yet! I've got to get my littlest girl through surgery first, please, Lord. This is a bad time for me, Lord. There's too much. I don't want to do it now. 

I don't want to do it at all, please. Early on this year when I became so aware of your working in my life I wondered exactly what it was you were preparing me for - to begin with I thought there was something specific - a job, a role, a mission.  More recently I thought maybe you were healing me, changing me, developing me to be all I could be. I didn't really think that I might die any time soon.

But it might be nothing. Probably it will be alright. Won't it?

I have a two hour appointment at the hospital on Thursday. A biopsy and a scan or two. I don't know when I'll get results. I'm hoping I won't have to wait over the weekend. I'd like whoever does the scan to take one look and say, 'Ah, this is nothing! Don't you be worrying about it one little bit,' if that's ok. Something so obviously not sinister that I am reassured and all is well.

Lord, please take this away. Don't leave it hanging over me. For someone with a chronic anxiety problem the spectre of cancer is looming very large. I don't want to be ill. What will happen if I do have something serious?  How can Bryan do his work if I am sick enough to be unable to take care of Elizabeth and Katy? Mum can't do it all. How can I keep getting up in the night and keep going all the time if I'm having horrible treatment for something? Even if it all turns out alright and they cut the lump out and it hasn't spread and they discharge me from hospital, there's always the possibility that it might come back to finish the job. For someone like me, how do I live like that? Is it some way of getting my attention? Is this some lesson in coping with worry? If I have to live my life under the shadow of recurrent terminal illness, I will need to learn to deal with it, won't I? 

But you don't work like that, do you? You don't send misery to teach people lessons. So can I speculate that you might not choose to take it away so that I can prevail against the odds and turn more closely to you? Is that you bringing good out of a bad situation? If so, I'm not liking that set up, if you don't mind. If it's all the same to you I'd rather bring glory to you by a miraculous healing, or by means other than life-threatening illness. I can do something with my life without cancer, please.

It'll probably be alright, won't it?  Everyone has a story of someone they know who had a biopsy and it turned out to be nothing bad. So it probably will be the same for me, won't it? 

I have plans, Lord. I know you have a plan for me, too, but I thought we were sort of thinking the same way on this one. My little girls are four and five, Father God. I have a long way to go with them. Please don't take them away from me. Don't take me away from them. Don't hurt them. Don't allow them to be hurt. I know I'd be ok; I'd be with you and there would be no more tears, but I don't right now understand how heaven could be so much better than cuddling my girls so close that we disappear into each other, their arms round my neck, inhaling their beautiful scent and hearing them say 'I love you Mummy'.

The idea that I might miss decades of that breaks my heart. I can't leave them. I can't. Please don't make me. I can't watch from on high as they grow up and do exams and go to university and get married and be happy and sad and afraid and celebrate and grieve and work and have children of their own without me. Please please don't let that happen. I love them so much. 

And Bryan? My Mum? My friends? I showed my funeral plan to a friend today and she read it and said something like, 'Yeah, it's good, but let's not do it yet, hey?' That's about it. 

I'm sure it'll be nothing, won't it?  Please let this lump be benign. Please don't let it be cancer. I don't want to have to come to terms with serious illness. I don't want to choose treatments and make arrangements to step out of life for a while because the medicine is worse than the disease. I don't want to lose my hair. I don't want to lose part of me. I don't want to get a season ticket for the hospital.  I don't want to be a statistic. I don't want to die. One day, I want to be with you. I do. 

But Lord, let's not do it yet, hey? 


  1. Oh Helen- I'm praying for you and with your permission will add you to the colleges prayer list ( I've already got Katy on the list as I was sure you'd be happy for her to be.)

  2. Thanks Janet. Yes please.
    Tomorrow is Katy's next scan where I hope they'll confirm my suspicion that her bump is smaller. Then Thursday midday is the clinic appt where I hope they'll cancel/postpone surgery!
    My thing is at 3pm where I'm hoping...
    Thanks again.


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