HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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Cancer and strawberry milkshakes!

So, Saturday 11 April was a pretty big day for me. I had meant to write a few thoughts about it on the actual day, but in the morning I walked 14.5 miles (23.5 kms) as part of my training for the Moonwalk marathon that I am doing next month, and it just about finished me off! I was barely able to have a decent conversation for the rest of the day let alone write something vaguely coherent!

But today, a few days on, my boy is back at nursery and I have a moment on this sunny Tuesday morning to reflect on this milestone

11 April was my cancerversary! (Yes, that it a real word! Well it is in my book!) It was my third cancerversary. Three years since the language of hospitals and treatment and prognosis stats entered my vocabulary and my everyday conversations. Three years since my normal changed beyond all recognition.

I always feel a little apprehensive as cancer milestones approach as sometimes I can be surprised and even completely blindsided by the intensity of my own emotions. How is this day really going to feel? How much of a big deal should I make of it? Should I mourn for what is lost? Should I dance that I am still alive? What is the appropriate response?

Despite my anticipation of the event lurking over me in the weeks before, in the end, the day was fairly low key. Epic walk in the morning (during which I got completely drenched in the rain), riverside pub trip in the afternoon with Some of Joel’s family and then an early dinner with my boys in a local diner.

We celebrated that I was still alive by sharing a strawberry milkshake!

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There were no tears and surprisingly no reminiscing. No rehashing of how it all felt on 11 April 2012. Rather there was plenty of laughing and chatting and answering of my little one’s questions… “Mummy, why does this restaurant have windows?”, “Who are those people Mummy?”, “I like Tyrannosaurus Rex’s! Which is your favourite dinosaur, Mummy?”

Joel did ask me if I wanted to talk about it, but I said no. I didn’t need to relive the trauma. It didn’t feel necessary or right. Rather, I just wanted to celebrate life! I just wanted to be normal.

The day before my cancerversary I was aimlessly scrolling through Facebook when I saw this quotation image:

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It really struck me. It is the message of Easter. But also, it spoke straight to my heart about the hope that has been restored to me through Christ. Through him, I am a resurrection person. I am part of the new life of the Easter story. Even though there have been places of huge pain and difficulty, hope can still rise up again.

Hope does and has risen in me.

I clicked on the link attached to the quotation and began to read the article. As I did this next quotation image similarly hit me straight between the eyes:

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Something deep in my Spirit said, “Yes!”

Because I am a resurrection person, because I know new life, because my hope has risen from the ashes, hosanna is my song. Thanksgiving is my song. Joy is my song!

So there it is! My third cancerversary has passed. It didn’t floor me. I was able to stand with my head held high and look to the future with hope, standing strong on the new life that Easter promises. What a gift!


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Farewell Kara Tippetts

Yesterday, this world lost a beautiful soul. Her name was Kara Tippetts. She was 38 years old.

I didn’t know Kara. We had never met. She lived on the other side of the pond, in Colorado, USA. Although I didn’t know her she allowed me into her world through her beautiful blog, Mundane Faithfulness. I first encountered her writing late last year when she wrote an open letter to Brittany Maynard, the young lady who chose to end her life due to a terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

I started reading Kara’s blog regularly, and despite our thoughts on suffering being a little different, over and over again I found myself moved, encouraged and challenged. Even the blog’s title spoke straight to my heart as through my own cancer journey I found myself valuing faithfulness more and more as even when I had nothing to give, I could be faithful with what I had. I could be faithful in the mundane parts of life. This was all that I could offer.

Through the blog and a few short videos I watched Kara come to terms with the fact that she was dying with amazing dignity and grace and it was a privilege to witness this from a distance.

I think that one of the reasons that Kara’s life captivated me so was that, other than geography, many of our circumstances were really similar… We were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, both mums of young children, both married to pastors with a heart for church planting, both desperate to stay on Earth… not afraid to die, but not ready to leave either… Kara described how she felt about dying as feeling like a little girl at a party whose Dad had come to get her early. She was so upset about it as she just wasn’t ready to leave. It was too soon…

And so today my heart aches. Why is it that I am well and thriving and she has left this world? Why is it that tomorrow I get to celebrate another birthday but she won’t get to celebrate again? Why is it that tomorrow I get to cuddle my baby and walk hand in hand with my guy and she doesn’t anymore?

I don’t know.

I don’t know why she was taken so soon and I was given more time.

I will never know.

But, I am so thankful for the life she had. She lived it well. It was so evident that it was full of love, friendship, grace, forgiveness, peace and kindness. She ran the race well and was faithful to the end.

Yet again, I am reminded that life is short and life is precious. As I enter my 33rd year I rejoice in growing a little older as it means I am still here! I am still at the party. This year, more than ever I choose to live my life well.

Farewell, Kara Tippetts. You blessed more people than you will ever know.


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February joy

Where did January go? I can’t believe it is already February and I have yet to put pen to paper! I love February, in spite of its biting cold and the feeling of never ending winter. I love February because it is the month of my boy’s birthday!

This time next week my big boy is turning three. Hooray!!

He is so excited! He is having a little fireman party which he is thrilled about and he talks every day about his birthday. He sadly still hasn’t overcome his dislike for cake (read more about that here!) although he did amazingly have one tiny bite of a friend’s Frozen/skiing themed birthday cake on Saturday. He said it was “ok” (which wasn’t hugely encouraging considering I had made the aforementioned cake!)

Nevertheless, he is determined to have a birthday cake of his own. A few days ago he said, “Mummy, for my birthday, you can make me a beautiful fire engine cake… But I’m not going to have any of it!” For some inexplicable reason he is also adamant that while the rest of us will eat party food on his birthday, Daddy should be provided with yogurt to eat!?! So it looks like Joel will be missing out on this fire engine cake too! 😉

Just like Jonty I am also really excited for his third birthday. But for quite different reasons.

For me, anticipating this third birthday kicks up a whole lot of emotions and a whole lot of memories.

When my cancer was first diagnosed I was so sure that it would kill me. And soon. When I was diagnosed I decided that my goal was to live until this beautiful baby, who was then just eight weeks old, turned three. Just three more years, please God! I obviously had no way of controlling or ensuring that this would happen, but still, this was my aim.

I figured that as I have a few memories from when I was three that if I could just live until then, maybe, just maybe, my beautiful boy would remember me if I was no longer around. Maybe he would remember the intensity of my love for him, how wanted and cherished he was by me. Maybe he would remember my voice or my laugh or the way I sang to him or rocked him to sleep. Maybe he would remember just one of those things…

If I could just make it to his third birthday.

And so now here I stand, just one week to go until the moment that I wished for so fervently.

Just one week to go and I am so thankful.

I am so grateful that I am not yet a distant and hazy memory in Jonty’s mind, that he doesn’t need to remember how I loved him because he still knows it in his every day. I am so grateful for each day’s hugs, laughs and even struggles, because they mean I am still here. I still get to love him and share this crazy, wonderful and beautiful life with my crazy, wonderful and beautiful boy!

Happy birthday precious boy!

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A new term and a new beginning

Today my little boy started nursery, just two mornings a week, but it is the start of a whole new era for us… For example, I am sitting on my own in Starbucks on this sunny Tuesday morning writing this and listening to the Starbucks selection of Christmas songs (already!!) That is a drastic change from my usual Tuesday morning which usually involves something thrilling like a trip to Aldi!

I am full of a huge mixture of emotions today and dropping him off was truly a bittersweet experience.

I am so excited for him, for this new chapter which I think he is going to love. This morning as I was getting Jonty dressed he started jumping around and said, “I am just so excited Mummy!” When I asked him if it was because today was his first day at school he replied that it was and started telling me about what happens at his little nursery (which he learnt at his settling in sessions). He has been so excited by his new Superman lunchbox ever since we bought it a few weeks ago and he carried it with pride into nursery this morning.

I was a bit concerned that we might have some tears when I dropped him off this morning, but there were no tears. His parting question to me was, “who is going to help me when you go Mummy?” which totally melted my heart. I hope that Jonty always sees Joel and I as the people who help him be all he can be!

While I was thrilled that we didn’t have any tears his morning, I was also a little bit sad that my baby is growing up so fast. Each day I have to come to terms with the fact that he is less and less of a baby and more and more of a little boy and that is harder than I expected! This new found independence is a little disorientating for me as a parent.

Today as I said goodbye, I was reminded even more of the things I love about Jonty, his sweet, gentle soul, his love of music, making jokes, somersaults and laughing. He is such a blessing to us!!

But in amongst this mixture of emotions, on this milestone day, I am thankful beyond belief! When I was diagnosed with cancer when Jonty was 8 weeks old, still being alive by the time he started nursery seemed an impossible dream. I was so frightened that I wouldn’t get to see any of his milestones and so now as each one rolls around it is just that much sweeter. I am still standing, full of scars, but still standing and blessed beyond measure!

Here’s to many more milestones!

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New seasons – from Cambridge to London!

It has been a very long time since I wrote anything on this blog, and for good reason. In my mind, this blog was about cancer, my treatment and how I coped with all of the physical and emotional effects of cancer. Since my active treatment finished just over a year ago, cancer has played a smaller and smaller part in my everyday life. I am EXTREMELY grateful for this, but it also meant I didn’t have too much to say on the topic, hence my silence. 🙂

Anyway, so much has changed since I last wrote that I thought it was seriously about time for a little update on what team Sales are up to!

Just over two weeks ago we left Cambridge (*sobs*) and moved down to London (*cheers*) as Joel had finished his degree. On Saturday Joel was ordained in St Paul’s Cathedral, which was amazing, and he is now a Rev (major proud wife moment!!) Yeaterday he started work as a curate in a fantastic church in South West London.

And so, the next chapter of our life has begun.

Leaving Cambridge was bittersweet for me. Cambridge was for us, to misquote Dickens, both the best of times and the worst of times. It was where my beautiful son was born, it was a place where we forged deep friendships and where we were privileged to be part of an amazing community. But it was also the place where I had all of my cancer treatment, where I grappled with my own mortality and fallibility. Spiritually it was both rich and desolate, full of joy and sorrow… So leaving all of that behind has stirred up a mixture of emotions.

Similarly, starting over in a new place is a bittersweet experience. I have no doubt in my mind that we are in the right place for us as a family, and I am excited for what I am going to see God doing here. Yet, I am mourning the rhythms of my old life, the familiar places and people, not just for myself, but for little Jonty too. He is missing his little friends! 😦

But…in this bittersweet time, I remain so thankful! I am thankful that I am still here! I am thankful for my beautiful family and precious friends. I am thankful for the kindness of the Lord and for his provision!

I am thankful that I am well, so well in fact that I have (in a moment of madness probably) joined a group that is trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru in September for the charity CoppaFeel! (the breast cancer awareness charity that I volunteer for – CoppaFeel.org).

This is SUCH a huge milestone for me, as two years ago I was so poorly I could barely walk around the block. Then a multi-day trek would have seemed like an impossible reality! But, my training has begun and I am walking up any hill I can find!! Who would have thought I would be thankful to walk up hills! 😉 (Should you want to sponsor me, I would so appreciate it. You can do so by clicking here )

In all of it, God continues to restore me and my hope for the future! The future is bright and I am so excited to see what is in store!

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Some of the Machu Picchu team!