HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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Invisible scars (and tattoos)

As a result of my cancer treatment I now have five scars and three tattoos (of dots – yes I am THAT rock and roll!) The most amusing scar is the whole way round my belly button as my belly button was removed and repositioned during my last surgery. (I know!?!) The largest scar runs across my tummy from one hip right to the other. It is huge but to most people it is invisible as they will never see it (my bikini wearing days are well and truly over!)

When I was going through my cancer treatment I steered clear of the “cancer world”. I didn’t attend any support groups, I didn’t participate in any online forums and I didn’t read anything on the internet about research/what to eat or not to eat/survival stats. I found it all far to overwhelming and I couldn’t cope with any of that stuff at all.

It is only since finishing my treatment that I have allowed myself into this world. I have tried to stay on the positive side of things (the internet is a bit of a minefield with this stuff) and late last year I started volunteering for a breast cancer awareness charity. It was through this charity that I met up with a group of young women all of whom had a breast cancer (some even metastatic) diagnosis. This was my first ever meeting and time spent socially with a large group of others in similar positions as me and I was very nervous.

As I chatted with them my heart broke at each story. I welled up a fair few times during the day and at the end of the day, although it had been fun and lovely I was emotionally spent and really, really sad. I was so sad that each of these vibrant, amazing young women were walking such a hard path, a path that they hadn’t chosen, and a path that changes everything.

And that’s the thing… A cancer diagnosis does change everything… It changed my body, my plans for the future, for children, my career… Heck, even my holidays!

And even two years down the line (and for the rest of my life), I have to live with some of those changes (you will be pleased to know my holiday plans are now back to normal). And those are the real hidden scars of this trauma.

Like my physical scars, my emotional scars have undergone huge healing, both through God’s grace and the passing of time, but as my physical scars remain weak and numb, I have areas of emotional weakness and numbness that can’t be easily seen and that endure.

And the thing is… I know we all do! We have all experienced pain and carry invisible scars caused by these hurts and traumas, perhaps a long time ago, perhaps recently. And these scars can shape our behaviour, how we respond to situations and how we view the world in often quite profound ways, both positive and negative.

Despite this, we don’t always recognise these invisible scars, these weaknesses and hurts in others, and so we don’t always extend the grace that we would like to receive but are rather too quick to get angry or be offended by others.

This is a real challenge to me. I don’t want to ever become so obsessed with my own hurts and scars that I can’t see and empathise with others in theirs. I always want to remain soft-hearted, to acknowledge others’ pain, and to reflect the character of God described in Psalm 145:8.

To be kind.

To extend grace.

Always.

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Be kind to yourself

The last few weeks since my surgery have been filled with special family time, days out in Cambridge, enjoying little man and the last of the summer and Joel’s last few weeks of holiday. But they have also been filled with lots of physiotherapy and adjusting to my new normal post-surgery.

Like each aspect of this cancer journey these weeks have been a bit up and down. My general recovery was remarkably quick, as predicted by the doctors (not believed by myself) and just a few days post-surgery, on a sunny Saturday, I was strolling round a national trust property! That certainly took me by surprise!! Regaining the movement in my arm on the other hand has been somewhat slower and more tricky… But each day is a little better and movement is slowly being restored.

I have been desperate to get back into exercising but I continue to be really tired and unable to do all that much physically. This has been a great source of frustration to me as I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!!

On Tuesday at a hospital appointment I was chatting to one of the lovely nurses, telling her the grand plans of my exercise regime and she gave me some wise words that I have been thinking about since then… She said, “Be kind to yourself.”

This got me thinking, how often are we our own worst enemy and harshest critics. How often do we expect unrealistic things of ourselves or do we not extend the grace that we would to others to ourselves.

For me, how this looks is giving myself proper time to recover, accepting the continued help from others, building up my strength slowly and trying to be ok that there are many things that used to be so easy that I still can’t do… and probably slowing down my exercise grand plan! 😉 I’m sure it looks different for you, but the principle is the same.

God is such a kind God and He shows us so much grace. As we are called to emulate Him, let us not only be kind to others and show them grace but let’s be kind to ourselves too.