Monday, 25 January 2016

Ode to the big ‘C’

“It’s back” he said, and my heart sank;
Without the slightest warning 
The big ‘C’ had come back for me
Just when new life was dawning

The hair was tough and once again
The hamster cheeks appeared
At least I should be grateful that 
I didn’t grow a beard

It started with confusion 
And a modicum of fear 
An egg-sized tumour grew at speed
As did my growing fear

The radio waves were pretty grim
The side effects horrific
I lost myself for quite a while
Whilst the cancer became prolific

So in eight months my life has changed
Beyond all recognition
But even after all this pain
I still retain ambition

I dream of sun and ochre skies
Of the lapping of the sea
Then I recall that despite all this
I’m actually still me

I still have faith and still have hope
My mind is just as free
Surrounded by love and friendship
Where would I rather be?

So I won’t be sad or lonely
In this life or the next
In fact I’m hugely lucky
My life has been the best
It’s been chock-full of laughter
Of blessings and of love
And for this I am grateful
To the Lord above

So when I’m gone, remember me
As someone full of joy;
Of happiness and gratitude
For all that I enjoyed

Thank you for being a precious part of it.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Soul searching for beginners

As written in previous blogs it was blatantly obvious that Christmas 2015 for our family was going to be extremely difficult and very emotional. This proved to be the case, but somehow we got through it. Amanda wasn’t well in a number of ways leading up to Christmas Day, but with her typical determination, tenacity and willpower she fulfilled every obligation, and I personally know why she intended to do it.

On the big day we managed to achieve our traditional Church visit/taking of wreaths/present opening etc. and of course Christmas dinner. To me though, the best 2015 Christmas present I received was that God allowed me to spend another Christmas with Amanda, and I thank Him with all my heart for that. Amanda has said that she doesn’t like the word ‘brave’ when connected to dealing with cancer, however, believe me when I say she is incredibly brave and has handled these last two horrendous years with such amazing dignity.

What 2016 will bring is anyone’s guess but I still hope and pray that God will bring her back to the fullness of health. Amanda has suggested that counselling may be of some assistance to me,
so I’m giving it a try. My counsellor is very good, but sometimes soul-searching can be painful, particularly when you’ve had one or two very tough past experiences to deal with your earlier years. But maybe it’s good to get them out in the open and talk about them? As I said in my first paragraph…not my natural style.

We’re still taking every day as it comes, but some days [and nights] can be really dark and foreboding. Having a daughter with cancer isn’t like it can sometimes be portrayed on TV and films, it is absolute torture to see them in such pain and so troubled, but I still feel incredibly blessed to be Amanda’s Dad, and I will always feel that way until my very last day. Amanda hates the way she now looks, but to me she will always be absolutely beautiful inside and out!

Amanda's Dad

Image result for soul searchingImage result for soul searching

Friday, 15 January 2016

Cancer language

Friday 15th January 2016

After reading the tributes to those celebrities who have recently died of cancer, I am beginning to feel that the language we use for such a complex subject is woefully inadequate. Everyone's experience of suffering from cancer (and this includes the family and friends of those who are going through it as well as the patient themselves) is completely different and yet there seems to be a universal and very tired language that we all use to describe it.

As I've blogged before, I don't like reading about someone 'losing their brave fight' when they have no choice over their fate or their outcomes. In fact, 'battling cancer' requires the opposite of a fight. In many cases it's far better to concentrate on your emotional, spiritual and mental well-being rather than taking up arms fruitlessly. 

So, what I'm suggesting is that that we try to shake up the language of cancer a little to add some greater depth to important discussions. Let's find a different and more meaningful way of describing the experience of cancer and everything associated with it: the pain, the sadness, the loss of identity, fear and of course, hope. Let's describe those who are living with, or have sadly died of cancer as the individuals they are using language that shows what a unique contribution they have made to the world and people around them.   


Emily McDowell

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Christmas and New Year update

Thursday 31st December.

Dean here. I've never been one to get carried away about 'celebrating' New Year. It's just another night, right? I saw a status on Facebook earlier this evening which hit the nail on the head quite decisively. 'The stroke of midnight will change absolutely very little. Here's to false optimism & inevitable disappointment'.

Things haven't been easy this Christmas. Amanda's been fighting an infection since Christmas Day which resulted in sickness, a really bad cough and general restlessness. Medication has eased the sickness and cough and now we're just waiting for new medication to relax Amanda is the evening kicks in. My mum was admitted to hospital 21st December suffering after her first chemo too (UPDATE - mum was discharged from hospital on 2nd January 2016).

On a more positive note, we were delighted to receive a cheque for £1,500 from one of the local pubs near to where Amanda and I live. The Red House in Caverswall hosted their annual clay pigeon shoot and were kind enough to donate proceeds from this year's event to Amanda's three nominated charities. We'd like to place on record our extreme gratitude to all the guys at the Red House for their amazing generosity. If ever you're visiting the Stoke area, please stop by:

As a result of this, we've now raised over £8,500 towards the three charities. With more fundraising in early 2016, we're hoping to smash the £10,000 target very quickly.

Thanks all.


And a happy new year

I am greeting 2016 with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am at peace with what's happening to me and my family. On the other, I see the sadness in the eyes of those I love and it is truly heart-breaking. So, as Christmas ends and the New Year begins, I thought would reflect on what it's really like for those who are facing terminal illness.

Since I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer in November 2013, life has been very different. I've had surgery to remove the original lump, then radiotherapy, then chemotherapy. Then, when my body was just about recovering; I had a bit of hair, regained my work skills, rebuilt my fitness and started to move onto the next chapter, the cancer came back in the most dangerous of brain. So the whole rigmarole began again with its own special brand of torture: two lots of brain surgery followed by a punishing schedule of radiotherapy. I lost my hair (again), swelled up like a helium balloon (again), and lost many of my faculties.

But despite all of the unpleasantness I'm still here. Whenever this ends, I can genuinely say that I am grateful for so many things. My phenomenal parents, husband, friends, colleagues and clients have quite simply shone a light through the darkest of times. For that I will always be grateful. And I mean more grateful than you will ever know. 

Too numerous to mention are the plethora of thoughtful gifts, flowers and untold kindnesses you have selflessly shared with me. I have, on many occasions over the last few months, laughed until my belly ached, cried and adored reading messages and letters from people from all areas of my life. Would I change a thing? Aside from the rubbishy cancer bit, then absolutely not. 

Happy New Year from Amanda