One of my least favourite things is the (predominantly evangelical) trend for everything being #blessed. Every other Tweet or Instagram by a prominent evangelical seems to end that way. If I’m being cruel I would say that there’s often a picture of avocado toast attached – it’s something that brings to mind the worst of consumerism and that kind of happiness that seems fake.
With that caveat, which I suppose is really a plea that I promise I’m not usually a gushing kind of person, this post is basically going to be a #hashtagblessed one. I don’t feel very blessed at the moment – for my more theologically minded friends I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what healing actually means in a faith context, but that’s a blog for another time! – but in amongst all the horrible things, and there are a lot, there’s also a lot to be grateful for. (Not every post will be as positive as this one, I am sure!)
- I have a wonderful support network. My friends and family have been wonderful, and I’ve been so touched, often to the point of being quite overwhelmed, by all the messages I’ve received from acquaintances, people I’ve met at conferences or on Twitter, at uni or even people I haven’t seen for over a decade or have never met but have heard about what I’m going through. (On that note, I’m sorry to all the people I haven’t replied to yet or thanked for presents and cards, but thanks!). I’m also very grateful for visits or offers to visit – I know I haven’t responded to all of these, partly because making any concrete plans is hard and partly because energy levels are quite variable at the moment, but I do appreciate them.
- There’s a lot of support available outwith my own networks as well – people going through similar things or who have had family go through them. I haven’t yet taken much opportunity to access this support but knowing it is there is really helpful. Yesterday I took the first steps of emailing someone who specifically supports young people with brain tumours, and hopefully this is the start of a Good Thing. It’s great to have support from friends and family, but someone trained in a non-medical capacity should be really useful.
- I had a lovely day out on Friday to Twycross Zoo and a visit afterwards for the weekend from one of my oldest friends. My dad has just left to drop her at the station and will be picking up one of my brothers, and it will be really nice to spend some time with him too!
- I’ve been able to eat in places which aren’t the living room or my bed or the hospital – small as it sounds, the change of scene is so nice and makes such a difference mentally.
- It may seem like a really small thing, but this morning I made it down the stairs almost unaided. I can feel myself getting stronger almost by the day. This might not be linear and treatment might affect it negatively again but for now, I’m actually quite proud of myself.
- I’ve had a lot of new experiences. Some are ones I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but others (getting flown back to the UK business class!) were actually quite exciting! In other news, I think I’m now over my fear of flying (not that this will be very useful considering the circumstances but it’s a good thing to have overcome)
- I am (mostly) incredibly grateful for the NHS and for the health care I received in Italy. I say mostly because I was originally misdiagnosed (my symptoms were put down to stress) the care I have received has been exemplary. Everyone has been really kind and recognised that it isn’t an easy situation to be in, and all the medical professionals I’ve met recently (and there have been a lot, from neurosurgeons to nurses, physiotherapists to orderlies, consultants, doctors, oncologists and numerous others!) have treated me with respect and kindness. I was even described as ‘pleasant’ on one of my discharge letters! This provided me with some much needed laughter.
- On perhaps a more political note, I am eternally grateful for reciprocal health care. I was eventually diagnosed in Italy, and while we needed insurance to get back to the UK, the actual operation and care there (including drugs, medics’ time, beds etc) was all free. I’ve raved enough about free healthcare in the past but especially having seen stories and spoken to people from the US, I’ve never been more conscious of how important this is. It’s something I’ve always taken a little bit for granted, but it took some of the stress away. The NHS is obviously flawed, mostly due to cuts in both staff numbers and financially, but that doesn’t stop it being a beautiful and important thing. (On this note, if you work for the NHS in any capacity, thank you from the bottom of my heart)
- I’m grateful for the things I have learnt about myself. It’s been a huge learning curve and I don’t think any of this is something you can predict how you’ll react in advance. A few people have told me how impressed they are with my attitude, but I’m not sure I really have any choice in the matter! Strength is relative and variable and wobbles are (I have been assured!) okay. There’s also nothing wrong with not being able to take time to process things and completely collapsing, and while thus far collapsing isn’t the way I’ve gone, I fully understand why many people might. But I’ve learnt (I think/hope), in a relatively short space of time, how to be kinder and gentler. I’ve learnt how to ask for help when I need it. I’m growing in independence again too, which is a very good thing for me.
- I’ve received lots of really good news today! (Including a very exciting email!)
- Finally, as many people may know, my brother Dave is currently living in Newcastle. He’s just finishing his Master’s in Psychology and in his spare time has been co-organising a mini festival. It’s called DaveFest and the next one is in aid of the Brain Tumour Charity (https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org). I’m sure he’d be very grateful for any donations, and if you happen to be in the Newcastle area, he’d be even more grateful if anyone is able to pop along! When I have more details I will make sure I post about it, with a link for donations if possible.