Those of you who know me will probably have been wondering when I was going to mention Sam. Here is our cheeky son soon after he dropped out of his drumming degree after a year of university in London and came home in a bit of a state.
It wasn’t until the following year that he began having headaches and visual disturbances and an MRI scan showed large lesions – white patches in his brain that were thought to be some rare kind of inflammation. After 10 months of hospital visits, a continual steroid battle against raised intra-cranial pressure and anxiety over his eyes, a biopsy showed the mass to be a malignant tumour: Sam has brain cancer. It is inoperable and incurable.
The initial shock and ensuing anger and sadness, the gruelling radiotherapy regime and rollercoaster of adjustment to this terrible news took over our lives utterly for several months. In the middle of it I gratefully discovered the therapy of writing as an outlet, helping me process what was happening and letting others join our journey. You can read all pieces written at the height of our stress on the Diagnosis Diary page.
We have come through the phases of ‘coping’ and not coping, denial, anger, grief, loss, sadness, fear… its all in there and comes back round all the time. Anyone who has to live with a cancer diagnosis knows this continual threat. In fact we are truly part of a sea of human suffering. But as Christians this can be even harder, as we somehow expect God to ‘get us out of this!’ I have a lot more to say on this subject in future posts…
But for now, in seeking stillness so that I can hear my own heart and perhaps the whisper of the Lord, it is hard to cut out the background noise. And in trying to pitch a song there is the incessant buzz that disables melody and harmony. I can never be carefree again. It is like walking along a road with a heavy load you cannot put down – ever. It will not always be like this… but what will happen is too scary to contemplate. As the mother in the family I carry the pain of my husband and daughter in their suffering too, wanting to make things better for them… It doesn’t bear thinking what Sam is going through.
Perhaps the most helpful thing – apart from the grace of God we feel through all the prayer being offered and the freely expressed love of so many friends and supporters – is to step back from it all and look at the bigger picture. When you look at the suffering in the world – the vastness of it, the injustice of it, the suddeness and arbitrary nature of it – and that we are a drop in the ocean among the groans of creation… it puts our little lives into perspective. And why should we be exempt? Surely we are called to follow Christ, who took on humanity and lived His intercession as the Suffering Servant. Our wonderful gospel is that we have life in Him and need not fear death – we are saved!
Rebecca, our lovely daughter who has studied philosophy, was the one who said “Why would people stop believing in God because suffering comes into their lives?”. What does she mean? Well, if suffering means God is hard-hearted or non-existant, why did we believe in Him in the first place with so much suffering all around us? Did we not notice it before it touched our little world? Where are our hearts of compassion? We have faith, hope and love that last forever and can stand in this dark world holding out the word of life, the answer to it all, to those who are so lost. We can trust our heavenly Father completely with our lives – and the life of our son. He holds us all and knows the number of our days: He loves the whole world. This is the faith that has been refined through the fire of trial.
So the background noise, like heavy traffic outside the window, is always going to be there. I can shut the window and walk away to seek peace and tranquility, but the path of greater integrity would be to learn to rest in the sound all around me, and to sing in the face of the cacophanous storm.