We woke up on Sunday morning in a Brugge hotel with an iffy internet connection. Whereas my first thought is ‘Need tea!’ – which can’t easily be done in Europe – Martin’s first thought is to get online and reconnect with the world… and it is amazing that you can do that almost anywhere these days – a motel in Provence, a coach-tour hotel in a Tuscan spa town, an ex-convent hostel in the depths of Lorraine, as well as the more expensive hotels in the big cities. The posh resort at Lake Garda definitely gave the best ‘window on the world’ with extra added wireless at breakfast – at least it helped him keep tabs on the Test Match at Trent Bridge!
At our 8th foreign bedroom in Belgium on the last day of July we were looking forward to catching Le Shuttle home after 2 amazing, exhausting, wonderful weeks travelling through 7 countries. But Martin’s first email stopped us both in our tracks – it was from someone in the States who had read about Sam in the Mail Online at 1am! The wonders of the internet include being able to find anyone, especially someone as ‘google-able’ as Martin – so before I could pick up my own messages, that is how we found out our story has finally gone public!
Read all about it – even if it isn’t a completely rounded picture!
It is thanks to freelance journalist Angela Carless, with her friendliness and sympathy, dogged interest and research, along with the Mail on Sunday’s offer to buy her story for an attractive sum when money is just what Sam needs, that we have been catapulted into the media spotlight for our 15 minutes of fame… well, with whoever reads the Mail, anyway! We don’t! She has written a sensitive piece which brings out many aspects of our journey and the tensions we have experienced. Promoted as a ‘health’ feature it focusses on the conventional v. alternative approaches to cancer treatment, which has been such a challenge for Martin in particular. The headline implies a war between father and son that Sam himself says doesn’t exist – and the article Angela wrote makes it clear we have been as understanding and non-controlling as possible over every effort he is making to help himself when conventional medicine actually has nothing to offer: ‘if it did I would take it like a shot!’
We also take issue with the statement that his father doesn’t believe in spiritual healing – we both definitely DO – in and through Jesus! We just don’t often see it and don’t presume upon it… However, the main body of the article is comprehensive: Martin stands by what he said – though he doesn’t treat childhood cancer, just young and older adults – and the 45 comments, one by our eloquent son himself, show the strength of feeling both ways, with both support and derision for Sam’s alternative approach. The story of Jessa’s arrival, like the US calvalry, is a wonderful twist – you couldn’t make this stuff up! And I like that I get the last word 🙂 . The strangest part is that despite reading how Martin doesn’t like the semi-science and non-science of supposed ‘cancer cures’ that first email and others like it have been sent to him to forward to Sam with yet more ‘miraculous cure’ suggestions! And of course Sam already knows about all of them and even which ones are known charlatans!
But what a strong emotional reaction! Ah, we have been through all this – this takes us back to a year ago when it was all happening… It brought back all the sadness. Yes, the picture of me as ‘suffering mother depending on medication’ is probably how I was at that point, but it made me want to shout I am sleeping without tablets now! even if the doctor won’t let me stop Prosac! It made me want to jump up and say I am more than this – through God’s grace! It seems Angela’s references to our faith had been edited out – which is painful when that has been our mainstay, because I really want to honour the Lord for helping us all through this in so many ways, despite the pain and horror we’ve walked through… and Sam IS doing so well at the moment!
So we were quite glad to be away over the sea, removed from it all – and due to car breakdowns and associated difficulties we couldn’t get back until a full 48 hours and a 9th bed later, which has kept things at arms length. There have already been emails to us both and calls waiting at home with invitations for Sam and Martin to go on ITV’s breakfast show and do interviews for Radio Leicester and a national magazine… we knew the story would probably be picked up and obviously cancer is of huge interest to so many people. A number of women have joined the Support Sam facebook group – at least one with a brain tumour herself: we know everyone is looking for hope and breakthrough and do so strongly identify with the struggle and suffering. But we don’t have any answers… all we have is our belief in the love and goodness of God and our unfolding story as we seek to hold together 4 different hearts and minds in this extraordinary family – and as Becca succinctly put it, we don’t just want to be known as ‘the cancer family’!
So were we foolish to do this, expose ourselves to public scrutiny? Perhaps… perhaps rash and naive, perhaps thinking we could control it, perhaps thinking it could be useful to someone, perhaps wanting to make our mark… The reality of it is much colder. Sam for one says he wants to step back now so I don’t think you’ll see a father/son debate on TV unless they come up with a 4 figure sum! I do feel vulnerable – but having started on this path wouldn’t mind the opportunity to share more about how I have coped: writing has been a huge part of that. Martin perhaps has the most public position as all his patients read the Mail! Becca hates it all and wishes she had stopped us doing it… 😦