"Two posts from the 24th January from Facebook contacts, Janice Jagger and Molly Mulcahy; each of whom has recently lost friends with cancer, have stirred my mind for my 'Thought for today'.
Over the past four years, since I was diagnosed with a terminal blood cancer, I have experienced two six-month courses of chemotherapy, along with another two cancers to cope with along the way. During this period, so many Facebook contacts who also have cancer have maintained a regular correspondence with me and we have often been able to offer each other mutual advice, prayers and support.
Let me say from the outset, no condition, be it terminal or otherwise, affects any two people the same. Death by cancer can be sudden, it can sneak up on you, it can be dramatic, or it can kill you by degrees. It can be agonising, painful, debilitating or relatively pain-free. How one person responds to the death threat can vary enormously to the reaction of another.
During the past four years, there have been a number of times when I've been close to death, having contracted one infection or another, repeated flu dose or have had my 'immune free' body visited by some other illness. Sometimes, my body has been wracked with intolerable and intense pain and on other occasions, I have found my overall condition quite manageable. Throughout, however, I have kept positive in thought and prayerful in disposition and have had the ongoing support of my wife, Sheila, family, church community, neighbours, friends and countless Facebook contacts; all of whom have proved life-saving encouragers and carriers of buckets of hope as they have walked alongside me on my final journey.
Over the past six months, I have established a number of routines regarding, diet, exercise, relaxation, warmth, sleep, and discriminatory contact with certain people, places and the engagement of specific activities under particular conditions. As a consequence of putting these disciplines in place and maintaining them, I am pleased to report having felt better this past six months than any time during the last four years. Sometimes I have felt so good that I've forgotten I have a terminal illness.
With every positive stride taken in any cancer bearer's journey, however, there comes a consequential change-of-thought cost. I have had to readjust to the simple truth that just as the presence of pain in one's cancerous body all night and day long can indicate a certainty that one is going to die prematurely, ironically, the absence of pain is often the provider of false hope.
Don't get me wrong, I am so pleased that any pain level I currently have is mostly either minimal or tolerable, but the last journey any cancer traveller takes can be the hardest of all without anybody pain present along the way to keep one aware of their final destination.
When a person who has a terminal illness is pain-free, part of their irrational brain can start to play the cruellest of tricks on them. One starts to feel good again and a kind of normality of life and body stability begins to slowly return with the passing of each day. In a weird kind of way, one can sometimes feel a bit of a cheat that on the inside you are in fact dying, whereas outwardly you can look as fit as a fiddle. When the stabilisation period continues beyond one year into another, the cancer traveller whose condition remains terminal is in danger of convincing themselves that they've beaten off the enemy. In the deepest part of them lies the forlorn hope that the Holy Emperor of all Emperors in the Heavens above has turned his downward thumb direction back to upright and instantly granted you continued life.
The most rational among us know, however, that things are rarely as they appear to be. There is no fault in our stars; our fate and destiny were planned even before our birth into this life. Some recoveries are indeed miraculous and medically inexplicable, whereas sadly, most cancer outcomes will be predictable. You will either beat your cancer or you won't. Your body will either be the conveyor of certain death, the subject of a miraculous recovery or the victim of a temporary illusion. For the vast majority of the latter type of cancer travellers, cancer will sometimes stay still a long time, hiding behind some comfort cloud, ready to jump out at us again when we are at our happiest and least expect it.
By all means, believe in what provides you with the greatest comfort and ease of mind, and always believe in the goodness of self and the greatness of God. But if you want the rainbow, you have to deal with the rain. There is no earthly reason why your final journey cannot be a satisfying and happy one if you follow a few pointers: don't travel the path alone: learn to hold the outstretched hand of another; and above all else, live for the moment, for in one moment lies all eternity. " William Forde: January 26th, 2018.