Our Journey in the NHS

Today is apparently World Cancer Day. We have had so much progress in the treatment of cancer, yet it still affects so many people in the world. Every family has been touched by it and to me, it feels like it is all around me at the moment. It pains my heart to hear all the stories of people suffering, having to go through gruelling treatments in the fight to stay alive.

One of these amazing, brave people has been my grandma, and the funny thing is that it all began with a chest infection.

Over the past 10 months, but especially during the last 4, she has been in and out of three hospitals, two clinics and meetings with consultants from pretty much every specialisation there is. And as the appointments increased, it became more difficult, and she became less unable to drive to them. And that’s where I come in, and where our journey started.

I’ve never been a hospital person. I think, before all this, I had only been in several times; when my siblings were born and when my grandma was in with a broken femur. The super clean and sterilised environment freaks me out a little bit and so I avoid it wherever possible. But now I was finding myself staring at waiting room walls almost every week.

It hasn’t been a pleasant journey, but now we are coming out the other end (hopefully!) with a successful operation complete and a grandma recovering and happier than she has been in a long while. And that is largely down to the gold star service delivered by every member of staff we have encountered in our travels.

The nurses have always been jovial and kind to my grandma, even when it’s the end of a long day and we’re the last ones on the list. The receptionists have been friendly, even giving my grandma reassurance on what was about to happen. The consultants have explained as best they could what was going on whenever we saw them.

When we were told the C word, there was the consultant and two nurses present, and when my grandma welled up so did they. The surgeon carrying out the operation described what was going to happen using a diagram of a human, and drew hair on because ‘it looked like a man, but now it looks a bit more like you.’ We got a file full of information and a number to ring any time for advice or someone to chat to.

When we went for the pre-op appointment, we got a cup of tea while we were waiting to see the specialist nurse. All the staff were completely ready and willing to give my grandma any answers she needed. She’s a bit of a talker but they listened and sympathised.

On the day of the operation, everyone on the admissions ward were welcoming and were constantly making sure my grandma was okay. When she got into the chair to be wheeled to theatre, the nurse covered her in blankets because ‘it was cold in the hallways’. The theatre assistant had been working for just under an hour and told us his pedometer had registered one and a half miles, yet he was joyful and continuously engaged my grandma in conversation.

After the operation, the surgeon (who had carried it out and who was one of the experts in his field) called me to tell me it had gone well and she was doing okay. I was incredibly nervous when I learned she was in ICU, but the nurses there were amazing and updated me on her progress. The next day when I came to visit her, she was in a chair smiling and laughing with all the nurses and looking more peaceful than she had in a long time. No TV, even though it was offered to her, because ‘she liked watching everything that was going on’. A nurse came over and noticed her back was bare so fetched her dressing gown.

Our journey isn’t over yet, and I am sure there will be many more waiting room walls to stare at. But I will say this: it took 3 weeks from diagnosis of cancer to treatment. It has been shorter than that for others who I know. I cannot fault a single aspect of my grandma’s care. Even though they are overstretched (my grandma had to stay in ICU an extra day because there were no beds on the ward) the nurses are never short with you, always looking to see how they can help, very lovely to visitors (because I get that we can be in the way!) and they really, really care about their patients.

I’ve never been a hospital person. And I still don’t really care about going there. But if I needed it, I would be completely happy to go there and, as my grandma says, ‘put my life in their hands’.

Because they’d lovingly take care of it.

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Living

Tick. Tock.
Looking around. Watching, feeling, experiencing.
Looking down. Aching, pleading, sighing.
Looking back. Analysing, ruminating, healing.
Looking forward. Dreaming, pondering, yearning.
Looking in. Evaluating, changing, growing.
Looking up. Thanking, loving, questioning. Believing.
Living.

Life can be hard sometimes. It can be the most exhilarating experience, or it can feel difficult just to breathe. But whatever you may be going through, it is so important to remember that the hard parts of life are just as normal and just as necessary as the good parts, even though that’s not the way life was originally designed.

Thankfully, where there is darkness, there is always light. And the light will always overcome the darkness.

I have seen evidence of it already this year, both in my life and the life of others, for it outshines all situations (and mine isn’t too bad – I could have much worse than a long distance relationship!) and it is constant and dependable.

Want to know more?
http://www.alpha.org
Or contact me if you’re in the area and come to mine 🙂

Simplicity

Hello there, friends. It’s been a while since I posted. A lot has happened in a year; I travelled to new places, discovered new passions, found a dream to pursue and learned more about myself than I have in the 22 years preceding it. I’ve left all my old posts up because I do believe there’s a lot of truth in them, and I tended to only write when I really felt called to and so maybe they still help people, every now and again. But I hope to blog more often now, sometimes about deep things and sometimes about little questions I’ve been pondering that don’t really make a huge difference to life but still are something I want to share.

(Just as a side note; writing this feels so comfortable, like coming home, like sinking into a warm bath. I’ve missed my blog. What a joy to be doing it again.)

Anyway, along with this first blog post in a long time is a commitment kinda from myself, to myself. But you can join in if you want to…in fact, I encourage you to. Because this is a truth.

Life is so complex that we forget why we do it.

I constantly start new projects. I believe at that moment, truly, that this will be a great thing that I’ll become really good at and it will fill that gap I’m still struggling with, the gap of not having a ‘thing’. So I begin knitting. I start learning guitar. I buy Mandarin books to become fluent. I try writing an entire novel in a month. I sign up for an online TEFL course. I zero in on new projects at work; a handbook, a database, even a new crisis centre. I volunteer to help out at different events. I even decide I’m going to start watching 24 from season 1, episode 1.

Of all these projects I have legitimately started, all of them since August (with the exception of Mandarin), I have completed zero. (Although, to be fair and honest, the scarf is getting there.) I’m still on module 3 of TEFL. My Mandarin books are gathering dust. I pick up my guitar and play the same 4 chords over and over. My novel is floundering at 9,000 words and I’ve already given up on that. In fact, I’ve given up on all of them somewhere in my head and my heart.

Every few months I have a major panic about my life; why it seems to be going nowhere, why I have all these unfinished projects, why I’m even here. Like this month; I was supposed to be in Hong Kong until the end of December, but I left and returned home because I felt that was what God was telling me to do. Why? What have I come back for? I get up, I do my morning routine – walk dogs, eat breakfast, get dressed – I go to work, I come home from work, I do an afternoon routine – clean/iron/food shop/knit/watch TV – I make dinner, I shower, I go to sleep, I wake up and repeat. What is even the point? Does this routine even benefit anyone else except myself?

I’m slightly lucky in that my job does benefit others; working for the Storehouse means I get to help give food, clothes and furniture to people in the area that desperately need it. So I can derive some comfort from that, but it doesn’t feel like I’m helping; I just answer the phone and write names on delivery lists, names of real people that I never meet but ring up to ask if we can deliver on this day, trying to sound cheery and joyful so they feel a little better about life even though some of them are in horrible situations. Working in a job like this makes it easy to guilt-trip myself; how can I be concerned about something as little as whether my activities have value when these people are struggling just to survive? How lucky I am to be able to have the luxury to worry about whether I should give more to charity!

In the midst of this manic thinking, in the lethargy and lack of motivation that comes from feeling that chores and activities have no point to them, a little voice whispers quietly as I pour out my frustration to God.

It’s not about what you do, it’s why you do them.

‘And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.’ – Colossians 3:23-24

At one point, during my DTS, we had a week which we spent in the middle of nowhere. We had to work as a team to survive, and it involved a lot of physical and mental strength. One day we were learning about servanthood, and about doing all things for God and not for ourselves. We had to do some cleaning and tidying around where we were staying. It was hard work but the focus was so clearly on Jesus that the chore became a job.

But it was more than that. During that week away, we had no access to the internet. No phones, no laptops, not even a watch. Our focus became solely on the activities of the week and on Jesus. Our lives became suddenly very simple, and life was no longer about whether our activities mattered because everything mattered, everything was done for Him.

Our lives cannot be that simple in everyday life. We need to have our phones to communicate, our laptops to do work (in my case anyway). But I think the challenge we face in our day-to-day lives is to use our time wisely. If I spend half an hour on Facebook, what does that accomplish except to make me wish I was on holiday or out with friends or generally having a more exciting life? Yet it’s not about starting hundreds of ‘meaningful’ projects just to make you feel like your life is counting for something; it’s about spending each day making the decision (often over and over throughout the day) to live in His presence and use our time for His purposes. I have to work every day, but I can use that time to muddle through a funding application whilst watching the clock or I can use it to be with Jesus and let Him guide my use of my time at work, focusing on what He wants me to focus on.

All this to say (the short version) that I have been overcomplicating my life to try and make it mean something when it already does because it belongs to Jesus. I make myself busy and waste my days on Facebook or Netflix because I don’t want to spend time actually evaluating my life and seeing it doesn’t mean anything, but Jesus looks at my life and sees it as a blank canvas with a million possibilities. He’s just waiting for me to realise it and to turn back to Him, to rekindle my first love and stop running around and to just rest in Him.

So I’m going to simplify. I’m taking a Facebook fast beginning tomorrow. I’m going to spend time seeking, praying and rediscovering the value of my life. I’m only going to do the projects I truly feel led to! And throughout it all I am going to remind myself that I do it for Him, not for me. Join me. See what He leads you to drop, to take up, to become passionate about. He might surprise you!

Rachel x