I recently received a lovely encouraging message regarding my blog, from a mum whose son is in remission from his cancer treatment. She told me that although she feels blessed that her son is doing so well, she feels broken from her experience.
The brokenness – oh how I remember this brokenness that she’s talking about.
Although Leah was terribly homesick and desperate to get home, there was a part of me that wanted to stay in Bristol forever.
After spending 14 weeks immersed in the world of childhood cancer, I felt forever changed by what had happened. I felt like I didn’t know how to return to the outside world, or how to relate to those who hadn’t experienced our journey – Sam’s House just seemed a comfortable place to be, where no explanations were ever needed.
The medical expertise to understand and treat Leah’s rare condition lay in Bristol Children’s Hospital. I somehow imagined that if I could keep Leah there forever, then maybe we could beat this disease and all the nasty side effects of treatment. We had formed such close trusting relationships with the staff looking after us.
However the deaths of other children/young people who were in the transplant unit along with Leah, had a devastating affect on me.
I was also distressed about the children and young people dear to us who were still very ill in hospital, or who had just received bad news regarding their prognosis.
I returned from Bristol a broken person.
I felt like we were soldiers returning from the war, unable to celebrate our survival, because of the loss of much loved comrades who had fallen in the trenches.
I worried that people just expected me to be happy and grateful, because Leah had come through her bone marrow transplant and we were home at last.
I did feel thankful, I was very glad that Leah and I were home, but I also felt broken.
I had learned the horrible truth that calpol didn’t actually fix everything.
Nor could I ever again look at bruising on one of my children, without thoughts of leukaemia crossing my mind.
I could no longer treat illness in one of my children with casual nonchalance and tell myself “Ah sure, they’ll be grand.”
I was living in a state of high alert, with an overnight bag for Leah and I packed and ready at all times. If I heard her up to the toilet during the night I became anxious – her health was so fragile. I knew that if she spiked a high temperature, we had approximately one hour to get her to the hospital and on intravenous antibiotics.
I felt absolutely exhausted and totally lacking in energy.
I had no idea how to explain to people how I felt, or how to start rebuilding my life and my sanity.
On the 12th December 2013 I wrote in my journal “There are many days when I experience intense emotional pain. I want to be a walking example of the ‘joy of the Lord’ but I’m haunted by images of sick children.”
Then I wrote out a quote by Jerry Sittser that I had read the night before, that had resonated with me:
“I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow.” ~ A Grace Disguised.