A Faith Story – Part 2 (and the importance of SafeTALK)

A Faith Story – Part 2 (and the importance of SafeTALK)

Leah in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit July 2013
Leah in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit July 2013

Following on from yesterday’s Faith Story, I thought that I would share a previously unpublished piece of Leah’s ‘Faith Story‘ in her own words.

One of the youth organisations that Leah attended was a group called BK Banter run in Tamlaghtfinlagan Church of Ireland church hall in Ballykelly.

Tamlaghtfinlagan Parish Church is a small but very pretty church that was built in 1795 with funds provided by the Earl Bishop of Bristol and the Hon. John Beresford. The Bishop was very fond of building – Mussenden Temple and Downhill House are two other examples of his endeavours.

On the 15th June 2013 the young people were asked to write a letter to God and put it into a sealed envelope with their name on it. The youth leaders then explained that they would keep these letters in their sealed envelopes and return them to the young people in one year’s time.

Leah died six months later, so hers was returned to me then. It is so very precious to me.

I know that the print is quite faint so I have typed out Leah’s words underneath.

Leah's Letter June 2013

Leah’s Letter To God

        Dear God,

Things are kind of crazy at the moment. Having cancer is mad and it’s a completely different world, I’m so scared. But in a years time I’ll be reading this and I’ll have had my transplant.

Lord I pray for healing and a full recovery. You are a God of miracles and You can move mountains for me! I want to focus on You and thank you for the blessings I’ve had this year.

Firstly for Nic, he has been so supportive, loving and caring. I really hope that when I read this next year that we will still be in a happy and Christ centered relationship.

I thank You for the blessings through the LOST Team, for Emma and our friendship and for Anne, Brian and Lisa, for the love they have shown me.

I want to thank You for being such an awesome and unconditional loving God, even though at times it feels like I cannot hear You, but God, I want this to be a testament of faith that next year when I read this, I will know that never once did You leave me and never once did I ever walk alone.

Your daughter X

The ‘Anne, Brian and Lisa’ that Leah refers to, were youth leaders on the LOST Team.

Barely two weeks to go and September will be upon us. Then our teachers AND our youth leaders will all be back in action, influencing the lives of our young people.

I want to say to anyone who works with young people, either in a paid or a voluntary capacity – Do not underestimate the importance of your role, or the extent of your influence in the lives of our young people.

Some of our young people are incredibly vulnerable and there’s often no way of knowing by outward appearance, just how vulnerable a young person is on the inside.

According to youngminds.org.uk

  • 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class
  • Between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm 
  • There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%
  • 0.2% or about 8,700 aged 5-10 year-olds are seriously depressed.
  • 1.4% or about 62,000 aged 11-16 year-olds are seriously depressed.

If we are a people of faith, then we can pray earnestly for the young people that we come in contact with.

We can also avail of short, well recognised training courses like the widely available half day SafeTALK Training.

According to their website – “safeTALK is a half-day alertness training that prepares anyone over the age of 15, regardless of prior experience or training, to become a suicide-alert helper. Most people with thoughts of suicide don’t truly want to die, but are struggling with the pain in their lives. Through their words and actions, they invite help to stay alive. safeTALK-trained helpers can recognize these invitations and take action by connecting them with life-saving intervention resources.

Sometimes, providing a caring, listening ear and signposting somebody to an appropriate source of help, is the most important thing that we can do.


Some days are just harder than others

Some days are just harder than others

Today was my younger daughter’s appointment at the fracture clinic in Altnagelvin Hospital.
I explained to her before we left the house that Mummy feels sad when she goes near the hospital because it brings back so many memories & not to be worried if I started crying.
The easiest place to park is opposite the South Wing where the Sperrin Oncology/Haematology Ward is, where Leah had two admissions & sat two of her GCSE modules – & got an ‘A’ in both.
I managed to park, walk up the steps & enter the hospital without shedding a tear.
I was just starting to relax when it hit me – today is the 20th of February……..how come I never thought of this before?
Wednesday 20th February 2013 started like any normal working day – I got up, got dressed and went to work.
I never suspected as I got dressed that morning that the clothes that I was putting on me would be what I would sleep in that night – and the next night too.
In fact it was Friday lunch hour before I managed to shower and change.
Leah had been having hematological investigations since the day of her 15th birthday – New Year’s Eve 31st December ’12.
By Wednesday 20th February ’13 Leah was as yet undiagnosed.
A few friends had been asking me for weeks to meet them for a meal and I had kept putting them off.
I was worried about Leah and I didn’t want to leave the house unnecessarily in case she took unwell when I wasn’t there.
Wednesday 20th February was the day that I had finally agreed to meet up with them for a meal after work.
We went to a really nice Chinese restaurant called the Mandarin Palace.
We chatted and laughed and caught up on each other’s news – it felt good to have a bit of rest and relaxation.
I had just swallowed the last bite of dessert when my mobile phone rang – it was my husband “I think you had better come home, Leah’s not feeling well.”
Leah was severely neutropenic and her consultant had me well warned that if she ever became unwell that I wasn’t to waste time taking her to the GP or A&E, I was to immediately phone the Oncology/Hematology helpline.
We paid the bill, hugged, wished each other well and said goodbye.
I went home and assessed Leah’s situation, spoke to the staff on the Sperrin Ward and was asked to bring her in.
Although it was midterm, Leah filled her overnight bag with school work – she wanted to make the best possible use of any time spent in hospital.
I was as yet totally unaccustomed to this new way of life and I didn’t pack even as much as a toothbrush for myself.
The nurse who was cutting off my younger daughter’s plaster today didn’t notice my distress at first.
Then he tried to give me directions to X-ray but I got totally confused.
You would think that I should know my way round my local hospital by now, especially when you consider how much time I’ve spent in it.
Its hard though when your eyes are filled with tears & your mind is full of memories.
The nurse was very caring & he took me into a side room and talked to me until I had regained enough composure to continue.
My young daughter got her X-ray quite quickly & we returned to Clinic 3.
A pleasant young doctor told her the good news that her arm was well healed and no further treatment was required – what a relief.
A close friend who works in the hospital then met us for a drink & buns in the outpatients cafe.
After this I dropped my young daughter off for a day of fun and games with some of her school-friends – they are off school for mid-term.
This has been very kindly organized by two of the parents and they have the use of a church hall for the day.
As I pulled up outside Ballykelly Church of Ireland hall I remembered that the last time I was there was to take Leah to “BK Banter” – something she absolutely loved attending – so many memories.
It’s good to have memories – lots of them – some days are just harder than others.