This morning: Lament and thanks

Lament

This morning I woke up with a profound sense of grief and loss.

This morning I let myself grieve the loss of my pre-cancer life. I let myself grieve the loss of my pre-cancer body. I let myself grieve the loss of my pre-cancer hair.

This morning I let myself grieve the loss of my pre-coronavirus Covid-19 life. I let myself grieve the loss of being able to spend time with my family and friends.

This morning I let myself grieve all the losses.

This morning I let myself lament.

This morning I reached out to a friend for prayer. She responded with a written prayer. I read it and I prayed. Almost imperceptibly my focus shifted.

This morning I remembered the times I woke up with tears on my pillow as I waited for that first chemotherapy. That fear of the unknown. That visceral fear.

This morning I remembered the words that comforted me then:

“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.

(Psalm 56, The Message)

This morning I pondered the meaning of these words. I am not a theologian but I believe God cares intimately for me and us and our suffering world. I believe God cares and remembers our sorrow as if he kept each tear in a bottle.

This morning I remembered that

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

(Revelation 21, NIV)

This morning I know I am loved.

This morning I know that ultimately all will be well.

Thanks

This morning I am feeling thankful for lament. I am feeling thankful I am able to able to connect with my grief and my loss.

This morning I am feeling thankful for my post-cancer life, my post-cancer body, my post-cancer hair.

This morning I am feeling thankful for my life.

This morning I am feeling thankful for life.

This morning I am feeling thankful to God, for his care and his love.

This morning I give thanks to God. Like a child with a loving parent I am held in his loving arms.

This morning.

Our daily bread

Usually we do an online order for delivery about once a week for the food and other groceries we need that are bulkier and heavier or difficult to get locally and then we top up locally. As we are physically distancing this is not an option at the moment so we’re having to plan and think much more carefully about our online order and the food we eat.

I’ve always had an ‘interesting’ relationship with food. When I was a young child my mum tried various tricks to get me to eat my food. Lamb chops eaten as ‘lollipops’ and chopped banana with icing sugar were two favourites but I was a fussy and often reluctant eater.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy baking and cooking. Mum always encouraged us to join in and over time I enjoyed eating food more. I remember doing my Hostess and Cook badges in the Brownie Guides. Rock cakes anyone? At high school the girls studied Home Economics or Needlework and I chose Home Economics which included cooking. Years later I worked back at the same high school covering lessons for absent teachers and this included teaching Food Technology with boys and girls. Those lessons were fun!

As an adult I’ve been a more adventurous eater mainly because my husband doesn’t like what he calls bland food and so he has done most of the cooking. I’ve never been a huge meat eater but I love seafood. About ten years ago I had a bout of food poisoning following a meal in a restaurant which left me with chronic diarrhoea. I had all sorts of hospital tests and when they came back clear I was told to try an elimination diet. Within a couple of weeks it was clear I had become lactose intolerant and wheat intolerant. I was fine as long as I didn’t eat anything with lactose or wheat in it!

I adapted my diet accordingly, but never got used to the hassle of checking and double checking ingredients. Eating anywhere but home where I could buy in gluten free, lactose free and dairy alternatives became more complicated. As time went on I found I could eat wheat again but not lactose.

Then several years later I had my breast cancer diagnosis and treatments including chemotherapy (chemo). The chemo I had caused nausea and vomiting. I discovered it is true that banana tastes the same coming up as it does going down (a little tip for you there!). Also because chemo causes mucositis I had terrible sores in my mouth, throat and down into my stomach. I either had awful constipation (on the days when I was taking steroids) or liquid diarrhoea. The special mouth wash helped the mouth and throat a little so I could swallow and other medications I had helped my stomach but I also had either a strong metallic taste (first three cycles of chemo) or no taste (last two cycles of chemo). Because I kept developing fevers and had severe neutropenic sepsis twice I had to have a neutropenic diet (for people with weakened immune systems) which further limited what I was able to eat and drink.

As you can imagine I didn’t want to eat at all but it was clear that I needed to eat to survive and whenever I was in hospital the specialist oncology dietician visited me every day. As I was fatigued, weak and losing weight I was given special high calorie ‘yogurts’ to eat. Imagine my husband’s horror when he realised he’d accidentally eaten one of my 700 calorie yogurts … At home I found the The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook a great source of inspiration with its lists of foods and recipes to help with the various side effects of chemotherapy. Thankfully I had my husband and my mum cooking for me and making sure I ate.

After I finished chemotherapy I gradually regained my ability to enjoy food. I will never take being able to eat for granted again. The chemotherapy has left collateral damage and my stomach is even more sensitive than it was before. Thankfully these days there are a lot of lactose free and vegan alternatives but I do miss my cheeses and the freedom to eat whatever I fancy.

During these last two-three weeks of thinking more about food and meals I’ve appreciated food in a new way. We’ve had to become more careful about the way we use food. How we can use what we’ve got. I’ve adapted recipes and we’ve had next to no waste. Jack Monroe’s books and website are a brilliant resource full of ideas.

It is only through this personal experience of needing to be more careful with food that I’ve realised I’ve always taken the availability of food as a given. Today we dusted down the bread-maker and we are baking a loaf of bread. It smells delicious. It has led to me reflecting on the words from Lord’s Prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. More about that in a future blog.

A list of links and resources for people going through cancer treatments (which I will add to):

Healthy eating tips – Haven

Healthy Eating – Macmillan

Diet and food supplements – Macmillan

Eating problems – Macmillan

Eating well – Royal Marsden