When I last spent time writing a blog I was indeed free of the demon cancer that had haunted me since those days in October 1984.........and for the next handful of years as I faced operation and treatments eventually for 4 major cancers.
Since then I have had 6 further skin cancers again involving treatment,operations and skin grafts.......plus a very destroying disease.......... as the result of former aggressive cancer treatments.
However now again I am on that turbulent threshold of what seems to be perhaps further cancer,awaiting results of the second lot of biopsies is traumatic to say the least.
Far from being alone, as I know of so many awaiting alongside me,hence the need to get this blog written as perhaps a sort of stepping stone for others facing these traumatic times, wondering how to get themselves through such worries.
But it has also focused my mind on how I ever got through after the first unpleasant batch...........and made a life for myself.
Perhaps it is one well worthy of sharing;because so many of us travel down these difficult routes and find ourselves at a loss of where and how to move on.
My story begins soon after my return home after 6 weeks of intensive cancer treatment in a Hospital specializing in the disease some 70 miles from my home.
I had been cushioned during those 6 weeks by meeting others suffering various forms of cancer; sharing our individual journeys had proved most cathartic;ensuring we had bonded well and had great support to start our very own routes when back home.
However,in most cases these dear ones had in numerable family back up,which is invaluable when facing deeply troubled times.
This is an area that we totally lose out......we have no family backup.
We had just struggled through very many years of hardship,with my husband losing weeks off work.........and pay....due to being at my side through those times of near death experiences as I lurched from one operation to another,and from one Hospital to another.
With John.... my husband...... working 10 hour days some 6/7 days a week life at home was very lonely,especially in comparison to the cameradrie we had all experienced just previously.In fact I was on the verge of deep depression.
A quitter I am not,and I am blessed with determination and a fighting spirit........ and the one thing I enjoyed at all times was writing.So I picked up my pen and I wrote to all those that I knew to be suffering or recovering from the disease,that quickly snowballed into sending cards when they had special appointments,had to meet Consultants,undergo procedures,face results.......all those testing times.Then came those long telephone conversations,
and wherever possible...... even visits.
This generated such a lot of contact it was dubbed The Sunshine Club!!!It certainly brought many a smile to very many faces.....including my own.......there was simply no time to be depressed.
The McMillen Nurses had noted what a great uplift this line of communication was,stretching out right across areas of our County and so I was approached and asked would I form an official Cancer Support Group.
In fact, that was the beginning of the very first Pembrokeshire Cancer Support Group,we arranged meetings in a nearby Hotel room,devising all manner of raffles etc to meet the costs,and from the dozen or so that eventually formed the group........today almost every Town and Village has one of their own.
Gaining inspiration from these meetings, I especially formed a friendship with this one lady,also a recovering cancer patient, but whom was also nursing her husband with the disease........she had already started up a first AA group in our County..... as sadly, she was also a recovering alcoholic.
A lady that had several real battles on her hands.
We struck a cord,and formed a bond.
We both shared the same dogged determination,the same drive and we could visualise the great need in our county for a Cancer Centre........and this became our one focus and aim.
Whilst continuing counselling,gathering donations,having car boot sales..........to pay for our Hotel room for our Support meetings.......but our minds were busily formulating plans to get our dreams into fruition.
During this time another dear lady,a terminally ill cancer patient, witnessed our drive and knew the crying need for a place of our very own, in due course she donated her most beautiful double fronted Victorian Manse for this specific purpose.
As you can imagine it was a wonderful, very meaningful and heart rendering gift,that brought tears to our eyes......equally of joy and gratitude..... whilst feeling the pain of this particular lady.
However it then started a very serious time of hard work........raising public awareness to our needs,establishing all manner of money raising events,visiting many firms.....virtually going "cap in hand!"........whilst chivvying each and every able pair of hands in working over time....... to turn this lovely property into what we envisaged.
This detached property was situated in one of our Towns,not ideally in the centre of the county perhaps, but on a wide quiet residential street,facing south and greenery.It had 3 floors,a large back garden,a front courtyard.....was in supreme condition........plus all the retaining features of a Victorian property.
All floors were utilized.............initially the back garden was dismantled and the ground tarmaced to provide safe door to door parking facilities.A Stair lift was fitted to make all floors accessible to all,and eventually the lower ground floor housed a complete commercial sized fitted kitchen.....with ancillary rooms used to house freezers,larder and the like.Two other rooms became a fully functioning restaurant.
The ground floor with its large sun filled bay windows became the main meeting/seminar rooms,a fully functioning library/quiet room,a music library..........whilst upstairs became respite rooms with ensuite facilities, plus therapy rooms where various many therapies became very much part and parcel of every day life for those in need.
The front courtyard became an out door sitting area in warm weather.We had our very own Chaplain..........the restaurant served beautiful meals for meeting days,plus a take out facility for those bed bound sufferers,a great and much used and loved asset........and Christmases/celebrations were especially a treat.
It was most beautifully furnished out from donations and kind hearted gifts presented weekly,it really became a sanctuary and home from home for many patients...... and their families.........all whom were made welcome.
A Charity Shop in the town helped supplement the donations,and there was funding by our own NHS......... who had backed this scheme from start to finish.
It was opened by a well known T.V personality and simply went from strength to strength........... with eventually many willing hands helping out.
However when my partner,Doreen lost her battle with the disease it was decided to dedicate the building in her name.............. in aid and honour of her hard work.
All that time John and I had been working on several Hospital Committees,begging,praying,pleading for yet more cancer services to be brought into the County, as we had obviously been forgotten for many years,we were really bereft,and slowly we were achieving something precious on each new week,or at least each month........our County was on the map again.......regarding Cancer services.
Such a welcome and great boost for all cancer sufferers following on behind us .
But there was still one vital area that had not been addressed and we both felt this was the final goal,and must have....... as we had encountered so much real need as we travelled around visiting dear cancer patients in Hospitals,at home.
We needed a Hospice.
It was indeed to be our one further aim.
Again it was to be a question of being in the right place at the right time it seemed!!
During all our meetings with various Hospital Committees, we had met this one lady who showed such great interest in our work in developing this beautiful Cancer Centre.......which she now visited weekly herself.......little did we know at that time,but she was a lady also determined to make a mark here in our beloved county..........and she eventually donated her own home,a bungalow, in the Cathedral City of St Davids with the sole wish that this should become ..........a Hospice.
The lady was Elizabeth de Guise.........a rather famous Mills and Boon author no less.
It took something like 15 long years to get the eventual permissions to turn a bungalow in a residential area into a Hospice,it took many more years and a mammoth amount of red tape for planning permission to extend,change and adapt this property...........and though a member of my family remains the solicitor throughout..........our own involvement was mainly through raising awareness and cash.
We ourselves had our Silver wedding celebrations during this long period of little happening,and we instructed our friends there were to be no gifts........ though if they felt inclined.... they could donate cash to our Hospice Fund.
On opening those envelopes containing cash just after our own
anniversary, believe you me, we were deeply touched and humbled to find that no one had donated less than.............£50......This may not seem a fortune to you, but please remember, these dear ones were mainly of pensionable age and many disabled.It touched us to the core,realising that these people believed so much in what we were trying to achieve....... that they had dug very deeply into their own oft meagre pockets.
It made the project even more poignant.
Only during these latter years this Hospice has been duly completed.......... and now fully functioning.... though very small......we still believe that from small acorns mighty oaks doth grow!!
However, although my very own legacy of Cancer Support Groups are very much alive and flourishing I am delighted to add,the same cannot be said for our beautiful initial Victorian Cancer Centre.
The original was eventually sold some 8/10 years ago..........when the NHS funding was at first halved,and then sadly,
completely taken away.
In its place, a town house in a busy street was purchased so that the ground floor could be utilized as a shop....... providing much needed funds,leaving the upstair rooms only for meetings...........no stair lift,no parking facilities.... so in fact very far from ideal
for purpose................ and so far from the beautiful original Cancer Centre formed between Doreen,myself.........and the kindness of the lady who first donated her beautiful Victorian Manse.
However, although my story touches on many varying aspects, the main idea behind this is simply to promote the feeling that, yes,there is life after Cancer.It may not be the route you personally wish to take,we are all individual, and we have to follow our own heart and what may work for us.
Getting so deeply involved in Cancer care........and all life limiting illnesses in my very own County....... has proved highly cathartic and encouraging for me through my long haul.
I was only 44 years when this Cancer story began.
Today I am very much older,frail from other pressing diseases,and cancer possibly revisiting yet again...........and the out look is totally different....... as I certainly have not the same stamina to fight the good fight .........other than on paper.
Yes,I remain equally busy on paper and computer......ready to reach out and proffer an understanding ear,a helping hand,some uplift and support...........it may not sound much after the former involvement........but it keeps my mind ticking over and I prefer to think of others.... and reach out to them in their hour of need.........than sit at home here,biting my nails and feeling sorry for myself!!
Dear friends.........you bet your life..........yes.......there is life after cancer.........