A huge “THANKS” to all those who have contributed in any way to my “So Fund Me” appeal last week, either directly with donations, or by sharing, or in messages of support. I was deeply moved by the swift response, and the generosity showed. In just a few days, I’m already over half way to my target.
I want to stress that those thanks go to ALL my supporters and donors, whether in the form of actual donations large or small, or otherwise. The money is obviously important (that’s the whole point), but equally valuable to me is the simple encouragement and affirmation that it brings. I was touched and uplifted by these, exemplified by some of messages that came with the donations, such as this one:
“We’re lucky to have you writing and advocating for us”.
I was on a real emotional high after that – which, it turned out, I really needed yesterday, after a health update at St Luke’s cancer centre.
Almost a year ago, I was diagnosed with something called a stomach GIST, which is a rare form of cancer that doesn’t respond to either conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but is only treatable by surgical removal. In my case, tests showed that the tumour was pretty massive, at 26cm. (Anything over 10 cm is considered “large” and potentially high risk). So the first line of treatment is much simpler, a form of oral chemo, a tablet that I take at home once a day after breakfast, to shrink the thing until it’s small enough for surgical extraction. So far, so good: I’m spared the horrors usually associated with cancer treatment, and don’t yet have to deal with surgery. Even better, is though the medication can have some nasty side – effects, I’ve not experienced the worst of those. In physical terms, life went on pretty much as normal.
Mentally and emotionally,it was rather different. The news came as a major shock and distraction, as I absorbed the implications, tried to learn all I could, and updated family. It was also the spark that led to a long overdue family holiday, when my daughters, sons-in-law and four grandchildren all got together for a wonderful holiday in Italy. In time, I became accustomed to my new health situation, the change in routine, and 3 – monthly scans and hospital appointments to monitor my progress, which showed steady and significant shrinkage of the tumour.
The downside was that this initial shock, followed by the distraction of planning for and then enjoying the holiday effectively derailed me from much of my internet work on this site and elsewhere, with Quest and with other projects in queer ministry. I was just beginning to get over that, substantially boosted by the successful Quest conference last month. After a period of what I saw as “derailment”, I was once again becoming productive, here and at Quest, and beginning to work on the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics Project. Life was good. I know that when I am actively involved in these things, I experience a great deal of what Ignatian spirituality calls “consolation” – and when not productive, what the Jesuits call spiritual “desolation” follows.
Ignatian spirituality also teaches us that we need the times of consolation to carry us through the periods of desolation that sooner or later, always follow. Mine came yesterday, at St Luke’s. Since my previous scan, the tumour has again shrunk as before, but now only marginally. The conclusion must be, that between the previous scan and this one, it has simply stopped working. That’s normal, and to be expected. I just hadn’t expected it, just yet.
The question now is, what next?
My immediate fear, was that they would now want to schedule surgery. That’s a scary prospect. In the first place, it amounts to major surgery, with a week or two in hospital, additional recovery time at home, and a possible month or two before I can drive again. No driving, means no income. (The upside of course, it it also means more time for thinking and writing). fact, it may not get to that, just yet. There is another drug that they could put me onto first, in the hope of further shrinkage – or perhaps not. I’ve been advised by a correspondent on the GIST support group, that as the pancreas ans spleen are also “involved”, the recommendation may well be to proceed directly to surgery.
I stress and repeat, the “recommendation” , not the decision. Final decision rests with me. Once again, I’ve got a lot to think about, and not as yet not enough information or understanding.
That’s where your support the last few days has been so very important.
It’s a reminder and confirmation once again, of what I’ve always believed. Surprisingly enough for me, my work in :LGBT ministry is indeed important, and is valued. Once before, I’ve been derailed by health new. I’m determined that this current setback, while disappointing, will not derail me once again. I have been back on track, and am determined to remain so.
Please continue to support me, in whatever way you can.